Closer Look: 2018 BMC TrailFox Long-Travel 29er
I’ll be up front… I’m personally a huge fan of long-travel 29ers. BMC released the TrailFox a few years ago- before the industry followed suit- and they’ve been improving on this beast ever since. If you’ve been on a Chasing Epic trip this year, there’s a good chance you’ve seen the 2017 model in action- likely being ridden by someone hard, fast, and always fun (we even had one client say he wasn’t booking unless he could get a TrailFox!). That said, BMC has managed to make the 2018 version even better and we’re excited to carry them beginning with our fall trips to Crested Butte this September!
For 2018, the TrailFox design and geometry remains mostly the same from 2017. At Chasing Epic, we’re huge fans of great “all around” bikes, and to us that means a HTA around 66-67 degrees, a seat tube angle around 74 degrees, and performance that matches the terrain we love to ride on our trips. The big numbers for the 2018 model stay constant (reach, head-tube angle, seat-tube angle, wheelbase), the colors are updated, but the biggest improvement is with the build kits. This bike was built to take advantage of all the best and brightest from component companies including 12-speed GX Eagle, a RockShox Lyrik up front, and the new and improved Cane Creek DB Inline providing the rear squish.
Additionally, the frame was brought up to date with the Boost standard, which means you can run it with 29″ wheels or 27.5″ wheels (it’s spec’ed with 29″ wheels, btw). We personally prefer it as a 29’er, but to each their own!
If you need to know one thing about this bike, it’s that you’ll have fun riding it regardless of which trip you join with Chasing Epic. The overall performance is incredible- it’s a best on the DHs, it climbs great, and it’s nimble enough to work your way through the labyrinth of Gooseberry Mesa. This bike wasn’t meant to win any Enduro races- but let’s be honest, how many of us are racing Enduro to begin with?
At Chasing Epic, we’ll be carrying full size runs of the 2018 TrailFox in the “02” build, which is their highest-level fully built bike. The “01” level is a frame-only option, which is full-carbon (take a look at the picture down the page to see how we built one up). The “02” build features a carbon front and alloy rear triangle, and sports a pretty stellar set of components for its $5299 retail price tag. To be honest, there’s not much to complain about with this build kit unless you really want to bling out a bike… all of the components are thoughtfully put together with a combination of durability and performance in mind. If you twisted our arm, we’d probably concede that we’ll upgrade the wheels at some point down the road, but to be honest the DT Swiss M1700s are solid performers that are well worth the price of admission. Otherwise, this bike ticks all of the boxes for Chasing Epic and anyone else looking in this price range.
Here’s a breakdown of the important components of the TF02:
- RockShox Lyrik RC 160mm
- Cane Creek DB Inline
- SRAM GX Eagle 12-speed drivetrain (32t x 10-50 cassette)
- Shimano XT brakes w/ 203mm rotors
- Raceface Turbine Dropper, 150mm
- DT Swiss Spline M1700 (30mm) wheelset
- Maxxis DHF/DHR tires
- BMC 780mm handlebar w/ 45mm stem
All-in with pedals and the beefy tires (setup tubeless), we weighed our medium rig at just under 30 lbs… pretty sick for a burly long-travel 29er!
As mentioned above, the geometry for the 2018 carries over from the 2017 model, with no material changes. The head-tube angle of 67 degrees and seat-tube angle of 74 degrees both sit firmly in the “super fun bike” range, and the reach of 435mm (for a medium) means a comfortable, quick-handling setup. We’d love to see how the bike handles with a slightly slacker headtube angle- around 66* -but we may be getting ahead of ourselves. For now, there’s not much to complain about with this bike!
To begin with, I’ll say that before riding the TrailFox, I’d never delved into the long-travel 29er game. I’ve ridden all of the top long-travel 27.5″ bikes (Ibis HD3, Santa Cruz Nomad, etc) and I loved all of those. But for some reason, before the spring of 2017, I just never experimented with the bigger wagon wheels. Well, consider me a full-blown convert. This bike is just plain fun. And it rips. And it’s my go-to bike for most of our rides.
But it’s a big bike, how does it climb (you might be asking)? To be perfectly honest- better than expected. The bike’s shorter reach combined with a manageable HTA and 74* STA make the bike climb quite well, and the bigger wheels help get up and over the square-edge step-ups you might find in places like Moab and Sedona. That said, I’ve also had this bike out for 25-mile epics in Crested Butte where climbs go on for 10 miles, and I’ve got no complaints. The GX Eagle makes it easy to find a comfortable gear, and the bike performs as it should. In thinking about a comparison, I’d say it climbs very similarly to one of our Ibis Mojo 3s, which are known to be quite spritely.
I prefer to utilize the “climb mode” on the bikes I ride, and with this bike it’s no different. When I know there’s a long climb ahead, I’ll switch it into climb and take advantage of the increased efficiency. Climbing with the TrailFox in “open mode” can be done, but it’s a little too soft and forgiving for my preferences on all but the most technical climbs. That said, I’ve got no problem knocking out a 2,000 foot climb on this thing.
Photo by Scott Cody @live.full.time
On the descents, the bike just rips. It’s a TON of fun, and it lives up to expectations. With 160mm of front travel and 150mm of rear squish, it handles just about everything you can throw at it. I just love the way a big 29er hauls ass over mellow terrain, and once you get it into rough stuff, you can charge through it like the rocks weren’t there. Despite the bigger 29″ wheels, the bike is quite playful in tight spaces, and on the few switchbacks I’ve encountered, I’ve had no problem tossing it around. Now I will be straight with you- the bike is burly and takes a little bit of getting used to. If you’re an aggressive rider, you’ll have no problems throwing it around on the trail; if you’re more of a mellow rider, you may need to take charge and ride a little more aggressively than you’re used to. But you know what? It’s fun, and it’ll make you a better mountain biker.
Pedaling (Flat Terrain)
In places like Sedona and St. George, it’s not all up or down… there are long, extended sections of flat terrain where you’ve got to pedal and work the trail to have a good time. In those situations, this bike excels. The bigger wheels roll over everything, the suspension is set up to create an efficient riding experience, and the bike handles quickly and confidently.
(custom-built TF01 frame, photo by Scott Cody)
Should I Reserve One?
Hell yeah, of course you should. That said, it’s obviously not for everyone. The TrailFox 02 is a bike that’s ridden aggressively, and for some folks that’s not what they’re looking for. But, I also think it’s a fun option for virtually all of our trips, regardless of the terrain.
Sure, in Crested Butte it’s probably overkill for some of the smooth, flowy singletrack we’ll ride- but at the same time, you’ll appreciate the extra cushion when the trail turns rocky and rooty. In places like Moab, Fruita, Sedona and St. George the bike speaks for itself… we’ve got other options like the BMC SpeedFox or the Mojo 3 that are slightly quicker-handling, but if you’re up for the challenge of an aggressive bike, this beast will pay you back in spades.
If you’re looking to check out this bike on some of the raddest, most unique terrain in the southwest, you should probably join us in October for the first annual BMC TrailCrew Experience. Three days of kick-ass riding, awesome bikes, and even more awesome trails. We promise.