The BMC SLC01 is a true thoroughbred. We've seen Astana and Phonak riding its skeletal Carbon frame in the past, and now we've had a chance to put some miles in we can see the attraction: it's a very light, very well behaved mount that's supremely stable at fast cruising speeds and stiff and responsive when you put the hammer down. Don't expect any fireworks from the ride, just solid and unflustered performance.
What do you get for your £2299? well, we covered the main features of the frame in our first look but here's a quick recap. The frame and fork are Carbon (natch) but more so than probably any other bike: only the bottom bracket threads and mech hanger are alloy, everything else – even the headset faces and cable routing – is made of the black stuff. Easton's Carbon Nanotube Technology is used extensively, which adds stiffness to the Carbon/resin matrix, and the Integrated Skeleton Concept – the odd-looking design at the seat tube junction – is claimed to distribute forces more effectively.
There's no woven vanity layer on top, just a bit of paint and lacquer, which shaves a few grams off. The whole bike weighs just 7.07kg (for the 57cm tested), though for most of our test miles we were running Campag Neutrons intead of the tubular EC90s the bike came with, which pushed the overall weight up about 300g. The rest of the build consisted of a Record 10spd groupset and Easton EC90 bars and seatpost, with the Aluminium EA90 stem.
When I first swing my leg over a pro bike I often find that I'm surprised not by how different the bike feels, but by how similar. After all, we're not talking Formula One versus my Citroen Picasso here. The geometry is familiar, a fairly classic flattish top tube with 73/73 head and seat tube angles, the rest of the kit is brands that I'm used to but a couple of rungs up the ladder from where I'd normally be. Clip in and put the power down for the first time, however, and you get an impressive response. All those incremental improvements add up to a very noticeable improvement in performance, with the bike ever eager to jump forward at every input.
It's not a hard bike to ride though. Pro bikes tend to distinguish themselves by the quality of the technology and components they use, rather than having a different ride feel, or requiring a different riding style. The SLC01 is designed primarily for racing and than means long stints in the saddle, with tired legs and fuzzy brains at the business end of the race. It's well designed for those demands, with steering on the slow side of neutral which lends itself to trouble free cruising, while the lightness of the bike overall means that it's still very agile when you need it to be. Point it downhill and it's much more assured than its weight might suggest; BMC have specced a stiffer fork for this '09 bike which the pro riders suggest has helped, I didn't try the '08 version so I can't really comment.
Climbs are where many races are won and lost and the SLC01 climbs superbly, either seated or standing. The stiffness of the bike is apparent through the whole frame, not just the bottom bracket, and the bike has a very immediate power transfer. With the super light EC90s wheels you need to keep a keep a highish cadence and be smooth with the power to get the best feel from the bike, but drop a couple of cogs and stamp on the pedals and the response is excellent. I'm not exactly built for the hills and the SLC01 didn't turn me into a mountain goat but it did make a noticeable and immediate difference, allowing me to keep pace with friends who would normally leave me grovelling in their wake.
Anything not to like? Well, the ride can be a bit uncompromising at the saddle end. The EC90 bars do a great job of adding a bit of give to the front which is welcome after a few hours. The EC90 'post does exactly the opposite and the flattish top tube means you don't run the seatpost very long anyway. I've never got on with the Fizik Aliante saddle either, which no doubt didn't help. A different seat and 'post might soften it up a bit but most of that stiff feel is coming from the frame – not necessarily a bad thing if you're looking for efficiency over comfort, but I've ridden other top-end bikes that have been more forgiving while not feeling any slower.
My other worry is the seatpost clamp. It's a full carbon clamp at a high stress point, and looking at the recommended bolt tightnesses for the two clamp bolts – 5Nm (hardly even hand tight) and 8Nm – it's hard not to come to the conclusion that it's a bit fragile. Obviously it's designed to take the loads but as a heavier rider who's broken more than one frame in that exact spot I'd look elsewhere for my pro fix. If you're a racing snake then snapping it when riding is probably not an issue, but snapping it when fettling is: if you break it there because you tightened the bolts too hard, you won't get a replacement under warranty. So, add £50 to the cost of the frame to cover a decent torque wrench, if you don't already have one...
