BMC's Granfondo GF01 105 Disc is a well-specced bike designed for day-long rides, sportives and the like, and it's very much up to the job – and pretty much any other road riding you fancy.
BMC is a proudly Swiss brand with a reputation for turning out beautifully made race-winning bikes – with church-pew-hard rides. The GF01 kicks that last element of brand identity into the weeds. It's not only a shape that makes triple-digit rides do-able, but comfortable as well.
I jumped on the Shimano 105-spec GF01 with no preconceptions, only an unlimited amount of Somerset back lanes, lots of nasty climbs that make Belgian bergs look like sorry excuses for hills, and plenty of time to see where the chips lay...
It took about a mile before I stopped to pump more air into the 25mm Continental Ultra Sport II tyres, feeling sure they were a bit under. A couple of miles later I stopped to check again. Nope, no pressure loss and yes, they were up to my standard pressure. Something unusual was happening here.
This bike feels like a comfortable chair. Immediately friendly. The typical sense of bracing slightly against the bumps in the road isn't needed. If you're more used to a road racing-specific, feel-every-bump ride, the GF01 will be a revelation.
As the miles added up I headed for those out-of-the-way back roads, looking for bad surfaces, leaves, stretches of towpath – anything that was less than silky smooth tarmac – just to see what would over-awe this frame.
It's apparent that it's not just some one-off design quirk that makes this bike so smooth. It's not the back end, the front end, clever dropouts or the components, it's the collective of all of them. It feels more like a high end titanium frame than a carbon one over the bumps, like it's alive.
I stopped being gobsmacked pretty soon and just got on enjoying the miles float by. The bike feels like it rides the bumps rather than skipping over them as a harsher frame might. This is just what you want, especially in the wet, leaf-strewn conditions of autumn. In poor conditions, tyres in contact with the road means they have a sporting chance of generating grip. The GF01's frame and fork generate a ride that feels more connected to the road, more of the time.
The bike is light enough be considered properly flighty. It climbs with a sense of urgency and purpose that shame many other sportive-specific bikes. The fusion between the stiff front end and the smooth ride of the rear lets you sit in and apply the juice to the pedals. The taller, sportive-friendly geometry helps make seated climbing comfortable too, with the tops and hooks both easily accessible.
Crest the hill and the GF01 encourages an immediate upshift, to keep the momentum you've generated on the climb flowing. It's like a puppy chasing sticks.
I love descending. This bike loves descending too. The GF01 might not be quite as pin sharp as a crit bike on the flat, but get it to 30mph or more and it feels rock solid, yet can be whipped around potholes or manhole covers with next to no effort and certainly no drama. In fact it's so nailed on descents I went looking for opportunities to do this.
A large part of why this bike is such fun to descend on – and why you can ride rough roads with such confidence – is the way your bodyweight is so well balanced between both contact patches. There's no sense that the front and rear are having different thoughts. When it's time to drop a shoulder into a downhill sweeper, both tyres feel like they're driving evenly. I learned to trust the GF01 like a brother, and so far it hasn't stolen my socks or hidden my Action Man.
BMC developed its own carbon lay-up to allow it to zero in on the ideal magic carpet ride, and the GF01 is its first bike to really have comfort in its core DNA.
The wheelbase measurement and seat and head angles don't make dramatic or unusual reading, nor do they give a clear indication that you're going to be treated with such a sure-footed ride. They're ballpark numbers for a large number of sportive style bikes.
BMC hasn't had to do anything odd to get the ride it was looking for, instead it's concentrated on manipulating the frame material to do the magic.
The frame is a feathery 1050g in 54cm (I tested a 56cm); that's pretty amazing when you think about the big, boxy dimensions of the tubes.
The BMC carbon frame architecture is among the most avant garde of all current mainstream bicycle brands. As frames go, they're possibly as far from classically beautiful as you can get, yet they're not ugly. Different, or challenging maybe, but not ugly.
The rear end and the front look like they're from different bikes, or at least different designers. Apart from the visual jolt of the dropped union between the seatstays and the seat tube, there is the juxtaposition of those skinny, flattened seatstays (though far from the skinniest I've seen) and the chunky front tubes. Plus those waifish seatstays join deep-section and heavily tapered chainstays at industrial looking carbon rear dropouts.
Talking of dropouts, both the rear dropouts and the fork's use BMC's 'Angle Compliance' theory. Visually, you can see a small change of angle as the chainstays blend into the dropouts, and similarly at the tips of the fork blades. This introduces a mild cantilever effect, which helps generate some of the comfort and buzz dulling, and going back to my first mile, is part of the reason why I thought the tyres were under pressure.
