Australian Mountain Bike - - Contents - WORDS: MIKE BLE­WITT PHOTOS: MIKE BLE­WITT

We take a trip to Grenchen in Switzer­land to find out the secret be­hind BMC’s bril­liant bikes.

Think of Switzer­land and im­ages of moun­tains come to mind. And cheese, cho­co­late, watches, bank­ing, an ef­fi­cient trans­port sys­tem and more. The Swiss are known not just for their tra­di­tion, but also their pre­ci­sion. I dropped into the BMC of­fices in Grenchen, to learn about what makes BMC bikes unique.

One of the key parts of BMC’s suc­cess in bring­ing lead­ing bikes to mar­ket is the IMPEC lab. Right next door to their of­fices, BMC have a complete car­bon fi­bre pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity, where they can cre­ate moulds for 100% ride­able pro­to­types.

“At the IMPEC Lab we have the abil­ity to de­velop a new car­bon mould in one day,” says Bastien Feder when I chat with him on my visit. “We can im­me­di­ately test our de­signs. You can see the per­for­mance with our road and moun­tain bike teams – we need to have prod­ucts that support their rac­ing. And when you think Swiss, you think pre­ci­sion, you think qual­ity, you think good en­gi­neer­ing - so those are the ma­jor things that push BMC for­ward.”

Through the mid­dle of this year, BMC have re­leased four new moun­tain bikes and a new road bike. The BMC of­fices aren’t mas­sive, but Feder ex­plains how the team stay so ef­fi­cient.

“De­sign-wise we have a team of four peo­ple ex­clu­sively ded­i­cated to the de­sign of a bike. This comes from tube shapes, to struc­tural con­cepts and even colours,” he says. BMC have two of the strong­est teams in the world on the road and off-road, and their role is es­sen­tial as well.

“Our team rid­ers are used more for the tech­ni­cal re­search and de­vel­op­ment. We have Cadel Evans and the whole road team, and Ju­lian Ab­sa­lon and the whole moun­tain bike team who use and test the pro­to­types, so it’s re­ally help­ful to have all those guys,” Feder adds. “There is no bet­ter help than to have feed­back from some­one who spends 365 days a year on a bike. They will feel ev­ery­thing, even just a small change. They will feel it.”

Look­ing across BMC’s range it’s clear they are spe­cial­ists in car­bon fi­bre. But Feder in­sists that the main fo­cus at BMC is mak­ing the best bike pos­si­ble for the tar­get mar­ket, whether that’s in alu­minium or dif­fer­ent grades of car­bon fi­bre.

“It’s re­ally an ex­per­tise we have with car­bon,” he says. “And hav­ing the IMPEC Lab lets us truly un­der­stand and test the lim­its of a de­sign in a shorter time­frame. We push alu­minium too. We did a Team­ma­chine (road bike) in full alu­minium, as we want to push our ex­per­tise on ev­ery level. The moun­tain bike range shows that. With car­bon bikes at the 01 level, the 02 level is a car­bon main tri­an­gle and alu­minium rear, and the 03 is full alu­minium. We push the ex­per­tise at the high­est level - our prod­uct de­sign­ers just want to be the best! They don’t be­lieve that just do­ing a frame is OK, they al­ways want to make it bet­ter.”

Out­side the win­dow lie the foothills of the Ber­nese Ober­land, and the val­ley stretches to­wards Neucha­tel and on­wards to Lac Le­man. The BMC lunch rides are pretty var­ied, with staff hit­ting trails or roads on their bikes or pro­to­types. I ques­tion Bastien Feder whether BMC ac­tu­ally op­er­ate in the best #ter­rain­lab of all?

“For sure, we’ve got a gi­ant out­door fa­cil­ity at our doorstep, with the Swiss Alps, but also the flat­ter roads and even the velo­drome next door,” he says. “Def­i­nitely it helps. Putting the bike di­rectly on the good ter­rain helps. We can jump out the door and test it on a range of ter­rain. And if they need to do an­other mould, they can go just 500m and do that in the IMPEC Lab.”

BMC’s new bikes in­clude the SpeedFox with an in­te­grated drop­per post whose ac­tu­a­tion works with the shock’s lock­out. But at BMC, they feel a lot of the fu­ture in cy­cling will in­volve pedal-as­sist.

“The E-MTBs are in­creas­ing crazily in Europe,” Feder ex­plains. “That’s a big sub­ject but also beyond moun­tain bik­ing.” Will we see their E-MTBs land in Aus­tralia? Watch this space.

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