From the Top: BMC's Head of Mountain Bike Development Stefan Christ

Aug 4, 2018
by Matt Wragg  



To understand the Swiss you need to understand their geography. The country is more slope than plain, ringed by the unforgiving alps on every side. Sure, the alps may look lovely on a postcard, but try living there for 12 months of the year. That kind of mountain living leaves a mark on the soul, even if your descendants now live in a comfortable loft conversion in downtown Zurich. Up in those mountains you're not going to survive long if you rush in or do things by halves. As a nation, the Swiss like to take their time to understand a problem, work out the best way to deal with it and then make sure that the solution lasts. That tends to mean not being swayed by fashion or fad. Those characteristics cross over into the business world too, and BMC are an archetypically Swiss affair.

When they posed themselves the problem of making bicycles they were nothing if not thorough. If they were going to make carbon bikes, they were going to make perfect carbon bikes. To do that they set up their Impec laboratory just down the street from their headquarters in Grenchen, a facility that was originally designed to produce bikes, but the torturous nature of working with carbon diverted to an advanced development facility (for now). What people may miss in the straightforwardness of the Swiss approach is the creativity - after all, if you're taking the time to really get to grips with a problem in search of the best solution, that best solution can easily be utterly unique. Back that up with the commitment to make sure the solution lasts, or on a mountain bike, that it works out on the trail, and you tap a surprising well of creativity and inspiration. The man guiding that blend of study, engineering and mad science at BMC is Stefan Christ. We sat down with him to find out more about the challenges of making carbon bikes in Switzerland, taking risks and why 27.5 wheels should never have been a thing.



BMC Grenchen Switzerland Photo by Matt Wragg

BMC Grenchen Switzerland Photo by Matt Wragg
BMC Grenchen Switzerland Photo by Matt Wragg

BMC Grenchen Switzerland Photo by Matt Wragg



How long have you been with BMC?


Almost 11 years now.

What was your background before BMC?


I started studying mechanical engineering while I was still racing mountain bikes. Then I did my specialty in plastic engineering, with composite engineering as well. My first job was calculating composite structures, as an engineer. Then there was an opportunity to be the first in-house engineer for BMC. Before my time all the engineering was outsourced to a consulting company. Since then I have built up the internal development team. Now we are seven people, so over ten years, maybe a little bit more, we added roughly one person per year.

For a company this size, that's proportionally quite a large team.


We are about 120 people at BMC, it depends how many of the salespeople you count as really part of the core organization. So for product development, including product management and industrial design, we are 14 people so roughly 10%.

What was the first project you worked with here at BMC?


My first project was the alloy Trailfox in 2009.

That was BMC's first hydroformed bike, wasn't it?


Yes, it was the first frame where we kind of combined industrial design with the engineering, because we had opportunities with new production methods like hydroforming and all that. That was really a project from the ground up, including kinematics everything, and was, I would say, the start of the second generation of Trailfoxes. And then the third generation of Trailfoxes were the 29ers.

When you began, was it primarily aluminum bikes you were working on? In 2009 there weren't a lot of carbon bikes being made.


No, actually we had the Four Stroke, it was the first full carbon frame on the market with a carbon swingarm, It was our XC bike that was just reaching production when I started. So I was not involved with the design, but I was involved a lot, through my composite background, in the manufacturing. Since this was really early days for composite full-suspension bikes... yeah, we had some issues. I had to spend quite some time in Asia, but it was, on the other hand, a great opportunity to get into it very quickly. I knew a lot of the theory for composites and then seeing how it's made on a large scale. That was a steep learning curve for me, but also helped me through our next projects.

What level was BMC's carbon at when you arrived?


When I started we were already making, as I said, the Four Stroke, but also on the road, the Pro Machine, which was a collaboration with Easton. We used their manufacturing partner in Asia. They had very good materials and we were the first one to actually use uni-directional aesthetic layers on the bikes. When I started, all the bikes had to have a weaved finish, otherwise it was not carbon. Today everything is uni-directional. I would say the company, already back then, even if we didn't have the internal know-how, was working with the right partners, always the best partners.

Upstairs you have RTM and braiding machines lying dormant - how did BMC arrive at this position?


Yeah, as I mentioned the first generation of carbon bikes out of Asia were really unstable in production, so you could have one that was excellent and then there was another one that did not fulfill the requirements. Then Andy Rhis (BMC's long-time investor), together with the management, decided that we could not rely on unstable Asian production. That was kind of the kick off for the Impec Lab project...

What year was this?


Actually, when I started, the project was already running in the process development phase, not the product development phase, but process development, so... 2006 maybe.


Inside BMC. Grenchen Switzerland.

Inside BMC. Grenchen Switzerland.
Inside BMC. Grenchen Switzerland.

Inside BMC. Grenchen Switzerland.


The Impec lab was a concept at that time and you have overseen the development of this whole facility?


