Rob Hoyles gets to grips with an endurance offering from BMC
The Spring Classics offer riders a chance to show their resilience over some of the toughest parcours in the world.
It provides manufacturers with a similar platform to promote their bikes, while reassuring us that the bike we’re buying is just like the one their man won on. Just as rugged, and equally fast. But let’s not get too caught up in the marketing hyperbole.
After all, unless you spend most of your time riding in the rain on cobbles for the best part of six hours at a time, then there’s very little relevance.
In reality, the BMC GranFondo GF02 Shimano 105 is a bike deserving of a place near the top of the shopping list of anyone more interested in cable-tying a number to their bars than they are in pinning one on their back, UCI-approved sticker notwithstanding.
With a designation that denotes ‘Gran Fondo’ this bike is aimed squarely at sportive and leisure riders looking to cover big distances in comfort, so perhaps a little less Spring Classics, and more Summer Epics.
As is the norm for endurance (aka sportive) bikes, the head tube is relatively tall — a good 10mm taller than that of its racing stablemate, the BMC Teammachine SLR.
The top tube slopes to allow for this before splitting into what BMC calls the ‘Crosslock Connection’ — the small bridge between the top tube and the seat tube that’s become synonymous with BMC.
This allows a little flex through the rear of the frame to increase comfort and is just one part of BMC’s TCC (Tuned Compliance Concept) — an initialism on the chainstays and a theme that runs through the GF02’s beautifully engineered carbon-fibre frame.
Other key TCC parts include the slender, flattened seatstays that contrast with the almost industrial chainstays that end with cantilevered dropouts, again designed to help soak up any road vibrations.
The BB shell is sizable and not only is it very stiff for decent power transfer, the Shimano BB86 Press-Fit bottom bracket it houses is still silent after more than 200 miles. You’d be surprised how many poorly engineered frames creak in dismay at the mere mention of a Press-Fit BB. If there’s one thing that’s assured with BMC, it’s build quality.
The excellent Shimano 11-speed 105 groupset has been fitted in its entirety. You get the full shebang, including the vastly improved four-spoke chainset and the revised 105 brake calipers — two items that are often ditched in favour of cost-cutting alternatives.
Unusually, BMC has decided to route the cables externally. Some might be put off by this, but I’m not one of them — such a clean run to the mechs not only means crisp, clean shifts, it also makes home maintenance a lot easier — perfect for those racking up big mileages.
The finishing kit is BMC’s own and is no frills but well made. The bars and stem combine ergonomy with sufficient rigidity while the proprietary seatpost has been designed to flex, in keeping with that TCC theme. Offset is 18mm as standard, though should you prefer, your dealer should be able to equip you with a 3mm or 30mm option.
Shimano’s RS11 wheels are fairly basic. There’s little more to add other than they’re robust and should last reasonably well. My advice would be to save them for winter training rides and treat yourself to something lighter.
The same goes for the 28mm tyres — they’re great for awful weather and even worse roads, but frankly a bit OTT the rest of the time. Fit some good quality 25s and you’ll enjoy the bike a lot more.
With so many sub-£2,000 bikes on the market offering a superior groupset in the form of Shimano Ultegra, it would be easy to dock the GF02 a few points when it comes to value. But the frame and overall finish brings it right back in the game.
This is a bike that looks and feels as though it would last a lifetime, and certainly one that deserves the occasional upgrade.
Having replaced the sumptuous Selle Royal Saba saddle with my preferred Fizik Antares, and the balloon-like 28mm tyres for a set of 23s to get a real feel for the frame, I can confirm that comfort is on a par with any endurance machine I’ve ridden.
Predictable is a word that suits this bike well, particularly the easy-going, neutral handling. The BMC GranFondo GF02 Shimano 105 gets a raked-out fork that slows the steering slightly and dispatches sketchy, poorly surfaced descents with ease. It’s not too bad at going uphill, either, though this is mostly due to the generous gear ratios. Acceleration isn’t a strong point and the GF02 isn’t a particularly light bike — though in fairness much of that heft lies in the wheelset.
While the GF02 boasts little in the way of headline-grabbing statistics, it was still our first choice when it came to picking a real world, sub-£2,000 bike to tackle the Etape du Dales. Reliability is something that’s pretty much taken for granted these days, such is the quality of the vast majority of bikes currently on the market. But it seems BMC is able to offer that little bit extra. Our test bike endured all weathers with not so much as a creak from the bottom bracket or a missed gear shift. Indeed, barely a barrel adjuster has been tweaked during the test period. There’s little doubt that the GF02 is built to last. If you’re a keen sportive rider, or simply a leisure rider looking for a bike that will help you to achieve big things, then the GF02’s back-saving geometry and overall ability should put it firmly on your list of bikes to consider