Over the last five years, the gravel category has exploded. Of course, there’s been riders venturing into off-road terrain for eons. These days, however, there’s no shortage of brands wanting to be involved in the scene. The benefit of the mass appeal is more research and development from manufacturers, and one of the manufactures pushing innovations is BMC. The Swiss brand has been around since the mid 80’s, and in the decades since we’ve seen their bikes ridden at the world’s most famous bike races. I mean, let’s just mention a few names who brought the brand to the forefront: Cadel Evans, Philippe Gilbert, Greg van Avermaet, Taylor Phinney, and the list goes on. Their pursuits off-road began with BMC Fourstroke Mountain Bikes, launched in the mid 00’s. So, as time has passed and their experience, and other sectors of cycling have grown, it makes sense that we’d see a gravel bike from BMC. The BMC URS was launched back in 2019. More recently, I’ve spent a solid amount of time aboard the URS which, for the uninitiated, stands for ‘Unrestricted’.
Frame, Components and Groupset
BMC’s URS 01 Two features the brand’s signature, forward-thinking, modern gravel bike geometry. The front end has a slack 70-degree head angle to give the bike a longer wheelbase. Personally, I found this very good for stability across rough terrain. There’s some uniqueness about this that provides it with more stability.
The ICS MTT x Redshift Suspension Stem pivots around an oversized axle, designed to provide the lateral stiffness of a classic stem. The stem body relies on durable cartridge bearings for rotation, while the suspension is provided by two elastomers positioned inside the stem body. The elastomer units are easily exchangeable, making it easy to adapt depending on rider weight, riding style and terrain. An additional elastomer prevents hard top-outs due to rapid extensions, providing smooth and quiet operation.
The founding member of the BMC Micro Travel ecosystem, the MTT Stays, combines advanced carbon technology with a proven dual-guide design. The progressive tube shapes of the seatstay and chainstay unite with the carbon, and its highly specific lay-up, to create an exceptionally compliant performance on rough ground. The MTT Stays add an extra layer of compliance to the rear-end of the bike, while improving traction and control on technical terrain in a featherweight, reliable and seamlessly integrated design.
I rode a size medium bike, which came equipped with a short 80mm stem. A wider flared handlebar has become an important ingredient for the modern gravel bike and, with that said, BMC uses Easton EA70 AX at 440mm for the medium frame. They’re onto something with this geometry as it performs well when tackling unpaved terrain. Its agile, responsive, can easily navigate technical sections and, when you pull up on the brakes, it stays straight. Let’s talk about the rear end - the URS 01 Two has a steep 74-degree seat angle and zero-offset seat post. This puts you well over the cranks and was evident when accelerating on sealed roads. The bike doesn’t lack any responsiveness when transiting in between gravel sections on the bitumen.
BMC has extended its TCC (Tuned Compliance Concept) technology to the carbon, and fork, on the URS 01 Two. The brand claims it builds compliance into important areas of the frame. The famed D-shaped carbon seat post is also included in the TCC. Basically, the seat post flexes slightly as you hit bumps, improving the ride feel. To assist with the already pretty impressive ride quality is 10mm travel technology suspension built into the bike's seat stay, inside the elastomer compresses as you go over bumps, while the chain stay slightly flexes thanks to its carbon compliant nature. I found this added comfort when riding more tricky and technical tracks, as it helped smooth the vibrations. Even when haulin’ endless gravel roads for multiple hours on ‘The Long Way Home’ (as featured within this journal) the pain dissipated from my arms and hands.
Onto the groupset - the BMC URS 01 Two comes equipped with SRAM Force AXS shifters and brakes, a 38-tooth single-ring Force chainset, an X01 Eagle rear derailleur and a wide-range 10-52t cassette. I liked this mullet drivetrain, as I reside in a land of hills, so the range was welcomed. I also found it wasn’t lacking in most other respects and think this type of gearing is well suited to adventure and bikepacking rides. The shifting was reliable, smooth, and instant. Even the steepest technical ascents the apt gearing allowed me to get on top of the gear. On the downside, on the longer fast descents you do spin out due to the increased range and gear jumps of the mullet set up. Pulling the bike to a halt was easily and effectively done with SRAM Force brakes which employs 180mm front disc rotors and 160mm rear disc rotors. This isn’t something we see much on gravel bikes but, for me, its welcomed as being a heavier rider means it allows me to control the bike better. It’s much like mountain bikes running larger disc rotors to dissipate the heat when braking on technical terrain. And these days, with gravel bikes being taken into rowdier terrain, larger brake rotors have a major benefit.
