For decades, the name BMC has exuded a sense of mystique in the cycling world – be it because of its multi-billionaire owner, its rich history in pro cycling or its vast hi-tech facility in Grenchen, Switzerland. You wouldn’t be alone if you’d ever wondered what those three stark white letters stand for, although you may be surprised to hear that the full name is, in fact, Bicycle Manufacturing Company.
Yet BMC’s sharp functionality has always been a part of the brand’s charm, with its angular carbon frames always sternly declaring: “this is how fast bikes look”. So when BMC unveiled its URS (UnReStricted – comfortably passing the functional naming criteria) gravel bike in 2019, we had expected something with an industrial sense of purpose and we were not disappointed.
The 2019 URS 01 turned heads when it was released, representing a sort of mashup between a hardtail mountain bike and road bike. It was an outlier among the gravel bikes of its day (the seemingly-ancient pre-Covid days of 2019, that is) with a stubby stem and long reach, as well as minimalist micro-suspension at the rear of the bike.
The next generation URS LT One, which we have here, represents an even more determined effort to blur the lines between road and mountain bikes. The most prominent upgrade being the addition of an integrated coil-sprung front suspension. After the success of rear suspension on the URS 01, the natural progression for BMC was to integrate suspension to the front of the bike, too.
These Swiss masters admit this was not a simple upgrade, bringing in the help of HiRide, an Italian company with 20 years of experience in creating integrated digital suspension designed for gravel and all-road bicycles. BMC went through a thorough R&D process spanning four years, including field tests seeking to better understand whether suspension was possible, or needed, for gravel bikes.
The brand’s intense testing processes led to the discovery of a potential drawback of the new design, with test pilots noting that the riding feeling on asphalt was better with a completely rigid front fork. Small adjustments and optimisations led to a fork with 20mm of coil-sprung travel in the steerer and a hydraulic damper seen on today’s URS LT One. Just enough to absorb vibrations on rocky terrain, while avoiding that disheartening bobbing feeling when the road gets smoother.
Just enough movement
By introducing front suspension on a gravel bike, BMC also hopes to solve the age-old conundrum regarding the optimum tyre pressures for off-road riding. The Swiss brand aims to remove the forced choice between the risk of punctures on downhills and slow rides on harder surfaces by offering a solution which cuts out the need to change tyre pressures for varying terrain.
The suspension can be tuned to each rider's weight and different needs, with three different spring stiffnesses and preload spacers, making the bike customisable depending on individual preferences. It can also be completely locked out using a handy button on the steerer should you have a long section of asphalt ahead. The additional weight of the suspension unit over the URS 01 carbon fork is 800g, meaning a slight weight penalty for the introduction of front suspension. But despite this, BMC has managed to maintain its sleek aesthetics.
Add in optional cable routing for hub dynamos, ample space and mounts for mudguards, as well as copious bike luggage mounts and there are very few limits to finally setting off on that inter-continental bike-packing adventure you’ve spent years yearning for (or, indeed, a couple of hours of riding on the towpath after work).
Stand out in yellow
A mellow yellow paint job makes the bike as eye-catching as the innovations that come with it, certainly standing out from the crowd. Subtle BMC branding makes it work: the block yellow colour is striking but not too much with simple logos. The URS LT Two also comes in a more subtle blue if you’re not quite brave enough to rock the mustard look.