No, that was a parallel project because it was really seen as, let's say, a new direction. There was an entire engineering team working on that in parallel, developing a production process and the product. With my background in composite engineering, I was pretty quickly thrown into this project as a consultant. I learned a lot, but it was always driven by another team because I was still responsible for all the mountain bike development, our commercial products. I had a good distance from it, I think, to guide it without being too involved with the project, that was important. The idea of it was, and still is, very valid because the idea was to use automation to get to better quality. At the time production was not consistent in Asia and also the lead times were very unpredictable. That was another motivation to have our own facility. The project was pretty long, we made it to market... What did not work in our favor was the fact that there was the Swiss Franc getting much stronger. In the end... we could not automate all the steps as we wanted to, so it was an economic decision to stop it. What we learned from this was really beneficial for us as a company, because that was the root of what we have today as Impec prototype lab. So a lot of the equipment, the people, they are still working here. What we should not under-estimate is that it brought us, as a brand, to a whole different level when we were talking to suppliers in Asia, because they know we too know how to produce carbon. So, I think it was easier for us to find good partners, and be respected. I think that was good. Of course, the quality got better in Asia and I could say today we get product out of Asia that is on a very high level, on a very controlled level. I would say the quality issue is gone. What we would like to have is more control of the supply chain. I mean lead times, all those things. In an ideal world, we would still want to produce where we are because it's faster and we can keep our know-how internal. I think, in general, as a whole industry, we gave a lot of know-how to Asia. To the point where we have to be very careful to do this any further... I think that today in Asia if a brand or a supplier wants to create their own brand, it's much easier than for a European brand to become a manufacturer.

Do you think this dynamic is changing? Do you think that there is still a price-advantage for going to Taiwan and if so, how quickly is that changing? And at what point do you think the tipping point comes?


I think we are at this tipping point. I mean, with the bike industry we are going through big changes right now. On one side we can talk about distribution. I think this is obvious for everyone, that where five years ago it was purely retail-based, today it goes in the direction of more omni-channel. That changes your whole supply chain. Then on the mountain bike side, especially in Europe, I can say that e-bikes changed where companies are putting their development focus. That's another parameter that accelerates this change, because some of the e-bike drive units are made in Europe. So I think it's going very quickly and salaries worldwide will equalize. Time to market becomes more important. Today the end consumer has no problem to go and talk directly to the brand and they expect service within hours, not within weeks. So this whole acceleration of the timeline, I think, will push us to produce locally again. Even if the cost might be slightly higher, I think, the overall package cost is lower.

Does that incentivize a shift away from the traditional season model? Today you have a 2017 bike and a 2018 bike. If the cost has to go up slightly, surely it makes more sense to move away from that and just have a blue bike and a red bike, rather than the blue bike being last year's model and the red bike being this year's?


Yeah, we will definitely, as an industry, transfer into a model more where product is delivered to the market when it's ready. The challenge is that we are still very dependent on the big suppliers like Shimano. If they have their yearly cycle of releasing new products, and if we want be in line with this cycle, it dictates, a little bit, what we do. I think that will not make it easy, even if you want to have a model for multiple years. If there's a new groupset coming, you're not going sell a bike with the old groupset.

Will there be more interest in programmes like Orbea's My-O scheme, where they are moving away from having a set spec? So you say, "Okay I'd like this frame", then you are offered a wide range of customization options, does that change the supplier relationship? Instead of saying, "I'm making 10 bikes, so I need 10 XT groupsets", you need some XT groupsets, some SLX and Deore...


We had a customization program ten years ago. It was just for the Swiss market, but this is totally feasible on a local scale and I think if we talk about producing closer to the market, it will go back in this direction, that's very clear. It has also to do with logistics, stock of material and all this, but I think the recipe is out now. The challenge is more that where 10 years ago people were willing to wait six months, today I don't think they want to wait one month. So either you have a solution that gives almost immediate fulfillment of their demand, or you are not really in the game. Today, for us, it's easier to have this immediate fulfillment with a standardized stock item than with something custom. But this is changing, for sure.

I don't think I have ever visited a company where there is such a strong culture that encourages people to say, "I have this idea, let's try it." In some ways, it seems very Swiss, but in others, maybe not so much.


I think the Swissness in this approach is that when we are after something we really want do it right. And that is also true for an idea. If we have an idea, we don't want to base our judgment of the idea on a guess, we really want to prove whether it works or not. I think that is still very Swiss. Then the freedom of how much we are allowed to try things is a balance between the pressure of bringing something that works commercially, that has a very direct timeline, where targets are really clear, as opposed to spending energy on something that might become a commercial idea. This balance is, in the end, up to me to judge how we allocate our resources. But, in many cases, we are pushing ourselves, so that with our new bikes we can also bring something new and beneficial for the rider. I mean we knew, for instance, that with our new trail bike, the Speedfox, that we wanted to bring something more. That's how Trailsync, for instance, was born. But it's also clear that we cannot do this with every new product. Maybe it's a little bit Swiss as well, that sometimes we have a tendency to over-engineer things. Which is a good and a bad thing...

