BMC SpeedFox AMP E-Bike First Ride Review
BikeCo.com is excited to be working with BMC’s AMP e-bike lineup. While I have some parking lot experience I thought I’d share a trail based e-bike first ride review.
But first, let’s look at the parking lot. Joe and I initially planned to take out the BMC’s totally stock. After all they have pretty nice spec’s from the factory and a lot of clients will be shopping them without any modifications.
The SpeedFox is a 29″ bike spec’d 130mm rear and 130mm fork. It has modern geo and with the larger wheels I find 130 rear is often all I need out of a bike. In the parking lot if felt pretty good. I found the cockpit to be a bit stretched and the bar a touch low for my taste. And the Forekaster tires… hmmm.
Joe’s TrailFox is a 27.5″ bike with 150mm rear travel and 150mm fork. The TrailFox felt like you would expect a trail bike to balance, even fore and aft with good turn in. By the way, the 150mm rear travel is the same as the larger TrailFox SX which features a 170mm fork.
Both of the BMC’s felt nicely trail balanced. But each felt like they could handle a bit more front end too.
Well I stared at the Forekaster tires for a long time, thinking, man these seem to fast for The Luge tomorrow. Probably an amazing tire for maximum efficiency – but I need some more corner lug or I’m going off the trail at speed!
I announced I was changing tires to get a better understanding of the bike, not just tires I don’t run. Joe acquiesced and said he was going to do the same.
With my Maxxis Assegai DD front (the extra sidewall would be good to help control the extra weight of the bike) and some prototype-esque semislick with cornering knobs I was more content.
Then Joe roll’s out the TrailFox.
With the mullet RideFast Carbon wheels off his Alchemy. I mean, I guess technically the tires did change and I should learn to negotiate more…
We had decided no fork travel adjustments for the initial rides, but there was no mention on oversizing the front wheel. So Joe’s TrailFox now had geo much closer to the TrailFox SX albeit from a larger radius rather than longer fork.
At this point we decided to install dialed in cockpit setups instead of the stock bar and stem combos.
Often we use The Luge to test products, in fact we send clients there on demos quite frequently. It’s close to the shop and has a variety of terrain packed in a quick loop. This gives you a good chance to look a a variety of aspects while staying relatively fresh so you can get an honest look at what you’re testing.
I decided I was going to test everything I possibly could on that ride. Here we go…
The Luge loop starts on a canyon road. Canyon roads are fun on my motorcycle, I dread them on my bike generally. The e-bike’s pedal assist allowed me notably higher speeds without blowing up my legs. So I was off the canyon faster which was good.
After the canyon you kick up a steep, into steep, into steep road climb. You can kind of catch a breath in two spots. But all and all it’s just steep. And at 240lbs steep isn’t my friend.
Ah, not my favorite climb. By any stretch…
So I punched in boost mode and expected to be whisked to the dirt trail. Not quite. The climb was faster than on my pedal bike, but not like jumping to light speed fast. I have no idea what mode Joe was in, and I’m not sure he’d tell me the truth anyhow he’s competitive – but he was pulling away from me so I decided to start messing with the drive modes up the hill.
“OFF” – I wanted to die.
“ECO” – I felt like this mode made the e-bike feel equal to how I would expect my pedal bike to feel. Like the “eco” mode in the steep was essentially just an equalizer. We chatted at the top of the climb and Joe disagreed, so maybe its the extra 80/85 lbs I have on Joe that made the ECO mode difference. Later in the ride when it wasn’t as steep I would see what he meant about ECO.
“TRAIL” – Notably easier uphill than ECO.
“BOOST” – At first it wasn’t as much of a difference from Trail as I expected. Then I discovered I could go the same speed, in an easier gear with much less effort, if I dropped into an easier gear. So not an insane speed improvement but drastically less fatigue. More on that on the trail…
In the Dirt
So we start the dirt climb side by side chatting about our e-bike review notes. Now, Joe and I riding side by side climbing usually means one of two things. One he’s doing like track stand effort levels to hang back to my pace. Or two, I’m going so hard I can’t breathe much less talk and he’s kind of just cruising. Point is, neither of those was happening. I was able to run in a more aggressive mode where needed to pace him without popping. If the social aspect is important to you on your ride e-bikes are an intriguing equalizer for sure.
We climbed the extra credit line off to the left over one the hill tops. Its’ steep. Like “why bother” steep to me unless I’m in the very, very, very best shape (not in the last 5 years or so). The pedal assist got me up the first part of the climb without issue.
But, I had promised to test every ridiculous thing I could come up with!
So first I tried to click down into ECO mode but got button happy and went all the way to off. Not. Great. Dumped the derailleur into the bailout and started spinning and clicking. Got it going and then got shifter happy and went into harder gears than I meant to.
The motor isn’t a throttle. Its designed to help drive the cranks based on your pedaling. It takes a certain amount of pressure and cadence to have it engage. Pressure AND cadence. Pressure OR cadence was a different thing. Trying to get up the steep I was in a gear I simply wasn’t strong enough to spin. Well, that meant no pedal assist. I had just enough time to bail out of the gear and get my feet cycling to engage the motor.
