BMC has made a big impact at the top level of cross-country MTB racing. This makes the stiff character of the Team Elite unsurprising
FRAME AND FORKS
While most MTB frames now use a sloped top tube to create a lighter, compact frame with a longer seat post extension for shock absorbing flex, BMC has stayed with an almost flat strut-reinforced top tube that matches its road bike designs. This creates a frame that feels physically much bigger and the multi-shaped tubing and brace rear stays are similarly stout in size. External cable and brake hose routing makes maintenance easy and the quick release seat collar makes height adjustment or stuffing it into the back of a car that bit easier.
While it’s a large frame for a given size there’s no actual XL frame option and the coil sprung Rock Shox front fork is also harder to set up for different rider weights compared to an air sprung fork. Despite flexible 30mm legs it’s heavy too (as is the complete bike) and there’s no remote lockout for sprinting.
The SLX element of the SLX/Deore description is actually only the rear mech too, but the Deore cranks, shifters, hubs and brakes all work smoothly and dependably. The DT Swiss rims are wrapped in plump Continental Race King tyres that actually measure their claimed 2.2-inch width.
The rounded balloon body of the Continental tyres is an obvious factor in initial ride feel too, underlining the Team Elite with a really smooth and naturally speedy character. The rear end of the BMC definitely seems to create more propulsion from its Deore cranks than the other bikes here.
Add the ability of the big mainframe to channel shoulder power through the bars to the back wheel and whenever it came to dropping mates on smoother trails and shallow grades, the BMC has a clear advantage. It’s stiff enough to offset its relatively hefty complete weight on short power climbs too, where the wide bars help amplify upper body input. The short stem makes for comparatively agile and responsive steering feel up front so you can turn quickly into corners.
The long wheelbase and rear end keep it fundamentally stable and surefooted when you’re on straighter descents at high speed though. The extended top tube means the short stem doesn’t compromise breathing space either. The stiffness that it uses so effectively on smoother trails and power plays does literally come back to bite you on the a***e when you hit rougher terrain though. You’ll know all about any potholes or big stray rocks you don’t dodge and even lumpy tussocks on field side tracks will jolt and buck you around. All this makes pedalling rhythm hard to maintain unless you hover above the saddle which inevitably fatigues legs fast.
While the coil sprung fork up front is smooth over smaller impacts, significant drops, rocks and roots still come walloping through and it flexes noticeably when you start braking or turning hard. The long, tall frame also makes it cumbersome to hop and pop over obstacles on more technical trails.
VERDICT: If you’re a powerful or just uncompromisingly aggressive rider looking for maximum muscle return and a light steering feel on the trail then BMC’s Team Elite is one of the best options you’ll find for under £1,000. Don’t expect a comfy ride on rougher trails though.
reviewed in February 2015 issue