Do you think the Swiss and the German focus on technology in the market helps this approach? Consumers there seem to like to have something extra, something technological on their bike.


It is really hard for us to bring something to market just because we believe in it, without having figures backing up the idea. This is, I think it's true for the Swiss, but also for Germans. Maybe even more for Germans. But in the end, we see many success stories in the mountain bike world that are not driven by figures. It's driven by ideas, by passion and it's hard to balance this. If we would purely base our products on figures and facts, we would also not have the product as we have today. It's a balance, but it's clear, that we always have a tendency to do something when we can add value for the rider. I always tell my team, "Let's put the BMC name on it when we can either add functionality for the rider or do something better in terms of quality." If not, we can always buy from another supplier... A handlebar is a good example. Why should we do our own handlebar? I mean, we did once a make handlebar, it was a flat, wide handlebar for our big wheel concept because back in the day there were no wide, flat handlebars available. So, that's what we had to do it to fulfill our idea of the big wheel concept. Today, there is a huge range of flat white handlebars on offer, so why would we continue doing this if we don't have an idea to make it better or different?



BMC Grenchen Switzerland Photo by Matt Wragg



It strikes me that there is a big element of bravery in this approach. If you try a hundred things, surely you can't be afraid to fail and say, "Okay, that didn't work, let's move on."


It's hard to say, because, you tend to forget what doesn't work very quickly. But I would say, overall every second thing we try makes it... Maybe it doesn't make it immediately into commercial production, but sometimes it's later as kind of a side idea. Sometimes it's not even making it with the product we had in mind initially, but we can use it. If we have something that we were planning for a mountain bike, maybe we can use it on a gravel bike... But what is true to all these things is that each time you go through an unknown experience you learn a lot. I think this is what is driving my team, it is the curiosity to try something that we don't know yet.

I have to admit that after today I kind of want to come work at BMC now... I'd be a horrible engineer, but it looks like it would be fun. It seems that you give people the freedom to learn this stuff and try things, it gives them a sense of ownership. So when they see the idea reach the market they can say, "I made that".


I think sometimes we tend to forget the great opportunity we have because, of course, in the daily business, we also have the pressure from the commercial development. And many of the people on my team... Actually, I have to say all of them, have not worked at another bike company before. So, they came here with a bike background, but that was either a crazy passion for bikes, they were working at the bike shop or they were putting posters of bikes on the wall when they were kids. In that sense they've grown within this BMC environment and sometimes I wish that we had some people that have worked at other brands, just to see how different we are and help us appreciate what we have.

To what extent do you look at what other people are doing? Do you look at the new Santa Cruz or Specialized and go, "Oh, we should have done that"?


For sure we are looking... This is a curiosity for all my employees, they know exactly what our competitors are doing. We discuss what they are doing, sometimes we know why they're doing something, sometimes we ask ourselves why they are doing it [laughs]. But we also have no problem, then, to leave things on the side and go our own way. But, of course, we are super curious and actually, I think, more than the 'what' they're doing things it's 'why' they are doing things. This is what makes us curious. In some cases we know, in some cases, we don't. It definitely influences our direction.

I don't think many people realize how extreme some of your bikes are, in some ways. What year was it you began shortening the stem and lengthening the reach?


That was 2012 for alloy-level, in 2013 for carbon bikes.

That would put you right up there with Mondraker and Kona who are widely recognized for pushing things in that direction. Maybe people don't consider BMC in that same bracket?


Yeah, I think because we brought it in from cross-country racing angle. I mean, the first bikes, which followed this big wheel philosophy with short chainstays, long top tubes and short stems were our cross country hardtail and full suspension bikes. And then the first big bike that brought this was in 2014, the Trailfox 29.

So, maybe a year or two behind the curve of Mondraker?


Yes, and also in this long trail segment, we are not well-recognized. Even if, in a product test the Trailfox was ahead of the curve, it was not understood maybe because just it carries the name BMC.

With that timeline, that would mean it was between BMC and Specialized to be the first major player to bring a long-travel 29er to the market?


Yeah, that's true. The Enduro was within a couple of months of us. But we were, for one year, the only ones with a long travel 150mm 29er with, I would say, an appropriate geometry concept.

It is interesting that while the Enduro is still very much at the forefront of the market, it is maybe fair to say that the Trailfox is not talked about much these days?


Yeah, it's true for both bikes, the Trailfox and the Enduro were not immediate successes, I mean, then there was this wave of 27.5 kicking in. And only after that, the 29ers came back, right?

I know Specialized's philosophy in the beginning was "We're just going to do 29 and 26, but then the wave of 27.5 bikes came.


I think if they had more success with the Enduro it would have helped our Trailfox sell more as well, plus the industry might not have gone through this, I would say... detour.

Detour?


