BMC’s Team Machine is one of the most successful bikes of modern times. The first-generation model propelled Cadel Evans to his Tour win in 2011 and saw Phillippe Gilbert take the world title in 2012. The second-generation bike, and one of my favourite bikes of the last few years, carried Greg Van Avermaet to 2016 Olympic success. So, this third generation has a lot to live up to.
- The BMC Team Machine SLR02 Disc Two is one of our Bike of the Year bikes for 2018. To read reviews of the other contenders and the categories tested across road, mountain and women’s bikes, visit our Bike of the Year hub.
BMC has always been known for its cutting-edge research and development work. The company introduced Accelerated Composite Evolution (ACE) technology — a supercomputer-based algorithm, co-developed with BMC and two engineering software specialists — FEM company Ansys and algorithm-optimisation company, Even.
BMC had 247 parameters to consider when creating a carbon frame. The second-generation SLR01’s ACE Technology design passed through 34,000 iterations before arriving at the final one — adding disc brakes to the mix for the new bike increased that by another 18,000.
Alongside this development work, former BMC pro-rider and current brand ambassador, Cadel Evans, reported 150,000km of riding between the iterations of the Team Machine.
Last year BikeRadar tested the flagship SLR01 Disc. The ultra-light carbon frame and spot-on geometry created a great balance between its light weight, sublime handling and firm-yet-forgiving ride. But, the fact it came with a £10,000 price tag meant it couldn’t be awarded a full five stars.
BMC Team Machine SLR02 Disc Two ride frame and kit
The main difference between the SLR02 and its flagship brother is the frame material. The design and shape has remained, but a more cost-effective carbon layup has been used to bring the price down, although it does add a few grams in weight.
The Team Machine has a very asymmetric fork, the non-disc side is a straight blade, but the disc side has a pronounced kink.
The angular profiling is what sets BMC apart from the crowd, and this carries through the frame with the large oversized polygonal down tube and signature BMC dropped, super-slender seatstays, which worked excellently on the previous Bike of the Year, the BMC Granfondo GF01. The dedicated D-shaped seatpost is a design I’ve seen used to great effect by BMC previously.
BMC hasn’t deviated from the full Shimano Ultegra package, everything from the levers to the chain comes from this latest iteration of Shimano’s second-tier group. The premium, fully finned rotors offer superb cooling and silent running. It performs perfectly thanks to the stiffness of the BMC chassis and smart touches such as the direct-mount mech fittings.
The SLR02 has the snappy handling of the 01 in spades, and can cover ground with rapidity. However, it differs from the 01 in that it doesn’t have the same ability to shake off road vibrations and bumps.
Far more is transmitted through to your fingers and through the saddle. Up front, that may be because the SLR02 runs with a standard alloy bar and stem, rather than BMC’s integrated one-piece cockpit that was the star of the show for the SLR01. The increased firmness surprised me, as usually a second-tier carbon frame is a little softer and more forgiving than its ultra-stiff pro-level superior.
BMC Team Machine SLR02 Disc Two ride experience
The SLR02 is still a brilliant performer — you just know you’re riding a firm bike. It’s an exciting bike too and different (in a good way) from your standard race machine.
The head angle is a degree slacker than you’d expect on a race bike at 72.5 degrees (on a 58cm), while its wheelbase, at 1012mm, is a little longer, yet the 584mm stack and 401mm reach is both lower and longer than most. This creates a pretty aggressive ride position, but one that’s stable at speed yet quick to turn when you need to change direction fast.
The Vittoria Rubino tyres do a capable job in the dry, but in the wet never seemed as surefooted as I’d have liked. You also get a little bit of fork flex under hard cornering and bigger lean angles.
When the road rises, the SLR02 really shines — the aggressive ride position, even when seated, means you can punch into short steep slopes at speed. The stiffness through the drivetrain also means when you rise out of the saddle you can keep up your momentum with ease.
On longer climbs the 11-30 cassette gives you a wide enough range to keep spinning without resorting to low cadence grinding.
BMC has opted for Mavic’s latest Aksium Disc wheels, which you’ll see on bikes up to a grand less. Some might see this as a negative on a three-grand-plus bike, and I would have liked to have seen something a little higher up, but prices in the market are rising, a combination factors both global and domestic.
The Aksium Disc is the best wheelset bearing the name and provides good-quality smooth hubs, a stiff, strong construction and a newly profiled rim that takes advantage of wider tyres — the SLR02 can take 28s easily.
Overall, the SLR02 is a great bike. The distinct angular frame is backed up with a ride that’s as exciting as its radical looks.
Interested in what else is available at this price point? Have a look at the following list of tried, tested and reviewed bikes.