Lastly, the wheels and tyres – BMC’s Carbon CRD400 wheels are featured, which have a 40mm rim depth and 23mm rim width with WTB Raddler 40mm tyres. I’m used to running a larger tyre (45c +) these days and wasn’t overly convinced with the 40mm width. However, I was put in my place as these proved great in terms of speed across unsealed and sealed roads, along with control on descents. I ran these tyres at 42psi for the rear and 40psi for the front and found this was about right for my weight. I should note, the BMC URS 01 Two comes with a maximum tyre clearance of 42mm but could take a larger tyre depending on the brand. For me, “Unrestricted” doesn’t feel quite right, as I would expect the bike to have more tyre clearance for more adventurous riding. We’ve seen better tyre clearance offered from other brands, such as 700x50c and 650bx2.2”, in the last few years but it really comes down to what you want to do with this gravel bike. As for the wheels themselves, they have a light and lively feel, but were still stable and reliable.
Ok, in all honesty, I wasn’t overly thrilled when I first spotted the BMC URS 01 Two. I’m talking about the aesthetics – and style is subjective, right?! But, after a few rides, I started to ‘get’ the bike a little more, in terms of riding qualities - and aesthetic. Don’t judge a book by its cover, perhaps?! On the first ride, I immediately noticed the ‘suspended’ ride feel when pedaling out my driveway. It made me double check the tyre pressure, as it had the feeling of softer tyres. I did get used to it after a few k’s and, in many rides since, have enjoyed it. Across rougher and gnarlier terrain it helped smooth vibrations, with the plushness saving me from fatigue on relentless gravel roads. At the same time, it boosts confidence on technical sections with its impressive responsiveness. Although, the stem elastomers did feel a little soft on the handlebars - especially when standing out of the saddle. The elastomer can easily be changed out, however, depending on rider style and preference. Another factor of this ‘suspended’ feel was the ability to transfer power where it was most needed, when riding the rough stuff. At no time did I feel my hard-earned power was wasted. That was evident when tackling hours of arduous gravel sectors during ‘The Long Way Home.’ It must be noted that the MTT system does reduce the impact by adding a layer of compliance whilst allowing control and improving traction on technical terrain.
The URS 01 Two feels agile and accelerates well – it’s no slouch when it comes to putting down the pace on any ground underneath its WTB Raddler tyres. With the slacker head angle, it really comes into its own when handling rough terrain of shingle farm tracks or light trails. The slacker head angle puts you into a more relaxed riding position which, for me, makes me ride for longer.
BMC’s URS 01 Two does most things well. I’m getting more fond of it the more I ride it, as it does take some getting used to. On rough terrain, it smoothed vibrations and allowed me to endure long rides relatively well. I mean, there was still some soreness the day after, but I wasn’t broken. It also gave me confidence on technical sections as it was very responsive. The aesthetic is subjective, but it is sleek with minimal branding and a unique colourway.
The geometry tips more towards comfort, but the BMC URS 01 can easily be raced. The bike is versatile enough to use in a gravel race, day-long rides or light bikepacking duties. For venturing further afield I’d like to see it with a heap more tyre clearance, frame lugs and a touch more comfort. But, for riders who want a good gravel bike that performs well on road and gravel, this is a great option. Not to mention, it does all this to BMC’s performance standards. Of course, your wallet will ultimately decide if the BMC URS 01 Two is worthy of your hard-earned loot.
RRP: $11,699 I Distributed by Advance Traders
Words by Liam Friary
Images by Cameron Mackenzie