BMC Roadmachine RM01 Ultegra 2017 road bike - review - Road Cycling UK

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BMC Roadmachine RM01 Ultegra 2017 road bike – review

An all-encompassing name for an all-encompassing bike – it’s an all-in-one masterpiece

BMC launched the Roadmachine in 2016 as a ‘one-bike solution’, claiming that you can genuinely ‘have it all’ in one steed – from racy responsiveness and sheer speed, to the compliance and geometry of an endurance bike.

We’ve always been wary of do-it-all claims, but with the Roadmachine, finally we have a bike that truly does feel at home in any scenario, on practically any road. In fact – for what is theoretically a compromise from conception – it’s superb.

Of course, the Swiss brand has its own WorldTour team, headed by the likes of Richie Porte and Tejay Van Garderen, and with those guys on the likes of the stiff and light Teammachine and the compliant cobble-buster Granfondo throughout the season, BMC have got a great feel for what works and what doesn’t on the WorldTour.

BMC’s Roadmachine RM01 is a great marriage between racy responsiveness and a compliant ride with an endurance geometry

The Roadmachine can best be described as a marriage of the two, taking cues from both the Teammachine (for our money, one of the best race bikes out there) and the Granfondo to arrive at the best overall outcome.

Naturally, such a goal is difficult to attain. We’re all different, and therefore our experiences are subjective, which makes recommending such a bike quite difficult if buying separate race and endurance machines is a realistic financial option for you. If you can have the best of both worlds, by actually owning the best of both worlds, then what’s the need for a bike that can’t really hold a candle to either specific machine?

Indeed, it’s often sounded like a bit of marketing spin. However, is the BMC Roadmachine different? Is this, in fact, an all-rounder that appeals not only to those who only want or are limited to the one bike, but also those who might otherwise have a fleet of bikes for every occasion? Could it be a bike to confound the n+1 equation? We took a Roadmachine 01 – the top level frame – to find out.

The frame – a Re-Tuned Compliance Concept to re-tune your brain

At the heart of the Roadmachine 01 is a distinctive frame design that, despite it’s relatively endurance-bred geometry, screams of aggression, speed and even aerodynamic prowess. Built from BMC’s top-level TCC 01 carbon layup (TCC stands for ‘Tuned Compliance Concept’), the material is designed to deal with the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix, while still offering the responsiveness needed to excel on the roads between the pavé.

  • Specification

  • Price: £4,099
  • Weight: 8.21kg (56cm)
  • Sizes: 47, 51, 54, 56, 58, 61cm
  • Website: BMC
  • UK distributor: Evans Cycles

Of course, you can’t actually see this beneath the paint, but what it means is the toptube, seatstays, seattube and forks are all designed to offer comfort, while the important bits for power transfer – namely the headtube area, chainstays and downtube – are oversized and stiffened.

One is designed to complement the other, resulting in a bike that can smooth less-than-perfect road surfaces without sacrificing raw speed. Throw in the capacity for at least 28c tyres, and you can gain even more comfort from the bike too.

The carbon layup is complemented by a distinctive rear triangle, with the seatstays narrowed and flattened, with the junction to the seattube made almost a third of the way down the frame – visibly lower than the vast majority of bikes. As a result, this ‘Angle Compliance Shaping’ allows the seatstays and tube to flex under duress, without loss in feel or responsiveness through the rear end.

Much the same applies with the fork, allowing enough flex but with extra beef integrated around the steerer tube and headtube areas to maintain stiffness. With the frontal area so important for aerodynamics, the tube shapes are clearly tapered, too.

With compliance taken care of, the bottom bracket area is substantial too, with the chainstay junction specifically flared to improve power transfer. Unlike most chainstays, which flare uniformly if they do, these are wider inboard, giving a more irregular quadrilateral cross-sectional shape, with the intended purpose to keep power transfer as efficient as possible- and as close as possible to the core of the bike.

BMC Roadmachine RM01 Ultegra 2017 road bike - review (Pic: Ashley Quinlan/Factory Media)
BMC Roadmachine RM01 Ultegra 2017 road bike - review (Pic: Ashley Quinlan/Factory Media)

Despite all this, what’s very impressive is the weight of the flagship Roadmachine 01 frame. For a 54cm/medium size, the frame weighs a claimed 920g – including the strengthening required to accommodate disc brakes – something the Roadmachine was designed from the ground-upwards to do.

