Switzerland's BMC (Bicycle Manufacturing Company) are based in Switzerland and naturally look to bring the Swiss reputation for precision engineering and quality to the world of e-bikes. In this case that means their 257 AMP AL Two e-bike, an extremely stylish looking commuter that boasts a mouth-watering combinaton of a powerful Bosch mid-drive motor, sizeable battery, powerful lights, superstrong mudguards with integrated rear rack and a sophisticated Kiox display.
The 257 AMP AL Two has a super sleek design but that rather masks all the really practical features that make it such a powerful and useful e-bike. Just take the rear mudguard. It's super strong alloy, but it is also part of the structure that supports a discrete rear rack that is rated for a 20kg load and the rear light is also integrated into it. Moving to the front of the bike, the idea of combining two functions in one component is found again on the BMC ICS MTT handlebar stem, which offers 20mm of tunable suspension (the idea being that elastomers within the stem provide cushioning for your hands and arms, protecting them from the effects of smaller humps and bumps).
The 257 AMP AL Two looks like it could have come fresh from a Swiss design exhibition with all the practical features being so smoothly integrated and with a lovely matt powder coating finish to the frame and mudguards.
This lovely smooth design aesthetic shouldn't bely the extremely high quality of every part of the BMC. It combines an extremely stiff and strong feeling high quality aluminium alloy frame with Bosch’s premium mid-drive, the Performance Line CX, for outstanding climbing ability, and you also get the feature-rich Kiox display.
BMC have gone with what Bosch now rather awkwardly call the 'eBike system 2' to distinguish it from the newer 'smart system'. You might quite reasonably think that newer is better, but that's not necessarily the case. Many of the Smart system benefits are potential future benefits which may or may not be important to you.
Bosch say the new smart system offers 'maximum compatibility of eBike components – for more flexibility in retrofitting and customisation'. For example, you will be able to automatically access new software features via downloads. However, right now, the basic hardware remains the same on the BMC's eBike system 2 as with the smart system. That means the super powerful Performance Line CX mid-drive and a large 625Wh battery. Smart systems can have the option of a bigger 750Wh battery and also have the smaller Kiox 300 display, but at the current rate of change it will be several years before a really significant gap between the two systems opens up.
One current advantage I noticed to the system 2 is that you can add several e-bikes to its associated eBike Connect app on a single smartphone. With the eBike Flow app, only one eBike can be connected at a time.
In summary, if you want ever more data then you might want to go for Bosch’s newest smart system, but in terms of pure motor performance (as opposed to connectivity), the 257 AMP AL Two should rival the Smart system in many respects. In any case, the eBike system 2 is hardly short on the data it provides, as you scroll though its several screens using the small remote button by your left thumb.
The 1.9″ Kiox display on the BMC automatically adapts to ambient light and has a black text on white background setting to make things even more visible. There is also a purchasable over-the-air 'premium (electronic) lock' feature as well as the ability to link to a heart rate monitor.
Finally, I really liked the navigation screen. For this to work you need to upload a GPX route to the eBikeConnect app or associated online portal. The Kiox screen will display a dot following a simple line that shows the direction of the route ahead. It sounds oversimplistic but worked really well in practice.
The premium performance of the drive system is complemented by high quality hydraulic disk brakes, a very wide ratio 12-speed Shimano Deore derailleur setup and a super powerful hardwired 310 lumen Lezyne front light with the bright mudguard integrated rear light visible from a wide range of angles. The large capacity 625Wh battery should be good for not just long distance urban commutes but, with tyres designed to withstand pretty significant road debris, demanding e-bike touring too.
Touring, commuting and gravel 'lite'
The performance of the Bosch Performance Line CX mid-drive, as you would expect, was outstanding. The bike went straight up my extended hill climb at 16mph (so the only models that have gone up faster are those with a more liberal interpretation of the e-bike speed limit law and/or speedometers that are not calibrated the same as the Bosch...) It breezed up my ultra steep hill climb in third gear in near record time too.
As I found out on a 77-mile ride compiling a Ride Guide, the combination of the most powerful Bosch mid-drive and the efficiency and ease of unpowered pedalling on the flat meant I could potentially have got a 100 mile range from the 625Wh battery. Over my more typical very hilly Pennine commuting territory, with more liberal use of higher power levels, it still returned a range of nearly 60 miles. That's pretty outstanding for such a powerful motor system, helped no doubt by the very stiff frame, fairly sporty ride position, aero style rims and free-running but fairly large volume 37mm wide Pirelli Angel puncture-protected road tyres.
So whilst the 257 AMP AL Two is billed mainly as a city commuter, it really has a lot more going for it given that long potential range and the ability to carry up to 20kg of kit on the rear pannier rack. It will even handle smoothish off-road tracks. (BMC say it is rated for, "unpaved and gravel roads and trails with moderate grades. In this set of conditions, contact with irregular terrain and loss of tire [sic] contact with the ground may occur. Drops are intended to be limited to 15cm (6”) or less.") You may want to try and squeeze in very slightly larger tyres or more grippy off road ones at least and put softer elastomers in that suspension stem if you are thinking about doing much off-roading on this model.
The competition and value
Whilst the undeniably lofty £5,100 price tag of the 257 AMP AL TWO might raise some eyebrows, it's really a reflection of the very high quality and the high standard of design of the bike. It's actually quite tricky to find a bike from a competitor built to a similar spec. Other high quality brands like Cube and Canyon have plenty of e-bikes that share several elements of the BMC design but those that are appreciably cheaper have some aspect of the spec downgraded compared to the BMC - for example a less powerful motor.
Perhaps the nearest competitor model in terms of spec is Riese and Muller's Roadster Touring model at £4,374. That has the same motor and battery combo on an urban-styled, fast-looking hybrid, though it has front suspension and doesn't offer the option of a Kiox display.
You certainly could save a lot of money and still get a very high quality e-bike if you downgraded some aspect of the BMC's spec, but if you want to haul loads, especially up steep hills, and want a super efficient e-bike that will travel far and fast on a single charge then the 257 AMP AL TWO is an outstanding choice.