Detour. All of a sudden everyone was 27.5, even the ones who had been saying "We are 29er only and we are super convinced and we have data." They had to do 27.5, and now if, today, you look at enduro racing there is a significant number of 29ers at the top of the sport. Do you know why this is kinda frustrating for us? When we decided to do this Trailfox, this 150mm 29, it was also based on fact. I mean, we did timed laps and we knew it was faster, but it just doesn't mean... Again it's the question of the German approach, when you have figures to prove something. It's not always the recipe to be successful.

When my colleague, Mike Kazimer rode this bike in Whistler back in 2015 or so, he found it a fast bike, but it was actually, for him, too harsh and aggressive.


Everyone who was used to a playful bike was disappointed because the bigger wheels definitely don't turn as easily as small wheels, and maybe if you're jumping it's also less fun. But it's faster.

If you look around the Pinkbike office, most of the tech editors are now on 29ers for their personal bikes, were you just too early?


Maybe, I think it was too race-focused... but even if it had been a little bit milder, I think it was too early because when it hit, almost immediately there was this counter-wave of 27.5 bikes.


Inside BMC. Grenchen Switzerland.

Inside BMC. Grenchen Switzerland.
Inside BMC. Grenchen Switzerland.

Inside BMC. Grenchen Switzerland.


What is the future for you guys in that field? You backed away from the EWS and the Trailfox maybe has a lower profile than the Speedfox at the moment?


Yeah, we went backwards a little bit with the investment in this segment because we wanted to first get a fix on where the real commercial market is in mountain bikes, which we see as being in trail bikes today. That's why we have the Speedfox. It's definitely something we want to go back to, to be in this long-travel category. We have a lot of ideas which we believe will make for a very strong product. But, of course, it was also a lesson that sometimes having the right product is not enough. So I think in mountain biking we have to, as a brand, fix a couple of things first before going back there.

How do you see the mountain bike developing over the next 10 years?


I think the time is over for hyper-segmentation. I think it's coming back to maybe two, three kinds of riding. Maybe it depends on where you live, what you do. I see one strong pillar, what we here call 'marathon'. Let's put it this way, it is more efficient riding than 'trail riding', which is more on the fun side, which is where we see Speedfox and I think those two pillars, they will stay. One is for the guy who wants a high-performance bike, maybe even for racing. Then there is the guy who just wants have a super nice trail ride with a bike that is not too heavy, that pedals well. And then I think there is the category above where you really want to go rough and fast at full speed. I would like to see that us go back to these three segments of full suspension bikes. I don't think any more are needed

The question I need to ask is that whether you think there's a future for 27.5 wheels for mountain bikes?


I don't think so. I think it's going to be for extreme applications where the size of the wheels is still a constraint. In terms of, let's say, performance mountain bikes, I think 29ers are going to be the future. Where I'm not yet convinced is whether the tire development is there yet for 29ers. I still think there's a lot of room to improve the tires for this wheel size.

In what way would you like to see that change?


I think this has to do with compounds, but also the way the sidewalls are built. I mean this goes together with the new wider rims. For instance, we still see too many flat tires with 29ers. Wide rims, for instance, expose the sidewalls more, so it feels like through those multiple wheel sizes we had, whether it was 29, 27, 27+, 29... tire development was never really in line with the rest of the bike. For that reason, I'm happy that it's getting a little quieter. So, hopefully, the tires can be the focus.

That's one of the things that interest me: if a change is coming for wheel sizes, it seems like the industry's handling it very differently from the last one? With 27.5 it was kind of overnight, "You have to have this." Whereas now it seems like a much softer transition than it was with 26 to 27.5.


Yeah, I think we lost the consumer. I mean you cannot tell the consumer every year that this is the best. And as I said, we were never convinced about 27.5, because we were all about performance bikes. We did one 27.5 bike which was this Speedfox Trail Crew but this was, maybe, the first bike BMC ever did that was purely a fun bike. Not with the purpose of being a performance bike. It's not that we don't want to do fun bikes, it's just that, for us, it was more obvious to do the performance side first and there 29 has been the choice for us since the beginning. There was a time, I cannot exactly remember which year, but it was six months where if you were talking about 29 then everyone was killing you. I mean, there was... it is typical that this was not fact-based. I mean, especially in cross-country racing, where it is the most obvious that 29 is faster there were brands pushing for 27.5. They had super-strong athletes, then convincing other companies to go back to 27.5... And now everyone is back on 29. So, I would say chapeau for those who were able to occupy the competition by following the wrong direction. For sure, it cost the bike industry a lot of money. Maybe not through direct development resources, but I think the biggest thing is that we lost the consumer. I think that as an industry, we could be, business-wise, much better off today if we told stories that are a little bit more consistent. They're fed up and I can understand why. I mean, you buy expensive product, it's not something you buy every year like that...


