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Mountain Gear

First Ride: BMC Trailfox TF01 Carbon

The new carbon version of the Trailfox offers 150mm of travel and is full of smart details

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Light enough to climb all day, plush enough to rip downhill. BMC's second-tier XO build shown. Photo: Caley Fretz


BIEL/BIENNE, SWITZERLAND — BMC’s all-mountain Trailfox line is getting a significant boost for 2012 with the introduction of the new carbon Trailfox TF01.

Using the same efficient 150mm of APS suspension as its alloy siblings, the carbon version will come in at a hair over 25 lbs, adding a heap of versatility to a respected chassis.

MSRP: XO ($6700) and XTR ($8600)
Availability: July, more models this fall
Pros: smart build and attention to detail, solid climbing platform, grin-worthy descender, super stiff
Cons: price, questionable huckability (not yet tested, but carbon more than 4 or so feet off the ground scares me)

The new carbon Trailfox will be available in July at the upper end of the price spectrum with either XTR ($8,600) or XO ($6,700), with more options to be announced around Eurobike in September. There are no plans to make framesets available in the near term.

The frame itself is full of smart details. A bolt-on 100-percent carbon down tube guard protects the frame, brake lines, and shifter cables from rocks and gunk, and stainless steel plates protect the frame from chainsuck. Stiffness is a priority, evident in the tapered 1.5-inch-to-1.125 inch head tube, massive down tube, and 142×12 rear dropouts.

The seat tube even gets an initial load indicator for easy, straightforward sag setting, and all the pivot bearings are identical and easy to find anywhere.

Suspension remains the same as in years past, with 150mm of dual-link APS travel controlled by Fox’s Factory RP23. However, geometry has been tuned with a slightly steeper 67.5 degree head angle and shorter stays, two touches that BMC claims add versatility to the platform.

Low weight (for a trail bike) was quite obviously a goal, with the total weight for frame, shock, rear axle and fittings less than 2.5kg (5.5lbs). BMC engineers focused on strengthening the frames load acquisition points (rocker link, bottom bracket, etc), allowing them to use lighter tubes than would otherwise be possible.

The low frame weight allowed for the use of an exceptionally smart and dependable build — with no weenie XC parts in sight. Both models rely on Easton Haven for the cockpit and wheels, with the XTR build getting Haven Carbon hoops, and add flexibility with Rock Shox’ Reverb dropper seat posts. I don’t tend to look at these sort of bikes and think, “hey, that’s how I would build it” — this time I did.

BMC uses the same easily sourced bearings in all the pivot points. Photo: Caley Fretz

On the Trails

I joined BMC at their favorite lunch ride trail system just outside of Biel/Bienne, Switzerland for two days of riding. The trails on Magglingen, home of the Swiss Olympic training center, were a perfect test for the Trailfox — plenty of ups to test the bikes climbing prowess, and downs that ranged from high-speed, chunky fire road to super tight, steep alpine switchbacks. Where an XC bike would have felt skittish, and anything bigger would have felt sluggish, the Trailfox was reaching Goldilocksian levels of “just right.” It’s an absolute blast to ride.

The move to a slightly steeper head angle was a good one, allowing the front end to match the rear’s impressive climbing skills. With the RP23’s platform engaged bobbing was kept to a minimum both in and out of the saddle. Combined with the bike’s low weight, the result was some true climbing prowess.

Climbing traction was phenomenal as well. The APS suspension seems well suited to ignoring pedal and rider feedback while paying close attention to what’s going on underneath it, as it tracked wonderfully over rough climbs.

With the platform disengaged, seated climbing remained quite efficient, but the weight transfer during out-of-the-saddle efforts resulted in a predictable amount of movement.

The 150mm of travel feels endless, though I never had the chance to get the bike quite far enough off the ground for a thorough test (the downhill course was closed for repairs, sadly). The front and rear ends feel well balanced.

The Scoop

Long story short is that the Trailfox seems to have checked every box required for a good trail bike. It has a solid, smart build, exceptional weight, efficient suspension, and grin-inducing plushness on the way down. I’d happily lug its ever-so-slightly squishy rear end up any climb, because I know it will reward the effort on the way down.

Caley Fretz joined the crew in May 2010. Beyond his journalistic pursuits, Caley holds a Pro XC license, is a Cat 1 road, cross and track racer and is former President of the Colorado State University cycling team.