While the BMC TeamMachine SLR03 might be a cut-price version of the flagship TeamMachine SLR01, there's absolutely nothing cut-price about the performance. It shares the same DNA in the frame and fork design but the costs are reined in with a more affordable carbon fibre construction, and at a currently discounted price it's a good value road bike with real racing pedigree.
I was blown away by the fabulous ride of the TeamMachine SLR01 I reviewed a couple of years ago. It would be frivolous to say the cheaper TeamMachine SLR3 rivals that bike for sheer performance, but the gap isn't as big as you might think. It's a very impressive ride.
It's clear the bike shares the same design as the SLR01, and while the 8.78kg (19.36lb) weight does blunt the speed, there's no lack of enthusiasm in the way the SLR03 responds to your input. And any notion that the high weight would adversely affect the SLR03's climbing prowess proved unfounded; it scampers up hills with a surprising sprightliness.
The huge profiles of the main tubes ensure the bike has a very direct feel. There's no lack of stiffness when you push hard on the pedals, the frame resisting sideways flexing forces. The fork has a tapered head tube - the lower bearing is oversized - and that boosts steering precision and stiffness in the front of the frame.
This outline of the bike exactly resembles that of the top-of-the-range SLR01. That BMC can offer this seemingly identical frame at this low a price is down to the use of less expensive carbon fibre. This positively affects the price, but negatively impacts the weight: claimed frame weight is 1,230g, substantially heavier than the SLR01's 790g. If you ever wondered why top-end carbon frames are so expensive, that weight difference is the big reason.
Weight aside, the SLR03 shares the same frame shapes, including the colossal down tube, press-fit 86 bottom bracket and asymmetric chainstays. Aluminium dropouts substitute carbon ones and the cables are externally routed. That might be seen as less desirable in the eyes of some, but external cables are easier to maintain and service than internal ones, so not all bad. I actually prefer external cables, for what it's worth.
All of that trickle-down design means you get the same assured and easy to live with handling as the more expensive versions. The front end is very communicative, with a good feel for the road surface through the handlebar and a nice sense of available traction. Those skinny seatstays and the 27.2mm seatpost combine brilliantly to ensure the BMC offers incredible comfort and smoothness; it dispatches rough roads with impressive ease.
While low speed balance is remarkably good, high speed stability is markedly inferior to the SLR01, and other bikes in the SLR03's class for that matter. At higher speeds, on a flat and rough road or a fast descent, the SLR03 lacks composure and the ride can become choppy. Fitting bigger volume 25mm tyres - the frame can accommodate them (it comes with 23mm tyres not 28mm, as listed on Evans' website) - might remedy this slight performance blemish.
The front end is a little taller than the top-end SLR01, and BMC have provided a generous stack of stem spacers. I was still able to achieve a nice low position, but if you want the handlebar higher for a less aggressive fit, that is possible. It's a very accommodating geometry, well suited to anyone wanting to get into racing, or someone looking for a fast sportive or weekend bike.
This is the middle of three bikes in the SLR03 range, and combines Shimano 105 shifters with Tiagra derailleurs, chainset and cassette, with an asking price currently discounted to £1,050 on the Evans Cycles website (the exclusive UK distributor for BMC). Below it is a Sora-equipped bike costing £975, and above it a full Shimano 105 build priced at £1,350 - I'm quoting currently discounted prices here.
The 105/Tiagra is a solid and dependable build, if lacking the sparkle and lightness of Shimano's more expensive groupsets. It's a 10-speed setup as well, which might limit future upgrade options - the full 105 bike has the 11-speed drivetrain.
The Shimano 105 shifters provide precise gear shifts and the brakes work well, though I'd upgrade the brake blocks to cartridge-style pads for a slightly firmer braking feel. There is no shortage of gear ratios when the road heads up, and the 12-30 cassette is an asset when the gradient nudges double figures, along with the 50/34 compact chainset.
Shimano not only supply the drivetrain on this bike, but the R501 wheels too. They're entry level, and while they aren't particularly light - in fact they're pretty heavy - in their defence they're very competent and reliable. They're not overly stiff either, and contribute to the BMC's smooth ride.
