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Endurance road bikes have traditionally paired their softer ride qualities, slightly fatter tires, and mellower handling with more upright positioning, presumably to better suit the less-sporting aspirations of the people expected to buy them. However, what if you want all of those former performance qualities, but still want the bike to fit like a race bike? Is there anything wrong with wanting a smooth ride on rough pavement along with an aggressive position?
BMC’s Roadmachine ventures into somewhat strange territory by filling that niche. It’s stable and composed like a good endurance machine, but positions its rider as if they’re about to line up for Paris-Roubaix. It’s a bold decision that may prove a tough sell in the general marketplace, but it’s an enticing option for progressive roadies that want to go fast on more than just glass-smooth tarmac.
Three years ago, I attended a unique event called the Baller’s Ride, a private gathering of custom builders and key retail partners set near the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains in Nellysford, Virginia. On tap was 200km with 4,300m of climbing for the weekend, with a course that comprised a mix of paved, dirt, and crushed gravel roads. You were allowed to bring any bike you wished, but you could only bring one, and attendees were strongly advised to choose carefully as much of the route was sparsely populated with no phone service.
The landscape in mass-produced road bikes then was a little different than it is now. There were road racers, endurance road bikes, and a slow-but-growing smattering of gravel machines, but what I was after was more along the lines of what a pro might use at a cobbled classic: only slightly tempered handling relative to a full-blown road racer, clearance for 30mm-wide tires, and an aggressive fit. I also wanted disc brakes and wide-range gearing to better handle the varied terrain and uncertain weather.
I couldn’t find what I wanted from any major brand at the time, so I ended up having to go with a custom build, but the rapidly changing road market now offers up a wealth of options.
“The one-bike collection”
Introduced less than a year after I came back from the Baller’s Ride, the Roadmachine was billed by BMC as what its own employees would buy if they could only have one road bike, and at least on paper, it’s difficult to argue with that claim.
The RoadMachine’s sleek profile wouldn’t look out of place at a top-tier road race. The head tube is short, the rear end appears impressively compact, and the hidden routing leaves just the slightest bits of cabling exposed to the wind. The top tube slopes only moderately, the main tubes and asymmetrical chainstays convey a sense of efficiency with their highly oversized cross-sections, and the top-end RoadMachine 01 version’s carbon fiber frame boasts a claimed weight of just 920g in a 54cm size — not bad at all.
It’s only once you dig into the details that the RoadMachine’s differences are fully revealed. It may look like it came out of the WorldTour, but in reality, it’s somewhat of a hybrid between BMC’s Teammachine SLR racer and Granfondo GF endurance-bike families.
The most significant changes are buried within the frame geometry, which incorporate many of the tricks manufacturers have used at Paris-Roubaix for ages.
The Roadmachine’s 410mm chainstays are slightly longer than what’s normally found on a full-blown racer (although the latest Teammachine’s stays are now the same length), and the front axle is about 10mm further in front of the rider than usual thanks to 0.5°-slacker head tube angles and increased fork rakes. Combined with the 2mm of additional bottom bracket drop (71mm vs. 69mm), the Roadmachine is meant to provide slightly more stable high-speed manners than the SLR, but with similar low-speed agility thanks to the shared trail dimensions.
The additional length at either end also provides more tire clearance, and with the Roadmachine’s disc-only format, BMC officially claims tires up to 30mm-wide will easily clear the fork crown and rear stays — not enough for proper gravel duty, of course, but more than sufficient for tackling questionably paved roads and smoother unpaved ones.
The Roadmachine gets even more intriguing in terms of fit.
Unlike nearly every other endurance road bike out there, the Roadmachine isn’t hampered by an overly cramped and upright cockpit that limits its appeal to enthusiasts. In fact, the reach is virtually identical to the SLR across the size range, and the stack is only about 10mm taller when the bike is equipped with the optional low headset cover. Stock bikes are fitted with the 16mm-taller cone, however, but even then, there’s plenty of room to stretch out, even if the bars are a bit higher than some fitter riders might initially prefer.
Those numbers are more drastic when comparing to other brands. For the 56cm size, a Trek Domane SLR 9 Disc has a 377mm reach and 591mm stack, while the Specialized Roubaix posts figures of 381mm and 611mm. In stark contrast, the Roadmachine can go as low as 574mm for the stack (or 590mm with the stock cone), and lets riders stretch out their backs with reach dimensions between 388mm and 393mm.
