BMC has added front suspension to its ‘unrestricted’ gravel bike range, launching the URS LT with a coil-sprung system in the steerer.
The new LT is the ‘long travel’ option, designed for more adventurous gravel pursuits; at 20mm of travel we’re sure our mountain biking friends will be raising an eyebrow, but then the 20mm made available via ‘MTT suspension fork’ is longer in travel than the 0mm of a rigid fork.
The BMC URS is a popular gravel bike at Cycling Weekly, the URS One Apex earned the top spot in our quest to find the best gravel bike at £3000. We favoured it for its nimble handling, made possible by the nippy 425mm chainstays, paired with a stable 70-degree head angle and a mountain bike inspired approach of placing length at the top tube with a shorter stem; all of this was blended with a feeling of efficiency, on and off-road.
The URS already offered a form of suspension at the rear, via an elastomer insert. However, we felt during our testing of the URS One Apex that a suspension seatpost would offer just as much – if not more – perceivable ride compliance.
The new coil-sprung system at the front is likely to offer a much more noticeable boost. Developed alongside HiRide – specialists in suspension technology and integration – the MTT suspension fork uses a hydraulic damper and can be fully locked out. The fork comes with three different spring stiffnesses, and preload spacers for tuning; there’s still 4cm of stack adjustments available for optimising position.
Gravel suspension seems set to be here to stay, with a raft of new solutions appearing across the genre. Current options include Future Shock from Specialized, which also offers 20mm of suspension via a spring, but above the headtube, the goal being to suspend the rider and add comfort as opposed to aiding handling over rocks and roots.
At the other end of the scale are the likes of the Fox AX gravel fork and SRAM XPLR Rudy Fork, which mimic cross country forks, albeit with around 40mm of travel which is a significant step down.
The MTT fork from BMC feels like a middle ground, opting for a solution that will suspend the bike and not the rider, which will aid handling, but without adding the weight and servicing requirement of an air spring.
BMC also reports that the coil spring provides “heightened sensitivity in the first phase of travel and on light impacts (typical scenario for gravel and mellow off-road terrain) whilst staying responsive and plush under mid-to-heavy impacts,” something we’re keen to test and verify.
The brand stated that the fork dampened “more than 46% of the typical impacts experienced when riding gravel,” though it’s not clear where this data comes from or what parameters determined the typical impacts of gravel – so again it’s a statement we’d be looking to test.
Discussing the design goals, Product Marketing Manager at BMC Stefano Gennaioli commented: “When we set out to design the URS LT, we wanted to preserve the unique silhouette of URS 01, while adding a high-performance suspension fork dedicated to gravel riding.”
The URS is compatible with 1x mechanical and electronic drivetrains, has internal cable routing for a dropper post and hub dynamos (music to the ears of those planning rides into the night), plus top tube mounts for those seeking extra storage.
As per the URS One Apex we tested, BMC has specced the URS LT with a 180mm rotor on the front, we weren’t sure the stopping power from the larger rotor was discernibly different but wear will be slower to show, the rear is a more traditional 160mm. The tyres are 45mm, and there are integrated protectors at the fork dropout, downtube and chainstays.
The URS LT comes in four sizes (S, M, L and XL) and two models: URS LT ONE (7’999 euros) and URS LT TWO (5’999 euros), with UK pricing yet to be confirmed.