Though tyres are generally getting wider, I found little to fault with the 23mm Continental Ultra Sport folding tyres. For the price they're respectably fast and compliant, and durable and puncture-resistant too. The frame and fork will take wider, so a 25mm upgrade isn't out of the question.
All of BMC's own-brand kit, so that's the handlebar, stem and saddle, are hewn from aluminium and did the job with no complaints. I particularly like the shape and good reach of the handlebar.
What else? Ah, the saddle. I simply didn't on with the Selle Royal Sirio; it was literally a pain in the bum. But that's easily changed. The BMC RSP 3 seatpost has a simple clamp mechanism allowing for quick and easy saddle adjustments or changes.
Top performance at a competitive price makes the SLR03 a compelling choice, but it's not without its flaws
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Make and model: BMC Teammachine SLR03
Size tested: 55
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?
BMC say: "BMC developed the new SLR03 for those inspired by the achievements of the BMC Racing Team. The result is a bike that pays homage to the characteristics of the Teammachine family; excellent agility, maximum control, and sure-footed confidence on fast, twisted descents, for enthusiast racers of any age or gender. BMC have upgraded the STI shifters to Shimano 105, these shifters route the cables under the bar tape creating a tidy cockpit, as well as providing a much smoother and lighter shifting action."
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Excellent build quality, shares the same frame profiles as the more expensive SLR01 but uses cheaper and heavier carbon fibre to offer this lower priced version.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Full carbon fibre frame with claimed 1,230g weight, PF86 bottom bracket, tapered head tube and aluminium dropouts.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Almost identical to the SLR01 but with a 1cm taller head tube, accommodating a wider range of cyclists including first timers and beginners, or anyone not wanting the full fat racing bike experience.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Really good, nice reach to the bar and plenty of adjustment available.
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Considering it only had 23mm tyres, it's a very comfortable bike, well balanced from front to back.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
The huge down tube, tapered head tube and pressfit bottom bracket ensure all the frame points in the same direction when you inject some wattage.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Very efficient, only really held back by the high overall weight.
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
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
Very good most of the time, but at higher speed the ride gets a bit choppy and skittish.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
The wheels are heavy and blunt the speed.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
I was impressed with the tyres, and BMC's own-brand finishing kit is very good stuff.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
I'd swap the tyres for 25mm ones and definitely swap out the saddle.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
The Shimano drivetrain works very well, with the 105 shifters combining well with the Tiagra parts. But I'd be tempted to save up a bit extra and get the full Shimano 105 11-speed build for better future-proofing and long-term investment.
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?
Perfectly competent and reliable, but weighty.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
No issues with the BMC finishing kit apart from the saddle, which I did not get on with at all.
Anything else you want to say about the componentry? Comment on any other components (good or bad)
All the parts worked well.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? No – I'd save up for the full 105 bike.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes, if they're on a tight budget.
Use this box to explain your score
The SLR03 provides loads of performance for not a lot of money, and the race pedigree comes through very clearly. If I was buying I'd save up and buy the full Shimano 105 bike as it's lighter and a better long-term investment.
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame: Teammachine SLR03 Fork: Teammachine SLR03, carbon Front Derailleur: Shimano Tiagra FD-4600 Rear Derailleur: Shimano Tiagra RD-4605 Number of Gears: 20 Shifters: Shimano 105 ST-5700 Chainset: Shimano Tiagra FC-4650, 50-34T Bottom Bracket: BB86 Shimano press-fit Cassette: Shimano Tiagra CS-4600, 12-30T Pedals: Not Included Brakeset: Shimano Tiagra BR-4600 Handlebars: BMC RDB 3 Stem: BMC RST 3 Rims: Shimano WH-R501 Hubs: Shimano WH-R501 Tyres: Continental Ultra Sport 2, 700 x 23 Saddle: Selle Royal Sirio Seatpost: BMC RSP 3 Weight: Not Specified
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, mountain biking
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.