Take a look behind the scenes of the Swiss company's high-tech IMPEC lab.
Think of Switzerland and images of mountains come to mind. And cheese, chocolate, watches, banking, an efficient transport system and more. The Swiss are known not just for their tradition, but also their precision. I dropped into the BMC offices in Grenchen, to learn about what makes BMC bikes unique.
One of the key parts of BMC’s success in bringing leading bikes to market is the IMPEC lab. Right next door to their offices, BMC have a complete carbon fibre production facility, where they can create moulds for 100% rideable prototypes.
“At the IMPEC Lab we have the ability to develop a new carbon mould in one day,” says Bastien Feder when I chat with him on my visit. “We can immediately test our designs. You can see the performance with our road and mountain bike teams – we need to have products that support their racing. And when you think Swiss, you think precision, you think quality, you think good engineering - so those are the major things that push BMC forward.”
Through the middle of this year, BMC have released four new mountain bikes and a new road bike. The BMC offices aren’t massive, but Feder explains how the team stay so efficient.
“Design-wise we have a team of four people exclusively dedicated to the design of a bike. This comes from tube shapes, to structural concepts and even colours,” he says. BMC have two of the strongest teams in the world on the road and off-road, and their role is essential as well.
“Our team riders are used more for the technical research and development. We have Cadel Evans and the whole road team, and Julian Absalon and the whole mountain bike team who use and test the prototypes, so it’s really helpful to have all those guys,” Feder adds. “There is no better help than to have feedback from someone who spends 365 days a year on a bike. They will feel everything, even just a small change. They will feel it.”
Looking across BMC’s range it’s clear they are specialists in carbon fibre. But Feder insists that the main focus at BMC is making the best bike possible for the target market, whether that’s in aluminium or different grades of carbon fibre.
“It’s really an expertise we have with carbon,” he says. “And having the IMPEC Lab lets us truly understand and test the limits of a design in a shorter timeframe. We push aluminium too. We did a Teammachine (road bike) in full aluminium, as we want to push our expertise on every level. The mountain bike range shows that. With carbon bikes at the 01 level, the 02 level is a carbon main triangle and aluminium rear, and the 03 is full aluminium. We push the expertise at the highest level - our product designers just want to be the best! They don’t believe that just doing a frame is OK, they always want to make it better.”
Outside the window lie the foothills of the Bernese Oberland, and the valley stretches towards Neuchatel and onwards to Lac Leman. The BMC lunch rides are pretty varied, with staff hitting trails or roads on their bikes or prototypes. I question Bastien Feder whether BMC actually operate in the best #terrainlab of all?
“For sure, we’ve got a giant outdoor facility at our doorstep, with the Swiss Alps, but also the flatter roads and even the velodrome next door,” he says. “Definitely it helps. Putting the bike directly on the good terrain helps. We can jump out the door and test it on a range of terrain. And if they need to do another mould, they can go just 500m and do that in the IMPEC Lab.”
BMC’s new bikes include the SpeedFox with an integrated dropper post whose actuation works with the shock’s lockout. But at BMC, they feel a lot of the future in cycling will involve pedal-assist.
“The E-MTBs are increasing crazily in Europe,” Feder explains. “That’s a big subject but also beyond mountain biking.” Will we see their E-MTBs land in Australia? Watch this space.