As we near our 100th issue, we take a look back at some of the tech we covered including a boatload of sweet bikes. This BMC is from issue 2. FUN FACT: $3,850 in 2011 is equivalent to about $4,513 in 2020 money (according to saving.org)!
As carbon frames are increasingly becoming an Asian commodity, there are fewer and fewer standouts in the market. Strip the decals and paint off the majority of frames and you’d be hard pressed to match the brand with the tube shapes. One major stand out to this has always been BMC. From the moment their bikes hit prime time, in the fluorescent green of team Phonak, they have sailed their own course. From the skeleton seat cluster to the unique “T” shaped top tube, a BMC will never be mistaken for another bike.
BMC frames have evolved significantly along with the demands placed on them by the evolution of their namesake pro team. As the team got bigger and stronger, the bikes have become stiffer and more finely tuned. The 2010 squad added some very big, powerful riders, among them classics superstar, George Hincapie. Simply a cobblestone eating machine, he needed a bike that could handle his mind boggling wattage, while teammate Cadel Evans needed a bike that would let him float over mountain passes in pursuit of Grand Tour glory.
The solution? The BMC Team Machine SLR01. While the markedly lugged seat cluster and unique top tube shape are a thing of the past, the Team Machine SLR01 remains apart aesthetically. It also sets a new performance standard for BMC frames. Stiffer and lighter than anything they have produced previously, it utilizes their Tuned Compliance Concept, or TCC technology, to ensure the rider isn’t beaten to death by the time he reaches the finish line.
The Details. Starting with a clean sheet of paper for BMC means just that. Nothing is sacred—not tube shapes, not materials, not preconceived notions. The Team Machine SLR01 no longer uses Easton’s nanotechnology in their carbon matrix as the Pro Machine did. The bike also gets it’s own BMC manufactured TCC fork instead of the stock Easton EC90 used with the Pro Machine.
The goal was to create a lighter, stiffer race bike, while maintaining some compliance with the durability BMC has been renowned for. The first step was to create one of the most finely tuned lay-ups in cycling. In areas that needed stiffness (the down tube, the BB, the chain stays), high-modulus carbon was used; in areas looking for durability (the seat cluster and the fork crown), high-strength material was used; in areas where compliance is prized (seat stays and fork blades), layers with some elasticity where included.
The new tube shapes of the Team Machine SLR01 also play a major role in this tuning. The head tube is tapered for steering precision under cornering and power output, while the fork blades step down dramatically from the robust crown to allow compliance front to back. The down tube is absolutely massive, transitioning from a flattened circle at the head tube to a flattened oval that seamlessly engulfs the entire width of the BB30 shell.
Leverage is a wonderful thing in crank arms and femurs, not to so great in chain stays. Because of this, the massive down tube and BB transition into equally robust chain stays. Extremely tall, and very short, the rectangle section implies very confidence-inspiring power transfer.
All of this size and stiffness is in dramatic contrast to the rest of the frame’s very slender shapes. The seat stays are incredibly thin, reminiscent of an arrow shaft. Like the fork blades, they are designed to bow ever so slightly under impact to impart some relief to the rider. And, like the forks, they step up into a more robust mono stay to ensure the frame isn’t flexing where it shouldn’t—the rear brake. This mono stay attaches very low to the seat tube, creating an incredibly small rear triangle; it’s lighter and stiffer laterally with less material than a traditional design.
Of course this means the seat cluster needs some reinforcement and BMC’s unique skeleton concept allows them to do this. Using a small additional buttressing tube from the seat tube to top tube gives BMC the reinforcement this area needs, while providing another opportunity for compliance. The region interfaces with the slim and rectangular seat post. Again utilizing the stepped concept, it is larger at the bottom, creating a powerful and stiff platform for big in-the-seat efforts while diminishing a few centimeters before the top to create isolated compliance.
The end result of this careful material selection, painstaking lay up and stepped tube design is BMC’s Tuned Compliance Concept. The frame is not simply designed to be stiff and comfortable, it is designed to possess very exacting degrees of stiffness and compliance that never infringe on the other’s territory. Of course, all of these features were closely controlled for weight since the fact that this is a Grand Tour bike was never far from the engineers’ minds. The result? The Team Machine SLR01 frame tips the scales at just over 900 grams for a painted 55cm. Built with SRAM Red, our 60cm weighed 15 lbs 14 ounces, extremely impressive for such a big bike. That weight includes Speedplay pedals and carbon bottle cages.