88 Comments

  • + 102
 This article needs more pictures of the guy's face.
  • + 18
 For Christ's sake.
  • + 34
 Well he is BMC's Head of Mountain Bike Development.....
  • + 3
 That T-shirt is rad from every angle.
  • + 1
 @mallorcadave: this comment deserves more up votes.
  • + 2
 Guy looks like vitaly
  • + 46
 27.5 became big because it gives some benefit without the drawbacks that have been common on many 29ers such as no small sizes, super long chainstays, weird handling, short travel, weight, flexy wheels, flexy frames, flexy forks.

People were pushing 29 hard even when many/most of them sucked. A lot of that stuff is improving over time but it's silly to pretend that 29ers had no problems, and some of these solutions are expensive (carbon wheels etc.) And geometry is still in flux after all this time along with hub standards etc.

Meanwhile you see 27.5's on podiums and winning championships even in 2018 when 29ers are supposed to be the bee's knees. It can't be that big a deal. We could have saved ourselves the hassle and unified something regardless of whether it's 2% faster or slower somewhere.
  • + 10
 Exactly. This applies even more when you are not willing to spend over $5000 for a new rig. Your bike is going to weigh a ton. And your wheels will have a moment of inertia comparable with a small merry-go-round. =no fun.
  • + 10
 He is just selling his own vision and fair enough, he is fully entitled to it. Even if 29 will have it’s hay days in coming 2-3 years it will come down. There’s too much money in e-bikes with plus tyres. Also it’s all cool with aggro long travel 29ers until you push them so far that you need to put the DH rubber on. Forget about climbing these things unless you are an advanced mdr fkr that can put some serious Watts down. So there is an obvious diminishing return in wheel and tyre weight for gravity use.
  • + 4
 @tigen. The industry pushed the 29 bike way too much before they had real performance advantages. I stayed 26 for a long time and luckily I had a Blur LT that I could put 27.5s on it and I did see a rolling preformace gain without the problems you state. Now I have a Hightower LT and for my type of riding it is the best bike i have ever owned. The only negative is I cannot whip the front wheel as quick as my Blur, but I have changed how I look at and ride some turns and I don’t have any problems.

But like tools are good at somethings and not another. Go buy a Mini X and everything is a big deep hole and a mound of dirt to jump off. Not every trail should have dirt jumps in them.
  • + 10
 I don't disagree with you. But could we have not gone with 27.5 and just had 26 and 29? If we had current 26ers would we see them on podiums?
  • - 7
flag mkul7r4 (Aug 4, 2018 at 9:06) (Below Threshold)
 @IluvRIDING: You're right, my $3,500 full susp is no fun at all. Get the f*ck outta here
  • + 0
 @mkul7r4: Certainly less fun than a comparable 27.5 or 26er.
  • + 1
 @IluvRIDING: And your 27.5 is nowhere near as fun as my 12er
  • + 3
 @RLEnglish: if the geometry, tyres and suspension would be evolving at the same pace as it happened for 27,5, then highly possibly yes. At least in downhill.

