BMC TMR01 review
BMC took the design principles developed for its time-trial bikes and applied them to a road chassis to yield the TMR01. In this review CTech editor Matt Wikstrom takes a look at the Ultegra Di2 build that features Mavic Cosmic Carbone SL wheels and retails for $8,799 (SRP).
In recent years, the application of aerodynamics has ushered in a new era of road bike design. Cervelo deserves a lot of credit for bringing aerodynamic design to the road bike market. It has been 11 years since Cervelo first released its Soloist frameset and a variety of manufacturers now offer their own versions of an aerodynamic road bike, capitalising on Cervelo’s pioneering work.
BMC unveiled their aerodynamic road bike — called TMR01 — in 2012 with the following ambitions: “The TMR01 is made for sprinters thriving for the extra watts at the finish line; rouleurs that need to keep the pressure on all day; or Olympic-distance triathletes pushing for a little breathing room from the competition before hitting the run.”
The TMR01 closely resembles the company’s timemachine TM01 time-trial frameset. Both bikes use tubing designed according to BMC’s SubA concept, whereby the familiar aerodynamic teardrop shape is truncated to improve rigidity (and satisfy the UCI’s 3:1 dictum). This shape is further refined by the addition of a ridge to either side of the leading face of the tube. This so-called “tripwire technology” functions to smooth airflow in the same way as dimples on a golf ball.
The other defining features of the TMR01 are integrated brake calipers and virtually invisible cable routing. The front caliper and cable are protected from the wind by a faring of sorts, while the rear caliper is mounted underneath the bottom bracket. The frame is designed to accommodate both electronic and mechanical groupsets with clever entry points just behind the head tube.
BMC uses acronyms for a lot of its design features that must be deciphered before they can be appreciated. The company’s p2p (position to perform) concept describes the use of an adjustable seatpost and stem to allow the rider to optimise their position on the bike. For the TMR01, this means the inclusion of a seatpost with three setback options.
The remainder of the TMR01’s design features are familiar for a high performance road frame: full carbon construction, BB86 bottom bracket, 1.125-1.5 inch tapered fork steerer, and a final weight for the frame around 1100g. BMC currently markets three complete bikes (Dura Ace Di2, Ultegra Di2, and mechanical Ultegra) along with the frameset.
Before the ride
The TMR01 delivered for review was built with an Ultegra Di2 groupset, Easton EA70 bars and stem, integrated linear-pull brakes, a Fizik Arione saddle, and Mavic Cosmic Carbone SL wheels. The suggested retail for Australian buyers is $8,495.
The internal cable routing makes for a clean design but requires a lot of extra time to both install and service. Adding to assembly and servicing difficulties are the integrated brake calipers. The linear brakes have a quick release mechanism, but when it is hidden behind a faring then it is far easier to use other means for releasing the brakes to remove the wheels.
The test bike used inline cable adjusters that could be unwound to open up the brake pads — a little clumsy but much easier than removing the brake faring. Campagnolo’s brake levers would be ideal in this regard as they have built-in quick release buttons.
An electronic groupset is the best choice for this frameset since once installed there will be little need to re-visit the cables. One obvious improvement for this bike would be swapping the external battery for an internal one, both to improve the aesthetics of the bike and lose a little weight from the final build.
BMC seems driven to develop clever mechanisms for binding the seatpost. For the TMR01, a contracting wedge is hidden in the top tube that is accessed from the top. The design is effective but the wedge falls out whenever the seat tube is removed. Thus it seems that integration always comes at the expense of serviceability.
The TMR01 is available in a choice of six sizes as set out in the table below (full geometry specifications can be found at the BMC Racing website):
The dimensions of the TMR01 are larger than what the table above suggests and can be attributed to two things: firstly, the seat tube angle is steeper than most other road bikes, and second, the top tube actually slopes upwards to the seat tube, making for a taller frame. Potential buyers should consider the stack and reach of the TMR01 along with the seat tube length to decide on the most suitable size.
I overlooked the seat angle when electing the frame size for the test bike and chose the 58 and was surprised by the extra reach when setting up the bike. The tall frame also gobbled up a lot of my saddle height, so it looked low in relation to the top tube.
The choice of a single seat tube angle for all frame sizes is unusual for road bike frames. More unusual is that the seat tube angle is a steep 74 degrees. BMC compensate for the steep angle with a seatpost that has three setback options (0, 15, or 30mm) where the maximum setback is equivalent to a standard post (25mm of setback) on a bike with a 73.5-degree seat tube angle. Be warned — riders that need more setback may have trouble with this bike since there are no other seatpost options.
