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Bear down on big rides with the new BMC URS “Gravel Plus” bike

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BMC announced their first official entry in to gravel cycling, called the URS. Short for “Unrestricted” (and from the Latin Ursus, or bear), the bike features disc brakes, 700x45mm tire clearance, and drivetrain compatibility for single chainrings systems only. They’re also introducing a new geometry concept called ‘Gravel Plus’, said to improve control and responsiveness for aggressive riding even beyond gravel roads.

BMC URS Gravel Plus carbon adventure bike

While BMC has made off-road capable drop-bar bikes before, they were focused on cyclocross racing (with relatively limited tire clearance and traditional geometry). The new URS is made specifically for gravel, forgoing UCI geometry restrictions, and adding much more tire clearance. It also includes welcome add-ons like strategic rubber frame guards, an integrated rear fender, rack compatibility, and even dynamo-compatible cable routing.

We had a chance to get the full download and ride experience at BMC HQ in Solothurn, Switzerland, done in tandem with our coverage of the new Roadmachine and Alpenchallenge AMP Road.

The frame starts out much like you’d expect of a modern carbon gravel bike. It’s light, at 1,050 grams in size M, along with a 550 gram fork (uncut). It has a top tube accessory mount, internal cable routing, and even stealth rack/fender mounts.

Brake spec is flat mount, with 180mm front, 160mm rear rotors from the factory. Axles follow the most recent trend of 12x100mm front, 12x142mm rear.

The frame includes integrated guards on the down tube and fork legs, designed to protect against rocks, flying debris, or just setting your fork down for a wheel change.

Similar to other BMC models, the frame has 10mm of suspension, called Micro Travel Technology (MTT). This uses a pivot-less rear triangle riding on a special elastomer sourced from the automotive industry.

The URS frame is compatible with 1x drive systems only, with no provision for a front derailleur. Gearing varies by model, with the top-end URS One using a 38t chainring and 10-50 Eagle cassette. All other models use a 40t chainring with 11-42 cassette.

The URS uses BMC’s D-shaped seat post, available in 0mm and 15mm offsets. Note that this is a new-style of D-shaped post (also used on the 2020 Roadmachine), and it’s not cross-compatible with the old-style post. The URS uses a special design inside of the seat tube, allowing the use of 27.2mm round dropper seat posts. While the Roadmachine uses the same post, it does not have the internal provisions for a dropper (not that this is much of a concern for a road bike).

The new post is compatible with BMC’s integrated mini fender, called the Dfender (sold separately). It attaches to the seat post using a third bolt, specifically for this use.

The URS One, Two, and Three models use BMC’s ICS (Integrated Cockpit System) fork and stem, which fully hides cables inside the stem and headset spacers. The URS Four uses a traditional round steerer tube and stem. Note that all frames are compatible with the Fox AX gravel fork, which requires the use of a standard non-ICS stem.

The ICS stem used on the URS features two sizes that BMC calls gravel-specific – 55mm (Small and Medium frames) and 70mm (Large and XL frames). This also segues into BMC’s new geometry concept, which they call ‘Gravel Plus’.

In short, Gravel Plus geometry combines a long top tube and long wheelbase with a short stem and slack head tube angle, not unlike the evolution of mountain bike geometry. Don’t worry – we’ll have our full thoughts about the effectiveness of this system in our forthcoming ride review of the URS.

Matt Otten, Senior Product Manager Road at BMC commented,

“It’s easy to make a bike that rides well on a straight gravel road. During the development of the URS, we focused on creating a bike that would crush gravel and dirt roads, but also be capably and fun on twisty, high-speed terrain that’s technically challenging for current gravel bikes.”

Piggybacking on the geometry and capability targets for the bike, tire clearance is generous at 700x45mm, or 650x47mm. Stock tires are the same on all spec levels – the WTB Resolute 700x42mm.

Spec, Pricing, and Availability

Four levels of the URS are available for 2020, all based on the same frame.

The top-end URS One ($9,499) uses a combination of SRAM AXS components – Red shift/brake levers and crankset, combined with Eagle cassette and electronic rear derailleur. It has DT Swiss GRC 1400 Spline db 42 carbon wheels.

The URS Two ($6,499) uses a Shimano GRX Di2 1x drivetrain with DT Swiss GR 1600 Spline db 25 wheels.

The URS Three ($4,299) uses a Shimano GRX mechanical drivetrain (including cranks – sample photo above has a SRAM Apex crank), with Mavic Allroad Disc wheels.

The URS Four ($3,299) combines a SRAM Apex drivetrain with DT Swiss C1850 Spline db 23 wheels. Note that it’s the only spec level that foregoes the ICS stem for a traditional fork/stem combination.

Stay tuned for a full first ride report of the URS, from a ~7 hour day that included just about every type of terrain imaginable, giving us a full shake-down of the URS and Gravel Plus concept.

Find Greg & Veronika’s first riding impressions on the URS here.


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4 years ago

Only two choices for stem length? I would rather have the cables exposed and choice of stem length on all models.

Velo Kitty
Velo Kitty
4 years ago

I’ve been complaining about toe overlap on the frames from most manufacturers that have been coming out for the last few years. This certainly fixes that. According to conventional “wisdom”, this bike is so long, it should barely be able to turn. I’ll be interested to read the ride impressions.

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