Having already won the Tour de France, world championships and myriad other races with the SLR01, improving it was always going to be a tall order. But that’s what BMC has set out to do, and after a year and more than 34,000 iterations of the frame, it has arrived at this new, superlight (790g) SLR01.
Highs: Super light frame with the best hardware that money can buy
Lows: The 22mm tubulars are on the slim side if you don’t have smooth roads on your doorstep
Buy if: You want a true Tour bike experience, with one of the most advanced carbon frames to date
More comfort for the Grand Tours was one of the requests from the BMC Racing team pros, and the SLR01 delivers, with low-slung seatstays that leave plenty of unsupported seat tube providing comfortable flex, enhanced by the carbon layup and BMC’s own D-profiled seatpost, while up front a tapered head tube/steerer makes it solid and flex-free, balancing brilliantly with the slender, tapering fork legs that kill road buzz.
Steering response is razor-sharp, and the bike’s composure through tight, fast corners is mind-blowing. The SLR01 is one of the finest-handling bikes we’ve tested; even riding it on broken roads – shod with 22mm Continental tubulars – we never found its limits.
It’s not just the way that it handles in pressure situations either; it’s just astoundingly fast in all situations. On flat or undulating roads it clings on to every inch of speed, then when you hit the hills it reveals itself as a wonderful climbing companion.
At just 6.24kg its lightness is an obvious boon – in fact it’s lighter in the flesh than BMC claims – but it’s not just the weight. The frameset is so responsive and lively that it always feels a part of your efforts; when attacking a climb out of the saddle it never feels like you’re dragging the machine with you.
Great gearing combines a 52/36 chainset and 11-28 cassette. It’s built for the hills, but with a high enough gear to exploit every inch of speed on the descents too. Being an out-and-out superbike it’s obviously going to have the very best groupset, and that’s exactly what you get with Shimano’s flagship electronic marvel: seamless, reliable shifts and silent operation are Dura-Ace Di2’s key pluses. Add to that excellent brakes and super light wheels and there’s certainly no faulting the hardware.
While the shape is very much race bike, it isn’t overly long or low. With a 57.5cm top tube and 18.3cm head tube our 58cm bike gains an effective reach of 40-41cm. It’s race-fit for when you want to go flat out, but sit up and take a breather and you won’t feel stretched.
Our only niggle is with those 22mm Continental Competitions: they’re very narrow, and being tubular could be seen as a hassle too. That said, they are a superb set of boots – super-supple, offering fantastic grip, and tough. We’ve had no punctures or cuts in hundreds of miles of testing. We’d prefer to go bigger on the poor road surfaces many of us endure, but on the slick blacktop of the Alps or Pyrenees we can see how these tubs would be a blast.
We’ve continued to come back to the BMC, finding any excuse to take it out for a spin. BMC has created the perfect blend of light weight, comfort, handling and a phenomenal turn of speed.