It’s no secret that we’re rather fond of the BMC URS (short for Unrestricted). It was one of the first gravel bikes to borrow modern mountain bike geometry principles and apply them to a lightweight and smooth-riding carbon frame.
But while the URS did so much right, especially when riding off-road, its 1x-only frame design made its purpose a little more limited. And then there was the premium pricing.
And so an eyebrow was quickly raised in interest when BMC quietly announced the URS AL, an aluminium version of its groundbreaking gravel bike.
Things to know about the URS AL
Compared to the URS and more premium URS 01, the new URS AL loses the carbon fibre construction, concealed cabling (found only on the URS 01), and elastomer-equipped softtail-design. However, the new alloy version retains much of the same MTB-esque geometry ideas and adventure-focused features. And while the original URS is 1x-only, the new URS AL can take a front derailleur.
Made with a 70º head angle and a rather short 45 mm fork offset, the steering geometry remains unchanged from the original URS. However, elsewhere the URS AL is not an exact replica in numbers – for example, the chainstays are 5 mm longer, while both the reach and stack lengths are shorter. The URS AL is available in five frame sizes.
That URS AL’s longer chainstay clearance has allowed BMC to keep the quoted tyre clearance at 45 mm while adding front derailleur compatibility. Gone is the D-shaped seatpost and integrated binder wedge of the URS, and in its place sits a regular 27.2 mm round seatpost, held in a regular external seat clamp. The frame can accept a dropper post with internal cabling.
One polarising element of the original URS was the press-fit 86 (Shimano-style) bottom bracket, and that decision carries over to the URS AL. The issue with it today is that it’s a system that works well with 24 mm spindle cranks but forces the use of tiny bearings for SRAM DUB or 30 mm spindle cranks.
Up front sits a fork that is effectively the same as found on lower-level versions of the URS and includes fender mounts, cargo mounts, internal cable routing, and front Hub Dynamo routing. And as seen on the original URS, BMC has decided to make the fork a wholly different colour to the frame. It’s an idea that works well in some scenarios, but is, um, distinctive in others.
Matching the fork, the frame can also take a fender and a rack. The frame also offers mounts for a top tube bag and a third bottle can be carried beneath the down tube.
Three models of URS AL
BMC will offer three models of the new URS AL. By now you’re most likely aware that the bike industry is facing some pretty significant parts shortages, and as a result, BMC is only expecting stock of the URS AL in stores by March 2022.
With prices starting from US$2,099 these new alloy models still aren’t what I’d call low-end bikes. And there’s a surprisingly small price jump from the top alloy version to the entry-level carbon of the same spec.
Sitting at the top of the range is the URS AL One (US$2,599 / €2,499 / AU$3,399, pictured up top). This model features a SRAM Apex 1 1×11 hydraulic groupset with an 11-42T cassette range. DT Swiss C1850 Spline wheels with 23 mm internal-width rims give support to the WTB Riddler 45 mm tyres. Interestingly this model seems to share the same spec list as the carbon-framed URS One which sells for US$2,999 / €2,999 / AU$3,799.
The URS AL Two (US$2,299 / €2,199 / AU$2,999) will feature a 1×11 Shimano GRX groupset with an 800-series rear derailleur and shifters. The gearing range is the same as the URS AL One mentioned above. The non-branded alloy wheels of this model are downgraded from the One.
Wrapping up the range is the URS AL Three (€1,999 / €1,999 / AU$2,799) which offers a 2×10 Shimano GRX groupset, hydraulic disc brakes, and the same generic alloy wheelset as the Two.
We’re almost six months away from the URS AL hitting the floors of bike shops around the world and so while we’re keen to review one, it’ll be sometime before we can. Such industry delays are unfortunately quite normal at the moment with Scott announcing a similar timeline for its new alloy Speedster gravel bike.
More info on the expanded URS range can be found at bmc-switzerland.com.