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by James Huang
July 14, 2016
Photography by James Huang
Tejay van Garderen is the United States’ best hope for a top GC finish at this year’s Tour de France, and the talented climber is once again making his way around France aboard a BMC TeamMachine SLR01. The bike itself is interesting enough, but how the mechanics ensure that every one of van Garderen’s bikes feels exactly the same is even more so.
The Swiss-sponsored, U.S.-based BMC Racing team isn’t exactly known for its flair, and the staid aesthetic of Tejay van Garderen’s TeamMachine SLR01 is perhaps reflective of that businesslike attitude. The big-budget team doesn’t compete in races for fun, after all.
Aside from the fresh white paint jobs BMC has provided the team specifically for the Tour de France, van Garderen’s TeamMachine is identical to the one photographed here at the Tour de Suisse.
Team mechanic Ian Sherburne says it’s rare for even a rider of van Garderen’s caliber to be treated to a one-off paint job, or much in the way of personal touches at all. Indeed, van Garderen’s TeamMachine wears no unique adornments of any kind save for a small American flag, and if it weren’t for the name decal on the top tube, you’d be hard pressed to tell it’s his without breaking out the tape measure.
“Everything is stock standard,” Sherburne said. “We tweak things for guys in terms of fit, but as far as the parts that are on the bikes, it’s all the same as what you buy in a bike shop.”
Team riders who spend a bigger percentage of their day at the pointy end of the peloton may perhaps prefer the aero advantage of BMC’s TimeMachine TMR01. Given van Garderen’s primary strengths as a climber and time trialist, though, it makes more sense that he’s chosen the TeamMachine SLR01 for its unusually deft combination of chassis rigidity and ride comfort.
The TeamMachine SLR01 is almost universally lauded for its exceptional stiffness and surprisingly good ride quality.
The build kit on van Garderen’s SLR01 is as businesslike as its appearance. Key highlights include a Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 group and SRM power meter, Shimano carbon tubular wheels, a forged aluminum 3T ARX Team stem and 3T Ergonova Team carbon handlebar, and a fi’zi:k Aliante VSX saddle with a central channel and generous padding for long days on the road.
Total weight without bottles or computer head is 7.10kg (15.65lb).
Van Garderen’s bike may be more akin to a tool than a rolling piece of artwork, but even so, the mechanics go to impressive lengths to ensure that every one of those tools fits exactly the same. His new bike for the Tour de France may be painted white but as far as van Garderen’s body is concerned, it’s the exact same machine to the millimeter. According to Sherburne, replicating rider fits is one of the most important aspects of every build.
Each rider’s complete bike fit profile is stored in an online database that can be accessed by any BMC team mechanic around the world, and every mobile mechanic is equipped with the same set of fitting tools and jigs for consistency.
“We use an interactive database,” said Sherburne. “Every rider has his own page, and it includes every model we use for every rider — his SLR, his TMR, his TM. It has all the obvious things like seat height, crank length, and stuff like that, but then we also have some different ways we measure these various things. Part of my idea with measuring bikes is always coming at the same point from two different directions so you have a built-in correction factor. Like, I can tell you that Tejay uses what we call a ‘high seven’ for his stem — a high headset top cap, plus a 5mm and 2mm spacer — but then we also do a measurement that comes down and measures the height of his handlebar from the centerline of his frame so we can check it in two different ways.”
This stem is marked from the factory as a 130mm but allowed variances could yield differences of a few millimeters. BMC’s unusually thorough measurement protocol reveals those discrepancies to ensure that every rider’s bike always fits the same.
Such minutiae may seem a tad obsessive from an amateur rider’s perspective, but for a professional like van Garderen, even small variances can have big effects.
“I can make sure the parts are correct, and I can you what the measurement should be, from the centerline down,” Sherburne continued. “We do seat height and saddle angle, but then we take a second saddle angle from another point close to the nose so we can double-check what that is as well. But imagine you’re doing seat height to the middle of the saddle, and then seat height to 1cm back from the nose where it’s going to change the most when you change the angle. So we have those two points, and then we also do a metal plate on the saddle and do an absolute angle. So if that’s at -2°, the seat height is at 78.1cm, and the nose of the saddle is at 76cm, then I know I’m spot on.
“We always want to have two ways of measuring these touch points so we know where we are as close as possible inside this fit window within the vagaries of manufacturing, foam density, tolerances on stems, and things like that.”
BMC doesn’t typically provide any of its team riders with special-edition paint jobs or personalized features, with very few exceptions. On this team, it’s all business.
BMC has supplied all of its riders with white bikes for the Tour de France instead of the usual black, but aside from that, their bikes are exactly the same as what they have used all season long, down to the millimeter. Photo: Miwa iijima/Cor Vos.
2011 Tour winner Cadel Evans was on hand at Mont-Saint-Michel with his former BMC Racing team. Photo: Dave Everett.
Tejay van Garderen is the best U.S. hope for a top GC position in Paris.
Even without the BMC logo, this distinctive seat cluster makes the frame instantly identifiable.
All of the adjoining tubes make full use of the PF86 bottom bracket shell’s extra width.
The internal rear brake routing is enviably tidy.
BMC has used FSA bottom brackets in the past with aluminum cups but the logos on this one have worn off.
A big access port underneath the bottom bracket shell provides room to play with wiring as needed.
The chainstays are highly asymmetrical, with the non-driveside one being especially broad.
It almost seems like the entire pro peloton moved up to 25mm-wide tires all at once, as they’re now essentially standard across the board.
This particular set of Shimano C35 tubulars has seen a few miles.
As with every BMC rider, van Garderen is using Shimano’s Dura-Ace Di2 electronic drivetrain.
Van Garderen’s power data is measured using a SRM power meter.
Matching 3T bar tape, wrapped meticulously as always.
The Dura-Ace Di2 levers are clamped high on the 3T bars.
Team riders have multiple bikes, so mechanics typically identify them with small letters or numbers.
Van Garderen prefers the cutout version of fi’zi:k’s Aliante saddle.
Carbon-specific pads are fitted to the Shimano Dura-Ace calipers.
Twin Elite Custom Race bottle cages for Tejay Van Garderen.
Van Garderen would normally use the red anodized version of SRM’s PC8 computer. Standing in here is the one team mechanics use for calibration.
Although the head tube entry point for the rear brake cable looks clean, it requires a pretty tight bend. A short section of segmented aluminum housing placed inline with the standard housing does the trick.
Van Garderen uses Shimano Dura-Ace pedals.
Van Garderen doesn’t bother with a supplemental chain catcher.
A small adhesive patch keeps the valve stem from rattling.
11-28T cassettes are becoming the norm in the pro peloton as they provide sufficient top-end speed with plenty of range.
These neat aluminum number plate holders are bonded to the back of the seatposts on the BMC team bikes.
A small section of fiber composite adds extra cushiness to the fi’zi:k Aliante VSX saddle.