Remember I mentioned it was equally as fast in the easier gear up the road climb? Well between these two I felt like I found the upper and lower limits of the motor. You can almost “trick” the motor by moving the pedals with so little effort that the bike will essentially pull you up the hill.
Great if you’re looking to be easy on the knees, etc. But, if you get in a situation where you can’t get the cranks around don’t plan on the motor bailing you out. And that extra weight shifting back without the forward momentum got my eyes big pretty quick working to keep the front wheel down.
The pedal assist, particularly in the boost mode, took some getting used to cornering. I found it would engage when I would time my pedals for corners. Not a huge deal, but took a couple times to get used to.
Joe and I finished the climb chatting about our thoughts on the bikes and what type of riders both those new to the sport as well as current pedal bike riders would appreciate which aspects of the bike.
Descending an E-Bike
One thing to keep in mind riding an e-bike. It’s heavier. That creates some pro and con personality differences to your pedal bike depending on your skillset, speed, style and aggression level. Let’s go through them from some of the more obvious to maybe the less thought about.
Stopping distance. It takes more time to slow or stop a heavier bike. Keep that in mind when you’re riding. Your braking points need to shift. Your line of sight down trail needs to increase. Honestly I didn’t notice this on trail as much as I did behind the shop… We were doing 20mph sprints behind the building and I almost slid into crossing traffic beyond our unit. So, when I got it on trail I was already aware of this hahaha…
Planted performance. Between the excellent wheel balance of the BMC AMP geometry and the additional weight of the e-bike these bikes’ descend very stable. In steeps or cornering the bike felt extremely stuck to the ground. When you set a line through a corner the bike really wanted to get you through on that line.
Don’t forget some pushups. Really pushing the BMC SpeedFox through a descent took more upper body strength than I had expected. Pulling the bike through fast corners meant really pulling the bike! I found myself basically preloading and unloading the suspension in and out of turns to get the bike floating a bit before diving it in the other direction. It also felt like I needed to pull the front end up off lips to balance the bike in the air. The rear end tended to drive off the lips with more momentum (having that motor weight inertia). To balance this I found giving the front end an extra tug was helpful.
Post Ride E-Bike Opinions
I was able to ride and chat with Joe during the climb. Frankly I can’t think of the last time we did that for any extended period.
Opens up bigger, different adventures. I know of a lot of OHV areas that would be fun to explore on one of these that my pedal bike simply wouldn’t climb. I’ve penciled out some big mountain evening / night adventures that I think the SpeedFox and TrailFox will be taken out of, you know, in the name of research.
Our Luge ride was a really easy spin all and all. I don’t even think I sweat. Now this could be good or bad depending on how you look at it – but I can’t argue it was pretty easy on the joints.
Stable descent. The SpeedFox AMP held lines well and felt planted in a variety of conditions.
Is it for Everyone, aka the new Plus Tire?
Well, nope. I don’t believe anything is for everyone. That’s not a knock on anything or anyone. But in my opinion it’s fact. The bike industry marketed the Plus tire as so revolutionary that in a year we’d all be on it or we’d be lost. Hmm, that fell flat on it’s face. So let’s not go out on that limb just yet.
The thing I most missed compared to my pedal bike was the “weightless” feel on the descend. You know when you get a bike up to it’s speed range and suddenly it just feels like it’s floating? The additional weight of the e-bikes means that speed is notably higher. I didn’t get close to that feeling on the AMP – but I don’t get that feeling on every pedal bike on every ride either. And not all riders like riding at that pace. The e-bike’s didn’t like to modify lines by cheating the back end around with your feet or stabbing the front end in early through corners. They wanted more lean angle if you wanted a decreased radius. Or a real good pull to drag the front end over.
It really feels like a new sport to a degree. Like you’re going to do it in different areas, with different goals, and possibly a wider range of people frankly. I think you’re going to see more than MTB riders with e-bikes. You’re going to see riders who identify as e-bike riders first in some cases. You’re going to see different adventures and experiences with nature accessible further out, in gnarlier terrain.
How would one end up in my garage in addition to my pedal rig? Well, if I wanted to ride adventure days with people notably faster than me. Maybe I’m more social and like chatting with my friends during climbs? If I had a youngster who was a racer and I wanted to do training days to keep an eye on them. If I lived somewhere I could quickly be way back into the Cleveland National Forest where people just aren’t.
How could one end up in my garage instead of my pedal bike? (Man the notes on this one got real quick…) I’ve got a lower back that likes go out and create tremendous nerve pain. I spent the week before last essentially couch bound because of it. It’s conceivable that my body wouldn’t be able to pedal a bike before my brain is done being outdoors in nature, away from people.
We’d love to have you demo the BMC SpeedFox and TrailFox to see what you think of an e-bike option. Contact our sales team for details today.