BMC’s ALR01 distills the experience and technology the Swiss company has poured into the carbon fibre SLR01 Teammachine, the mainstay of its WorldTour team, and created an aluminium bike that has a generally identical frame profile.
The main triangle tubes have fairly smooth welds, with more obvious, but extremely neat welds everywhere else. All of the triple-butted tubes are slimmed down compared to their carbon cousin, but the carbon fork borrowed from the SLR03 model retains the same distinctive stepped profile.
Matching the shapes and angles of a moulded carbon bike requires some involved hydroforming, and the many subtle tube orientation changes, triangulations and bulges are testament to how much the process has progressed. Building an aluminium frame that without close inspection could pass for smoothly finished carbon is impressive, and the lustrous paint finish only serves to reinforce its aesthetics.
So this is a pretty frame, but BMC has stayed faithful to the SLR01’s most important attributes too by almost exactly mirroring the geometry, with the same head and seat angles. Our 54cm frame has identical top-tube and seat-tube lengths to the carbon SLR01, but the head tube is 7mm taller at 155mm, possibly because of the space needed to attach the tubes.
BMC has stayed faithful to the SLR01’s most important attributes by almost exactly mirroring the geometry
At £1,250, the ALR01’s major costs are undoubtedly that beautifully made frame and matching carbon fork. It doesn’t come with a complete 105 groupset, instead pairing 105 shifters and mechs with non-series Shimano brake calipers and chainset, plus an entry-level Shimano wheelset. The 50/34 chainrings and 11-32 cassette place the ALR01 in entry-level rider range, but should offer a feel of BMC’s usual fine ride quality and confident ride.
Perhaps unsurprisingly for a bike modelled on the extraordinarily accelerative and utterly solid feeling SLR01, the ALR01 is a solid sprinter, efficient climber, and beautifully stable and confident descender with fine road manners and excellent levels of comfort when riding the rough stuff, also known as roads across most of the UK. We found the position gave us great balance for flowing through corners, and the main limiting factors to our acceleration were fitness and the wheelset, more of which later.
The gearing is generous, with a 34/32 that’ll get you up the side of a house, and a 50/11 that’s big enough for almost any situation. The chainset and brakes are sound performers, the callipers don’t have the sharpness of feel you’ll find with 105 units, but don’t lack stopping power.
The ALR01 is a solid sprinter, efficient climber and stable descender
BMC’s own finishing kit is tidy, with a good compact drop bar and 27.2mm aluminium seatpost that don’t transmit excessive road buzz, and although the stem is plenty rigid enough, the steerer clamp bolts are a little long, scratching our knees once or twice when out of the saddle, but that’s hardly a deal breaker. Selle Royal’s Sirio saddle is quite wide, and very well cushioned, and we found it a very comfortable perch, but maybe too plush for more experienced riders.
The component that has the greatest effect on overall performance is the wheelset. Shimano’s RS hoops are unfussy and nicely constructed, the rear rim is asymmetric to even out pedalling forces and improve efficiency. But there’s no denying that it packs a little more heft than is helpful for rapid riding. Sure, the wheels can be hustled along at a decent lick, but on a long drag you’ll slow sooner than with something lighter. They’re stiff enough and ride nicely, complementing the bike well, and certainly reduce the headline price, but to really enjoy this frame you’ll want something with a bit more zing.
Continental’s Ultra Sport tyres are slick rolling, grippy and reliable. It’s not race rubber, but is a fine daily rider, which could also be said of the ALR01. In this case, the frameset has undeniably untapped potential, only damped by a budget wheelset that’s crying out for an upgrade, which should be more realistic at this price.
The bike is not light, but the heart of the machine is a gloriously snappy, entertaining frameset that’s a joy to ride, and has more to give than the lowly wheelset would allow. As an entry to BMC’s range – although there will also be two cheaper models – it’s great value, with tons of trickle down performance experience included.