Having first spotted the new BMC TeamMachine SLR01 being ridden by then world champion Philippe Gilbert at the Tour de France, we seized the chance to swing a leg over it for ourselves at Eurobike.
And we’re glad we did. Our initial, hour-long test ride – and it was just that, rather than full review – revealed a superbly balanced machine; very light and incredibly responsive, both in handling and stiffness.
BMC bikes are available in the UK through Evans Cycles, in four builds ranging from £4,000 with Shimano Ultegra to £8,500 with Shimano Dura-Ace Di2. Our machine at Eurobike was specced with mechanical Shimano Dura-Ace, the Japanese’s firm’s lightweight Dura-Ace C24 wheels wrapped in Continental Grand Prix 4000 tyres, 3T finishing kit and a Fizik Arione saddle.
The TeamMachine SLR01 was first introduced in 2010 but the Swiss firm’s flagship race machine has had a major overhaul for model year 2014. BMC say it’s lighter, stiffer and more comfortable than the previous iteration. In fact, the only thing it isn’t is more aero – or at least BMC haven’t put a figure on it.
The numbers that did accompany the new machine’s launch are impressive, with a claimed 25 per cent boost in in lateral stiffness, a 25 per cent improvement in bottom bracket stiffness and a 10 per cent increase vertical compliance (that’s comfort to you and me). The most digestible figure, however, is a claimed 15 per cent drop in weight to 790g, which puts the frame in the same super-light bracket as the Scott Addict, Cannondale SuperSix Evo Nano, Trek Madone 7 and Canyon Ultimate CF SLX.
That said, at first glance the frame looks similar to its predecessor, thanks in part to BMC’s iconic split toptube/seattube junction, but the key technology lies beneath the surface. BMC say their new Accelerated Composites Evolution software allowed them use a complex algorithm to create a computer generated frame design according to a number of specified parameters – including weight, carbon layup and UCI regulations – before eventually arriving at this final outcome after some 34,000 iterations.
Take a closer look at the TeamMachine SLR01 and it’s impossible to ignore the huge downtube. It’s massive – among the biggest we’ve seen – and is at its widest where it meets the BB86 Shimano PressFit bottom bracket. The toptube also flares at its junction with the headtube and the result is a remarkable rigid front-end – any movement in the handlebar is fed quickly and accurately to the front axle. While I stepped of the TeamMachine impressed by its low weight, bottom bracket stiffness and eager climbing ability, it was the completely dialed in front end which was its most impressive feature.
As a result the TeamMachine’s handling felt very sharp but remained balanced and fact the geometry remains unchanged is testament to the fact BMC got it right first time round. We were impressed by the existing bike’s handling when reviewed in July 2012.
The oversized downtube and beefy, asymmetric chainstays also ensure the TeamMachine is incredibly efficient in transferring power on the pedals into forward momentum. We didn’t get the chance to weight our machine but it was comparable in hand to the Canyon Ultimate CF SLX reviewed in August, which, at 6.48kg, is significantly under the UCI’s 6.8kg weight limit. The low weight and remarkably efficient frame combine to make a machine which felt very much at ease on the rolling terrain of our test ride, which included one 1.5-mile climb conducted at an average gradient of 5.4 per cent, but with ramps over more than 15 per cent. Far from a feast of climbing but an early opportunity to see how the frame performs when the road heads uphill.
So it’s stiff and light – that was certainly evident through our ride – but we can’t comment on comfort. The roads on which we took the TeamMachine SLR01 were almost uniformly smooth and no test for a bike’s ability to separate rider from road vibrations.
A quick word on the spec. Our TeamMachine was dressed in mechanical, 11-speed Dura-Ace and it’s hard not to love Shimano’s flagship group. The shifting is remarkably sharp, not least through the front mech, which barely needs a tap of the lever to be called into action. The braking is superb, too. The TeamMachine was also the first bike we’ve used with Shimano’s new 52-36t chainring ratio and we think the semi-compact option will be a popular choice for racers and fast sportive riders, though how many off-the-peg bikes will be specced like this is questionable.
Our ride was barely time to get acquainted with the TeamMachine SLR01 but it left a lasting impression and has been penciled into our test schedule for a more thorough review.