BMC Roadmachine 2020 first-ride review: Fast endurance ride, updated
It was three years ago that BMC lifted the covers off its interpretation of a modern endurance road bike. That bike, the Roadmachine, spat in the face of endurance road bike trends of the time – it was sleek, aero and with a relatively long and low geometry. It looked more like a racing bike than a weekend cruiser, and it filled a gap in the market that few had considered.
However, little in the bike industry stands still. While the previous Roadmachine remains competitive with the latest endurance road bikes which aim to offer a little performance flair, there was room for improvement. Riders now seek even more versatility from such a bike, and simply, the 28-30c tyre width limitation of the previous Roadmachine has aged it faster than a banana in a jersey pocket.
- What: 2020 BMC Roadmachine
- Bike type: Premium endurance road bike with a performance edge.
- Key updates: Stiffer, more compliant, room for 33c rubber, more linear sizing, doubled stem and seatpost fit options, mounts for toptube bag and rear fender.
- Weight: 895g – 54cm frame-only. 7.54kg – complete 54cm Roadmachine 01 One (without pedals)
- Price: Starting from US$3,199 / AU$4,199, US$10,999 / AU$13,799 as tested (Roadmachine 01 One).
- Highs: Performance feel with generous doses of stability, stunningly smooth aesthetics, increased tyre clearance, easy servicing, improved fit options.
- Lows: Stiffer ride than expected, premium pricing (warranted).
Where the 2017 Roadmachine broke ground and gave competitors something to copy, the 2020 version refines the recipe. From afar it’s much the same bike, but it also ticks all the boxes required of a new bike release: yep, it’s faster, lighter, stiffer, more versatile, offers wider fit options and is supposedly more comfortable, too.
I recently spent a day in the hills of the Emmentaler Valley, just outside the old Swiss town of Solothurn, testing out the new Roadmachine. It was a wet and cold one, but the varied road conditions offered a chance to form some early impressions.
Now an All-Roadmachine
BMC views the endurance category with a performance mindset. And if it doesn’t offer compliance, it’s not an endurance bike. With such clear-cut thinking, the Roadmachine is built to be a performance bike with additional riding comfort and control – exactly as it was in 2017.
BMC hasn’t messed with that formula all that much. The key angles of the 2020 version are unchanged, likewise the bike’s firm and efficient personality. Its aero styling continues with the easily serviced and visually appealing Integrated Cockpit System Technology (ICS) still present, similarly for the comfort-inducing cut-out seat tube and D-shape seatpost. And yes, just like Giant and Scott, BMC’s use of a PF86 bottom bracket continues, too.
The big updates are more beneath the surface, with the Swiss bike company having used advanced computer modelling to optimise tube profiles and carbon layups for increased stiffness, reduced weight and improved compliance.
The front end is said to offer a 20% increase in torsional stiffness for improved handling, while the bottom bracket junction gains a 5% bump. The flattened and re-worked seatstays now sit a further 10mm lower on the seat tube, the D-shape seatpost has been slimmed and reworked, and combined with a wholly new and asymmetric fork, BMC claims there is now 25% more compliance. All told, a 54cm clear coated frame is said to weigh 895g, a marginal 25g reduction.
That integrated cockpit remains one of the best examples on the market. It uses a regular handlebar with external cable routing and guides the cables/wires through a cover beneath the stem. The headset spacers are split, and like the stem and handlebar, they can be moved and swapped without having to remove, or worse, cut, a hydraulic brake line. A peek inside reveals the Di2 wires and brake hoses guided down the sides of the flattened steerer tube – and the whole system works without rubbing, binding or resistance to handling.
The ICS stems continue to offer optional accessory and (Garmin) computer mounting with the increasingly popular GoPro-style adapter. And at least for Di2-equipped bikes, the previously messy-looking junction box is now relocated out of harm’s way to the port in the downtube.
However, stem availability is typically the downside to such proprietary systems, and that was certainly a sticking point with the 2017 iteration. For 2020, BMC has doubled the stem options, adding a 0-degree option to sit alongside the pre-existing -12-degree. There are now a total of 10 stems to choose from, 55/70/80/90/100mm for the 0-degree, and 90/100/110/120/130mm in the -12 degree option.
All bikes will now also ship with both a low (7.2mm) and high (32mm) stack headset top cap, allowing for more freedom in fit setup and without the need for excessive steerer spacers. Similarly, BMC will offer a seatpost with zero-offset (straight) in case the stock 15mm offset places you too far rearward.
All of these options fit with BMC’s clear desire to make the Roadmachine find a wider market appeal. For that, both stack and reach figures have been adjusted across all sizes, too. While small sizes gain an extra millimetre or two, the changes are far more apparent in the larger sizes. Measurements are now more linear as sizes go up.
Perhaps the biggest change for 2020 is one of versatility. The new Roadmachine is built to handle up to 33c tyres, up from a claimed 30c of past. Wider tyres certainly broaden the scope of this bike, and mixed surface riding is now a more comfortable option.
The updated bike also steals a trick from the gravel world, integrating a mount for a top tube bag. BMC is currently working on a bag that will match perfectly. A previous complaint of the former Roadmachine 01 was a lack of fender mounts, and BMC has partly addressed that with the option for a proprietary bolt-on rear fender off the top of the seatpost – although, ironically, we didn’t have it for our day of riding in the rain.
Little elements show considered attention to detail — for example, the fork retains a custom and integrated flat mount brake adapter for a clean visual. