BMC has today launched the new URS LT One, its fully-fledged gravel bike featuring suspension at both the front and rear. While the recently released Roadmachine X has some off-road capabilities, BMC aims the URS LT ("Long Travel") One at riders who wish to push the boundaries of gravel riding even further.
The URS (UnReStricted) range from BMC is already a comprehensive gravel offering. Featuring 8 bikes of varying specifications, the URS 01 sat at the top of the line prior to the URS LT One launch. The URS 01 turned some heads when it was released, as a sort of mashup between a hardtail mountain bike and road bike. It was an outlier among gravel bikes at the time with a stubby stem and long reach, as well as minimalist micro-suspension at the rear.
With the URS LT One, BMC have crept even closer to mountain bike territory with the most prominent upgrade from the URS 01 being the addition of an integrated coil-sprung front suspension. After the rear micro-suspension on the URS 01 was exceedingly popular with consumers, the natural progression was to integrate suspension to the front of the bike.
However, BMC admit this was not a simple upgrade, bringing in the help of HiRide, an Italian company with 20 years experience in creating integrated digital suspension designed for gravel and all-road bicycles. BMC went through a thorough R&D process spanning four years, one that included field tests and developments to allow the brand to better understand if suspension was possible and needed for gravel bikes.
The brand’s intense testing processes led to feedback from riders about small drawbacks: for example, they argued that the riding feeling on asphalt was better with a rigid fork. From this, small adjustments and optimisations were made to eventually create the fork with 20 mm of coil-sprung travel in the steerer and a hydraulic damper seen on today’s URS LT One.
By introducing front suspension on a gravel bike, BMC hopes to solve the age long conundrum regarding the optimum tire pressures for off-road riding. The Swiss brand wants 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. As well as this, the MTT suspension fork significantly elevates the bike’s performance on a variety of surfaces, absorbing vibrations on rocky terrain.
The suspension can be tuned to each rider's weight or 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 450g URS 01 carbon fork is 800g, making the introduction of front suspension a small weight penalty. Perhaps most impressively, BMC have managed to maintain a sleek, road-like look despite the technologies within the fork.
Customisation of the URS LT One doesn’t stop at the suspension, either, with 4cm of stack adjustment to help create the perfect position for optimum control. Optional cable routing for hub dynamos, as well as top tube and fender mounts mean that there are very few limits to creating your perfect ride, be it a bike-packing extravaganza or a two hour spin after work.
Aside from the front suspension innovation, the URS LT One shares many similarities with the previous iterations of the URS bike. The frame uses the same Gravel+ Geometry which has a slack 70-degree head angle, a long top tube and short stem, aiming to improve stability at fast speeds. The URS LT One also is treated to BMC’s famed Tuned Compliance Concept (TCC) with a D-shaped seatpost and minimalist, integrated suspension in the rear seat stays.
Compared to the new Roadmachine X, the URS LT One has much wider tire clearances, allowing up to 45mm. It’s accompanied with a SRAM FORCE 1x crankset and 10-52T cassette, allowing a big range of gears. SRAM FORCE eTap brakes and shifters and CRD-400 tubeless carbon wheels make the URS LT One a very premium choice for a gravel bike, retailing at £7,600, oosh.
For those of us without such deep pockets, the new URS LT Two is a cheaper option, coming in at £5,700. It still features the front and rear suspension but is accompanied by a SRAM Rival groupset and DT Swiss aluminium wheels.
Starting with a 7km gravel descent in the Swiss Alps, we wasted no time in putting the URS LT One to the test. I rode a size Small which comes with 42cm bars and a 70mm stem. The geometry was comfortable for a ride of over four hours, and the combination of a short stem and wide bars worked well when the trails got rough. The slack head angle helped in technical situations, but it still handled well on the tarmac.
Being primarily a road rider who dabbles in gravel, I haven’t had much experience using suspension forks. I approached them with caution, concerned that the movement and lack of rigidity would make the bike feel slow on climbs and drags that weren’t on particularly rocky terrain. However, I was impressed by how well the suspension was tuned, even when it was not locked out the forks were not too springy and felt comfortable both in and out of the saddle.
In fact, although the bike is marketed as a gravel bike by BMC, I would note that the geometry and adjustable stem stack makes it suitable for long road sections. It’s possible to get very aerodynamic if the stem is slammed, and we reached some impressive top speeds on the tarmacked descents despite the WTB Raddler 40 mm tires. It responded and accelerated quickly when on the road, the only caveat being that the hardest gear was not quite enough for fast road sections, and I did find myself spinning out at points.
On the toughest gravel sections where we pushed the bike to the limits, the suspension in both the front and the rear really did the job in reducing vibrations. The suspension at the back of the bike kept the rear wheel firmly planted, improving traction and noticeably smoothing out terrain. On rocky parts that normally would leave my hands sore, I felt far less pressure than I have on rigid forks and had full confidence over big potholes and bumps. The URS LT One also features in-built frame and fork protection, meaning that flying stones or debris from the road won’t damage the bright yellow paintwork that dons the bike, a handy feature – a bike of such a premium price certainly needs protecting.
The 1x12 gearing kit meant that there were some big jumps in between the gears, but I didn't find that this slowed me down and I was grateful for the easier gears on the steepest of off-road ascents. The SRAM Rival eTap AXS HRD Rotors provided very impressive stopping power which only instilled my confidence further in the bike during technical sections.
The URS LT One comes with a WTB SL8 Titanium Medium saddle which I did find a little uncomfortable for the duration of the ride. Unfortunately it missed the softer section in the centre of the saddle that relieves pressure and it was also too wide for me, making it uncomfortable on the sit bones. I would opt for something different on longer gravel climbs or on rides where I spent a little more time on the road.
A hot 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, though, the block yellow colour is striking but not too much with the simple logos. The URS LT Two comes in a more subtle blue, if you’re not brave enough to rock the mustard look.
Overall, I would say that BMC have done a great job creating a high-performance gravel bike that would perform well on fast, competitive rides or races, but also be suited to bike-packing trips with the multiple options for racks and bags. The suspension impressed me the most, the years of extensive testing really show as BMC have completely optimised the fork for gravel riding. They have struck a perfect balance between the suspension needed for tough terrain while also managing to avoid that disheartening bobbing feeling you can get with suspension on tarmac.
The URS LT One feels fun and racey, with the geometry and TCC system giving the rider the confidence to push the bike to its limits. It’s a bike that I feel I could trust on any adventure, and there is little terrain that I think it couldn’t perform well on, making it a great option for modern endurance off-road riding.