We’ve come a long way. Only a couple years ago, bikes capable of riding the roughest backcountry mountain bike trails seemed to require compromise.
Sure, they were better than the burdensome bikes of the early “freeride” days, but today, aboard a bike like the BMC Speedfox SF01, even the 26-inch-wheeled, aluminum-framed enduro bikes of a few years ago seem quite old-fashioned.
The Speedfox is a technical wonder, and before we go any further, yes, it carries a commensurate price tag.
The model we tested had a SRAM XX1 drivetrain and a Fox Float CTD FIT fork. With those niceties — and several others — the Speedfox retails for $6,999. Pricey? You bet. But relative to its competitors, BMC did an admirable job keeping the price down. The Trek Remedy 9.9, built with XX1 and a RockShox Pike, is $8,800. Equipped with similar parts, Specialized’s S-Works Stumpjumper FSR 29 is an astonishing $9,500.
But with those unpleasant considerations, how does it ride?
Weighing about 25 pounds, the Speedfox with admittedly unremarkable (read: not carbon fiber) DT Swiss Spline 1 wheels was tremendously fleet on the climbs.
A 29er really is peerless when it comes to jamming along up a long, moderate climb. However, it often struggles on steep, technical ups. That was not the case with the BMC. No, it isn’t as fast as a cross-country race bike, but the head tube is short enough to allow you to position the handlebars lower, and the XX1 gearing has mountain goat capabilities with a 28-tooth chainring.
Its climbing prowess was reinforced by the suspension platform. We’re not entirely sure what the Swiss engineers said to the Californians at Fox Racing shocks, but the rear unit, a Float CTD, was perfectly tuned — better than any other we’ve ridden. When switched to the pedal setting, the suspension was tremendously firm, as it should be. With Propedal set in the middle, it was supportive and moderately supple. But then, flip it open and let the fun begin.
Speaking of suspension, the Float CTD FIT 140 fork was remarkably sure-footed, belying its 32mm stanchions, which seem small, as most bikes in the trail/enduro category offer 34mm or 36mm sliders.
These traits are probably accentuated by the BMC’s striking, angular carbon fiber frame. After riding this bike and feeling how well it tracks on rough off-camber, squirrelly fire roads, and jumbled rock gardens, it’s hard to imagine riding an alloy frame.
It is worth noting, however, that the small chainring, which was so advantageous on steep climbs, is not optimal for high-speed descents. Even when you are not spun out, the torque feels a bit different than a 30- or 32-tooth chainring, perhaps not as nice for explosive accelerations out of corners, for instance.
Another fairly significant quibble is that for riders with short legs, the gratuitous 150mm-travel RockShox Reverb makes fitting the bike a hassle. Our medium frame offered the right amount of reach, but we couldn’t get the saddle low enough when fully extended to accommodate our stubby legs. Perhaps a 125mm dropper would be more appropriate, especially considering that this bike is not truly a full-gas enduro bike.
Chainring size and dropper post travel may seem minor, but a bike in this price range ought to be flawless.
The Speedfox’s overall character was incredible. For an all-around trail bike, it’s hard to imagine anything better. Honestly, it wouldn’t be a stretch to put lighter tires on and use it for cross-country races. Certainly marathon-distance events would be comfortable — dare we say fun — on this bike.
But as is the case with anything that’s very, very expensive, it has to be just right for you. So long as the fit works and you have the means, the Speedfox is highly recommended.
Price: $6,999 for XX1 model; XT-equipped SF02 available at $4,999
We like: Stellar suspension componentry and execution, lightweight, great balance between descending and climbing capabilities.
We don’t like: High price, dropper post is a bit too long, chainring choice is debatable, SRAM brakes aren’t our favorite.
The bottom line: Mountain bikes keep getting better, but it’s hard to imagine how you would improve on this one, aside from offering similar performance at a lower price-point.