Swiss bike maker BMC has been studying the MTB e-bike market carefully to explore where they can compete in the segment. Their entry is a no-holds barred 150mm travel plus bike called the Trailfox Amp.
What makes it special
BMC chose an integrated battery solution with the carbon frame housing the battery and motor for a stealth look. They went with the Shimano E-8000 drivetrain which delivers 250W of power at 70Nm of torque with a 504Wh battery. This is a highly evolved e-bike drivetrain that is fully torque-sensing and can go about 60-80 miles on a charge. More importantly, you can do 4000-6000 feet of climbing depending on level of assist.
BMC also opted to use plus tires on this 150mm front/rear travel bike. Those 2.8 Maxxis tires and a Fox 36 fork deliver traction and front end stability. Shimano Saint brakes with massive 200/180mm rotors front and rear provide the stopping power.
Most important of all is chassis stiffness and geometry. Many of the e-bikes introduced so far have suffered in frame stiffness characteristics and slow handling due to long chainstays. BMC has addressed this with an incredibly stiff chassis, reinforcing the downtube, and beefing up the suspension linkages and bottom bracket area. Chainstay length has been minimized as well to 17.5 inches.
How does it ride
Geometry feels like a spot-on mountain bike with a 150mm dropper, long top tube, steep seat angle at 74 degrees, and fairly slack head angle at 66 degrees.
There are three assist modes -- eco, trail, boost. Eco is a very pleasant riding experience, as one has to pedal and exert effort all the time but the weight of the bike is negated, making it feel like you are having the best climbing day of your life. Trail mode ramps up the assist more and this mode allows one to charge up any hill with modest effort. And finally boost mode means one can climb the steepest hills without a lot of effort, as the motor delivers maximum torque even at slower speeds. Apply torque to the pedals and the assist will deliver its full capacity fairly quickly.
On the trail, the bike is delight to ride. It rides like a laterally stiff all mountain bike with a very capable fork up front. There is no detectable flex at all with this frame. It is more planted than a normal bike because there is about 15 pounds of extra weight on the BB and downtube area. It just seems to plant the bike down on to the trail delivering a lot of traction.
It is very easy to go fast on this bike and change direction. The tail swings wide when you want to and it can eat up rocky, rooty trails with confidence. Is it as fast downhill as an all mountain bike? No. It's a good bike, but it is 20 pounds heavier so it is not as nimble as non-assisted bikes and the bike will plow through the fastest corners at full speed. Is it fun to ride downhill? Yes, most definitely, but well-sorted non e-bikes are still better.
What we didn't like
The most significant thing is the weight. We keep hoping for a 40-pound e-bike but this one is still closer to 50 even at the top end spec. It is still a drag when darting through corners and boosting up jumps and playing with the trail.
Also, we would opt for grippier tires than the Maxxis Rekon on the rear and High Roller front. This bike has so much torque that there simply is no need to optimize rolling resistance at the expense of grip and braking traction.
Finally, the models we tested were the highest end with XTR Di2 integration where the shifting is powered by the e-bike battery. Slick but one has to turn the battery power on each time (with a downtube switch), even just to shift.
The magic happens in the lower price points of this bike where this is not an issue. We find that the mid-priced models are always the best since there is very little benefit to paying top dollar and saving a few pounds on a 50-pound bike.
- Trailfox Amp LTD: 11,999 euro
- Trailfox Amp One: 8999 euro
- Trailfox Amp Two: 6999 euro
Riding in Grimentz and Verbier Switzerland
As you can see in the photos, riding in Switzerland is absolutely mind blowing. The vistas are so grand that they're difficult to capture on the screen. Grimentz is a historic town with a very deep heritage and they've now embraced mountain biking, opening up their hotels and trails for mountain bike adventures.
Verbier is an iconic ski town and they've done a lot to improve their mountain bike product. Trails continue to be added and we can honestly say that a few of them are world-class Whistler quality.
For more info visit www.bmc-switzerland.com. For more beta on Verbier mountain biking head to verbierbikepark.ch and discover Val d'Anniviers (Grimentz)
mountain biking at www.valdanniviers.ch.