The only “gravity situation” where I clearly see the advantage of 29ers is flattish rough sections with lots of holes. Time and time again, following various bikes, this is where I see the dominance. The thing is, I don’t see any race run advantage of 27,5”. I see thenissue with overly heavy tyres for Enduro climbs though. Those 2ply 29” tyres are fkng monster slugs to keep in spinning motion
  • + 2
 @RLEnglish: I remember just three years ago Giant released a pseudo-science paper on wheel size that said 27.5 was the only choice. I know people hate to hear the "I'm an engineer" crap, but I know how to read a scientific paper, and that one was pure BS.
  • + 1
 @omclive: remember that too, he said it will phase out both 26 and 29
  • + 1
 @omclive: the only thing is it was around 2012... don’t feel old Wink
  • + 2
 @TheR: PIXIE BIKES FOREVER!!!
  • + 2
 @focofox37: Finally, someone gets it!
  • + 1
 @TheR: Hells Yeah, I have an armada of 6 Pixies that people just threw away. I dug them out of the bin and fixed them up. Best drunken hijinx ever.
  • + 2
 Marketing hype. 27.5 x 235 is so close to the OD of a 26 x 250 in a blind test you would know the difference. 275 was an easy thing to show and talk about followed shortly by fat and plus. 275 is on podiums because that's what the industry is pushing so that is what pros ride. Pros are fast because they are pros and they will be just as fast on 26 or 29. now the push to 29 is on so next year you will be saying how its all because of 29. Stupid. Its because they have talent light years beyond the rest of us and do it for a living. Pros have a narrow window to make money riding bikes so they do what the money tells them to. Making decisions based on what pros use is stupid because its the pros not the bikes that make them fast. John Tomak and his contemporaries were going 65 MPH down the Kamikaze on rigid bikes, 26 x 2.1 tires and rim brakes. You could give your favorite pro a Walmart bike with two flat 29 tires and no chain and they will still beat your ass hard down your favorite trail.
  • + 45
 For most of us, mountain biking is fun. It's not racing, seconds saved, or ounces counted. It's lips, rollers, jumps, transitions, and big smiles. It's pucker moments, last second saves, drifts, hooting and hollering. That's what makes us smile, that's what gets us out to the tails, and that's why we spend waaaayyy too much money on our bikes. That's where the smiles are, and that's where my wallet is.
  • + 1
 Have you ever seen a bike movie where they go slow, but have more fun?
To me, fast is fun. Everytime I think to myself: Today I go a little slower and I want to enjoy more. It just sucks. But if I'm trying to set a new strava record, that's when I have the most fun.
  • + 2
 @WoS: Dude, no one ever said going slow was fun. But riding the features and terrain, rather than the "fast line" is more fun. It's cool, Strava away...
  • + 32
 BMC is a shaved legs road/XC brand. No surprise they don't like 27.5.
  • + 4
 BMC is a Strava bike brand
  • + 27
 This guy/bmc doesn’t seem to understand is that most people ride bikes for fun. All logic and no emotion..
I did enjoy my old Bmc Super Stroke. Bummer it got stolen.
  • + 4
 Most people ride bikes to ride bikes. Then bery few people can play on a bike to appreciate small wheels. Park Rats are possibly the smallest ethnic group in MTB. And many of them are poor. Market is built either by masses with little money buying average bikes or snobs with giant wallets. Both groups are clueless and will always listen to “performance” pitch. Again, if “fun” was a factor, Slope style bikes would sell like hot buns
  • + 2
 If there really was a clear fun/fast division the industry would have done what BMC and Specialized tried and been 26/29 but somehow enough people bought the 27.5 "Goldilocks" bullshit and a mess was made.
  • + 1
 @PhillipJ: oh well, please analyze how many had a choice whether to buy 27,5 or not. Clients had virtually no choice and have been forced to buy this. I am a great example, cracked my BlurTRc, warranty replacement came only as 5010 in 27,5. So don’t put it on people. There are limitations to free will if it exists at all.
  • + 2
 @WAKIdesigns: Specialized abandoned 26" due to consumer demand but yeah it was shoved by many manufacturers too.
  • + 2
 @WAKIdesigns: This is why I bought myself a banshee rune frame and built it up to just how I wanted it. Several sets of wheels, some 26, some 27.5. It’s clear the 27.5 is a little faster but I have a whole stack of new 26 tyres i got cheap and the speed difference isn’t that much an issue. So many other things make many more differences as we all know, mostly my state of mental and physical fitness on the day. It’s 8nteresting in the article he briefly mentioned jumping as an issue. The awas amusing. Alley the fun is in those trail features the are jumps or like jumps, rough technical stuff, drops. I have a 29r 140m trail bike, but it really is just that. Mind you, that commercial 29 dh bike looks really interesting. (cheers man, good to see you back in the comments)
  • + 0
 @OldOtter: I almost bought the Spitfire 2, it was on my short list. But the weight, even for me, was unacceptable considering how much XC I planned to ride.
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: the word you were looking for is "demographic"
  • + 10
 he is not wrong about 27.5. It never should have existed. It's also more fun, but mountain biking is SERIOUS BUSINESS so there will be no fun allowed. Everything must be fast. Except for ebikes, which are limited from going fast. I wonder if he will be saying the same thing about Boost 148 in two years when everything is SUPER BOOST 157? What about offset? How could you not ask him about fork offset?

Seriously though, glad he said it. I feel like such a sucker the amount of money I spent on 27.5 bikes. If they just skipped and went right to 29 imagine how good things would be right now?

Does anyone in America actually ride BMC's? Always felt like a brand that existed on the internet and in some small corner of Europe only visible in magazines.
  • + 1
 I had a Superstroke for awhile. It was a good looking frame with its orange and silver.
www.pinkbike.com/photo/4845959
  • + 4
 They are doing pretty well in the road market in the States, and okay with XC. The Trailforks was ahead of its time. The local BMC shop in Denver that also sold Evil and Intense were huge advocates for that bike. It even fit plus tires with a 142 hub. From what I remember it had longer stays when super short were becoming popular with boost, so it kinda missed that move and maybe lost some sales. But, the staff there said it was their fastest Enduro bike when lined up with the other brands.
  • + 2
 He's probably bitter about the Trailfox 29 not taking off. Or their carbon handlebars. In terms of racing, industry has made these more or less unwitting mistakes: 142mm and148mm hub spacing, 51mm rake for 29", 27.5. An exception to the fun rule should be made for short-stay 29ers....
  • + 0
 @panzer103:
That Squire is a MONSTROCITY!

But let’s face it who cares if it rides great
  • + 1
 @titaniumtit: Squire...?
  • + 0
 @panzer103:

historical
a young nobleman acting as an attendant to a knight before becoming a knight himself.

