Review: BMC Roadmachine X One tested on Swiss gravel
I love most everything about this highly capable bike.
An all-road bike with calm handling on rough and smooth surfaces. Comes built with SRAM’s new Force XPLR group, with tire clearance that tops out at 33mm.
Absorbent frame and seatpost, well thought out cockpit, roadie-friendly stack and reach, capable XPLR drivetrain
Limited tire clearance
I have loved the Roadmachine for years for riding dirt (and paved) roads because of its blend of endurance geometry and relatively low stack height. I’d love this new Roadmachine X more if had more tire clearance.
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A sense of place defines cycling — whether that’s where you and I ride, or where bike brands create their products. I rode BMC’s new Roadmachine X yesterday in the Swiss Alps (thanks, Switzerland Tourism!), for a great taste of the machine and the context behind it. To cut to the chase, I love most everything about the bike (and the landscape); I just wish the Roadmachine X had a bit more tire clearance.
Define ‘all-road’ and ‘gravel’
To be clear, BMC quite specifically pegs the Roadmachine X as an all-road bike, not a gravel bike. It’s a machine designed for riding good to lousy pavement, and even a bit of ‘light’ gravel. Which, fair. BMC has the URS as its full-on gravel machine, with ample tire clearance, an ultra-slack front end, and 10mm of elastomer rear suspension.
For me, though, the URS is too tall for the type of gravel riding and racing I like to do, as the stack is a good 2cm taller more than most race-oriented gravel bikes.
The Roadmachine, which debuted in 2016, has excellent geometry for riding rough surfaces, with the longer wheelbase and slacker head tube of a standard endurance bike but without an overall tall stack height. I very much enjoyed riding the original Roadmachine on dirt and gravel roads in Colorado, with the then-stock 28mm Continental Grand Prix tires.
Further, the Roadmachine’s compliant frame and D-shaped seatpost soak up bumps nicely — whether from lousy pavement or washboard or rocks — without feeling mushy or sloppy. Similarly, the handling is calm (with a 72-degree head tube/63mm of trail on a 56cm) without feeling stubborn.
On the 2016 Roadmachine, I set a downhill Strava KOM on a 8.6mi stretch of road that is dirt and the top and paved at the bottom, a descent I’ve done dozens of times on dozens of bikes. Aside from petty bragging, I include this to illustrate what I believe to be the Roadmachine’s Goldilocks’ characteristics for riding pavement and gravel. (Also, I realize downhill KOMs are stupid…)
With the new Roadmachine X, BMC has launched two carbon models with SRAM’s new XPLR gravel group and one aluminum model with a Shimano GRX gravel group. Excellent! Both of these purpose-specific groups are well suited for… dare I say it, gravel.
All the excellent geometry and carbon frame construction traits carry forward from the existing Roadmachine because, well, it’s not really a new bike. (The fork is new, with a bit more compliance, and a return to partially external routing.)
But because the carbon bike is the same, so is the tire clearance, which is pegged at 33mm. The alloy bike, interestingly, boasts 45mm of clearance — not to mention a very attractive $2,099 price.
So this is where the rubber (limit) meets the road… and arguably why BMC insists on the all-road moniker.
On September 21st, on our all-road Roadmachine X bikes, some BMC staff and journalists did a legit gravel ride. Granted, it was almost all uphill, and we cruised some hardwood-smooth tarmac, but with grassy Alpine trails, gravel roads, and narrow footpaths in the mix, it was a gravel ride, full stop. And the bike was in its element: efficient for the 5,000+ft of climbing, confident on a fast descent, and comfy on the gravel.
BMC’s staff admitted that the course was perhaps on the upper end of the Roadmachine X’s capabilities — and the stiff, double-digit gradients had me on my upper limit with the SRAM XPLR 44-44 low gear a few times. But I would argue that the only thing holding the bike back from chunkier gravel is a bit more rubber.
The next day, we rode yet another machine — a bike BMC calls a gravel bike — which I can tell you about on September 25th. So that will add context to BMC’s overall picture.
The One model has Force XPLR with a 44t ring and a 10-44 cassette. I feel this is a good balance of being able to climb steeps and still pedal gentle downhills, but your results may vary. The wheels are BMC’s CRD321, which have a 35mm tall rim with a 21mm internal width. These 1,509g wheels come dressed in 32mm WTB Expanse tubeless tires.
Roadmachine X bottom line
After riding the original Roadmachine quite a bit, and getting a good taste for the new Roadmachine X, I can heartily endorse the platform for its intended all-road use — a broad of road riding that includes dirt and mellower gravel roads. The carbon construction and endurance geometry dovetail for a calm, confident ride that doesn’t feel sluggish or vague, and the stack height is such that most roadies will be able to get a comfortable position.
If you are into longer adventure rides, the frame has top tube bolts for a bag, and the frameset is up for a challenge. Just keep that 33mm max tire width in mind.