The SLC01 is designed to take day in, day out punishment from the Pros and it's a quick and well-behaved mount for long hours in the saddle. You can't argue with the quality, but there are other ways to spend this much money – it's a super efficient machine but there are more comfortable pro bikes out there. Best for those of you out there who are willing to sacrifice a little bit of ride comfort for a little bit of extra go on the climbs.
More pics of the SLC01 in our gallery...
road.cc test report
Make and model: BMC SLC01 Pro Machine
Size tested: 57cm
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame: Carbon monocoque
Seat tube (centre-centre) 550mm
Seat tube (centre-top) 584mm
Top tube (horizontal) 567mm
Seat angle 73°
Fork angle 73°
Transmission: Campagnolo Record 10
Wheels: Easton EC90 (swapped for Campagnolo Neutron for most of the test)
Bar: Easton EC90
Stem: Easton EA90
Brakes: Campagnolo Record
Seatpost: Easton EC90
Saddle: Fizik Aliante
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
Pro Machine says it all: this is top of the range Carbon for everyone from Tour riders down – assuming you can afford it!
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Beautifully constructed and finished, with plenty of interesting touches in the frame design.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Carbon. Everywhere. One of the bike's big claims is that it's as close to 100% Carbon as you're going to get, only the BB threads and mech hanger are alloy. The bike also utilises Easton's CNT (Carbon Nano Tube) resin technology to stiffen the frame
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
I tend to run a long seatpost so I found the 57cm frame a decent fit even though I'm quite tall. I suspect that I'd go for the 59cm if I was putting down the cash; I normally ride a 58cm and I'd probably err on the large side.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
It's not the most comfortable bike ever, but it's fine considering that low weight, stiffness and speed are higher on the list of priorities here.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
A really good balance of stiffness and give through the cockpit, though it could have done with a bit more damping at the saddle.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Extremely efficient without a hint of flex through the bottom bracket. Sprinting on the drops highlights an amount of flex in the bars but the frame seems to cope with any amount of power very well.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Neutral, just verging on the slow
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
Pro bikes are generally very well behaved, and this is no exception. It's sometimes a bit of a disappointment as you're maybe expecting a bit of thoroughbred idiosyncracy, but these are bikes that Pros spend months of every year on, and they need to be neutral as well as fast. The SLC01 is a fantastic long distance cruising bike requiring very little rider input. through town the steering feels a little slow but the light weight makes it easy to flick about.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
The EC90 bars and EA90 stem were an excellent blend of stiffness where it matters (at the stem) and a bit of give where you need it (on the hoods and drops). I didn't get on with the Aliante saddle, but then I never do...
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
The large-diameter EC90 seatpost is super stiff, probably a bit too stiff.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
Nothing really stood out, the drivetrain is high quality and feels slick. Our test bike wasn't brand new so the components have had some time to bed in and it feels very efficient
No flex from that big bottom bracket, a bit from the bars if you give it some beans
seated acceleration is about as good as it gets, especially with the feathery EC90 wheels
Out of the saddle other components come into play more, and there's noticeably more flex
The neutral steering means the bike behaves very well at speed
Faultless when cruising
Not as good as cruising speeds, but still absolutely fine
Goes exactly where you put it
Lighter bikes can be a bit skittish on descents but the SLC01 was well behaved
Really good, even on the Campag Neutron wheels; with the EC90s it's definitely an uphill machine
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
Record from top to bottom. All designed to work flawlessly together and delivered without any fuss throughout the test
Wheels and tyres
Tell us some more about the wheels and tyres.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels or tyres? If so, what for?
Okay, so we swapped out the EC90s for a respectable but more ordinary pair of Campag Neutrons for most of the test, mainly because we didn't want to ride on tubs. The BMC deserves the best really, but we didn't find the Neutrons a let-down. The EC90s do make a difference, but they're better if you have a team car to throw you a new one if you puncture!
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
Easton EC90 components are top quality. I wouldn't spec the stem though and BMC don't either, sensibly opting for the EA90 instead. I had no problems with any of the controls.
Anything else you want to say about the componentry? Comment on any other components (good or bad)
The EC90 seatpost and Fizik Aliante saddle wouldn't be my first choice, they gave the bike a more harsh feel than I think the frame would deliver without them.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? No, even if was in the market for a Pro bike I wouldn't choose the BMC
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes, if they were a lighter friend than me!
About the tester
I usually ride: Schwinn Moab, urbanised with 700cs My best bike is: Trek 1.5 with upgrades
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling