Saturday, 21 November 2015

BMC GF01 Di2 Disc Review

Regular readers of the blog will know that I recently rode in Tenerife, hiring a bike out there, rather than taking my own.  There are a few providers on the island however closest to me in resort was a business called Bike Point Tenerife in the resort of Las Americas.

Checking out the range of bikes on their website for hire, the BMC GF01 Disc with Ultegra Di2 took my fancy, primarily for three reasons.
  • Tenerife is a hilly island and I thought the disc brakes would come in very useful on the long, fast descents.
  • I'd never ridden Di2 before and thought this a good opportunity to try it out.
  • I'd never ridden a BMC before and wanted to see how the bike performed.

The GF in the model name stands for Gran Fondo, taken from the description for bike races in Italy where budding future pros go head to head, the races often feature a lot of climbing as part of their profile.  This gave me the confidence to hire the bike, which retails at around £2,500.  It's had rave reviews here in the UK, including Cycling Plus 2015 bike of the year.

Riding Conditions

I rode the bike for around 150 miles and 17,000 ft of climbing over three days of riding, the longest day being 80 miles and 11,500 feet, so a decent day to test the bike out, this included an eleven mile climb with around 4,000 ft of vertical ascent, so steep by most standards.

Initial Thoughts

Picking the bike up from the shop, the first thing that struck me was how heavy it was.  With a toolbag on, it came in around 19 pounds, I thought it would be lighter given its credentials as a climbing bike.  I'm glad I'd shifted a bit of weight in advance of my trip!

The second thing that struck me was how the front wheel, in it's neutral position, wanted to settle at 90 degrees to the headtube, either left or right.  If you held the bike by the saddle, the front wheel naturally would want to flip flop to either side (more on this in a minute).

Overall the spec of the bike was good, including a very hand 34/32 gear ratio for steep climbs (enough for just about anyone to get up anything).  I took my own saddle with me (Selle Italia C2 Gel Flow) as I didn't want to find I'd hired a bike where the saddle was uncomfortable. 

The bike looked the part, with 28mm tyres, disc brakes and Di2.

On the Road

Setting off on the bike, I spent the first while getting used to the Di2 gearset, which was effortless.  Just a touch of a level and up and down the gears the bike went, I can see why people are appealed by electronic groupsets, however my conclusion was that it's a nice to have rather than essential.  I did enjoy the smooth changing, particularly on steep climbs when you're reaching for your lowest gear quickly.  If you're thinking of buying the bike, perhaps test ride the mechanical version too and make your own choice.

I noticed quickly the amount of road vibration the bike picked up.  The frameset is quite stiff and the road surface in Tenerife is very mixed, some of it beautifully smooth, others poorly kept.  Lots of the marketing blurb talks about the comfort of the bike however I have to say that this was one marked thing about the bike I noticed.  Descending a hitting a patch of rough surface, was bone shaking at times, with each lump and bump finding its way through the bike frame to the bars.  At least twice, one of my hands came away from the bars in such circumstances, the frame being so stiff that everything seemed to transfer to  the rider, along with a lot of rattling.

The issue I picked up with the front wheel not sitting to centre above was the real drawback of the bike, particularly when climbing.  With many of the climbs in Tenerife simply being long, with around 6-9% gradient, you noticed how much pressure you had to put on the bars to keep the front wheel in a straight line.  When things got really steep, say 17-20%, it was very distracting as you are climbing much more slowly and the effect was exaggerated.  This really did surprise me and it was very noticeable.

The disc brakes were excellent.  Plummeting down a -6% gradient, 15km descent with switchbacks, meant you needed to have full confidence in the braking system of the bike.  The disc brakes were powerful, meaning you could brake hard and late when entering a tight bend and the descending was really exhilarating as a result (this is where disc brakes come into their own). 28mm tyres gave you a lot of rubber on the road too for fast cornering.


For the specification, the BMC is well kitted out and it looks a great bike.  Stopping at cafes, lots of people commented on it, primarily because of it having Di2 and disc brakes, I guess much of the latest tech in many peoples eyes.

There's a lot to like about the bike, however It's not a bike I'd buy myself.  It's got a great spec, BMC have a great name and aesthetically it's OK.  However, due to its weight and the front wheel issue of it not assuming a neutral position plus the amount of road vibration you experience as a rider, it would rule it out for me.

If you want a solid commuter, then this would fit the bill, albeit it's at the top end of the price range for such a bike.   If you're after a really good bike for climbing, then there are better, lighter options out there in my opinon.  Nevertheless, the 34/32 gear ratio is perfect for the steepest of climbs and very welcome when considering the overall weight of the bike. 

My overall conclusion was that there is a lot to like about it, however for this sort of money, there is a lot of choice in the market and you should consider a number of options before departing with your hard earned for this bike.  

Other experienced testers have ridden this bike and rated it highly, this is only my personal opinion, riding on specific roads and perhaps offering some pointers as to things that I picked up.  As always, go and ride the bike and judge for yourself.  If I were giving it a star rating out of five I would probably go something like this: -

Specification 4/5
Comfort 3.5/5
Value 3.5/5
Overall 3.5/5

Bike Specification
  • Frame:TCC and angle compliance full carbon construction- DTi cable routing, compatible with mechanical and electronic groupsets- Integrated chain catcher- Disc only: post mount 140 mm brake attachment
  • Fork:Compliance fork, TCC and angle compliance full carbon construction – 1-1/8" to 1-1/2" tapered steerer tube- Disc only: Post mount 140 mm brake attachment
  • Front Derailleur:Shimano Ultegra FD-6870
  • Rear Derailleur:Shimano Ultegra RD-6870
  • Number of Gears:22
  • Shifters:Shimano ST-R785
  • Chainset:Shimano Ultegra FC-6800
  • Chainrings:50/34T
  • Bottom Bracket:BB86 Shimano press fit
  • Cassette:Shimano Ultegra CS-6800, 11-32T
  • Brakeset:Shimano BR-R785 w/ SM-RT98-SS 140mm Rotor F & R
  • Brake Levers:Shimano ST-R785
  • Handlebars:3T Ergosum Team
  • Stem:3T ARX 2 Team
  • Wheelset:DT Swiss X-1900 Spline, Centerlock
  • Tyres: Continental Grand Prix 4 Season 700 × 28C Folding
  • Fizik Aliante Delta Wingflex braided
  • Seatpost:Compliancepost, pure carbon, with TCC, 18mm offset
  • Weight: 8.2 Kg (around 18 pounds)

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