Stiffer, lighter, faster - yes the new TeamMachine really does tick those three boxes.
This lightweight successor to the Tour de France winning TeamMachine SLR01 raises the stakes with a new 790g frame designed using BMC's own computer modelling software, and offers a scintillating ride while still retaining the left-field angular lines that makes it such a distinctive looker and opinion divider.
Ride: Effortlessly fast
Very few bikes I've ridden feel as sensationally fast or willing to accelerate as the new BMC TeamMachine SLR01.
You feel the BMC's lack of weight (it's 6.45kg as pictured) and huge level of stiffness the moment you roll down the road on the first ride. Approach a hill, any sort - long and gradual, short and steep - and it scampers up with just the merest encouragement on the pedals. This lightness and stiffness is reinforced whenever you call for a change of speed, whether it's sprinting out of a slow corner or launching for an imaginary finish line. It's effortlessly fast.
It's hard to fault the handling. The geometry is very close to most other top-end race bikes like the Cannondale Evo for example, but the head angle is a smidgen slacker at 72.5 degrees. This gives steering that is well balanced and easily controllable through a range of situations, from low speed handling to high speed action. Considering its racing credentials, it's a very easy bike to live with from day to day. And at 16.3cm, the head tube isn't crazy short so a comfortable yet lowish position is easy to achieve.
The real shock, considering the high stiffness factor, is just how comfortable it is. I expected to be bounced around on rough roads but the new frame and fork handles vibrations far better than the previous TeamMachine. It sails along rough roads with fantastic stability, isn't bounced off line and remains composed at all times.
BMC have created a bike that manages to dissipate the high frequency vibrations, making for a smooth ride. It's not just smooth for a race bike, it's smooth full stop. It's not without its stiffness though. Laterally and torsionally, from the fork through to the handlebars and extending to the rear end, the bike feels very tight and connected.
It's very nearly as smooth riding as the Bianchi Infinito CV, a bike designed expressly with comfort in mind. There's a clear difference between the two however, and once you hone in on the finer details the difference emerges, but what is surprising is how well the TeamMachine copes on less than smooth surfaces considering it's a race bike first and foremost. It is possible to have a stiff and light race bike with decent comfort.
The TeamMachine is a good-looking bike too, though some will argue the angular tube profiles and contrast between the gargantuan downtube and skinny seatstays doesn't work. I think it does. Whatever you think of it, the bike clearly stands out from the opposition, and in an industry where a lot of bikes are starting to look very similar, that's no bad thing.
Ride wise though, with this new TeamMachine the Swiss company has closed the gap to the likes of Cannondale's SuperSix Evo and Cervelo's R5. It's markedly better than the bike it replaces, managing to be more comfortable, stiffer and lighter. The differences between bikes of this calibre are measured in very small percentages, but on this evidence, dynamically at least, the TeamMachine just edges ahead. It's fast, stable, exciting, comfortable, easy to live with, all of the traits you want in a race bike. It's a very likeable bike and raises the bar for top-end carbon fibre race bikes.
Frame: Designed by computers, now weighs 790g with 330g fork
The reason the new TeamMachine rides so well is the completely redesigned frame and fork. Yes, it looks very similar to the outgoing model at first glance, there's that distinctive split top tube, compact rear triangle and hexagonal tube profiles, features that can trace their way right back to the 2010 Tour de France winning bike. It's come a long way from the original 2001 TeamMachine thankfully, with that unique open lugged design that so divided opinion.
BMC don't have the heritage of many older brands, but they're a technology-ocused company and pushing boundaries is clearly something they're interested in doing. Just see their Impec robot built bikes for an example. When it came to the new TeamMachine, they started the design process not with a blank sheet of paper, but by developing their own computer modelling software.
Dubbed Accelerated Composites Evolution (ACE) Technology, this software allowed them to accelerate the process of prototyping designs. They were able to work through a staggering 34,000 revisions before they settled on the final one. The real advantage of the software is that it allowed the designers to assess and optimise the shape of every tube and junction, and the layup of the individual fibres, thanks to the power of the software to analyse every detail and the impact of changes based on the parameters they inputted.