That means there’s no adaptation compromise from a rim version design. When you consider the extra material for added stiffness (and, dare we say it, aerodynamic advantage) used in the headtube, seatpost-toptube junction, chainstay-bottom bracket junction and the generally oversized nature of the downtube, it’s impressive if a little shy of the lightest disc-brake ready frames (most of which are pure race bikes).

It’s also a well-finished frameset; you’ll find internal cable routing throughout except, interestingly, the mechanical rear mech cable along the chainstay. The benefit here is obviously easier servicing, as well as to keep shifting clean and crisp via a cable that hasn’t been routed through the flared stays. You can also spot ports throughout the bike for Di2 routing, including at the chainstays, as well as a junction box cradle under the stem.

Finally, it’s worth noting here that we’re dealing with the top-end Roadmachine 01 frame. In the range, you’ll also find the more affordable 02 carbon frame, as well as the alloy 03 chassis.

The ride – all-round magic

The Roadmachine 01 is, quite possibly, the most complete all-in-one bike we’ve ever ridden. It does everything well – and not just well for a disc-equipped all-rounder; it’s genuinely great at just about everything, rivalling more focussed machines at similar price points.

Taken on the longer rides for which it’s been chiefly developed, as well as being used as a commuter workhorse and for shorter, speedier rides, in the dry, wet, cold and mild (for the winter, at least), there isn’t a condition which flummoxes the Roadmachine.

Let’s start with the flat stuff, where the Roadmachine is quick, efficient, stable and composed in equal measure. Power transfer is superb through the bottom bracket area, and once up to speed continues to transfer driven pedal strokes with composure and serenity. The tapered front end of the bike is no doubt helpful, allowing the bike to cut through the air efficiently, with the tidy aero cockpit – available on all 0’ versions of the frame – a signal of intent.

That speed – while of course not as visceral as on the dedicated aero-led Bianchi XR4, for example – is easy to maintain at over 40km/h, and that’s down to its stability. The Roadmachine is a supremely composed and sure-footed bike, even when the wind has arrived on the scene to try to move you around.

All cables are internally routed, apart from the mechanical rear mech cable

Stability turns into predictability on the hilly stuff, with special mention of how the Roadmachine informs you of the grip levels available when heading down slopes. Naturally the disc brakes inspire confidence in all conditions once you’re dialled in, but both the front and rear of the bike have an uncanny knack of reassuring you – you can feel exactly what the road is like beneath you, giving you the confidence to chuck (or, indeed, caress) the bike into off-camber or unsighted bends.

The bottom bracket area is low down, like a race machine, and with an endurance bike wheelbase of 1,008mm on our 56cm test machine, any skittishness that would be the fault of the road is easily manageable. A locked rear wheel is easy to deal with; you have time to recognise the error of the snatch of the brakes or a touch too much speed for the road surface, and adjust accordingly. No fuss, no snappy counter-response – just direct and predictable feedback.

Uphill the Roadmachine is a genuine contender against lighter, more specifically-tuned machines. Compare it to a Cannondale SuperSix Evo Hi-Mod, or a Canyon Ultimate CF SL (a bike this reviewer owns, for the record), and it’s genuinely remarkable; remarkable, in that it can easily hold a candle to those two machines. The total weight is 8.21kg in this Ultegra guise without pedals, so it’s not the lightest total build, nor the lightest frame as mentioned before, but it feels as stiff as either of those two bikes, and responds with aplomb to standing spurts as well as prolonged stays in the saddle.

The fact that you genuinely don’t notice the weight penalty of the all-round frame construction, or disc brakes, is seriously impressive, and speaks volumes about how the feel and responsiveness of a bike frame can be as important as the weight. It also lends credence to the theory that shavings in weight aren’t the be all and end all of bike design.

BMC Roadmachine RM01 Ultegra 2017 road bike - review (Pic: Ashley Quinlan/Factory Media)
BMC Roadmachine RM01 Ultegra 2017 road bike - review (Pic: Ashley Quinlan/Factory Media)

Here, throwing the bike from side to side takes no additional effort over the Cannondale or Canyon examples, and you have the distinct feeling that every pedal stroke is being maximised. More than that, it feels as if the bike is on tickover, almost asking “is that all you’ve got?” goading you into attacking the road ahead. That’s race bike character in a bike that, let’s remember, is an endurance machine at heart.

