BIKE TESTS: BMC RACE MACHINE RM01
June 12, 2011


Watches, knives, chocolate, hidden bank accounts and now bikes. The Swiss have one more thing to add to their list of things they do extraordinarily well. Switzerland isn’t historically known for their high-end bikes, but over the past decade, BMC owner Andy Rihs has helped change that. Rihs’ deep pockets and driving ambition to build some of the best bikes available have culminated in BMC investing heavily in frame technology, as well as funding their own Tour de France team, which has given them an uncompromised level of feedback from multiple world champions.

THE FRAME
The Race Machine’s angular frameset makes you feel like you’re back in geometry class. An octagonal downtube, hexagonal top tube, square seat tube, and rectangular chainstays and seat stays give the bike a distinctive look that won’t be confused with any other brand on the market. Its fork and proprietary seatpost feature BMC-engineered TCC (Tuned Compliance Concept) technology. TCC is a custom shaping process designed to provide vertical compliance for a smooth ride without giving up lateral and torsional stiffness.

The frame’s geometry cries “race bike,” with identical geometry as the Team Machine, the bike that Cadel Evans used to snatch a victory in stage 7 of the 2010 Giro d’Italia. Our 55cm test bike had a 72.5-degree head angle, giving the bike nimble handling, while a 73.5-degree seat tube gives enough setback to find a stretched-out, aerodynamic position. A wheelbase of 100cm gives it the stability of a road racer rather than a fickle, shorter-wheelbase, criterium-style racer. Our one complaint with the geometry is how tall the standover height is. In a world of sloping top tubes, the Race Machine felt almost too big due to its non-sloping top tube. The lack of standover clearance could be an issue for riders with shorter legs and a longer torso.


The Race Machine’s unmistakable styling is evident in its square seat tube, proprietary seatpost and the gusseting bridge running between the top tube and seat tube.

THE PARTS
The Race Machine RM01 comes either as a frameset for $2850 or as a complete bike for $5000. The complete bike gets you a solid lineup of worthy parts. BMC continues their strong relationship with Easton and specs their handlebars, stem and their workhorse EA70 wheels. At 1650 grams, they’re not light, but as an everyday training wheel, they get the job done. An EA70 alloy stem holds a pair of EC70 Aero carbon handlebars. The handlebars have a flat section to place your hands on the top and a comfortable anatomic bend, but have a deeper drop than some riders might prefer. The Race Machine features a proprietary 180- gram square carbon seatpost attached to a Selle Italia SL XC saddle, which provides good sit-bone support and comfort.
The meat and potatoes of the components is the SRAM Red drivetrain. Red BB30 cranks offer the full benefit of the BB30 frame. A lot of bikes have BB30 bottom brackets, but use adapters to make a standard outboard bearing crank work. By doing this, you don’t get the stiffness benefits of the larger 30mm spindle. The shifters and derailleurs are SRAM Red, but the brake calipers drop one model to the Force. The dual-pivot Force calipers are worthy stoppers, and only 15 grams heavier than the Red, but it would have been nice to see a complete Red group when they came this close.


The TCC (Tuned Compliance Concept) fork helped deliver the vertical compliance necessary for us to feel like we could tackle the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix.

THE RIDE
The first thing we wanted to do was head for some cobbles, since we automatically associate BMC with George Hincapie, and George Hincapie with the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix. Unfortunately, there are not many cobbles in Southern California. The next best thing: dirt. Yeah, we know, this is a road bike not a mountain bike, but as our parents always told us, “a little dirt don’t hurt.” The washboard dirt road that we found ended up being the perfect testing ground for the bike’s ride quality. The TCC fork and seatpost seemed to help with vibration damping, allowing us to keep powering through the pedal stroke rather than bouncing and losing momentum. The harsh washboard sections had their edge taken off, helping us keep control on the faster sections of the dirt.
Back on the road, the Race Machine had the handling of a race bike. Quick acceleration due to the bike’s stout bottom- bracket juncture gave it a fun, peppy feel. Ascending on a 15.4-pound bike is nice, but it sure doesn’t give us much room to blame the equipment if we get dropped. Its low weight and good frame stiffness make it fun to punch it up a short hill or attack your riding buddies on a longer climb. While the bike ascends like a dream for some, it could be another’s nightmare. The SRAM Red (53/39) crank and 11-26 cassette will make things hard for anyone other than racers or competitive riders to enjoy going up steep or long climbs.
Flying into a corner on the Race Machine got our adrenaline pumping, not because it flexed or was twitchy, but because it made us want to hit the next corner even faster. The tapered head tube and TCC fork afforded confidence and at least gave us the pretense of being better riders than we are. The components on the Race Machine were on par with the quality of the frameset, keeping the bike high on the list of raceworthy rigs.



THE VERDICT
BMC hit the bullseye with the Race Machine; a more than race-worthy frameset with a list of components that perform dutifully and turn out a featherweight bike. By throwing on a set of carbon wheels for race day or the big ride, you could easily knock another pound off the bike’s already low weight, which is already at the UCI’s mandated minimum weight limit. If competitive riding isn’t your gig and you prefer to ride up the climbs at a leisurely pace, the Race Machine’s gearing isn’t going to be the best choice. A better option might be the $3300 BMC Road Racer SL01: it comes with an Ultegra 50/34 compact crank and a 6cm lower standover height than the Race Machine. If you must have the same bike as George Hincapie, then you’ll have to shell out $3850 for the Team Machine SLR01 frameset. That extra $1000 over the Race Machine’s frameset will get you TCC seat stays and 100 grams in weight savings. Unfortunately, it’s only available as a frameset in the U.S.

PUNCH LINES
• TCC seatpost and fork help smooth things out, whether it’s on or off-road
• The Race Machine leaves you with no equipment excuses when you pin the number on or roll out on group rides
• The tall standover height could be a limiter for some

STATS
Price: $5000
Weight: 15.4 pounds
Sizes: 47, 50, 53, 55 (tested), 57, 60cm

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