Google is your friend ;-d
  • + 1
 @titaniumtit: Ahh...Wasn't sure of the contex.
  • + 0
 @panzer103:
No worries bud
  • + 14
 27.5 for life !!!
  • + 8
 Ive had every wheel size from 26 to 29 given them all the full try out and gone back to 26 because its strong rolls easy and for the average joe who is only doing xc riding i see little point in killing myself to get the 29s rolling and i dont have an unlimited money supply to buy a super light one if you buy a 27.5 frame you can put 26 inch wheels in and have plenty of mud clearance even with the biggest tyres in so as i said before 26 aint dead cant be Hope are still building that wheel size so they must know????
  • + 3
 Every pro but Emily Batty in xc is racing 29ers, but a random pinkbike commenter says 26s are faster????
  • + 2
 Where did he say 26ers are faster? The closest thing he said to that is that a 26 "rolls easy", but that wasn't comparative.
  • + 2
 @clink83: we aint racing were just riding xc all mountain and we can turn tighter 29ers have been hyped by the the manufacturers and they are great on tailored trails where your going flat out through stuff enough said
  • + 8
 For a guy like me, 200lbs in my 40's and not super quick, 27.5 with a 2.5" (real measurement) wide tire is the sweet spot. Less than an inch difference in wheel diameter compared to my old 29er with 2.3s on it. I might squeeze in a pedal stroke every 15-20 seconds that I didn't need before to keep up the same speeds on awkward terrain.

I'll take the reliability of stronger wheels every time. God, I sound like a #26forlife rider LOL
  • + 8
 I'm surprised you did not bring up reliability on the table, because BMC carbon frames are plagued with issues. For a premium brand it is quite troubling. I'm pretty sure I'll be down voted by BMC users, but if you sell and work with BMC like we do, you know what I'm talking about.
  • + 7
 Speaking for myself, I tried a lot of 29 ers and I just don't like them, I really tried to like them but it didn't happen. I think they just make you a passenger of the bike sort of. To all of the companies pushing 29 ers, when everyone will be on 29, saying 29 are faster won't make any sense... and beside I AM NOT RACING so I really don't give a sh**t. I thought poeples were just sheep's but we're not we're just too conditioned to decide what we want. Anyway ten years from now we will probably all be riding remote controlled 36"+ebikes from our couch
  • + 3
 Same can be said about ridiculously low, long and slack bikes.
  • + 10
 Their bikes are garbage. And who cares if it's two seconds faster. Not everyone is racing.
  • + 11
 i get the feeling this guy hates 27.5
  • + 4
 Each time I read these articles on BMC I become more intrigued. I really like their approach but like the guy says they don't have anything I'd consider buying at the minute. I think they're only available through Evans here which is off putting.
  • + 2
 rocasports.ie These guys will post to the UK.
  • + 1
 Evans lmao yeah being number Z on the list of bike shops if you can call them that to buy from.
  • + 7
 Gwin seems to do just fine on a 27.5 wheel. Just saying...
  • + 0
 because he is a beast... but atm 29er is winning, and I have no doubt that gwinn would be faster on 29er
  • + 4
 Just spend the last 5 days riding in Zermatt. Some of the best trails I've ever experienced, I've been completely blown away. My hand and my arms are shot. I never want to leave.
  • + 2
 Zermatt is a beautiful, beautiful place. Love it there - but it is very expensive.
  • + 5
 @tom666: Agreed. I somehow scored an Airbnb 5 minutes ride from the Gornergrat for $45 USD a night. It was tiny but had a bed, a shower, and a small kitchen. Cooked my meals and did the whole week for not too much $ at all. Also did 3 days a Verbier but I enjoyed the riding in Zermatt much more.

Just rode "The Brazilian" in Sierre. That was a hoot. My god, I love Switzerland.
  • + 3
 @bzmnpaddler: That's the way to do it. AirBnB + supermarket food.
  • + 2
 Bastard.
  • + 3
 I work at a local bike shop and we sell BMC along with some other brands like Pivot, Santa Cruz, Trek and Giant. BMC makes a nice product and their road bikes sell well here but I haven't sold one mountain bike. I don't know why but there just isn't a demand for their bikes. They just don't carry that name recognition that Santa Cruz or Trek does. Their road bikes sell very well and they make a great product. Even their entry level bikes are nice. One thing I hate about BMC is their naming convention, It has to be the most confusing and I still can't understand it. It's so confusing I can't even explain it.
I also hate how bike companies use model years. If I have a bunch of leftover stock on the floor and companies release the new models at the end of July people expect to get the old models at 40% discount. But I do understand why they do it and a lot of times it's because of the components that are on the bike. Component companies try to upgrade or improve their products every year. BMC and a lot of other smaller companies just do models and that's cool.
  • + 3
 so, I owned a Trailfox TF02 and it was hands down one of the worst bikes I´ve ever had. Lesson learned and BMC will never be a choice again. The interview and pics did not change any of that - rather the opposit.
  • + 1
 I m fairly hippy using one upgraded with 36 and I would like to how why
  • + 1
 @imitsus: I did not change anything except the 30 tooth ring up front. The geometry is, in point of view, a strange mix between XC and enduro. The reach was very short and the bottom bracket to high. I ended up selling it after some months as it was the first bike a could not get used to it.
  • + 1
 There were so many different Trailfox TF02, it might be a good idea to say what version you are talking about. As Steve Jones once told me, they had a picture of a Trailfox hanging on the wall in the Dirt magazine office because they thought it was the perfect example of a trail bike. And Steve himself wrote about the Trailfox 29 it has the best geometry in the business. But if you go through all versions of the Trailfox, you could probably find head angles between 66 and 71 degrees.
  • + 2
 29er wheels are to easy to break even in boost form the hub flange has to be bigger to get anywhere near the strength of 26inch and if your just out trail riding with your buddies we are not looking for faster we are looking for enjoyment
  • + 2
 Hey f*ck face Mr.Christ, still think 27.5 has no future? LoL What a goof this guy is.

