The BMC Teammachine SLR01 ranks among the very best road framesets we have ridden. The sub-800g Swiss masterpiece gracefully balances responsiveness, agility and snap under power with a remarkably creamy smoothness. Whether the silky ride can be attributed to the proprietary and noticeably soft carbon seatpost, the specific carbon layup or the frame's angular design, we can't say. But the end result is top shelf.
To the engineers of the SLR01, who carried out more than 30,000 digital revisions of the design before settling on the final product, we say, well done. To the product managers who specced a 56cm bike with a 120mm stem, 44mm bars and 172.5mm cranks with the semi-compact 52/36 rings, we say, perfect. But to the sales managers who put such a steep price on a bike with mechanical Ultegra, we say, come on, really?
Price aside, we stand by our initial claim: this frameset is truly special.
The BMC Teammachine SLR01 Ultegra features the top-end, 800g frame as raced in the WorldTour
Ride and handling: Lively yet cushy
Too many bikes these days are pigeon-holed: race bike, comfort/endurance bike, aero bike, climbing bike. We just want one good bike, and this could well be it. Granted, BMC is as guilty as any company of such pigeon-holing, and the SLR01 is slated as a climbing race bike: the geometry skews more towards an aggressive position than the GranFondo comfort/endurance line, and there aren't any meaningful concessions made for aerodynamics. But we found this bike perfectly at home in all our favorite pursuits, whether racing tarmac circuits, bombing down serpentine mountain roads or climbing dirt backroads high in the Rockies.
As road rubber has veered towards the contagious wider-is-better trend affecting most aspects of bikes these days, we have ridden 25mm clinchers much more often than 23mm the last couple of years. Over the winter we did a few hundred miles on Hutchinson's hearty Sector 28mm tubeless casings, and frankly this tester saw the 23mm Continental Grand Prix on the SLR01 and winced. But then a strange thing happened. We pumped them up to 100psi, went for a ride over some rough roads... and then checked the Contis for leaks, convinced they were going soft. Nope, the frame was just soaking up the cracks and chips in the pavement.
This BMC descends like a dream, with agile handling and excellent damping
Typically, a soft frame means a sluggish frame. Or, to be more precise, a bike that feels like it is absorbing road imperfections also feels like it absorbs a percentage of your pedal input. This is particularly noticeable with accelerations; bikes that feel stiff feel more efficient. Now, you can wind up an engineer as to whether this is actually true, but we believe rider perceptions matter. In any event, the SLR01 eagerly sprints out of corners, and climbs with a spring in its step.
And yet, it can smooth out nasty roads better than most 'endurance' bikes we have ridden. We railed down many a choppy dirt-road descent on this bike with full confidence. Let us put it to you this way: this bike has the snap of our personal S-Works Tarmac, but is more comfortable with 23mm Continental Grand Prix than that Tarmac with 28mm Sectors. Very impressive.
Frame and equipment: Perfect chassis, fully capable group, solid wheels
In terms of geometry, there is nothing exceptional going on with the SLR01. The head angle is the tried-and-true 72.5 you'll find on most race bikes; the seat tube a standard 73.5. The angular tube shaping is visually striking, for sure, especially with the low-rider yoke of the nearly flat seatstays that BMC claims adds to the compliant ride. But that configuration alone does not account for the plush ride. Many BikeRadar testers have ridden the similarly shaped but harsher riding GranFondo. The damping on the SLR01 is clearly engineered into the frame, fork and seatpost. It's something you can feel, with your hands: the top tube can easily be pinched between thumb and forefinger, and the thin, 'do not tighten over 3nm' seatpost can be flexed with a stout push.
The Teammachine SLR01 is BMC's lightest bike, with a 56cm weighing 790g for the frame and 1,380g for the frame, fork, seatpost and headset. Our complete 56cm test bike weighed 7.1kg / 15.65lb.
The SLR01 has a unique aesthetic, but the real difference from other bikes is the outstanding ride quality
To design the bike, BMC used something it's calling ACE (Accelerated Composites Evolution) technology, an iterative computer modeling program. With this, BMC engineers were able to run through more than 34,000 frame configurations, playing with the overall structure, tube cross-sections and the layup of the carbon.
The Teammachine SLR01 comes in a few configurations, from Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 on down. This Ultegra bike, like the others, has a BB86 PressFit bottom bracket, BMC's ACE carbon fork that tapers from 1 1/8in to 1 1/4in in the steerer, and the 180g ACE carbon seatpost. Shimano's Ultegra 6800 11-speed mechanical group is excellent, and we are huge fans of the semi-compact 52/36 configuration. As with the frameset itself, this 52/36 hits the sweet spot for racing/aggressive riding and mountain climbing. The 11-28t cassette further takes the edge off of the steeps.
Shimano's excellent 6800 group (and 11-28t cassette) we love; the DT not-so-quick release twist-on lever, not so much
An aluminum 3T cockpit might be a concession to cost (compared to carbon), but it's no downgrade in our book. And frankly with the recent spate of carbon aerobar recalls 3T has had, we are happy to stick with metal. The semi-compact 3T Ergosum bar shape is a nice one, too, in our opinion; flat on the tops for a smooth top-to-hoods transition, and shallow but gently curved in the long drops.
The DT Swiss R-1650 Tubeless wheels come with the venerable (but not tubeless) Continental Grand Prix clinchers. We're not crazy about DT's ratcheting quick release (it's more, well, a ratcheting release than a quick release), but the hubs live up to DT's typically high reputation with quick engagement and silky bearings. We had no problems with wheel trueness, either, despite plenty of aggressive riding on nasty dirt roads.
The bike comes in six sizes, from 48cm to 61cm.
The massive down tube and bottom-bracket area provide rock-solid lateral stiffness
Bottom line: Delicious frameset, steep price
The BMC Teammachine SLR01 is far and away the best all-around new road bike we have ridden this year. The asking price — for a bike with mechanical Ultegra and metal wheels — is the only thing holding it back from a five-star rating.