Birds of a feather: The new BMC RoadMachine, Canyon Endurace CF SLX, and Focus Paralane

by James Huang

It’s been an absolute smorgasbord of all-purpose road bike introductions recently, with BMC, Canyon, and Focus all introducing versatile, high-end, and thoroughly engineered options that are designed with real-world road riders in mind instead of racers. Although far from identical, they’re more similar than different, and certain to have broad appeal to a large segment of the road market. US technical editor James Huang takes an in-depth look at the trio to see what makes them tick — and why you might actually be reducing, not increasing, the number of road bikes in your stable.

In the off-road world, there exists this concept of the ‘quiver killer’: a single machine that is sufficiently adept across a wide range of disciplines such that it could capably serve as your only bike. It’s the anti-N+1, so to speak: light enough to enter the occasional cross-country race, burly enough to tackle an enduro event without folding in half, and versatile enough that you could take it on every ride without worrying if it’s suitable for the terrain.

Yet in the road world, what exactly does a ‘one bike’ solution entail? Traditional road racing bikes — and their so-called ‘endurance’ bike cousins — certainly get the job done for many, especially if you stick to paved roads that are reasonably well-maintained. Yet municipal definitions of “reasonable” seem to be forever leaning toward “barely acceptable”, and an increasing number of riders are looking to get further off the beaten path to lesser-traveled routes, insulated from the dangers of motorized traffic.

All three of these new bikes share a number of common features: impressively light framesets that emphasize rider comfort; 28-32mm-wide tires that expand the range of suitable road surfaces (with room for more in some cases); flat-mount disc brakes to provide all-weather predictability; 12mm thru-axles front and rear; and slightly toned-down handling reflexes. Two of the three have hidden fender mounts, too.

Add that all together and you’ve got quite the enticing recipe — and now a growing menu from which to choose.

The BMC RoadMachine

BMC product marketing manager Thomas McDaniel says the RoadMachine was born out of a simple question posed to the company’s design engineers: “What would you buy if you could only have one road bike?”.

What results is arguably the sleekest of the new crop of ‘all-road’ bikes here. Top-end models sport a modern and chiseled low-slung profile that wouldn’t look out of place at a WorldTour race (and in fact, the BMC team was apparently slated to use the RoadMachine at Tour de Suisse before the UCI suspended its disc brake trial in April). Up front is a hyper-integrated front end with fully hidden cables and hoses that are routed through the stem and down the sides of a special 1 1/4-to-1 1/2in-diameter steerer tube with flattened sides — “Complexity simplified’, as described by BMC ambassador Cadel Evans.

By design, the RoadMachine splits the difference between the TeamMachine SLR racer and GranFondo endurance bikes in terms of performance. Claimed weight on a top-end RoadMachine 01 carbon frame (54cm) is 920g — 130g heavier than an SLR but 130g lighter than a GF01. Overall torsional stiffness supposedly falls in between the two as well but side-to-side fork stiffness is said to be more on-par with the SLR. BMC says fork fore-aft stiffness is better than both, though.

Just as on BMC’s GranFondo range, the RoadMachine frame features the company’s Tuned Compliance Comfort design cues with a variety of kinks, steps, and angles in the chainstays, seatstays, and fork blades, plus a slim, D-profile carbon seatpost — all in the name of rider comfort. While perhaps effective, the biggest contribution will invariably be the larger-volume tires. Stock RoadMachines will ship with 28mm-wide tires on wide-profile rims but the carbon versions will fit 30mm ones while still satisfying government regulations for clearance; aluminum RoadMachine frames get an additional 2mm of wiggle room.

BMC may have emphasized a smooth ride for its newest bike but unlike so many other bikes of its ilk, the RoadMachine is no La-Z-Boy when it comes to fit and handling.

The RoadMachine can be fitted with one of two different upper headset covers. With the lower-height headset cone option in place, the reach (the horizontal bottom bracket-to-head tube measurement) is virtually identical to the long-and-low SLR while the stack (the vertical bottom bracket-to-head tube dimension) is less than 10mm taller.

Riders seeking a more relaxed position aren’t left out in the cold as the tall cone shortens the reach a few millimeters while raising the front end by another 16mm — putting the RoadMachine on equal footing with the more upright GranFondo but still leaving plenty of room to stretch out for long days in the saddle.

Handling is slightly tamed relative to the SLR but hardly neutered. As compared to the SLR, the RoadMachine’s 71mm bottom bracket drop sits 2mm closer to the ground for a lower center of gravity. In addition, the 410mm-long chainstays and slacker head tube angle extend the wheelbase by around 20mm, depending on size — all of which bodes well for high-speed stability.

That confidence at higher speed doesn’t come with overly sluggish handling at lower speed, however, as BMC fits the RoadMachine forks with generous amounts of rake. For all but the two smallest sizes, the resultant trail dimension is actually identical to the SLR for a comparatively nimble feel overall.
BMC will offer the RoadMachine in three framesets across eight different models with build kits ranging from Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 down to Shimano Tiagra (all of which are currently in stock). The RoadMachine 01 and RoadMachine 02 carbon variants share the same mold but use different carbon fiber types (frame weight on the RoadMachine 02 climbs to 1,100g) while the 1,270g RoadMachine 03 is built from hydroformed aluminum.