BMC Reinvents The Softtail

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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.

Not a bad silhouette for a bike with rear springing gubbins
Here it is earlier. In a box.

 

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.

Bounce!
Room for your skinny race rubber here.

 

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.

The frame allows for super-neat cable routing too, whether Di2 or cabled.
A 1x crank, or room for a front mech too

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!”

Chipps

Singletrack Editor

Chipps wasn’t around for the dawn of mountain biking in the UK, but he likes to claim that he arrived in time for second breakfast (about the time he shows up for work, then…) starting in the bike trade in 1990 and becoming a full time mountain bike journalist at the start of 1994. Over the subsequent quarter century, he has seen mountain bike culture flourish and diversify and bike technology go from rigid steel frames to fully suspended carbon fibre (and sometimes back to rigid steel as well.)

His riding style is best described as ‘medium, wheels on the ground, trail riding’ though he’s been spotted doing everything from endurance downhill racing to 24 hour cross country racing. He favours mid-travel trail bikes and claims to be wheel-size, gear, brake and tyre agnostic. In fact, his garage spans most bicycle flavours, taking in steel hardtails, carbon trail bikes, even a mountain bike tandem, along with road, touring and gravel/cyclocross bikes.

While he’s happy to chat about bikes all day, his real interest is in the people and places that bikes can introduce you to and he talks as fondly about the trails he’s ridden and riders he’s met as the bikes that took him there.

Comments (9)

    Sunn did this in about 1998 with an elastomer wedged in a vertik frame, no pivots just flex in the chain stays.

    so thats elastomers and bio pace making a come back, whats next? flex stems?

    That’s awesome. Not being sarcastic, that really is a good move. Courses are getting more technical, and we are getting physically hammered more. Even more so in 24hr racing.
    For me, that’s why I switched back to a full sus for long races.
    This, I buy into. I like it.

    Hmm, like that. Presumably 29er only…

    And in red, it’ll be a few % quicker than the black one. Science fact.

    29er only, SeaDog. And no, the idea’s not new at all. Merlin did one in 1993, Litespeed not long after – and there’s all sorts of Victorian patents for it. Not a bad idea for that purpose though.

    Can I also spec a flexstem?

    Looks sweet. I hope the elastomer lasts the frame lifetime?

    Always had a bit of a softspot for softtails, me.

    that “linkage” looks like a great place to build up a huge amount of mud.

    First BMC that has made me think ‘want’, but then I always wanted a YBB. This + 29 wheels = enough (for me).

    Fair point about the clearance though, I’d still want a 2.3 tyre in there with British Winter Space

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