Launched in 2019, the URS was BMC’s official entry into the gravel space and it did so in several cutting-edge ways. Today, BMC released the URS LT, a bike that adds an exclusive front suspension fork to the front of one of our favorite all-terrain gravel bikes.
With 20mm of coil-sprung, oil-damped front suspension, BMC’s new gravel-specific MTT fork is quite intriguing and creates a sort of full-suspension gravel bike. The aesthetic design also reminds us of the early Cannondale HeadShocks.
Between the road world championships and the blockades we haven’t been able to witness the launch of this new bike, but we hope to get one to review one in the near future. In the meantime, here’s what you need to know about BMC’s new “Long Travel” URS.
A summary of the URS
The Unrestricted, or URS for short, is a gravel bike that mixes a number of BMC concepts from the world of road biking and mountain biking. Our coverage and first-release review of the original URS launch delves deep into much of the technology, and our more recent review of the URS Three supports many of these early findings.
Designed with modern mountain bike geometry principles, the URS offers a longer front center paired with a shorter stem. Up front is a 70-degree head angle and a fairly long silhouette.
The URS balances the 425mm chainstays with 700 × 45mm rubber clearance, but the trade-off is that the frame is only compatible with 1x drivetrains. It was certainly a polarizing design decision, but the proper 1x gear range options have since improved.
Used for the first time on BMC’s Teamelite 01 semi-rigid, the URS has an elastomer-based shock absorber integrated into the frame stays. Dubbed MTT, it offers 10mm rear wheel “travel” designed to improve traction and comfort at the rear of the bike. This is a feature that makes the difference on low energy consumption sites.
Other features of the original URS include the use of BMC’s integrated ICS cable routing through the helmet, a D-shaped seat post that adds extra riding comfort, plenty of mounting points and a relatively low frame weight.
The 407mm fork length is quite long and two years ago BMC hinted that the bike was designed to work with a suspension fork. The options were pretty limited back then, but it’s now obvious that BMC was busy cooking something in the kitchen.
And that brings us to the URS LT (Long Travel) – a new model that shares the same URS carbon fiber frame, but has a new fork.
URS LT and MTT
Only available with the URS LT, BMC’s new MTT fork offers 20mm of coil-spring, oil-damped suspension with many working components hidden in the head tube. And yes, it can be locked.
BMC enlisted the help of HiRide for the design, the same Italian company responsible for the micro-suspension found in Pinarello’s Dogma FS road bike that was designed for Roubaix. However, BMC is the first to bring the technology to the gravel world.
A lock knob sits above the stem and offers stepless adjustment rather than a binary on / off adjustment.
The suspension unit is made of aluminum and steel, with the hydraulic shock absorber at the bottom and the steel springs stacked above. Compared to a more conventional suspension fork, BMC’s design aims to reduce friction in order to be effective on high frequency bumps. This helps explain the choice of coil spring over an air spring, and also why the system telescopes on needle bearings over the bushings that are often used in suspension forks.
On paper, the design looks a bit like the FutureShock found in Specialized’s Diverge, but being placed under the head tube, BMC’s design should help with both traction and comfort, as opposed to the latter.
With the original MTT concept found in the rear of a number of BMC bikes, the company obviously has experience in incorporating lightweight elastomers. However, when it comes to the fork, BMC decided the elastomers were too limiting with the amount of suspension travel and tuning options they were looking for.
The MTT suspension unit bolts to the aluminum crown of the fork, and underneath are carbon fiber fork blades that share a similar aesthetic to the rigid fork of the URS. The Swiss company says it adds around 800g compared to the rigid URS fork and is designed to be competitive with other options on the market. Although the company did not provide a specific number, I would expect the range to be around the 1250-1300g mark.
Without an adjustable air spring, the spring stiffness and preload (firmness) are adjustable via three different springs and three different plastic preload wedges. Making such an adjustment requires a special tool, something your local BMC dealer will apparently have.
With moving components inside, the head tube has a larger diameter of 1 1/4 in. This is a size that has slowly grown into the second most popular offering in the industry, with Canyon and Giant using it on many of their performance road bikes. Therefore, brands such as Zipp and Ritchey also offer compatible aftermarket stem options. BMC says the system allows up to 4cm of stem height adjustment, the head tube can apparently be cut by a similar amount and the headset compression is achieved via a threaded nut that sits underneath the lock button.
With suspension components filling the head tube, the URS LT does not feature fully concealed brake hoses and gear cables (if any), but these are left exposed between the handlebars and the modular port on the down tube.
The MTT fork has the same length as the original URS rigid fork and therefore the geometry of the bike is unchanged.
There are generally three obvious drawbacks that come with the added complexity of moving components. The extra weight is the easiest to measure. The additional cost is another. However, the maintenance and wear introduced is an often overlooked drawback in the bicycle buying process.
“Due to the design of the system, the maintenance intervals are very long, exceeding two years with heavy use,” said a BMC representative on the matter. This is indeed a long lead time for a suspension component, especially when RockShox and Fox typically suggest service every 50 to 100 hours of use. However, since a special tool is required to exchange the springs, it is likely that any maintenance on this fork will be somewhat complicated.
Regarding this point, when asked to reinstall the MTT fork on pre-existing URS bikes, BMC suggested that while it is possible, it is an advanced task and therefore they decided not to offer the fork as a separate part for now.
Two model options
BMC offers two models of the new URS LT, sharing the same frame and available in four size options. Both models are available now.
The URS LT One (US $ 7,999 / € 7,999) tops the line with a SRAM Force AXS ‘Mullet’ groupset that uses an X0 Eagle rear derailleur to cover the 10-52T cassette range. The bike rides on BMC’s own brand of tubeless-ready carbon wheels, which are wrapped in 40mm WTB Raddler tires. In comparison, the similarly equipped rigid URS 01 Two sells for € 7,499, swapping out the MTT front suspension for concealed wiring.
At US $ 6,299 / € 5,999, the URS LT Two upgrades to a SRAM Rival / GX AXS ‘Mullet’ groupset to deliver the same speed range as above. The wheels are DT Swiss G1800 Splines which spin the Swiss company’s 370 series hub.