There is no denying the presence of TMR01 thanks to its massive tubing and bold lines. The frame looks like it was forged by a powerful machine rather than molded from layers of carbon and I expect opinion will be cleanly divided on the appeal of this bike.
The high profile Mavic Cosmic Carbone SL wheelset is a good match for the frame; it’s hard to see how low profile wheels would suit the design or intention of this bike. I presume the frameset is finished in naked carbon to save a little weight, though BMC adds a little colour with its logo, acronyms, and some pinstriping, all of which are expertly rendered.
For more information on the TMR01, refer to the BMC website.
After the ride
The bold TT-styling and BMC’s marketing create big expectations for the TMR01. So, is it stiff and fast? Yes, it is.
This is the stiffest BMC I’ve ever been on, far stiffer than their flagship SLR01, yet it is far from harsh. The bottom bracket is incredibly efficient and refuses to sway under load. The head tube is stout, yet there is little transfer of road buzz to the saddle or handlebars.
I suspect the chain stays play an important role in protecting the rider from unnecessary vibrations. They were firm and the bike accelerated nicely from a standing start. The bike also responded well to efforts out of the saddle, but the TMR01 didn’t jump forward on sharp inclines like other bikes with stiffer stays (and a harsher ride) such as the Scott Foil.
The TMR01 is a fast bike too: once the bike reaches 35-40km/hr, it seems to find its own slipstream and less effort is required to keep the bike going. Even better, I enjoyed sprinting on this bike. The bottom bracket translates maximum power and the bike doesn’t seem to slow down at all. Indeed, I felt like this bike improved my sprinting ability.
The steering is stable and the handling conservative — a good match for a bike that likes to go fast, giving the rider the confidence to push the bike harder and faster. Criterium racers will have to look elsewhere if they are after an agile bike that is easy to flick through tight corners.
It’s unusual for a bike to shine in all aspects and for the TMR01, the stiff aerodynamic design does not transform the bike into a gifted climbing machine. But it doesn’t hold it back either. A high-end build with a lighter groupset and full carbon wheels might make a difference, but I don’t expect this bike will hold much appeal for hill-climbers or weight-weenies.
Not content with challenging the TMR01 with rough bitumen, I took the bike off-road onto some semi-groomed walking trails. These trails won’t ever challenge the brutality of French cobbles, but the crushed limestone paths are rougher and a lot more uneven than the worst stretches of bitumen I can find. The TMR01 was a pleasure at all times, the bottles stayed in place and my wrists and teeth remained untroubled. I would not hesitate to recommend this bike for riders that enjoy long rides on any terrain.
Shimano’s electronic transmission worked flawlessly with great efficiency (although, I still have a preference to mechanical shifting). Having recently finished riding a bike with 11-speed Dura Ace, I’m convinced that the shifting action of the new mechanical group is actually lighter than Ultegra Di2, but both are just as precise.
The Mavic Cosmic Carbone SL wheels are a good match for this bike, they have a proven design with low aerodynamic drag. While they are heavy (>1,700g) thanks to the alloy clincher rim, the weight isn’t particularly noticeable out on the road. Indeed, I found the Cosmic Carbone’s were almost as responsive as a set of low profile wheels. The 52mm rims were a little susceptible to crosswinds but overall the wheels worked well and as noted above they suit the design and intentions of the TMR01 as well as its selling price.
The brakes were effective and benefitted from a light action, but they lacked the modulation of conventional callipers. As with the seatpost, buyers don’t get a choice of brakes with the TMR01, and this may prove to be a significant compromise for those that enjoy personalising and/or refining the specifications of their new bike.
We spoke to one mechanic who has lots of experience with servicing the TMR01 brakes. One difficulty is with the rear brake adjustment. There is limited clearance between the pad and the wheel, so if you have a 25.5mm wheel like a Zipp 404 Firecrest, you might have some brake rub with wheel flex unless the brakes are perfectly adjusted.
The only difficulty I had with this bike related to the seat post. The rail clamp held firm despite the extra leverage provided by the saddle slammed as far back as it would go, but it was the post itself that kept slipping into the frame. Interestingly, the face of the post is coated with a gritty lacquer, perhaps to improve effectiveness of the wedge, but in this instance a little more grip was required.
Final thoughts and summary
The TMR01 is a well-designed bike that is equally well executed. The engineers have managed to create an efficient chassis with a very stiff bottom bracket that also provides a remarkably smooth ride. On top of this, there seems to be a tangible reduction in aerodynamic drag. All told, the TMR01 is an impressive bike.
The TMR01 is devoted to its objectives to the extent that it refuses to compromise on some points of design. Hence, the brakes hinder the removal of wheels, the setback of the seatpost may not be sufficient for some, and the bold lines of the frame will be too harsh for others.