The result is a substantially lighter frame, as much as 160g, despite a general increase in the size of the tubes to increase the stiffness. That weight saving produces a claimed 790g frame (56cm) which puts it in the same realm as the likes of the Cervelo R5 and Cannondale SuperSix Evo, two of the bikes the TeamMachine must square up against.
Weight saving wasn't the only outcome of the computer modelling, stiffness has jumped by a claimed 25%. You only need look at the downtube to see how they've extracted such an increase in stiffness, but it's also changes to the layup, which you can't see, that have netted such improvements. With such impressive results from this software, it does make you wonder where BMC can take the frame the next time they come to update it.
The hexagonal tube profiles are carried over from the previous model, but the down tube has grown to enormous proportions. It uses the full width of the BB86 Shimano Press-Fit bottom bracket, as does the seat tube and pair of huge asymmetric chainstays. The down tube creates a large junction with the tapered (1 1/8in to 1 1/4in bearings) head tube, into which slots a brand new 330g fork, with a distinctive side profile, wide at the top and slim most of the way down the fork legs. The chainstays are asymmetric to resist the twisting forces when putting the power down, keeping both wheels tracking in the same orientation. There's virtually no flex around the bottom bracket area, push as hard as you like on the pedals and the only outcome is the bike darting up the road.
The top tube starts life out massively oversized at the head tube, and tapers down both in width and height before splitting at the seat tube. The seat tube now houses a brand new rounded square seatpost and, doing away with the complex cam system from the previous model, uses the regular external seat clamp which is much easier to use. There are height markers on the post.
This new seatpost and also the slender seatstays feature an advancement of BMC's Tuned Compliance Concept (TCC), which is their way of lending the bike the ability to squash high frequency vibrations. It really seems to work too, the skinny seatpost does noticeably flex a little when riding which takes care of bigger impacts. The skinny seatstays are designed to do the same thing, but given the colossal size of the chainstays it's not clear how much vertical movement is offered by the rear triangle, if any.
As befits a modern race-ready frame, all cables are now routed internally with a very neat dual cable guide. The frame is compatible with electronic and mechanical groupsets. To really keep the weight to a minimum, both dropouts are made from carbon fibre and the lower fork bearing race is moulded from carbon; there are no metal inserts in this frame.
Build kit: Reliable and ready to race components
I tested the £6,000 Shimano Dura-Ace mechanical 11-speed model, but the same frame and fork is used throughout the four-bike range which starts from £4,000. At the other end is a Di2 build costing £8,500. Alternatively, you could pick up the frameset (frame, fork, seatpost and headset) for £2,750. Pricewise, it's in the same ballpark as the sort of bikes the TeamMachine is going up against, and considering the state-of-the-art development that has gone into the frame, it's perhaps no surprise it's commanding a high price.
This was my first proper ride on the new Dura-Ace and exceedingly lovely it is. It's impressive Shimano manages to constantly improve its groupsets: the shifting is flawless, each push of the gear lever snicking the chain quietly across the cassette. You don't notice the extra sprocket of the 11-speed cassette, but you do find there's a smoother transition through the ratios - it's now easier to be in just the right gear for most situations. There's still too much lever travel before engaging a gear, in this department SRAM with its Zero Loss nudges ahead.
Shimano also supply the excellent C24 wheels and Continental the GP4000S tyres in 23mm width. I say excellent because they really are a stonking set of wheels. Not only are they light but they feel highly responsive, with good initial acceleration and decent stiffness through loaded corners, yet manage to offer a supple ride.
3T kit is top drawer stuff and the Ergosum Team handlebar, the company's mid-range offering with carbon fibre construction and £200 price tag. The shape will suit most people well, a shallow 128mm drop with a 89mm reach giving a good stretch when in the drops. I'm used to bikes coming with too short stems, but BMC specify a 12cm stem on the 56cm which happens to be perfect for me. It's what I usually ride on 56cm bikes. That meant I didn't have to do the usual stem change before the first ride, it was ready to go.