Keep telling people what is right for them and what to buy. I know I'll never ride or reccomend one of your products you self aggrandizing, pompous a*shole. For good measure GFYS.

Big Grin
  • + 2
 I like that BMC marketing approach. It is a little differnt to Canyon, YT, etc. The pricing is strange...sometimes super cheap, the other day way too expensive. Anyway, they never had a bike that would fit me, these bikes are quite short.
  • + 1
 interesting article...he said it twice, (the industry) lost the consumer. really? its just that we have soooo many more choices. i dont think anythings changed!
it will always come down to what motivates the consumer...facts? figures? passion? or hype?
the hype is where pb and other bike site reviews come into play. you compare the facts and figures,
and get pumped,( the passion) about buying a bike. the industry hasnt lost the consumer.
  • + 1
 My name is Bob. I founded BMC back in the eighties, sold it to Andy in the late nineties and actually never looked back since. That is, until today (a website called pinkbike, really???).

After reading the interview, I have to admit, I admire the ambitions this young Christ displays and I hope they will lead him to success.

Nonetheless, one cannot overlook the big picture. When I started BMC, we built mountain bikes because mountain bikes were what everybody wanted. When I say everybody, I don't mean the market, I mean "everybody"! It was a real mountain bike boom. There were no constraints dictating the goes and no-goes regarding design either, that was pretty cool and led to a lot of crazy, but also good stuff. Geez, you guys today sure waste a lot of time with 26/27/29 etc...

What I would like to point out is, that high-end sports bicycles have once again become a niche product, hence, all this pseudo necessity for high-tech BS is really out of place. Dear Reader, I know that only the best is good enough for you and I am sure you see yourself as a hard core cyclist, but dude, you ain't. So just go ride your bike and have some fun doin' it.

In the near future, we certainly will see changes at BMC. Andy was an enthusiast, but more importantly for BMC, he was their golden goose. Believe me, it's pretty difficult to make money with the kind of products BMC is trickling into the market today. For BMC, Andy's absence is certainly more important than wheel size, so it will be interesting to see how they deal with the challenge of everyday business and the burden of turning a profit.

Well, so much for the good ol' days, I'm gonna go walk the dogs now.
  • - 1
 "To understand the swiss, you must understand about hiding dirty money, and never taking sides"
They probably funded BMC with money from Muamar Gadafi and Fidel CAstro (yes each had billions when they died)

I just wish the swiss are also recognized for the huge harm they do the world. Yet people view them as exemplary. Shame and lie. They suck poor countries, and their corruption, by granting the means for corruption to go free: money secrecy.
  • + 2
 One face pic would have been enough. I am just saying.
  • - 2
 i agree should have only been 26 and 29 options. Only decent study with decent data i ever saw proved 27.5 were the weakest of all three sizes. They were always a compromise between the 2. I hate how the companies tried to say that 27.5 was faster for dh and now a few short years later there saying it should have been 29 all along....This guy is correct...they had the data but opted for a cash grab in between size to generate more cash flow in the short term. We never needed 27.5. I will skip this size when i retire my 26er and go straight to 29.
  • + 1
 They didn't make 27.5
  • - 2
 I can’t believe the hate BMC are getting here. You don’t like their bikes? Ok cool, no sweat. But to rip both into it and calling them shaved legs bikes is a bit rich.

I’m certainly no XC rider and I ride my 2013 26” Trailfox hard. It’s a very reliable and fun bike with what I feel great suspension design. The quality is top notch. It’s a shame they sort of abandoned the smaller wheels though.
  • + 2
 Calling out Scott in that last paragraph?
  • + 1
 Christ on a bike......wait wat!?
  • + 1
 27.5 for life
  • + 0
 RIP 27.5, its dead, everyone needs a 29er "VE HAZ VI DATA" . . . . . .
  • + 1
 Non motorized MTBs are next. Sorry. Vi haz ze Wattz.
  • + 1
 Oh Christ.
  • + 0
 Jesus

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