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BMC Teammachine SLR01 review

30 Oct 2017
Verdict:

A thoroughbred racing machine that's slightly let down by its brakes

Price: 
£7,000

BMC's new flagship Teammachine SLR01 racer is here, the end product of a process that saw BMC go through 52,000 different iterations before it was happy with the finished product.

That’s right. BMC engineers, with the help of some intellectual institution bods and a Swiss supercomputer, say they have gone through a mind-bending 52,000 virtual design iterations based around 247 parameters to create the company’s new standard bearer, the Teammachine SLR01.

Some people might find it suspicious that it took precisely 52,000 iterations (which would suggest this bike is therefore number 52,001), others will just marvel at a company that’s gone to such lengths.

And indeed it had to. As BMC engineer Tobias Habegger puts it, ‘It’s hard to make the best better.’

That may sound like vacuous marketing guff, but I think it’s actually very true. The 2013 BMC Teammachine (the product of 34,000 iterations) remains one of the best race bikes I’ve ever ridden, and I know a lot of people who agree.

I stress the term race bike. That Teammachine was not one for the all-day cruiser or faint of heart. It was supremely stiff and just wanted to go.

If there was a criticism, it was that the bike was a tad harsh. So could the new version somehow unite the holy trinity by adding comfort to the stiff-light mix?

The curious incident of the vacuum cleaner

Just to make sense of this supercomputer business first, another word from Habegger:

‘With our partners Ansys and Even – two of the world’s largest players in FEA [finite element analysis] – we developed an algorithm run by a supercomputer that creates and analyses virtual versions of the Teammachine.

‘A regular computer would take five to 10 years to run similar virtualisations.’

BMC tells the computer what it wants and what the parameters are, and the computer spits out possible variants, which it then tests virtually using FEA, a system that simulates the stresses and strains on an object to help optimise that object’s shape and composition.

Each piece of the Teammachine carbon jigsaw – and there are hundreds of sheets of prepreg carbon fibre involved – is computer-selected, shaped and oriented to give the Teammachine its desired characteristics.

To that end, the frame and fork are actually heavier than the last Teammachine, a claimed 815g (size 54cm) for the frame, up from 790g, and 350g for the fork, up from 330g.

That might seem odd, but it was a necessary payoff to retain the structural integrity of an even boxier frame that promises 10% more stiffness at the bottom bracket than before, as well as increased tyre clearance and a ‘far stiffer’ fork.

‘One of my colleagues had an earlier, lighter iteration, which we built to test ride,’ says Habegger.

The problem was the tube walls were so thin that when he accidentally knocked it over onto his vacuum cleaner it cracked the top tube. And people really like to sit on top tubes.

Also curiously, while this is the top-tier calliper brake Teammachine (there’s also a disc version), it’s not the lightest.

That distinction goes to the frameset-only version, which has less paint to the tune of around 20g.

Still, all this needn’t bother the weight-weenies – the SLR01 still comes in at an impressive 6.87kg.

Speed supreme

The low weight is appreciable, but it’s only able to manifest itself out on the road thanks to the bike’s incredible stiffness.

The chainstays are about as asymmetric as they come, the PF86 bottom bracket is hoofingly big and the stocky head tube and widened fork legs are supremely rigid.

Thus I found that climbing or sprinting felt more like trailing a feather through the air than moving several kilos of bike in pendulum fashion, and acceleration was as intense as it was immediate.

All the usual factors help. The Vittoria Corsa G tyres in 25mm – and yes, there’s room for 28mm – are excellent, and DT Swiss’s latest 1400 Spline wheels felt stiff and quick, which they should at a claimed 1,434g with a 35mm deep aero-optimised rim.

The frame ignores any aero complications, but within it lies another aspect of the BMC’s speedy rub. It’s actually pretty comfortable.

Comfort is an odd thing in bicycles. We talk about it as a desirable characteristic in terms of bodily sensations, which is valid, but I think the true benefit is that comfort breeds performance as the bike moves beneath you, adjusting minutely to imperfections in the road and so limiting rolling resistance and increasing grip.

It’s the reason cars have suspension and it makes for a faster, better handling road bike.

Habegger says BMC was wise to this, so one of the specified parameters for the updated Teammachine was to have the same torsional stiffness as its predecessor, which BMC felt handled so well that it didn’t want to mess with it.

It was also mindful of customer feedback that the previous Teammachine was on the harsh side, so it has done what a lot of manufacturers have recently and dropped the position of the seatstays yet further while adding a hidden clamp on the underside of the top tube, exposing an extra 20% of the seatpost to flex.

So it’s a case of job-well-done backslapping all round, then? Not quite.

Twin identity

It has become an awful cliché, but to go fast you need to be able to stop. On a twisty road or descent a bike is really only as fast as its brakes are effective, and in this aspect the Teammachine suffers.

The brakes are direct mount, but since Sram doesn’t make direct mount callipers, and never the competitors’ groupsets shall meet, BMC has specced TRP callipers.

Sadly they’re just not as good as Shimano’s alternative, with a large amount of visible flex in the arms

And to make matters worse, the DT Swiss wheels’ braking surface is not the best. As such, I would recommend anyone buying the SLR01 should consider getting hold of some alternative callipers.

Or, even better, look into the disc version of the Teammachine.

In all other respects the SLR01 Disc is identical, as BMC wanted its pros to be able to swap between disc and rim brake bikes without noticing a change in fit and handling.

But its ace is without doubt those discs. Braking on the disc version is superior to this one in every way, and the knock-on effect is a bike that handles even better, is even more assured and stable, and is even faster.

It is hands down a better bike, which is saying something, as this one is very, very good.

It’s a shame that Sram doesn’t provide any direct-mount stopping power. Perhaps one day it will.

But until then, and at the risk of being decried as a heathen, I’d look to spec some Dura-Ace direct-mount callipers
if Sram eTap is your thing.

Or look at the Dura-Ace Di2, Mavic Cosmic-wheeled version of this bike. Or just prepare yourself for the occasional bit of white-knuckle braking.

Buy the BMC Teammachine SLR01 from Evans Cycles

Spec

BMC Teammachine SLR01
Frame Carbon
Groupset Sram eTap
Brakes TRP T980 direct-mount
Chainset Sram eTap
Cassette Sram eTap
Bars 3T Ergonova Team
Stem BMC RSM01
Seatpost BMC Teammachine SLR01 D
Wheels DT Swiss PRC 1400 Spline 35 Carbon
Saddle Fizik Antares
Weight 6.87kg (56cm)
Contact evanscycles.com

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