Visually, the Roadmachine is about as clean as can be, with BMC upping the ante on internal cable routing for the category. A proprietary stem feeds the hydraulic brake lines down the flattened sides of the 1 1/8-to-1 1/2″ tapered steerer tube, and from there, they’re routed either through the frame or down into the non-driveside fork blade before popping out right at the caliper bodies. Wiring for Shimano or Campagnolo electronic drivetrains follows a similarly circuitous path, but mechanical derailleur housings are fed into the top of the down tube in a more conventional fashion.
To tidy things up even further, the carbon fiber headset cover and custom headset spacers are profiled to match the design of the frame, and the custom stem faceplate can sandwich integrated mounts for Garmin computers and GoPro-compatible accessories behind it.
Despite all the integration, BMC has thankfully still made some efforts to make the Roadmachine more livable. The stem may be proprietary, but the handlebar is as normal as could be, meaning users can swap to a different size or shape as desired. Likewise, the headset spacers are split, so most bar height adjustments can be performed without serious surgery (although changing the headset cover requires removing the brake lines and rebleeding the system).
Up top is a tidy internal wedge-style seatpost binder for the D-shaped carbon fiber seatpost (with a rubber cover to keep water and debris out), and BMC continues the theme with tooled 12mm-diameter DT Swiss thru-axles front and rear. The single included snap-on handle can be easily traded between the front and rear ends, or if you’re careful to carry a multi-tool in your repair kit, it can be left at home entirely.
BMC offers the Roadmachine family in three different versions. The top-end Roadmachine 01 uses the most premium blend of carbon fiber, while the 02 shares identical molds, but more economical fiber blends, for a heftier claimed weight of 1,100g. There’s also the aluminum Roadmachine 03, which tips the scales at a claimed 1,270g.
Of the three, the Roadmachine 01 is the most performance oriented, and it goes about its business with no fender or rack mounts; sorry, you’re just going to have to get wet if you head out in the rain. The 02 adds hidden fender mounts (and you’ll have to downsize the tires if you decide to run with guards), and the 03 adds a rear rack mount as well for more utility.
BMC sent for review the Roadmachine 01 Two, which uses the top-end frameset paired with SRAM’s Red eTap HRD wireless electronic disc-brake groupset. Rolling stock consists of 47mm-deep DT Swiss ERC 1400 Spline aero carbon clincher wheels wrapped in 28mm-wide Vittoria Corsa tires, and finishing kit is provided by Fizik and 3T. The gearing range is impressively broad, with 50/34T chainrings up front, and a generous 11-32T cassette out back.
Actual weight for a 51cm sample is 7.49kg (16.51lb) without pedals or accessories, and retail price is US$9,500 / AU$11,500 / £7,900 / €9,000.
See more at bmc-switzerland.com
In search of roads less traveled
Three years ago, I was a mixed-surface neophyte, but that weekend in rural Virginia opened my eyes. Today, nearly all of my road rides comprise a blend of paved and unpaved surfaces — and far fewer cars — so I was certainly eager to see how well the Roadmachine 01 Two suited my habits. Suffice to say, had this bike existed when I was figuring out a bike for the Baller’s Ride, it’s very possible I may have just gone with one of these with some 30mm-wide tires in place of the stock 28mm ones.
On good-quality tarmac, the RoadMachine is much like any other high-end disc-equipped road racer: stiff, efficient, and fast. The fat carbon fiber tubes lend a distinctly responsive feel under power whether just cruising along on the flats or stomping the pedals out of the saddle on a steep climb, and the front end is similarly stout, wavering nary a bit when you’re really muscling the bars. That rigidity carries straight through to the back end, too, where there’s minimal tail wagging even in a full-blown sprint.
It’s a similar story in terms of rider position. Despite the stock tall headset cone (the low cone is only included with bare framesets), it was easy to replicate my usual amount of bar drop on the Roadmachine by removing the headset spacers. As a nice bonus, those custom spacers are split so that you don’t need to remove any cabling when adjusting the bar height, and since standard 1 1/8″-diameter headset spacers fit, you aren’t forced into cutting the steerer tube when experimenting with your setup like with some other aero-minded cockpit designs.
The Roadmachine carries speed well, too, thanks in part to its standard aero wheels and the aggressive riding position.
It’s also a gifted climber, as you’d expect with its stout chassis and low weight. Further helping in that department is the extremely wide-range gearing. The bigger ratio gaps perhaps aren’t ideally suited for maintaining a precise cadence while keeping up in a bunch, but given that the Roadmachine isn’t designed for that, it’s an easy thing to forgive, especially as you’re blissfully spinning up a long 15% grade in that glorious 34-32T combination.
