We’ve been impressed with BMC’s top-end offerings in recent years. The sublime-handling TeamMachine SLR01, super smooth GranFondo and hugely rapid TimeMachine all doing well in tests.
The Swiss brand’s lower-priced offerings haven’t held the same appeal, though. Previous Roadracers have been based around an aluminium platform that, combined with the unique BMC design philosophy, made for a very rigid and stiff ride – great for the burgeoning racer where handling is king, but hard work for the rest.
Frame & equipment: Race-ready geometry and stiffness
The new SL01 frame has made the switch to carbon, with fully internal cable routing and provision for electronic drivetrains (the battery is mounted on the underside of the down tube, just ahead of the bottom bracket shell).
A new tapered head tube improves front-end stiffness with a minimal increase in weight. At 175mm on our 57cm test bike, its mid-height combined with parallel 73.5-degree angles and a straight-bladed fork mean the SL01 is definitely more in the racing camp than the comfort zone.
On the component side, BMC have stayed true to 2013’s most popular choices, combining full Shimano 105 with Mavic’s Aksium wheel system. Where they have strayed, however, is in the drivetrain. Up front a standard 50/34 compact is specced, but at the back a massive 11-32T cassette gives a huge range, plus a bottom gear that will get you up seriously steep inclines.
For a long time, BMC have had close ties with Easton, so it’s no surprise to see that brand’s EA70 stem and EA30 bar completing the cockpit. The bar is a simple aluminium affair with a semi-ergo shape and shallow drop, making for a comfortable and not too stretched position when you’re riding aggressively.
At the back, a broad, aero-shaped carbon post is topped with Fizik’s less popular Ardea saddle. The flat-topped shape doesn’t offer the comfort of the brilliant Aliante, nor the multiple positions of the Arione. The overriding feeling is flat and firm. It’s neither comfortable nor harsh but being basically average isn’t any sort of recommendation.
With a build package like this, the overall weight of 8.1kg (17.9lb) is pretty impressive, suggesting a lightweight chassis to match BMC’s claims.
Ride & handling: Responsive and smooth, but flexy fork
We particularly like how the BMC steers and reacts – sharp angles and a straight-bladed fork help create a bike that’s plenty responsive. Up front, the frame’s rigidity means direction changes always feel controlled and rapid.
Over rougher surfaces the fork springs back and forth, smoothing the way while staying true without any significant side-to-side flex. Creating a fork with this much movement does have a downside, though – push the SL01 hard downhill and the active fork pings and skits at a higher rate.
It wasn’t long after we hit 40mph that we found ourselves backing out – the nervy flex just didn’t fill us with confidence. It’s a shame, as on the ascents the combination of the BMC’s low weight and wide gear range make it a climber’s dream.
At the rear, the short back end, deep chainstays, and seatstays that meet the seat tube a few inches down from the seatpost junction make for a very firm feel.
On the TeamMachine and GF01, the addition of a slender carbon post with plenty of room for flex makes for a very comfortable bike. On the SL01, however, the deep, broad, aero profiled carbon seatpost does little to reduce the firmness. In most conditions it’s of no real issue, but on particularly scarred roads it can jar.
This bike was tested as part of Cycling Plus magazine’s 2013 Bike Of The Year feature – read the full results in issue 273, on sale Friday 1 March and available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.