What is a soft tail?
Along with clipless pedals, the term soft tail is probably one of the more confused technical terms in cycling. A soft tail is a bike that has some form of compliance or give built into a single piece frame while a dual suspension frame is made up of separate front and rear triangles that are joined by pivots.
Why did BMC go the soft tail route?
Apparently, the idea for the Teamelite 01 stemmed from the demands of the BMC team riders, not BMC themselves. They wanted something to fit between their Teamelite hardtail and Fourstroke dual suspension bikes, for certain types of courses on the cross-country racing calendar. A bike that has added compliance and traction without adding too much weight or complexity. With this brief, BMC’s Impec Lab spent two years developing the Teamelite 01 frame with Micro Travel Technology.
Micro Travel Technology
Micro Travel Technology (MTT) is the engineering behind converting the Teamelite hardtail into a soft tail. The MTT system offers up to 15 millimeters of vertical movement. The elastomer is supported by two small shafts (held in place by bushings) that guide the rear end as the bike compresses. The guide shafts also provide the necessary torsional stiffness. BMC have developed three damper settings to suit riders of different weights and styles to better customise the feel of their bike.
BMC recommend servicing the MTT system after every 25 hours of riding. The process is simple. Remove the dust cap where the seatstays join the seat post and, using a 6 mm hex key, unthread the guide shafts. The elastomer can then be removed by hand. Check all the components for wear and then regrease.
While most of the attention is drawn to the black elastomer, the rest of the rear end of the Teamelite frame has undergone a major redesign. The tubing of the whole rear triangle has seen changes to accommodate the 15 mm of movement. The seatstays and chainstays are constructed from custom carbon layups to flex at critical joints.
Geometry and weight
Until recently the 70-degree head angle would have been considered on the slack side. But with a number of brands releasing their most recent hardtail offerings with just under 70 degrees, the BMC is left somewhere in the middle. The chainstays remain short at 429 mm, helping whip the bike through corners.
Frame weight is a claimed 1080 grams, which is around a kilogram lighter than the BMC's dual suspension offerings and not significantly heavier than the Teamelite 02 frame. The on-the-trail weight of our extra large sized test bike was 10.3 kg. Not super bike light but there is still room to drop some grams with a few smart component changes.
We tested the lowest specification Teamelite 01 XT which proved to be a reliable build with no parts sticking out as being unsuitable.
There is not much to fault on the Shimano XT groupset (including brakes). Our test bike featured the 11-speed 2x11 configuration which I got along with well. Throughout testing power transfer, shifting, and braking were responsive and reliable.
Much like the drivetrain, the Fox 32 fork got on with business admirably. Likewise, I had no complaints about the DT Swiss wheels which ran true throughout testing with decent hub engagement and only moderate flex when pushed very hard.
BMC like to talk about their longer frames which accommodate shorter stem and wider handlebar confirmations. I’m a big fan of going in this direction on cross-country bikes but having a 720 mm handlebar across the range is going to cause some problems for those on the extreme ends of the spectrum. On the extra large bike, I found the 720 mm handlebar to be far too narrow. Luckily, handlebar and stem are a quick fix and will always be a personal preference.
- FrameMTT Carbon 29
- ForkFox 32 Float Performance Elite Series FIT4 Remote 100mm
- ShockFox Float with remote lockout
- GroupsetShimano XT, 2x11, 36-26T, 11-40T
- BrakesShimano XT 160/160mm
- HandlebarBMC MFB01 Carbon 720mm
- Stem BMC MSM 02
- WheelsetDT Swiss XR 1501 Spline ONE
- TyresContinental RaceKing 2.2
- Retail PriceR 71 499.00
- Actual Weight10.3 kg (Extra large frame)
On the trail
I managed to get the bike out on a variety of trails around Cape Town including Hoogekraal, Contermans, Table Mountain, and the Welvanpas black route.
The Teamelite 01 had me climbing briskly with no sign of power loss through the MTT system. On the ups, the bike felt very much like a carbon hardtail. Only when sprinting extremely hard out of the saddle did I notice some movement in the rear. However, at no point did I feel that the MTT was slowing me down. On technical climbs, the MTT provided a little bit of relief (most noticeably when seated) to help absorb some of the harder knocks and keep the wheel planted.
With climbing unaffected by the MTT system, I was eager to see how well it worked coming down the mountain. The Teamelite 01 is not a natural descender and requires constant attention to keep it rolling fast. The MTT system did assist in blunting jarring knocks but I struggled to notice any big improvement in traction or control. Even with the MTT,you still have to be a handy bike rider to get the most from the bike on the descents.
Pure performance benefits aside, the MTT did very well at taking the edge off smaller bumps in the trail, especially when putting power down while seated. This makes the Teamelite 01 a serious consideration for any level of rider looking for a bit more comfort than their current hardtail provides. A keen amateur stage racer would definitely be a little less tender after a few days out with the Teamelite 01. Be aware though, you won’t be getting dual suspension level of comfort, there will still be many occasions when the trail manages to bite back.
Who is the Teamelite 01 for?
While I did notice the effect the MTT makes on the bike, I felt that it did little to improve my performance. I am an average amateur racer and feel that many riders will see few gains over a traditional (and much cheaper) Teamelite 02 carbon hardtail. That said, for riders at the top of their game looking for a light bike with some compliance, the Teamelite 01 with its MTT will likely add a competitive edge in their quest for the podium.
Where I feel the Teamelite 01 adds value for the broader riding population is the comfort it offers. If you love riding a carbon hardtail but struggle with the harsh ride, the MTT will provide you with some relief that traditional carbon hardtails simply can not offer.
In the end
The BMC Teamelite 01 XT is an excellent race bike. The MTT maintains the direct power transfer feel of a tradition hardtail while providing an added level of compliance, traction, and comfort. With this bike, BMC has shown that soft tails are no longer a laughing matter.