As should be the case for any endurance road bike, the ride quality of the Roadmachine is better than what you might typically get from a race bike, although the improvement falls primarily on the bigger tires. At 50-55psi (I weigh about 70kg), the bike feels decidedly cushy, albeit at the expense of greater chances of a pinch flat. But running a more typical 75-80psi highlights the fact that the frameset itself rides pretty firmly, and is not at all as pillowy-soft as BMC’s “Tuned Compliance Concept” marketing collateral might have you believe.
Some of this is likely due to the smaller 51cm size I tested for the review (smaller frames generally ride stiffer than bigger ones), but even so, I don’t expect that larger sizes will feel dramatically different. That all said, the Roadmachine is still more accommodating in terms of ride comfort than most race bikes out there.
Handling-wise, the Roadmachine definitely errs on the stable side of the spectrum. The long wheelbase and lower bottom bracket yield confidence-inspiring high-speed manners, and it’s generally calm through dusty unpaved corners. That stability makes the Roadmachine a little less eager to initially turn into corners, but it nevertheless cuts a confident arc provided you’re willing to lean it over harder.
To use an automotive analogy, I equate the Roadmachine to a good GT vs. a dedicated track car. It’s nearly as fast in most situations, but it’s more luxurious in look and feel, more forgiving, and it requires less attention and skill to get the most out of it. Carrying on with the automotive theme, it’s important to note that the Roadmachine is no rally car, though. While it’s wonderfully adept on a wide range of pavement conditions, it’s still at its best on a proper road. Even when taking full advantage of the 30mm maximum tire size, it’s quickly out of its element if you try to tackle rougher unpaved paths. Smoother dirt is generally ok, but gravel is likely out of the question.
Spec-wise, the Roadmachine 01 Two is mostly a home run.
The SRAM Red eTap wireless groupset accentuates the clean look of the chassis. Shift performance is consistent and reliable, albeit seemingly a tad slower (and noisier) than Shimano Di2 or Campagnolo EPS. I was a little disappointed that BMC didn’t include the optional Blip remote buttons for shifting from the tops, but in fairness, they’re not horribly expensive and easy to add afterward. The hydraulic disc brakes provided excellent overall power and great control, although I would have preferred a lighter-feeling lever. And say what you will about the aesthetics of the hydraulic levers; my hands only cared about how comfortable they were to hold.
The DT Swiss ERC 1400 Spline 47 carbon wheelset was hard to fault. The 47mm depth is a good compromise of lower weight, aerodynamics, and crosswind stability; the 19mm inner width provides excellent support for the wider tires best suited to the Roadmachine’s capabilities; the 1,538g claimed weight is good for the depth; and the star ratchet rear hub driver offers well-proven durability.
I do question the pairing of wider tires from an aerodynamic perspective, though, given that the external width is a more modest 25mm. DT Swiss plainly states that the shape was optimized for 25mm-wide tires, so there’s likely some “lightbulb effect” in play here with the stock 28mm ones (and more so if you decide to install 30s), although it’s difficult to discern from the saddle. Either way, it’s a minor niggle.
Opinions will invariably be mixed on the 3T Ergonova bar bend and Fizik Aliante saddle, but both of those are obviously matters of personal preference — and again, BMC’s smart design means it’s easy to change the bar for one with a shape you prefer.
Making adjustments to the saddle and bar angle is cause for some headache, though. The rear-facing stem faceplate bolts are difficult to access, and provide very little room for a torque wrench head. Likewise, the forward bolt on the two-bolt seatpost is deeply recessed, and doesn’t play nicely with most portable multi-tools.
Only Garmin users will be able to easily take advantage of the included integrated computer mount, too, as it’s the only format officially supported. BMC has at least based the system on the common GoPro finned interface, however, so if you’re able to find a computer mount based around that, you’ll be in luck.
Lastly, it would have been nice if BMC had included the second-tier Roadmachine 02 frameset’s hidden fender mounts on this top-end Roadmachine 01 variant. Clearly there’s room (the bikes use nearly identical molds), but presumably BMC assumes that 01 buyers want a cleaner look and less weight. That may be, but it seems like a silly sacrifice when proper fenders can be so incredibly useful when riding in wet weather.
But in fairness to BMC, the Roadmachine 01 Two does look fantastic. Simply put, it’s one of the best-looking road bikes I’ve ridden in recent memory, right down to the matte finish and muted colors. It’s understated, mature, and grown-up in a way that many high-end road racers are not, and even the branding is fairly subdued. Well done, BMC.