It might not be the best setup for bikepacking, without triple mounts on the front and the relatively steep gears. But for general having fun on the bike (which, let’s face it, is something we do far more often than bikepacking) the URS is pretty perfect. It’s efficient for covering ground, but it’s also very capaberable for the trails. For these kind of more peppy shorter rides, the harder than ideal gears aren’t so much of a problem and it’s just really fun to ride.
Sorted geometry is a blast on the trails
Still efficient for longer distance rides
Stock gearing is a little steep for bikepacking
Lack of mounts on fork for extra carrying capacity
By Stefan Abram published
The BMC URS ONE sits apart from most gravel bikes. It’s designed to be more capable on the trails than your typical gravel bike, but it hasn’t taken things so far as to become a Frankenstein-esque monstercross machine – essentially a mountain bike with drop handlebars.
This puts it in a kind of halfway house which relatively few brands have capitalised on – but one which ticks an awful lot of boxes. It’s well able to handle a blast around the woods, but it’s still efficient enough to comfortably be ridden long distances, hitting those two major demands in one fell swoop – and with just one bike.
Frame and components
A bit like the Canyon Grizl, BMC’s URS ONE has been given some additional rear end cushioning. Although unlike the Grizl, this isn’t by way of a flexy seatpost, but rather an elastomer sandwiched between the seat stays and the seat post, delivering 10mm of movement.
Sticking with the frame, the URS has its head angle raked out to 70 degrees – which is really quite slack for a gravel bike – while the chainstays are a tight 425mm, both of which hint towards fun times out on the trails.
The tyre clearance does hold the URS back a little bit, being rated for a maximum of 45mm in 700c or 47mm in 650b. But that said, I’ve tried popping in some wider rubber and would be happy enough going up to 50mm on the rear and as wide as 53mm (both measured widths) on the front with a 650b wheelset.
The wheels are from DT Swiss’s C line, which is technically for cyclocross rather than gravel and reveals itself in a slightly narrower internal rim width of 22mm. If you were purchasing the wheels yourself, you’d probably go for the wider 24mm gravel ones, but it’s not something that you’d desperately need/want to upgrade.
The underside of the downtube mounts and toptube mounts are both present, but sadly the BMC URS one is missing triple mounts on the fork. This is a bit of a shame as it really helps to weight the front end a little more when you’ve got a 17L saddle back on the rear.
Finally, the gearing, just like the Canyon Grizl, is a little steep for bikepacking, coming with a 40t chainring and an 11–42t cassette. This is also a little bit of a shame, as pairing a 38t chainring and a 10–42t cassette is perfectly possible in SRAM’s book and it would provide more range at both ends, while keeping the jumps between the gears pretty much the same. This decision would add a little to the price, but coming £150 under £3K, it seems like there would be enough wiggle room there.
The Raddler tyres specced have a reasonable tread pattern for a mix of trail, bridleway and tarmac riding, with the knobs not being too tall so as to be overly draggy, while still having enough bite and large enough gaps between the knobs to allow them to clear the dirt.
However, at 40mm, they were a bit too narrow to really let it loose in the woods. Once I swapped in the 45mm Schwalbe G-One Bites, I was really able to see what the URS ONE was capable of.
Everything just really clicked, the handling felt composed and assured, without a hint of skittishness. With the rear axle tucked just that bit further underneath, it was easy to elicit a response with just a flick of the hips - quite the contrast to those with longer chainstays.
But for all that, I didn’t feel like I was in an ungainly, mountain bike style position when riding on the road – it felt really just as efficient as any other gravel at this end of the spectrum. Part of the attraction of gravel bikes is that they open your horizons a bit more than a mountain bike, enabling you to cover much greater distances, so it’s really great that aspect hasn’t been lost in the slightest
The elastomer suspension did take some of the edge off the vibrations, but not so significantly as to be a reason to buy the bike in itself - especially with there are being some great suspension seatposts out there which can deliver much the same (or better) results on bikes with standard frames.
The main thing is that having that suspension didn’t detract from the responsiveness of the bike - putting in a hard effort, I didn’t get the disheartening bobbing feeling you do from a full suspension mountain bike with the shock fully open.
In all, it was pretty spot on for the mix of gravel riding I do day-to-day. Straight out the box, it’s not perfect for bikepacking, you’d want some lower gears and some extra mounting options - but at least these are upgrades you can make, changing the geometry of the frame certainly is not.
Value and conclusion
At £2,850.00, the BMC URS ONE doesn’t quite match the level of spec that comes on some other bikes around this price point. The Tifosi Cavazzo Ekar, for instance, costs £2999.00 and comes with Campagnolo’s pricey 1x13 Ekar groupset, although the Miche wheels are a bit of a step down from the BMC’s DT Swiss hoops.
Canyon’s Grizl CF SL 8 1BYwould set you back £2,949 and here you actually get the gravel specific DT Swiss G1800 Spline wheels with a 2mm wider internal rim width – along with Shimano’s 1x11 GRX 800 groupset which is approximately equivalent to the second tier road groupset, Ultegra.
Although the BMC matches the Canyon for speeds, also being 1x11, Apex is a fourth tier groupset and features less exotic materials in its construction, making for a slightly heavier weight.
It might not be the best setup for bikepacking, without triple mounts on the front and the relatively steep gears. But for general having fun on the bike (which, let’s face it, is something we do far more often than bikepacking) the URS is pretty perfect.
It’s efficient for covering ground, but it’s also very capable for the trails. For these kind of more peppy shorter rides, the harder than ideal gears aren’t so much of a problem and it’s just really fun to ride.
- Frame: URS Premium Carbon with Micro Travel Technology
- Fork: URS 01 Premium Carbon
- Shifters: SRAM APEX 1 HRD
- Crankset: SRAM APEX 1, 40T
- Derailleur: SRAM APEX 1 Long Cage
- Cassette: SRAM PG 1130 APEX, 11-42T
- Brakeset: SRAM APEX 1 HRD
- Wheels: DT Swiss C1850 Spline db
- Tyres and clearance: WTB Raddler, 40mm (Max: 700x45c)
- Head angle: 70 degrees
- Chainstay length: 425mm
- BB drop: 69mm
- BB: PF86
- Weight: 9.58kg
Starting off riding mountain bikes on the South Downs way, he soon made the switch the road cycling. Now, he’s come full circle and is back out on the trails, although the flat bars have been swapped for the curly ones of a gravel bike.
Always looking for the next challenge, he’s Everested in under 12 hours and ridden the South Downs Double in sub 20. Although dabbling in racing off-road, on-road and virtually, to date his only significant achievement has been winning the National Single-Speed Cross-Country Mountain Bike Championships in 2019.
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