The Fizik Arione R3 saddle is a top-end carbon braided model. The shape of the Arione either works for you or it doesn't, luckily it does for me. As nice as the carbon rails look - good for pose value outside the cafe - they don't offer as much flex as the steel rail version of the same saddle.
All that lavish kit on the lightweight frame and fork results in a bike that weighs 6.45kg (14.21lb) on the road.cc scales. Proof, if it were needed, that the UCI's minimum weight limit is hopelessly out of date.
The new TeamMachine delivers a vastly improved ride over the previous model, it's stiff yet comfortable, fast and engaging, a thoroughly commendable race bike that will have more established rivals looking over their shoulders.
road.cc test report
Make and model: BMC Team Machine SLR01
Size tested: 56cm
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Lightweight: The new teammachine SLR01 is the lightest bike in the BMC line-up. The frame weighs a feathery 790 grams and makes for a 1380 gram frameset (including seatpost, fork and headset). It is nearly 15 percent lighter but at the same time 25 percent stiffer than the 2013 teammachine SLR01, and is amongst the lightest frames that are commercially available. The new SLR01's high stiffness values combined with its low weight result in breath-taking acceleration, even while climbing the steepest grades. The proven SLR01 geometry provides excellent agility, maximum control, and sure-footed confidence on the fastest descents and the most technical corners.
ACE Technology: For the very first time in industry history, BMC replaced traditional prototyping processes with super powerful Accelerated Composites Evolution (ACE) Technology. With this unique iterative computer modeling program, more than 34'000 possible frame configurations were pro-totyped to optimize a bike's geometrical structure, tube cross-sections, and carbon layup. The first result of ACE is the new teammachine SLR01: it embodies the perfect combination of performance factors: weight, stiffness and vertical compliance.
Comfortable: The positive effects of vertically compliant frames are well known. The absorption of high-frequency road vibration allows the rider to save critical energy stores, and thereby arrive as fresh as possible at the finish line. BMC already had a solution for this need with its Tuned Compliance Concept (TCC), introduced on the first generation teammachine SLR01. TCC optimizes carbon-fiber lay-up and tube shapes so the bike can resist rider-actuated forces, while at the same time giving in to road forces. With ACE technology, TCC has been taken to a whole new level: the new teammachine SLR01 is not only a very comfortable ride, it also offers maximum traction especially in highly technical situations.
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?
- ACE technology full carbon frame, fork and seatpost
- DTi cable routing, compatible with mechanical and electronic groupsets
- Frame weight: 790 g including all hardware (size 56 cm)
- Frameset weight: 1380 g including fork, seatpost, headset (size 56 cm)
- Hardware includes: derailleur hanger, cable guides and seat clamp
2) Bottom bracket
- BB86 Shimano press fit
- ACE technology full carbon fork
- 1-1/8' to 1-1/4' tapered steerer tube
- Fork weight 330 g
- ACE technology full carbon seatpost
- Standard offset 15 mm, also available with 30 mm offset
- Seatpost weight 180 g
- 6 sizes: 48 cm – 61 cm
Frame and fork
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
A full carbon frame, fork and seatpost developed using their own ACE technology, with DTi cable routing, compatible with mechanical and electronic groupsets
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Fairly conventional numbers
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
The main difference over other bikes in this category is perhaps the 16.3cm head tube, which is a bit taller than some race bikes which dip well under 16cm
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Yes extremely comfortable, far more than I was expecting. It wasn't at all skittish or nervous on rough roads, just planted and stable
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Hugely stiff in the bottom bracket and also front end stiffness, from the head tube and down tube
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Yes, in fact one of the fastest moving road bikes I've ever ridden
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Perfectly balanced
Wheels and tyres
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes. A lot
Would you consider buying the bike? If I had the money, yes it would be on my very short shortlist
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
About the tester
Age: 31 Height: 180 Weight: 67
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, mtb,
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.