BMC Racing didn't have its most fortunate season in 2014, bereft of Grand Tour stage wins for the first time since 2010. Luck, it seemed, wasn’t on the American team’s side.
The season started well enough, with Cadel Evans winning a stage in his home race, the Tour Down Under, then Taylor Phinney took the gaudy blue Versace leader’s jersey at the Dubai Tour. His team-mate Steve Cummings came second and then went on to win the Tour of the Mediterranean a week later.
Philippe Gilbert was their highest-ranked rider at 13th on the WorldTour ranking as the season came to a close — his wins bookended a complicated season.
Gilbert’s first win came in the spring at Amstel Gold. As he burst away on the Cauberg, over tarmac on which his name was emblazoned in white graffiti, he chalked up his third victory in the Dutch race. The season came to a close at the Tour of Beijing where Gilbert wrapped up the GC and took his trademark puncheur’s victory on stage two in the process.
Three very different riders. One bike. Each of the team’s biggest wins has been earned on BMC’s Teammachine. The idea from the bike’s conception was to develop a frame to harness all of the key facets, such as stiffness and low weight, but produce it with enough comfort to keep their guys fresher for longer than their rivals.
Tens of thousands later...
BMC engineers took the designs and painstakingly tweaked them until they were fully happy with the bike. For the Teammachine, which was launched at the beginning of last season, BMC say that there were 34,000 versions of the design before they eventually settled on the one that’s in production today.
Rider feedback is also taken on board — in the case of the Teammachine, most of it came from Philippe Gilbert.
When the end product will carry a premium price tag, there are fewer constraints. Engineers can equip the bike with the best grade of carbon, the best fork, and their latest ideas they’ve implemented from hours spent in the wind tunnel.
This is the BMC Teammachine SLR02, the slightly more forgiving alternative to the SLR01, the bike on which the BMC team line up. The frame geometry is identical, but where the two models differ is in their fabric.
BMC has used its own Lightweight Premium carbon for the SLR02 as opposed to the SLR01’s Ultra Lightweight Premium version. There’s some difference in feel, but it’s so slight it’d be difficult to discern in a blindfold test (not that we’d recommended such a trial).
Where it’s felt is in the frame’s weight. For both, BMC has applied its ACE Technology, which is an abbreviation of Accelerated Composites Evolution. There’s around a 160g difference between the SLR01 and the SLR02 frames. It’s not huge, but in a race where every advantage has to be taken, it’s enough to justify for a WorldTour team.
The fork for each of the three Teammachines that make up BMC’s Altitude range is specific to its frame. The SLR02 comes with an ACE carbon fork, which tapers from 1 1/8in to 1 1/2in, and gives the bike its balanced handling — a predominant characteristic.
Another factor is how willing the bike is to accelerate. This is sure to be one of the things that Gilbert specified for his own goals when drawing up its plans.
It stems from its uncompromising chassis. An oversized down tube partners an equally oversized BB shell housing the press-fit Shimano BB86 bottom bracket. In unison with the chainstays, it translates to the rider’s efforts being well rewarded.
The frame has punch and it’s fashionably dressed to boot. A matt-finished monochrome paint job (something of a trend at BMC) gives the bike understated looks, but there’s nothing understated about how it’s decked out.
For the first time, the BMC Teammachine SLR02 carries Shimano’s top-rung mechanical groupset, Dura-Ace 9000. There are downgrades to the SLR02 to meet the price point, such as the fork and the seatpost, but this certainly isn’t one of them. The SLR02, despite being bridesmaid to the SLR01, more than warrants the premium gear system. The benefits are experienced with light shifting and smooth changes throughout the 11-speed block as well as fantastic braking, which is both powerful and easy to modulate.
At the front, BMC has kitted out the bike with a semi-compact 52/36t chainset. These are often referred to as the pro compact, but the range gives everyday riders something of a happy medium between a standard (53/39t) and a compact (50/34t).
Completing the bike is a rather basic set of Shimano RS21 wheels shod with Continental Grand Sport Race tyres. BMC uses its own brand of bar and stem and topped the TLR02 seatpost with a Fizik Arione R2 saddle.
A bike of this spec and unquestionable standard, for this very competitive price? A parallel can be draw to Philippe Gilbert’s acceleration on the Cauberg. Unbeatable.
The blindfold test
Philippe Gilbert was joined by his team-mates Cadel Evans and Tejay van Garderen at a test circuit. Each was given a different bike, differentiated with coloured labels, to ride. They then gave their feedback to BMC’s designers. The test was to assess different carbon lay-ups and frame, fork and seatpost combinations.
American team, Swiss manufacturing
BMC is a Swiss company whose approach to the production of exclusive, high-tech bikes is akin to their nation’s famed expertise in the production of expensive wristwatches.
BMC — an acronym of Bicycle Manufacturing Company — has made its name with futuristic ideas for frame production. The bikes are designed at BMC’s Impec Advanced R&D Lab, in Grenchen. The town, located at the foot of the Jura mountains, is the home of Breitling watches and is where Jen Voigt set his Hour Record.
For more details visit the Evans Cycles website.
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