The ground was wet as we walked across the car park to the bikes assembled neatly on the long rack, a low cloud coldly hugging the resort of Magglingen, the destination BMC had chosen to launch its 2012 Trailfox TF01.
We’re in Switzerland, south of Biel and an hour and a half’s train journey from Zurich, just a short drive from BMC’s headquarters. A funicular whisks us from Biel up to Magglingen, a resort owned by the Swiss government and used by various Olympic teams for training and preparation.
We’re told these trails are local enough to the company that they often visit, and much of their testing of new bikes is actually undertaken here. So the new Trailfox should excel here, one would think. Following a short presentation in the morning where we’re taken through the history of the company, the philosophy behind the Trailfox and its evolution over the years, we’re let loose on test bikes.
So what’s new on the carbon Trailfox?
The Trailfox is BMC’s 150mm all-mountain offering, the longest travel bike in its range. The bike was first launched in 2007 and has been gradually tweaked as riding styles and standards have changed.
For 2012 BMC has launched a carbon fibre version of the Trailfox. Both the main frame and rear triangle have been moulded in carbon fibre, and the tube profiles follow the company’s distinctive Integrated Skeleton shape, with a lot of standover clearance and space inside the front triangle for a water bottle. It’s all very nicely finished, with good attention to detail. It’s a manly looking frame, with rectangular setions and a swoopy downtube.
The result of making it from carbon fibre is a 2.5kg (5.5lbs) weitht, and that’s with shock, downtube protector, rear Shimano/Fox axle and all mounting hardware. We had the choice of two build kits, a SRAM XO with Easton Haven aluminium wheels or the mighty Shimano XTR with Easton Haven carbon wheels. Interestingly, both hit the scales at near enough the exact same weight, a whisker over 25lbs (11.33kg).
BMC’s own Advanced Pivot System (APS) linkage system, a virtual pivot suspension configuration that allows BMC designers to tailor the suspension feel and performance, is used to good effect on the Trailfox. The rear triangle attaches to the mainframe via 3D-forged aluminium linkages, one just above the bottom bracket and the upper link driving the Fox RP23 shock. BMC say this design reduces braking and pedalling forces from adversely affecting the suspension.
BMC also boldly claim the TrailFox is the bike to have if you want just one bike in your stable: “We want to have one bike that fits for long uphills, technical trails and demanding downhills. Consequently, we kept refining the frame design, geometry and suspension performance with each generation of the TrailFox.”
How does it ride then?
The Trailfox promises so much on paper then, but how does it perform on the trail. Only one way to find out, we fitted some pedals and hit the dirt.
Fortunately, the BMC guys weren’t kidding when they were boasting about how good the trails and singletrack are around here in the bar the night before. We kick into life on this damp cold day with a swooping, rocky, rooty, slimy, muddy singletrack descent that instantly wakes us up. I haven’t ridden any wet trails for what seems like ages and the first time the front tyre wipes over a slimy rock I get a shock reminder of just how good we’ve had it in the UK for the last six weeks or so. We’re jealous of these trails, even despite the slime.
But the sun soon makes an appearance and throughout the day the trail conditions improve. This is real all-mountain territory, and the Trailfox laps it up. It’s confident and doesn’t feel out of its depth even in some of the bigger rock gardens we encounter as we hurtle down the hillside. It sits up well in its travel through the faster stuff, and never gets flustered no matter how hard you push it. The feeling of stability and solidness comes through strong, there’s no twist or flex throughout the frame, it can be pushed hard into corners and it rails right on through.
Impressive, especially considering the bike we rode weighed 25.03lbs. That’s short travel XC race bike weight, but it can be smashed down rough as you like descents at mind-bending speeds, and doesn’t complain one little bit. Our bike was fitted with RockShox’s Reverb dropper seatpost which really suits this sort of bike, for the kind of riding where you want maximum fun on the way down but want to race up the hills, a dropper post should be standard for such riders. It’s the best example of a dropper post we’ve yet seen, but more on the Reverb in a future article.
Part of the reason the bike rides so well is the numbers, the geometry is about bang on. Compared to the aluminium Trailfox, BMC decided the carbon version, given the kind of riders it expects to invest in this bike, needed a steeper headangle, so 1 degree was added. It’s now 67.5 degrees. It works. Handling as a result is agile and nimble and was right at home on the steeper stuff. And of course by making it less slack climbing performance is improved immeasurably, making it much more UK-friendly for most trail riders.
Several lung-busting climbs later (the BMC guys are obviously used to these, we weren’t as we found out) proved that the Trailfox is an incredible climber. There’s very little unwanted bob from the rear shock, it’s provides stacks of traction on the technical climbs, scrabbling up and over any obstacles. And of course the stunning low weight attribute greatly to its climbing performance.
I really think this could be the ultimate do-everything trail bike for the rider seeking the lightest, fastest and most capable all-round trail bike. Show it an all-day epic, a marathon, enduro, 12-hour race, hell even a XC race, and it’ll just shrug its shoulders in a nonchalant style and simply get on with it. It’s a seriously impressive bike.
BMC is still sorting out its UK lineup but at the moment it looks like there’ll be two builds, a SRAM XO one costing somewhere in the region of £4500, while a more affordable Shimano XT model (we’re guessing £4000) should be added to the range too. Availability is expected sometime in July. More details on spec and prices soon.
BMC are now available from Evans Cycles with an exclusive deal that will see 35 stores across the UK carrying stock of the bikes.
We’ll hopefully be getting a Trailfox in for a thorough test as soon as one is available.