The fork itself is a fine piece of engineering, specially designed for the long rides the GF01 is built for. The blades also have a little extra comfort-enhancing rake, placing the front axle a little further in front to help with high speed stability.
Another key component in keeping you seated and on the gas when the road is trying to ruin your best efforts is the seatpost. BMC uses a 'carbon flex tuned' design. This serves two purposes: first, the lay-up helps to further damp road vibration before it reaches you, and second, the built-in flex helps you remain seated (and powering) as the bike goes over bumpy ground, working like a rubber engine mount would in a car.
Of course it's easy to make a wet, limp comfortable frame – just under build it; the early skinny-tubed alloy frames of the Eighties nailed that skill. Making a frame like this, which has the lateral stiffness of a sprinter's bike (and this bike does love to be let off the leash) and an ability to hold a line in the most dynamic cornering situations AND still feel butter smooth – that's where the skill is.
All the gears
The GF01 is specced with the latest iteration of Shimano's stalwart 105 groupset. Slicker and sharper than ever before, it now features the new 105 crankset with 50/34-tooth rings, a stiffer and lighter four-arm spider, and the same Hollowtech 2 design as Shimano's top two Ultegra and Dura-Ace models. Front shifting speed and accuracy is noticeably improved over the previous version.
The frame comes with a built-in chain watcher, to ward against dropped chains on front downshifts. A long cage rear derailleur looks a bit 'touring bike' according to some of the local club riders, but it does allow the full range of gears to be used.
Long cage derailleurs are an increasingly common sight on fast road bikes, as gearing ratios widen. The GF01 pairs its 50/34t chainrings with an 11-32t cassette, and the long cage 105 mech allows a full crossover 50x32 and 34x11 combinations, without causing chain take up issues.
Rolling and stopping
The laterally stiff, disc brake-only Shimano RX31 wheels must be credited for adding to the stable feel of the bike. The 24-spoke wheels are 1831g for the pair – not light, nor leaden – and they roll well, take a hit like a champ and don't grab crosswinds. Their 24mm wide alloy rims will easily take the wider rubber we'd lean towards, too.
Because, although the 25mm Continental slicks grip well in the wet and dry, there is space for 28mm tyres, and with a raft of exceptionally fast and wide offerings on the market, it seems daft not to use the space provided in the frame and fork. There's very little extra rolling resistance from going up a width in tyre, and loads of extra traction. Plus, with disc brakes on the GF01 offering predictable and consistent levels of stopping power, the extra surefootedness of 28mm tyres would allow you to use the brakes even more effectively in more extreme conditions.
Speaking of which, those disc brakes are really very good. I'm a mountain biker by habit and am well used to having bags of braking power and modulation on tap. I'm also well aware that a wrongly timed handful of brake can leave you on the floor. If, as a road rider, you're considering disc brakes for the first time, worry not: it takes about two rides to get the measure of the way they work, then you forget about them – until it's freezing cold and wet and you realise how well they're still working, and understand why off-roaders have been disc braking for years.
The Shimano full-hydraulic units on the GF01 are internally routed for a clean (and rattle-free) fit. BMC specs 140mm rotors, which are about right, unless you're blasting down Alpine cols all day every day.
The cockpit is an all-alloy BMC branded affair, and it's extremely comfortable and ergonomic – stiff, but not lifeless. The bar is 42cm wide and has a compact drop. The alloy stem on our 56cm frame is a 110mm, four-bolt bar clamp job.
Also worthy of mention is the new R7 version of the Fizik Aliante, a perennial favourite saddle of long-distance riders. The R7 has the same familiar rounded, slightly hammocked shape of the Aliante, but with added plastic scuff shoulders. It generally does a good job of being a comfortable place to sit. I really like it.
I could, quite easily, live with this as my only road bike, and that sentiment doesn't come often. If you've only got space for one, I'd urge you to consider the GF01.
With lighter wheels it would make a decent fist of road racing (rule changes notwithstanding) or time trials, but this is a bike designed for rides of distance not sheer speed, and in its standard spec it'll take on sportives, or gran fondos on the Continent, or the sort of riding we all do most often – dawn-to-dusk epic days out, on endless roads of any condition. We're down with that.
