BMC Urs LT One test: The Swiss gravel bike with suspension is based on the technology and geometry of mountain bikes - this is particularly interesting for ambitious off-roaders. It is very versatile and also allows a lot of leeway in terms of seating position. Velomotion tested the robust Graveller on demanding trails.
"Gravel bike" has long since become a generic term under which very different concepts come together. There are actually only two lowest common denominators: the racing handlebars and the option of mounting tires that are at least 40 mm wide. And so a gravel bike can be just as light, reduced off-road racer as a solid bikepacking all-rounder with countless threaded holes, or full-suspension trail bike with wide 650B tires. Or it's called BMC Urs and it's a little bit of everything.
BMC Urs LT One – Softtail with a slack steering angle
The Confederates use the robust Swiss first name as an abbreviation for “unrestricted”, i.e. “unrestricted”, which is probably intended to indicate the versatile application possibilities of the model available with a carbon or aluminum frame. When the bike was presented in 2019, its proximity to mountain bikes was a small sensation: The Urs took over the slack steering angle from the BMC Teamlite, making it one of the first gravel bikes with a geometry based on MTBs. The Swiss outfitted their first gravel bike with the softtail rear end of the (now discontinued) Teamlite: there is an elastomer between the seat stays and the seat tube, which is designed to absorb shocks and vibrations with 10 mm of travel. The D-shaped seat post offers additional flex. A veritable suspension fork is now added to the Urs LT, which still provides 20 mm of travel, making the bike a quasi-fully. This arouses curiosity and raises many questions: Do you need it? And do you actually feel such short spring deflections?
Well integrated suspension
The first thing that strikes you is that the spring elements are integrated into the wheel so that they are barely visible. On the rear end, which features the low seatstays typical of BMC, all you really notice are the caps that cover the connecting bolts. And at the front, the clevis slides a bit into the collar on the underside of the head tube so that you don't even see the full 20 mm of travel. Compared to a telescopic fork, which RockShox also offers with 30 mm of travel, the BMC system is almost invisible. The only thing left is the knob for locking the suspension, which is 10 mm high and could also sit directly on the stem if you shorten the steerer tube accordingly. This is easily possible, and the stem can also be changed as usual.
This is where the versatility of the Urs comes into play: on the size L test bike, you sit comparatively upright with a 603 mm stack and 20 mm spacers. However, in terms of reach, there are only 4 to 13 mm between the four frame sizes on offer - and so you could ignore the manufacturer's size recommendations and choose a smaller frame that is a good 30 mm less high. The MTB geometry of the Urs also includes a long reach between 403 (size S) and 429 mm (size XL) - so you sit quite stretched out, even if a 90 mm short stem is mounted on the test bike in size L.
Flexibility in seating position
What does it all mean? Simply that you can sit on the BMC Urs either comfortably upright and compact or sporty low and stretched. All you have to do is choose a correspondingly larger or smaller frame and mount a slightly shorter or longer stem. And in the worst case, you have to order a longer seat post, since BMC installs them in 50 mm increments in the S, M and L frame sizes and specifies an insertion depth of 80 mm.
These are good prerequisites for being very happy with the Urs - if it drives as well as you would hope for from this eight and a half thousand euro Graveller. So let's go: If you're on the saddle and step on hard, you'll immediately notice how he (or she) pushes the suspension fork down. No problem, you can block it completely - but even if it is activated, the effect is not disturbing. At first you don't feel the damped rear end; however, if you put it on and "sit out" a pothole or ledge, you'll feel the system first absorb the shock and then give the rider a little nudge as they rebound. An active driving style is therefore also required on the Softtail. If you pull hard on the handlebars while sitting on steep sections, the suspension is noticeably stretched, but this is not disturbing given the short suspension travel. Of course, there is no sign of the promised hydraulic damping on the test bike.
