In 1986 Bicycle Manufacturing Company (BMC) began at the hand of Bob Bigelow, an American chap who previously worked with the Raleigh company. BMC primarily manufactured MTBs and niche market bikes until in 2001 Andy Rihs, who had other ideas, became involved. Rihs was the owner of the Phonak hearing aid company and had a strong belief in engineering and design to make precision equipment, such as you would expect given their manufacture of such delicate items as hearing aids. At BMC he created a line of high end road bikes and took them to the world stage at the Tour de France under the (now defunct) Phonak racing team brand and managed to lift the profile of both Phonak and BMC brands simultaneously through the success the cycling team achieved in its short existence.
Despite the heritage of the originator, BMC bikes are based in Switzerland and lay claim to that country’s renowned philosophy of accuracy and quality; NB the Swiss watch example. Their bikes have been ridden to victory at the highest level, including under Cadel Evans in his 2011 Tour de France triumph. The frame on review here bears a close resemblance to that illustrious machine and has been proven once again more recently under Philippe Gilbert in the 2014 Amstel Gold Race.
The Team Machine SLR01 is part of BMC’s ‘Altitude’ range of race bikes well suited for climbers. They come fitted with your choice of Dura Ace (mechanical or Di2), Sram Red 22, or Ultegra components. At a race legal weight of 6.8kilos for their 58cm Sram Red model, the bike is respectably light. The 2014 Team machine is in fact 15% lighter than the 2013 model and remarkably, BMC claims, 25% stiffer.
Not afraid of a TLA, BMC have a few up their marketing sleeve. ACE (Accelerated Composites Evolution Technology) is a computer modelling process that they used during development of the SLR. The program ran 34,000 possible iterations of the frame over the course of a year before they settled on this final design. The process takes into consideration the frame’s geometric structure, tube sections and carbon layup to derive theoretical performance stats from the projected weight, stiffness and compliance. Computerised engineering to cut time and money from product development is not unknown these days, but a definite advantage for those with the means and this ACE process really takes the concept to the nth degree.
All this cutting edge engineering has produced a bike that looks like it means business; its shape projecting a low aggressive presence, the oversized tubes a powerful stance. Ironically the SRAM Red version has been left black and white while the Dura Ace versions sports some red touches. The top and down tubes are massive, with rounded octagonal profiles while the seat stays have been made broad and shallow to introduce some compliance for comfort while seated, and bolster against lateral flex. They converge at the brake pivot and join the seatube as a single block in the now familiar low position, about 10cm below the toptube junction. So far as design goes, I am not a fan of the small brace below the top tube /seatube junction; a feature of their ‘skeleton’ design. The brace seems to me a detractor to the overall aesthetic, a compromise to engineering. The burly front end, broad bottom bracket and chunky chain stays though, certainly promise a stiff ride and considering all this, and the low weight of the total package, I was eagerly looking forward to the first ride.
On the road the ride was as stiff as I’d imagined while checking the bike over in the office. The frame feels like a compressed spring, taut but controlled. Powering along flats and over rolling hills there’s a sensation of cohesion about the bike, the whole bike feels tightly wound and ready to transfer all the power you can put into it. It won’t do the pedalling for you but when the road heads uphill you surely get as much help as any bike can give. In the hill the bike surges forward with each pedal stroke. Cornering the SLR01 feels sharp, tracking nimbly and providing direct and intuitive feel for the road. I couldn’t detect any flex in the fork at all, and I assume DTs RWS wind up quick release was contributing to stiffness in the front end, but most of the credit should go to the BMC’s burly headtube and tapered steerer fork, providing a sturdy front end foundation.
DT Swiss supply their tubeless ready R1650TL wheelset for this model. It’s an exception to the otherwise featherweight package, tipping the scales at 720/980g for a 1700g total without skewers. This does bring the potential to shave a couple of hundred grams from your Red or Ultegra specced machine— both of which run these wheels. Our test bike came fitted with some super-light Kenda tubes (just 62g a piece) and 23mm Continental 4000Ss at just under 200g each. The tyres are a crowd favourite and matched with the ethereal tubes deliver a responsive grippy ride, as well as pegging back a few grams the wheelset will cost you. I’d save the tubes at least for dry rides or racing though, as they seem more susceptible than usual to flatting in the wet. Perhaps the flats would have come regardless.
The long (130mm) 3T stem specced on this 58cm size might be up for revision by some riders; it stretched me out a little and I’d probably retreat to a 110 personally, while the Ergosum Pro bars provide a stiff comfortable link to the rest of the bike. Standard spec is a Fizik Arione atop the SLR’s uniquely shaped post. SRAM’s Red 22 drivetrain coped admirably with the wet weather I had during this review; tuned well at the outset and as expected continued changing well throughout.
Cable routing is all internal bar the chainstay section of the rear gear cable which runs below the stay from the bottom bracket until it shoots up through the dropout section to exit above the axle cut-out. The frame is of course ported for electronic gears as well as cables.
When they asked him what he’d like in this bike Cadel said he wanted comfort and reliability. Reliability is measured in years and so beyond the scope of this review. Comfort might be measured in the absence of pain but again, time is a factor in this equation. Longer rides days or half days venturing out into the hills on this bike will provide some exciting riding, and speed on tap when you get the urge, but you might start to measure your comfort after several hours in the saddle. This bike is definitely more suited to the racer; longer course road events or criteriums would equally suit the SLR01’s capacity to perform.
The performance also hints at the price of this bike; something this good will surely won’t come cheap. This SRAM Red model sells for $8,999, while the Dura Ace equipped versions attract a premium with the mechanical iteration selling for $10,499 and the electronic for $13,999. The SLR left me very impressed, justifying the accolades and its status as a Tour winning machine. This is a damned good bike.
Quality: Top shelf materials and precision engineering combine in the SLR01 resulting in a high quality frame. The 3T and SRAM components are of an equally high standard. Wheel spec though the DT Swiss tubeless wheels are quite reasonable considered in exclusion they are the notable low point when compared to the rest of the spec.
Performance: The SLR01 is a light, high performance race bike. Power transfer is a high point, the stiff frame makes the most of the power you can put into it. Steering is sharp but the bike handles well and will bring confidence and a smile to your face.
Value for money: At nearly $9,000 this bike won’t be for everyone. There are lighter bikes out there at lower price, and the BMC is as good a quality frame as you will find. If you take race winning cred into account the argument for is strong. But for the racer looking for a bike that will deliver those extra few watts instead of soaking them up, or for the serious social rider looking for a high quality, race pedigree machine to be proud of, the SLR01 presents a strong value proposition.
Overall: Swiss design, winner of Tours and one day races, lightweight, classy looks, and with speed and handling to boot, the SLR01 would suit the more performance oriented rider looking for a top end machine.
Frame: Teammachine SLR01
Fork: Teammachine SLR01, carbon
Head Set: BMC
Stem: 3T ARX 2 Pro
Handlebars: 3T Ergosum Pro
Saddle: Fizik Arione R7 Manganese
Seat post: Teammachine SLR01, carbon
Shift Levers: Sram RED 22
Brakes: Sram RED 22
Front derailleur: Sram RED 22
Rear Derailleur: Sram RED 22
Cassette: Sram XG 1190, 11-28
Chain: Sram RED 22
Crank: Sram RED, 53-39
Wheelset: DT Swiss R-1650 Tubeless Spline
Tyres: Continental GP4000S 700x23C Folding
Distributor: Echelon Sports www.echelonsports.com.au