While the originality of all this engineering is displayed clearly in every tube shape, another feature that is just as important and just as original is not so obvious: the geometry. BMC has again taken their own path. They have combined short rear chainstays with a longer front center (the distance from your BB to your front axle). Combine this with their fairly relaxed head tube angles and we have not seen another bike with this geometry. BMC actually uses the same head tube angle across the majority of its sizes, 72.5, with a seat tube angle that is actually steeper across all sizes, 73.5 degrees; these combinations are a rarity and lead to a bike that will feel a little shorter than the top tube dimension implies.
The Ride. The initial feelings on the Team Machine SLR 01 are a little different than we’ve experienced on other ProTour-level bikes, and this is due to the geometry. With the short rear chain stays, relaxed head tube and fairly long front center, the position is a little more upright and relaxed with more of the rider’s weight distributed to the rear of the bike. In fact, after our first ride I was surprised to learn the head tube is actually fairly short. Riders used to a stretched and dropped feel may want to consider a slightly longer stem than they typically ride and deep drop bars for the Team Machine SLR01.
The position is in fact more comfortable for long days of suffering than the typical slammed stem and flattened back of many race bikes. It’s also a great position to take advantage of those short and stiff rear chain stays. With the rear wheel tucked up under the rider, accelerations occur in a rapid burst of wattage turned into speed. Whether climbing or sprinting, the accelerator on the Team Machine appears to be wired directly to your quads. When you need to react to attacks that come one after another, it’s nice to know you will squeeze speed out of every calorie you expend.
The stiffness and position also pays dividends while climbing at tempo. Dial in your pace for a long series of mountain climbs and your effort becomes floating efficiency. The Team Machine SLR01 is a wonderful key to that door in the back of your mind that leads through your pain cave to the transcendental state on the other side.
While seated, the unique seat post shape did indeed give all the stiffness necessary to really stamp on the pedals without inordinate flexing, even when extended to its max. The compliance inherent in the system has been very finely tuned to not extend to the length of the post. Another note worth mentioning is the novel angle lock clamping system. Simply turn the Allen wrench lock a quarter turn and a silicon bushing is expanded within the seat tube to fix the post. Having ridden numerous different systems, many of which fail to fix the seat post, or offer only millimeters of adjustment, the fact that it simply works as advertised was a true joy.
The Tuned Compliance Concept that BMC has lavished so much time and engineering on is just that—tuned. This is still a race bike and the compliance has more to do with ensuring your bike handles confidently over rough terrain, cobbles included, than a comfy ride to the coffee shop. It’s about the comfortable application of power, not a plush seat to enjoy the scenery. It’s the type of comfort a guy going for his first five-hour century will truly appreciate.
The stiffness and geometry again rears its head as the road points down. The front end is wonderfully stiff, even in the 60cm we tested, with the TCC fork ensuring that lateral flex in the blades is nonexistent. The bike will go where you point it, even on the white-knuckle edge. The long front center and fairly long wheelbase mean that you will indeed have to point it. It does not possess the same preternatural ability to dive into a corner that bikes with steeper head tubes and shorter wheelbases do. It will descend with the best of them, it just takes slightly more driving.
Of course this same quality feels incredibly stable at speed in a tight peloton and over rough road, even while leaned over in a corner. It’s the age-old dilemma: handling one rider describes as nimble another calls twitchy, what one calls slow another calls stable.
Think about how your current bike feels, then take a look at the geometry. That should give you a pretty good idea if which category you fit into. All in all, the geometry of the BMC is a unique combination of drive with real stability under pressure.
The Rider. You want long miles ripped off at a harrowing pace? You want pro-level stiffness with the compliance to let your Master’s body use it? The BMC Team Machine SLR 01 will make you very, very happy. If you want a twitchy, high-spirited steed of a bike, look for steeper angles and a shorter wheelbase.
THE BOTTOM LINE
PRICE: $3,850 [frame, fork, headset, and seat post]
GROUP: SRAM Red with FSA BB30
WHEELSET: Easton EA90SLX
OTHER: Easton EA90 stem with EC90 bar
WEIGHT: 15.4 lbs. with pedals and cages [60cm]
From issue 2. SOLD OUT.