Full steam ahead on the root carpet
The suspension is in its element when it comes to root carpets, rutted paths or sharp stones. On difficult stretches you can ride the BMC Urs LT One much more aggressively than with a conventional gravel bike; the chassis irons out a lot of what you would otherwise have to overcome by actively pulling up the front and rear wheels. At the same time, the bike is quite manageable despite its smooth running; what is too high for a direct confrontation on the trail can be circumnavigated in a flowing manner. The nine-and-a-half-kilo bike is by no means sluggish when it comes to cyclocross-style full-throttle acceleration from the saddle – here you get the impression that the softtail rear end provides a little more traction.
On the angular carbon frame in cool mustard yellow, the Swiss install consistently high-quality material: A Sram Force AXS with Eagle rear derailleur is on it, as well as a wheel set with gravel-specific carbon rims: 40 mm deep and with an inner width of 23 mm tailored for wide tires. The hubs look like DT Swiss, but it is noticeable that a conventional ratchet freewheel is used - from an acoustic point of view, the whirring of a toothed disc freewheel would be more appropriate for the high-priced wheel. The wheel set weighs a slim 1.600 grams “bare”, ready to ride it is a solid 3.470 grams. The 40 mm WTB tires are already mounted tubeless; they combine snappy shoulder lugs with a tread that rolls easily on asphalt and has a good grip. The tires are rather narrow for an MTB-based gravel bike, and not much more is possible: BMC approves the frame and fork for tires with a maximum width of 45 mm. That doesn't sound like much compared to some suppliers who allow tires up to 60 mm wide (B650) although one can of course ask oneself whether one needs so much volume at all. After all, the Urs is already extremely competent when delivered off-road.
Short fast gear, easy mountain gear
This is also due to the gear ratio, which is short for a bike with drop bars: at 10 to 38 teeth, the overdrive falls below the magical 4:1 threshold, with the wide tires allowing for slightly more expansion (ie the distance traveled per crank revolution). care for. Thanks to the 52 sprocket, there is an ultra-light mountain gear on the other side, which you can use to climb pretty much anywhere. Anyone who wants to use the Urs differently and can do without a gear range of 520% has many options with the 1×12 drive from SRAM. On the one hand, the frame allows the use of chainrings up to 48 teeth, on the other hand, you could mount a 10-44 or even 10-36 cassette, with the latter still having a mountain gear ratio of almost 1:1.
The front Force caliper bites into a 180 mm disc, while the rear has a normal-sized 160 mm disc. The large rotor at the front is also reminiscent of the mountain bike; whether you need it remains to be seen - please ask heavy riders in alpine terrain! There is no doubt about numerous useful details on the Urs: the down tube and bottom bracket are protected from stone chipping by a rubber cover, and there is also a protective film that almost reaches the head tube. The fork tips are also rubberized, so you can park the Urs with the front wheel removed. The bike can be fitted with mudguards and even a carrier; A dynamo cable can be routed through the right fork leg. Three bottle cages can be mounted, plus the typical top tube bag, and of course the bike can be fitted with mechanical shifting systems (and that's how it's sold). Of course, what is not possible is the assembly of a front derailleur - the Carbon-Urs is "one-by only"; a launcher can only be used on the aluminum version. The suspension fork, on the other hand, cannot be combined with cables that are routed completely internally, which is actually a good thing, because the aforementioned stem change is no problem.
Large variety of models for the Urs
BMC offers the Urs in ten variants, three of which have an aluminum frame. These are completely unsprung, whereas all carbon models have the Softtail rear end. The suspension fork is only found on the two LT variants, although in addition to the Urs LT One presented here, there is also the LT Two with SRAM Rival AXS and DT Swiss G1800, which costs two thousand less at 6.499 euros. The cheapest URS Carbon with mechanical SRAM Apex and DT Swiss C1850 costs a pleasant 3.499 euros. And so you are spoiled for choice: "Fully" or just softtail?
Anyone who comes from a mountain bike and is looking for a gravel bike for demanding terrain should find the LT variant particularly interesting and, on the other hand, not be bothered by the 800 grams more weight of the 20 mm fork - at most the high price. If you're riding on more conventional gravel terrain, the Carbon-Urs is definitely an extremely comfortable, versatile and really robust bike that doesn't even have to be expensive.