As the pendulum swings back towards shorter-travel 29ers, there are a variety of them in the 100-130mm travel range, which is, in my opinion, all anyone really needs. In the middle of all that, BMC launched the Agonist marathon/endurance platform. After eyeing it for a year, I was finally able to finagle a few weeks with the 2018 BMC Agonist 02 One so I could see how it stacks up.
2018 BMC Agonist 02 One Features:
- 02 Carbon front triangle with aluminum rear triangle
- APS suspension platform
- Internal cable routing (through front triangle)
- Shimano SLX/XT groupset
- Vittoria Barzo 2.25 tires (set up tubeless)
- Fox Performance 32, 110mm travel fork
- Fox Float DPS Performance Elite shock (110mm travel)
- BMC cockpit
- DT Swiss lockout switch (open, drive or lockout)
- DT Swiss M1700 tubeless wheelset
- Weight: 27.25 lbs (medium, actual)
- MSRP: $4899
Agonist 02 spec and setup
Because most riders don’t do lift-serviced mountain biking nor do they compete in XC races, there are several bikes that sit in the middle of that spectrum — with the Agonist being one of those. Introduced in summer 2017, the Agonist is a marathon/endurance platform that takes over where pure-bred XC race bikes leave off. Honestly, it’s more of a modern XC race bike for the rest of us, sporting 110mm travel front/rear and slightly more relaxed geometry compared to the Fourstroke, for example.
While most manufacturers are simply making their XC platforms more capable by adding a 120mm fork, BMC is splitting hairs between their 100mm Fourstroke and their 120/130mm Speedfox. On paper and in practice, it is a fantastic niche in the market, but I do have to question whether or not it makes sense to maintain all three platforms instead of offering an XC bike in both race and trail specs.
That being said, the Agonist occupies a great spot in the market and while it has taken more time to catch on with riders, the upcoming 2019 model will surely hit home the beauty of the Agonist platform.
Under test has been the 2018 BMC Agonst 02 One, which sports a beautiful carbon front triangle mated to an alloy rear triangle. With that frame, you get a lighter overall bike that still doesn’t break the bank. Routing is internal up front for a clean look with cables going external behind the bottom bracket. It is routed for a dropper post, but does not include one on any 2018 models (a certain change for 2019).
Overall spec of the 02 One model is respectable with a mix of Shimano XT and SLX components and a reliable Fox Float DPS Performance Evol rear shock and Fox 32 Performance fork. The drivetrain is 2×11, but the largest cog is a small-ish 34T, thus making the inner more of a novelty or when you have completely bonked, but still need to make it up that last climb.
DT Swiss M1700 hoops keep things rolling and the respectable Vittoria Barzo 2.25 tires maintain traction. The test bike was set up tubeless and I experienced zero issues with them throughout the duration of my testing. The Shimano SLX stoppers were matched to 160mm rotors front/rear instead of a 180mm front, but still stopped well with no noticeable fade or power loss.
The Agonist is efficient and fast
After the initial setup process to get the right cockpit fit and air pressure, I was itching to get this thing dirty. The Advanced Pivot System (APS) is tuned for efficiency on the Agonist, but the dual floating link design still delivers comfort when needed. As an added bonus BMC includes a firm/soft indicator atop the upper linkage so you can easily eyeball the proper pressure. For me, I kept it right at the soft setting and found it fantastic uphill, downhill and on rolling terrain. As an added protective measure, the lower linkage includes a plastic cover, but expect that shelf to capture dirt — especially under muddy conditions.
With the low standover, it’s easy to hop on or off the Agonist, but expect a lot of seatpost to be exposed. There was plenty of length on the size Medium frame for my 29.75″ saddle height, so no worries there. The test bike came equipped with 750mm wide bars, which must have been a rolling change from the 720mm spec shown on the company’s web site. That extra width was perfect for added control and overall fit.
