BMC Teamelite 03 Deore-SLX review£949.00

Uncompromisingly stiff race bike from the Swiss speed specialist

BikeRadar score3.5/5

Whether it’s the racers who ride them or the bikes they ride, it’s fair to say the Swiss are the people to beat on the XC scene, and this big, brutally stiff BMC is a superb weapon for maximum-wattage monsters.

Pure speed demon

While BMC’s latest Teamelite 01 carbon flagship gets a softtail rear end, the alloy TE03 is all about pure speed. A short head tube keeps the handlebar aggressively low over the 29in wheels.

The seriously oversized curved and multi-shaped down tube blends into a top tube that’s a lot nearer horizontal than normal, with a small brace across to the seat tube. The chunky rear stays are braced as well but, along with the fork, have quick-release dropouts. External control lines keep servicing easy and a QR seatpost clamp makes it easier to drop your saddle for descents. While it’s big for a large, the lack of an XL size is disappointing for a bike that would otherwise suit tall riders well.

BMC has gone for a distinctively horizontal top tube to increase the triangulation and stiffness of the big-tubed frame:
BMC has gone for a distinctively horizontal top tube to increase the triangulation and stiffness of the big-tubed frame:

BMC has gone for a distinctively horizontal top tube to increase the triangulation and stiffness of the big-tubed frame

As the name suggests, the BMC is built with a mix of Shimano kit, but it’s only the rear derailleur that’s SLX rather than (cheaper) Deore. There’s nothing wrong functionally with Deore though, and even the double crankset is relatively stiff, with a 22t inner ring that provides a very low winching gear for sustained mountain climbs. You also get long-life Shimano hubs at the axis of the light DT Swiss-rimmed wheels.

The coil – rather than airsprung RockShox 30 Silver TK fork is very heavy despite skinny 30m stanchions, and the overall weight is comparable with trail bikes rather than lighter race machines. The BMC-branded flat bar is race ready though, and the inline saddle clamp on the seatpost keeps the rider position aggressively forward.

An uncompromising experience

Whether it’s the tall frame/short seatpost layout, the oversize tubes, the extra bracing or all three doesn’t really matter, because the result is the same. As soon as you press on the pedals the BMC is off.

Large-volume continental 29er tyres roll very fast and smooth out small trail chatter well, but are slippery and vulnerable off piste:
Large-volume continental 29er tyres roll very fast and smooth out small trail chatter well, but are slippery and vulnerable off piste:

Large-volume Continental 29er tyres roll fast and smooth out small trail chatter, but are slippery off piste

Not a friendly, look over the shoulder, “come on lads” sort of off. A stare straight ahead, shoulders locked, sprint-upshift-sprint-upshift-sprint assault that’ll leave an ego abattoir of bloody lungs and burning legs behind it. Even though it’s heavy for a race 29er, the power delivery of the BMC means even long or steep hills don’t clip its wings either.

The big but minimally-treaded Continentals in the smoother-rolling 29in size are a great match when it comes to uncompromising straight-line speed. Their chubby volume also means you can soften pressures slightly to add some degree of float.

The coil-sprung fork is very plush over small stuff too, so the BMC skims over gravelly fireroads or better-groomed trails really smoothly. There’s a lockout lever on the fork in case you need to get out of the saddle and stomp, so if your idea of a great ride is a marathon race or just smashing out as many miles as possible on milder trails, then the Teamelite 03 is superb.

On smooth trails the teamelite 03 is a lot of fun, but it soon comes unstuck when the going gets a little rougher:
On smooth trails the teamelite 03 is a lot of fun, but it soon comes unstuck when the going gets a little rougher:

On smooth trails the Teamelite 03 is a lot of fun, but it comes unstuck when the going gets a little rougher

BMC has fitted a relatively short stem and wide bar by race 29er standards too, so while the head angle is steep, reaction times are quick enough to cope with the early slip and twist of the tyres if things get slightly damp or dangerous. While the steering is twitchy, the long top tube and tail end increase stability at speed, and while the 160mm front brake rotor means less power than with 180s, the level of control and modulation from the M355 brakes is significantly better than that of cheaper Shimano anchors.

While it’ll take gravelly and groomed trails in its stride, there’s an abrupt competence/control line you need to be aware of when things start to get rougher. Under power it’ll be the point where you run out of tyre absorption and the massive frame stiffness starts knocking your pedalling spin to pieces and shortening your spine with brutal hammer blows at the same time. We’re not talking about big blocks and rocks either – even lumpy edge-of-field trails or fireroad potholes are potentially enough to make your eyes water and your appetite for mileage dwindle.

The coil fork is too soft to cope with faster harder impacts too, slapping through to a wrist-jarring stop on anything significant. While that might not be an issue for racers, given the number of more capable but still seriously quick 29er hardtails available, it makes the BMC less versatile and fun for general riding.

Which is faster, hardtail or full-sus?

This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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