Riding the SLR02 is rather like having a permanent tailwind – this bike just flies. On every part of our regular test circuit we always seemed to be a gear or two higher than on other bikes, and we arrived home 10 minutes faster without feeling like we’d worked any harder.
Small wonder, then, that the SLR02 took a podium position at our sibling title Cycling Plus magazine’s recent Bike of the Year 2016 awards.
The product of 34,000 frame iterations
BMC’s design process for the professional team’s SLR01 steed, which subsequently spawned this machine, involved its ACE (Accelerated Composites Evolution) technology – essentially an advanced simulation system that developed, tested and refined 34,000 frame iterations before settling on what became the final model.
The SLR02 shares its moulds, but uses different a carbon layup to save expense. But even so, our 54cm frame, including seat clamp, derailleur hanger and cable guides weighs just 950g.
The race-bred frame went through 34,000 iterations via BMC's modelling software
As with any bike, sizing is important, and with the SLR02 I dropped a size from our usual 56cm equivalent to keep the front end low – but could still stretch out enough to get racy. Sizing down gives the added benefits of keeping the frame more compact and lighter, while increasing the amount of seatpost needed and – as you probably know – a 27.2mm diameter carbon seatpost helps seated comfort.
Dropped seatstays also increase the amount of unsupported seat tube, amplifying the plush rear end feel yet further. Short seatstays, meanwhile, ensure a tight rear triangle, which usually delivers responsiveness, and coupled with the girder-like asymmetric chainstays and extraordinary ACE design equates to reactions a greyhound would be proud of.
Borderline telepathic responsiveness
Some bikes are responsive, but the SLR02 is borderline telepathic. If ever you want a demonstration, just stand on the pedals, anywhere.
On the flat, exiting corners or cresting short drags, pressing harder on the pedals results in rapidly increasing momentum. But in low climbing gears it’s really obvious – it’s as if somebody is running alongside and pushing you uphill. The acceleration is as relentless as it is seemingly effortless.
Speaking of which, it’s nice to find a complete Shimano 105 groupset fitted, with no omissions. With its 50/34 rings plus 11-32 cassette, it looks set up as a mountain assault machine, with ideal gearing for extended climbing.
A full 105 groupset is a welcome sight
We regularly talk about wheels and tyres holding a bike back, and although Shimano’s RS11 hoops are pretty basic, they do include an asymmetric rear rim and reasonable bearings, and never felt a hindrance anywhere. While more and more new bikes are coming with 25mm rubber though, our SLR02 persists with 23mm items, and the fact that it handles, goes and stops so well is more impressive because of it.
Ride comfort and outright speed shouldn’t go arm in arm, but the BMC is incredibly comfy. At those times when you’re unable to avoid the roughest line on the road, the SLR02 will roll right through it with unwavering composure, exhibiting plushness levels that a 23c-equipped bike has no right to. It’s mighty impressive out of the box, so with a simple tyre swap it would be better still.
Dropped stays add to the plushness
Even on slimy winter lanes, slick with mud, grit and occasional ice, the level of refinement and road feedback from the BMC kept us in perfect control, and its ability to cover ground quickly is something we’d never get sick of.
External down tube gear cable routing is less common these days, but makes no performance difference, and certainly improves ease of maintenance. The rear brake cable too runs externally along the top tube, which helps to keep costs down, and although the BMC cockpit also saves pounds, it’s ergonomic, stiff, comfortable and well finished. The fantastic electric blue paint finish really sings, even on dull grey days, and looks fast, which couldn’t be more appropriate.