Some bikes shine brightly for a time, and after a honeymoon period, are superseded by the competition. Some bikes become ‘old’ when manufacturers replace or update their models. Few bikes in recent years have managed to maintain a consistently competitive edge, but the SLR01 is one seemingly omnipresent design.
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Since its launch three years ago, we’ve tested several SLR01 models, and defying the school of thought that suggests never going back for fear of repeating oneself, the bike that wowed us from the start remains virtually unchanged. Does it still compete against the newer, younger upstarts? Undoubtedly.
Design classic draped in pro-level kit
Proving the benefit of getting a design 100% right, the SLR01 feels as taut, crisp and revelatory today as it did when we first sampled it in 2013. BMC’s ACE (Accelerated Composites Evolution) Technology software worked through 34,000 possible frame iterations before settling on this one, and the proof of the carbon is in the riding. Or something like that.
From the first pedal stroke, the SLR01 just sings. Our model comes close to team spec with a complete Dura-Ace Di2 groupset, 3T cockpit, and Dura-Ace wheels, but the Fizik Arione saddle has Kium, not carbon rails, and the wheels are an aluminium and carbon hybrid with clincher tyres. Considering Shimano’s belief in alloy rather than carbon, the 6.58kg weight is impressive. Race-worthy carbon tubulars and a lighter saddle would trim mass, but a diet isn’t what this bike is crying out for.
It craves speed. Pure, raw speed on any terrain brings the SLR01 alive and begins to reveal just some of its epic potential. The professional team has raced it over everything from mountains to the Roubaix cobbles for the simple reason that it matches extraordinary climbing ability to incredible bump smoothing and shock absorption. It’s a bike that excels on any road you point it at, and no matter how twisty the route, its positive braking and confidently stable cornering makes it easy to carry speed.
We may never tire of the feeling the SLR01 gives when standing on the pedals, as little has come along to match it. Remember the feeling of pedalling your first tricycle, with cranks bolted to the front wheel? Well the SLR01 shares that directness (with rather more finesse).
It’s as if your shoes are connected to the rear wheel. The groupset is classy and refined, but this bike doesn’t need electronic shifting to excel, it doesn’t even need the most modern wheelset.
Shimano’s C24s are light, agile, urgent accelerators; ideal for the bike if not for the heavier rider. These 21mm wide, 24mm tall rims give some width away to modern options, and wear their 23mm Continentals tall and light bulb-like. Even so, the SLR01 wrings every last gram of performance from them, gripping tenaciously and producing balloon tyre ride quality. There’s room for 25mm rubber, and we can only imagine how plush and rapid that would be.
Riding the SLR01 is never a chore, and as long as it exists, it will be one of our benchmarks. This is great news for the pro team, and any lucky owners. The only worry is how exactly can BMC make it any better?