A very plush, high performance yet characterful ride, perfect for long distances
road.cc test report
Make and model: BMC GF01 Disc
Size tested: 56cm
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
TCC, with angle compliance, Pure Carbon
Compliance fork disc, pure carbon, with TCC
Shimano 105 FD-5800
Shimano 105 RD-5800
Number of Gears:
Shimano 105 FC-5800, 50-34T
Shimano 105 11 Speed 11-32t
Shimano BR-R785 w/ SM-RTXX-SS 140mm Rotor F & R
BMC RDB 3
BMC RST 3
Continental Ultra Sport 2, 700 – 25C, Folding
Continental Ultra Sport 2, 700 – 25C, Folding
Fizik Aliante R7, manganese
Compliance Post, Pure Carbon, with TCC, 18mm offset
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
BMC says: "The Granfondo GF01 Disc was originally developed with the BMC Racing Team, but its ergonomic geometry, high vertical compliance and stable handling address the direct needs of any discerning long-distance cyclist. BMC's engineers married the team's granfondo race frame with disc brakes for greater braking power and modulation in poor conditions, making it an exceptional companion on almost any road condition. This bike truly is the Gran Turismo of cycling: an exceptional machine that offers unparalleled comfort for long distances. The endurance-fit geometry and carefully selected components help you get the most out of every long ride."
Throughout the course of our testing I was inclined to agree.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
The build quality is excellent. Lovely finishing. Great attention to detail.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
BMC uses carbon fibre throughout the frame and fork. Using its Tuned Compliance Concept, it blends the stiffness of each tube through shape, size thickness and lay-up of the carbon itself.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Following the requirements of riders looking for a comfortable position over long periods of time, the GF01 uses a taller front end than the SL01 pure road bike. The fork rake is also increased for comfort and stability.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
The height and reach were standard for a 56cm sportive specific frame. I felt naturally at home on the bike from the first mile.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
This is en extremely comfortable bike to ride. It managed to feel smooth without losing a sense of the ground I was covering or the grip levels available.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Climbing and sprinting both felt natural and effective on the GF01. The bike was stiff where it needed to be and not where it didn't.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
The bike felt great under power. There was never a sense that any power was lost.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
No toe overlap on the 56cm frame with size 7 (eur 41) feet.
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Slower than on a pure road race machine at cruising speed, but once going quickly it was pin sharp.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
The bike loves stready state cruising. It also likes to descend.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
After the frame itself, the seatpost, saddle and fork are the components most responsible for the comfortable ride.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
The cranks and wheels add to the feeling of stiffness and stability. The bike would benefit from a lighter set of wheels for an added turn of speed and climbing ability.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
The 105 transmission and smooth-rolling RX31 wheels are excellent. I'd up-spec as time goes on, but there's no crushing need to change anything.
It felt right for the remit of the bike.
It get off the mark well. Lighter wheels would make it even better.
It'll sprint acceptably, only the tall front end hinders the ability to get right over the bar and into the full Cav position.
Nailed to the road once you're doing 30.
The bike sits there, rock solid over bumps and thick layers of wet leaves..
At lower speeds the bike is acceptably stable.
The GF01 can be flicked, leaned or pushed hard into turns depending on how you want to attack the corner.
If you've got the balls to take the lines, the GF01 will hold them.
Steady state is better than punchy changes of tempo for the GF01, but it get the job done well.
Nothing to criticise on the new Shimano 105. Properly reliable.
With care it'll last years. Upspeccing will buy durability when you eventually get around to it.
It could all be lighter, but for what it is and the price, it's totally acceptable.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
The new chainrings are stiffer and help the front shifting speed and accuracy no end. Shifting front and rear was spot on.
Wheels and tyres
Not light, but stiff and they feel fast rolling.
Neither are record breakers, but both work well and don't interfere with the GF01 getting its job done well.
No complaints. I'd fit 28mm tyres just to help get the most out of the brakes.
Tell us some more about the wheels and tyres.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels or tyres? If so, what for?
I'd be happy to keep the stock wheels on the bike and use them for everyday riding. That said, I'd invest in a lighter pair, to use for events and suchlike – the frameset deserves to be fitted with something more sporty.
The ergonomics of Shimano controls is excellent.
As usual it's easy to scuff the brake/shift lever hoods, making them scruffy.
The hood shape is improved and the levers remain very comfortable.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
The controls work well, the reach is okay for most hands. The amount of freestroke in the hydraulic brakes might be too much for some, but it does mean riders with small hands can reach the levers and hold them in a bit without activating the brakes.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes. Very much
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
The score for performance reflects the GF01's function specific design. It achieves its core goal of long distance comfort at the slight expense of pure road speed. Value-wise the frameset is a gem, and well worth keeping beyond the life of its components. Given this, the asking price as specced seems fair.
About the tester
Age: 43 Height: 5'9 Weight: ?
I usually ride: My seven titanium My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, club rides, sportives, mountain biking, a bit of everything