One of the benefits a bike brand gets from close collaborations with a pro team is high level feedback for new bike designs. Of course, pros race in front of cameras and that means to get your prototypes tested they will also be leaked. Cannondales new Synapse and Treks Domane and Madone recently created massive speculation prior to launch due to race photos.
With BMCs ownership of Team BMC they have unprecedented access to the squad. Riders like Philippe Gilbert, Cadel Evans and Tejay van Garderen all played a crucial role in race testing the latest BMC creation, the 2014 BMC Team Machine SLR 01. Turns out, many people may not have noticed. The new bike looks incredibly similar to the 2012 BMC Team Machine SLR 01. We headed to France for the launch of the 2014 bike to find out just what was new. What we discovered is a bike developed by an entirely new process and designed to achieve lofty goals, yet stay true to BMCs incredibly successful, yet surprisingly short, road heritage.
peloton’s 61cm test bike for the launch. Only 14.4pounds with out pedals.
The original 2001 Team Machine and the Tour winning 2010 model.
Lets start with some of the numbers. The frame, in 54cm with paint and all hardware (seat post clamp, bottle cage bolts, derailleur hanger and cable guides) weighs only 790grams, 130grams less than the previous model. It wouldnt be a bike launch if it wasnt stiffer to, and it is, 25% more torsional stiffness across the entire bike and 10% more lateral stiffness out of the bottom bracket. Despite the fact that none of the pros asked for it and the previous SLR01 has a stellar reputation for comfort, the new bike has 10% more vertical compliance. Overall the bike sees a 50% improvement in stiffness to weight ratio over the 2012 SLR 01 – pretty astounding numbers.
So how, with shapes so similar, did BMC manage to shatter their previous records? The answer is a new partnership with a company out of Switzerlands biggest university. Together they created a new software suite that does some incredible things. Called ACE, Accelerated Composites Evolution, its basically Finite Element Analysis on steroids.
With ACE, BMC engineers populate the program with three different sets of data 30 different geometric parameters, 90 different tube cross section options and 90 different lay up parameters. The program runs simulations within these parameters and actually virtually designs and tests the frames. Based on these results the computer makes changes and then designs a new, better frame in terms of weight, stiffness and compliance. The process continues in what one of their engineers, Eric Julliard, calls a black box process – the entire time the computer is iterating on its own, without any additional input from engineers.
Eventually, the computer spits out a frame design, based on thousands of virtual designs and virtual tests. The engineers then re-populate the program with the same data and the process starts over. In total BMC ran the program eight times. The program was initially designed to study genetics in populations and runs very organically, based on the decisions the program makes along the way the simulation will deliver different results, hence the reason BMC ran it eight times. In total over 34,000 virtual prototype frames were created in just under a year of development. When we asked Eric Julliard, in light of the thousands of prototypes created to zero in on this incredibly optimized design, how BMC can create a better bike in the future, he simply laughed and said, Im not sure! The answer of course is different input to the computer, ask it to make the bike aero as well, or stiffer or lighter. Only the future will tell how far BMC can take this process.
The computer designed and engineer approved bike, while similar in look, shares not a single tube or piece of hardware with the previous bike. Asymmetric chain stays are used, skinny and tall for chain ring clearance on the drive side and wide and short on the non-drive side. The seat stays are slim, like the original bike, but triangular to reduce volume and weight. The down tube is massively oversized, literally as large as is possible and still deliver clearance for your cranks and chain rings where it hits the press fit BB86 shell. ACE enabled them to make the tube lighter, despite this larger size. The head tube houses a tapered steer, 1.25 to 1.5inches, but on the outside is a reverse taper, wider at the top but narrower at the bottom. The fork uses continuous fiber, from blade to steer tube, and does away with the need for a steel bottom bearing race, your bearing will sit right on the carbon. The seat post, another Team Machine SLR01 specific post, is a flattened 27.2 diameter, which handles the crushing forces of the seat binder better while still delivering compliance. Both drop outs, full carbon, weight only 30grams, combined.
The asymmetric chain stays in cutaway…
The reverse taper head tube, housing the standard taper steer tube.
The dropouts actually weighed less than advertised. Scales were everywhere and BMC encouraged us to weigh any parts, frames or bikes we wished. They have serious confidence in their ability to hit advertised weights.
While the computer had created this design, BMC still had to manufacture it. They developed new techniques, completely apart from the process used for the IMPEC or the Granfondo. While the 2012 SLR01 uses just under 300 sheets of carbon in the lay up process the new version uses 400. They are comprised out of four different modulus carbons, with different characteristics for different areas. Consider the lay up alone, the shape of the sheets, the angles at which they are laid up, the amount of layers an area can get and suddenly 34,000 prototypes doesnt seem like too many. BMC has also begun using internal molds to more carefully control all of these layers, EPS forms and PU internal molds, along with more precise tooling.
As a frame is only as good as its parts, and when you are chasing grams all the careful carbon design can be submarined by a lousy hanger or cheap cable routing, BMC sweated the details. There is a new sandwich style derailleur hanger and a new seat post clamp all, lighter than before. The front derailleur hanger is ribbed for your shifting pleasure. They actually have stiffness to weight numbers for these tiny parts. If your derailleur hanger is light but not stiff, who care if your bike is light, if wont shift properly. Like the Granfondo and TMR01 the SLR01 utilizes DTi cable routing for easy mechanical and cable set up.
Well be riding the new bike tomorrow in the shadow of Mount Ventoux. Sadly we will not be riding Ventoux as the weather is not cooperating. With temperatures below zero at the summit it is very Giro-esque at the moment and a route along the valley below has been planned. Acceleration Redefined is the catch phrase, and its easy to test. No quality announces it self more readily than lively power transfer, you feel it immediately, right out of the driveway and then it is confirmed during big efforts. Despite the rain and wet roads, well do our best to put the bike through its passes.
Check back soon for first ride impressions, but until then, here are the different builds and prices for the new bike. Look for the first models, part of what BMC calls their new Altitude series to go along with their Aero and Endurance categories, to begin turning up in your local BMC dealer mid July, while Tejay campaigns his new Team Machine SLR01 at the Tour de France.
2014 Team Machine SLR 01 in Team Red with Dura ACE Di2, Shimano C24 tubeless wheels, 3T Ergosum Team bar, 3T ARX 2 Team stem and Fizik Arione 00 Saddle. $13000
2014 Team Machine SLR 01 in Team Red with Dura Ace 9000 mechanical. The only build change between and the Di2 bike is a Fizik Arione R3 with braided carbon rails. $10000
2014 Team Machine SLR 01 in White. While the Team Red finish gets Shimano, ironically the SRAM Red bike is white. Although, with new SRAM 22 you do get an 11cog rear, but unfortunately, not the hydro-rim option. DT-Swiss provides their Spline tubeless wheels, while the same cockpit form 3T is used, but in Pro version. A Fizik R7 Manganese saddle handles seating duties. At a full $2000 less than the Dura Ace 9000 bike the Red bike seems far and away the best buy in the line up. $8000
2014 Team Machine SLR 01 in Stealth with Shimano Ultegra 6800 eleven speed group and more Dt Swiss wheels and 3T cockpit. $5600