While several manufacturers have their own flavor of a floating pivot bike, I’ve yet to ride the BMC APS. On the trail, it performs superbly with excellent small bump compliance and a bottomless feel on large hits. As with most of these platforms, manuals can be a little more challenging because the rear wheel wants to remain planted on terra firma. Just know that much of your energy on jumps or when clearing large obstacles will be absorbed, so be prepared.
That planted feel pays off in droves when it comes time to climb. Let me tell you… the Agonist is a killer climber. It’s worth noting that I reduced the stack height and set up the stem with a negative rise for proper fit and to keep my weight forward on steep ascents. Still, I did need to move forward on the nose of the saddle to keep the front end steady, but not any more than I’d expect from other bikes in this category.
We all love the payoff. After climbing for over 20 minutes straight on one of my local routes (and crushing my Strava PR in the process), I got to the downhill portion of the show. That lovely ribbon of dirt was met with a precise-handler that soaked up the bulk of what came my way. You’ll still want to steer around the most gnarly obstacles, but if you want to ace them, the Agonist has the chops.
If you’re looking for a bike to slay rolling singeltrack or fire roads, the Agonist is definitely that bike. This bike simply flies on undulating terrain and I’ve set gobs of Strava PR’s on this bike on all variety of terrain.
Limitations of the Agonist 02 One are mainly in spec. I get that Shimano equips the vast majority of OEM bikes, but guys, it’s 2018 and this bike still sports a 2×11 drivetrain. I only shifted into the granny ring once, just to verify that it worked, but otherwise I was perfectly-able to climb and descend everything with the 34T chainring due to the 11-42T cassette. Even though Shimano just recently introduced XTR 1×12, I have other bikes (like the Giant XTC Advanced 27.5+) that feature a full SLX 1×11 kit. By the way, I’m told that 1x will be the only options for 2019. I hope they also sharpen their pencils as the price of this model is a bit on the high end of things.
I’ll also add that the DT Swiss Two In One lockout lever is nice to have, but shouldn’t be necessary these days. Suspension kinematics are such that they have a suitable pedaling platform built into them. I used it for testing purposes and did find the drive mode to slightly improve climbing traction while still remaining supple and smooth on descents (because, like everyone, I forget to unlock it before descending). However, I’d rather drop a few hundred grams by not having it.
The Fox 32 Performance fork offers smooth action and is plenty stiff for this application. Not once did I feel it get squirrely when pushed hard. Again, it is connected to the lockout switch for synchronized open, trail and lockout modes. Something to note as well, I did miss having a dropper post. I’d gladly trade the lockout switch/system for a dropper post any day (2019 spec will likely include droppers).
Note: I’m 5’11” and 170 lbs and the size Medium tester fit perfectly. I ran it with 85 psi front and 120 psi rear for a smooth, efficient ride.
- Wicked-fast on rolling terrain
- Climbs like a champ
- APS suspension soaks up chatter and big hits alike
- Great price considering the overall package
- Clean cable routing
- Carries more speed on the downhill than you’d think
- Nifty little chain catcher
- 2×11 drivetrain is obsolete (changed for 2019… huzzah!)
- The lockout system is really unnecessary
- I missed my dropper post, but adding another lever to these bars would be a cluster of gigantic proportions (another change for 2019 spec)
- Price point is on the upper end of the market
The Bottom Line: BMC Agonst 02 One
The 110mm travel offered on the BMC Agonist 02 One places it in a unique spot in the market with only a few direct competitors. Think of it as a long-legged XC bike, or, the way an XC Bike should be. Expect an efficient climber with enough chops to handle gnarly descents (albeit with some care) and ride anywhere the majority of mountain bikers ride.
The Agonist 02 One sits in a unique spot in the marketplace with 110mm travel front and rear. Because of that, it has taken a bit to catch on, but I'm saying that it hits the mark quite well for the majority of trail riding. It snaps up climbs with panache and handles itself quite well on descents. We can't wait for the 2019 specs, which should provide an even better overall value.