Have you ridden a World Cup cross country course recently? Far from being a road race around some woods, they’re surprisingly technical, with rock gardens, jumps, drops and unrelenting changes in pitch and pace. All the while, the bikes have been getting lighter and lighter, while tyre treads are getting skinnier and more minimal for maximum speed. You can’t be a good XC racer these days without being a great bike handler. And able to suffer as your skinny bike is thrown around by the rocks and roots.
Now, the obvious answer would be to run chunkier, grippier tyres at lower pressures to give a bit more grip and cush, or run a full suspension bike. But this is cross country racing, and those riders don’t like doing anything that’ll make their bikes heavier or more complicated, so they just suck it up. In order to solve this issue, BMC has come out with the Teamlite frame, featuring 15mm of rear-end compliance, dubbed ‘Micro Travel Technology (MTT)’
With this new system, says BMC, “cross-country racers can ditch the common practice of manipulating tire pressure to gain more compliance for technical descents. MTT’s damping and additional frame compliance smoothes out the ride, letting riders apply more power to gain that elusive differentiator; speed.”
Which is another way of saying ‘You no longer have to let your tyres down for more comfort’. It might not make sense to trail riders, but, again, XC racers want to run skinny, hard tyres for maximum speed wherever they can.
The heart of the system is a small ‘dual guided’ elastomer-type bumper that, combined with the flex of the carbon seatstays, allows 15mm of extra give at the back wheel. Combined with the 29er wheels, it should help iron things out enough for a couple of hours of flat-out pain.
And it manages to do this without adding the complexity and weight of suspension and shocks and pivots. The frame weighs in at 1080g, with all hardware. Obviously, this type of concept isn’t new – and there have been assorted designs through the years, like the Moots YBB, the Ibis Ripley and the Litespeed Unicoi (and even the new Pinarello R8 road bike) – all of which used chainstay flex and either a rubber bumper, elastomer or tiny rear shock.
BMC-sponsored racers have been running this bike since February and even five time World Champion and BMC Mountain Bike Racing Team rider, Julien Absalon reluctantly agrees that it fits the racers’ criteria of speed without extra complexity. “To be honest, when I tried out the new MTT technology, I was anticipating a compromise” says Absalon, “I’m convinced it climbs just as good as last year’s bike, with a little extra something for the down hills which we definitely need. I’m very happy to have this edge!”