That endurance heart is right up there with the best endurance frames too. No, there’s no trick suspension or branded vibration-cancelling tech in the layup, but it’s perfectly capable with its D-shaped seatpost soaking up the punishment – fastened, incidentally, by a tidy internal clamp system. For seatpost-sourced compliance, it’s very close to Canyon’s VCLS post, only offering up a marginally sharper ride. That’s not really a bad thing, in my opinion, as it makes the bike feel lively and the ride involving, a characteristic many will appreciate, and only adds to the Roadmachine’s all-round feel.

This is perfectly matched to the front end – the integrated cockpit and bars providing enough compliance without deadening the feel. In fact, overall it’s a near-perfect blend of the softer Trek Domane with its IsoSpeed innovations, and comparatively harsher and less composed Orro Gold STC – wonderfully compliant and stable, but retaining the excitement and pizazz of a race-ready steed.

The build – mechanical Ultegra and hydraulic discs

The Roadmachine 01 is distinct from the 02 or 03 versions in that it features an integrated cockpit, which is especially neat and tidy, while feeding the hydraulic disc routing into the frame and forks. It’s one of the sleekest setups we’ve seen (if slightly complicated to set up initially) that allows you to use a standard bar. For the record, the BMC RAB 02 alloy bar is very comfortable to grip on the drops, as well as on the tops where a slightly flattened profile makes resting your palms a doddle for long periods.

The groupset on our £4,099 test bike is mechanical Shimano Ultegra 6800, married to Shimano RS805 disc brakes which provide excellent stopping power with very good modulation. There’s little to say about the combination that hasn’t been said before – it’s slick, smooth, lightweight and the brakes were (until the recent launch of the new Dura-Ace R9120) the best rotor-based system the Japanese giant has made. You get 160mm rotors at the front to lap up the inevitable extra punishment the front takes under normal use, while the rear is a 140mm rotor.

Interestingly the fork is set up with housing to install a smaller rotor if you wanted, with extra bolt points. That means you can go for the consistent look of 140mm rotors, although you can’t take the rear up to 160mm. The chances are you’d never need to in terms of performance, although we do think consistency looks a little better in the whole.

There’s little to be said about the combination of Ultegra groupset and Shimano RS805 disc brakes that hasn’t been said before – it’s superb

As an enduring fan of the feel of a slick mechanical groupset, the shifting suits me perfectly, although with the 01 also currently available with Ultegra Di2 (£5,799) and Dura-Ace Di2 9070 (£8,799), electronic fans also have options.

BMC have also very recently released details of two bikes with the new Dura-Ace Di2 groupsets. One, the ‘LTD’, runs the RS805 system exactly like our test machine, while the new flagship bike, the ‘ONE’, runs the entire new Dura-Ace 9170 groupset, complete with SM-RT900 rotors. Looking at the two options, we say “in for a penny, in for a pound,” even if our wallets are unlikely to feel the same way.

The 01 with mechanical Ultegra also comes packaged with a Fizik Aliante R7 saddle with manganese rails, with rolling stock supplied by DT Swiss and its R32 wheelset shod with superb 25mm Continental GP4000S II tyres. With such high-quality chromed hubs, the wheels run fast and smoothly and they are lightweight enough to provide a responsive ride. We suspect that, if you wanted to upgrade the hoops to something akin to the Mavic Cosmic Pro SL C Discs, you wouldn’t regret it, but the DT Swiss hoops are more than capable while you could opt to go wider with tyres and boost comfort further.

Finally, you also get a chain catcher fitted as standard. It won’t matter to some, but the nubbed addition looks in keeping with the detail of the frame, and in a strange way perfectly ties the bike off.

Conclusion

The BMC Roadmachine 01 is a stunning bike, comprehensively capable of dominating long rides and a multitude of road surfaces, as well as giving faster, shorter rides an entertaining, rewarding and, above all, fast edge. Arguably it’s in a class of its own as an all-rounder – which goes a long way to justify the admittedly hefty price tag.

Pros

  • Perfect blend of racing speed and all-day comfort
  • Sleak, neat and tidy integrated cockpit
  • Responsiveness more than combats any weight penalty

Cons

  • We’re hard pressed to criticise this excellent bike

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