BMC Fourstroke 02 ReviewMay 25, 2016
- Ultra-quick through turns
- Excellent climber
- Outstanding spec-to-price ratio
- Dual remote suspension lockout
- Over 26 pounds
- Steep, “tippy” feel in front
Another of the pure speed machines in this test group, the BMC Fourstroke 02 is a super-quick accelerator, and probably the quickest turner in the group. The efficient suspension, plus dual, 2-position lockouts mean there’s never an excuse when hammering a steep hill or sprinting past your buddies. It also lands drops quite smoothly relative to its suspension length. Add to this the full-XT spec, wheels by DT Swiss, and a very competitive price, and you’ve got an excellent choice for those looking to get into XC or Marathon racing, but can’t drop the big bucks on a top-end bike. Where this bike falls a bit short, however, is its relatively heavy (26.6 lbs. Large, as tested) weight and a forward “tippiness” in the front end that had me considerable less confident when descending, especially where steep, abrupt rocks and roots slowed momentum. This also effected climbing, as it was a bit harder to pull up over obstacles to maintain momentum. Finally, we wish the bike was spec'd with a 1x11 system for lower weight, higher clearance.
Overall ride quality on the BMC Fourstroke 02 is very solid, with the FOX front and rear suspension working harmoniously for a smooth, comfortable ride considering its high efficiency. The ride has very little bounce, even under heavy power and/or standing. Larger hits are landed with just enough cush in the Fox Float PerformanceSeries shock to keep you confident and upright, but not too much to inhibit acceleration upon landing. Small bump absorption is also strong in the rear; less so up front on the Fox 32 Float Performance Series fork, but not to a major degree. But the tippy feeling mentioned above makes for a less-than-confident ride when things get really bumpy—especially on descents where it is of course amplified. Initial contact with large and/or especially steep-faced bumps can be jarring, momentum-killing, and throw your weight forward, especially if you don’t carry enough speed into them. Highly technical sections, whether flat or descending, can be rough to navigate.
A huge down tube and beefy bottom bracket (BB) area, combined with the relatively aggressive geometry, give the BMC Fourstroke 02 excellent efficiency in the pedal strokes along with snappy, instant responsiveness. The XT crankset and shifting is an excellent addition here, blending stiffness with smooth, quick gear changes. Finally even without the lockout engaged, pedaling is smooth with only minor bounce—lock it out all the way and the bike rides like a slightly heavier hardtail. And therein lies the rub: the bike’s relatively heavy weight makes it a bit more sluggish than it should be—while I didn’t feel this in a sprint or long, sustained effort, it was more apparent in the climbs.
As mentioned above, pedaling efficiency is excellent on the BMC Fourstroke 02, with a stiff, responsive frame and crankset that turns your power into forward motion quite efficiently. The dual remote lockout feature means any bob in the suspension—of which there is precious little to begin with—can be quickly eliminated, or substantially limited, with the flick of your thumb.The only downside here is sometimes I prefer the fork to be open and lock out the shock for a powerful acceleration without the bumpy ride, but this is not common and not worth lamenting here. On the negative side, with the forward feel of this bike, the front end takes a good tug to pull up under load, like when climbing a hill and needing to get the front over a rock or root. And of course riders will notice the added weight of the machine means, especially on longer climbs and steeper sections.
See above under “Ride Quality” for specific issues with handling on technical descents. As for smoother descents, especially flowy and turny ones, the BMC Fourstroke 02 absolutely shines. The front endis super-responsive, and the bike seems to begin a turn even before you initiate it! Continental’s X-King (front) and RaceKing (rear) 2.2” tires strike an excellent balance of grip and speed, and carve through all but extremely tight, loose turns. A slightly wider front would be welcomed for those conditions.
As with their road groups, Dura Ace and Ultegra, Shimano’s two top mountain groups, XTR and XT are very close in performance, with little to distinguish them other than a slight difference in weight and substantial difference in price. The BMC Fourstroke 02 is spec’d with a full XT group, including drivetrain, brakes and shifters. This package is almost indistinguishable from its higher-priced big brother in performance, and among the best groups and values available. Shifting is signature Shimano: ultra-quick, smooth and reliable, and the Hollowtech crank is stiff and light. The other thing we prefer on Shimano is multiple click options on their rear shifters—you can shift up to two gears in one motion to a higher gear (not available on SRAM), and up to three to a lower gear. This may seem insignificant, but it’s quite noticeable when switching between the two—something you don’t know you need until you don’t have it. The thumb effort required on the XT shifters was more than the testing team preferred, but by no means outside of acceptable range. Braking is also outstanding with XT, with subtle modulation and surprising braking power—we actually found it equal to if not better than the XTR version. While the 2×11 system functions beautifully, a 1×11 system would be lighter with higher clearance with only a negligible loss of gear options. Plus, we wish this bike had Shimano’s IceTech rotors or calipers—designed to dissipate heat quicker for better performance in long descents.
DT Swiss is the industry standard for durability and performance in third-party wheel components, and the X1700 TWO wheelset on the BMC Fourstroke 02 proved well worthy of the name. This is a value wheelset to be sure, but the quality is still there, and the build is solid, with straight-pull spokes, which are stiffer and lighter than J-pull, and DT’s legendary hubs and bearings. The set weighs an acceptable 1680g, and the 24mm rims can handle wider tires and more aggressive riding. As solid as they are however, a lighter wheelset would bring this bike under 26 pounds, where it should be, without adding much to the already-low price.
With a full XT build, DT Swiss wheels, FOX suspension, and a high-end carbon frame—all for $3800—the BMC Fourstroke 02 is a standout value. This is a legit racing machine with a great build and we’re quite surprised that it comes in under $4k. Unlike many bikes trying to hit a certain price point, BMC didn’t skimp on anything really—even the tires are top notch. The only detraction here, if it can really be called that, is that many people who buy a bike at this price are probably not looking for a race-centric rig, and might want more versatility.