BMC uses the TeamMachine moniker for its top of the range SLR01 pro machine, a bike we awarded a full five stars when we tested it some months ago. The SLR03 sits two rungs lower down and gets heftier carbon construction, but has identical geometry to its costlier brethren.
Our initial impressions weren't enormously encouraging when we realised that the SLR03 weighs over eight and half kilos – a fair lump for a race machine, especially one with a full carbon frame and fork. We're not ones to prejudge though, so we decided to give the BMC the benefit of the doubt.
Part of that substantial bulk comes from the frame itself, which weighs a claimed 1230g, none too light by today's standards. It's a thing of beauty however, with some of the characteristic design flourishes that distinguish BMC from the run-of-the-mill. These include the distinctive strut between the near-horizontal top tube and the seat tube, and the radically dropped seatstays.
There's a butch industrial splendour to the whole bike; the down tube is immense, as is the lower portion of the seat tube, which broadens to match the substantial BB86 bottom bracket shell. The top tube to head tube junction is similarly uncompromising, while rear end stiffness comes courtesy of sculpted, asymmetrical chainstays. The only outwardly obvious difference between this and the SLR01 is that the cable routing is all external, something mechanics will appreciate.
The finishing kit is all BMC's own branded stuff, and it's pretty low-key, although as unrepentant perverts we appreciated the glossy faux leather bar tape, which is both grippy and, uh, stain-resistant. The only letdown was the BMC alloy seatpost – its bolt-and-knob adjustment method proved cumbersome, although it does the job without complaint once set up.
The SLR03 comes specced with Shimano's superlative 11-speed 105 shifting components, with brakes and a chainset chosen from less sexy, but perfectly adequate, non-series kit. In a similar vein, the wheels are decidedly unpretentious – and really rather heavy – Shimano RS010s.
Despite all of that, the BMC's ride quality is utterly involving. The frame imparts phenomenal stiffness, never failing to reward the effort you put into attacking an incline or sprinting hell-for-leather. It's also entirely devoid of harshness, managing to combine an exceptionally direct road feel – think sports car rather than family saloon – with a smoothness that belies its price point, evidence that the trickledown from the pros' version is more than just marketing. It's all down to the construction too – there's nothing magic about the geometry, which is entirely ordinary for a bike in this class.
Yes, the stock wheels are ordinary at best, and ours weren't even all that true after the first ride, but they couldn't conceal the underlying character of the SLR03, which is that of a thoroughbred racing machine. The lack of grip on greasy lanes from the basic Continental Ultra Sport treads didn't put us off either, although we'd change them for something fatter in any case – we reckon there's clearance for anything up to 28mm.
There's plenty of scope for saving weight on the SLR03, but if riding it has taught us anything, it's a lesson in the pitfalls of reducing a bike to a series of numbers on a page. With a middling spec and a chunky chassis, we anticipated sluggish performance. We couldn't have been more wrong.
Video: BMC 2015 range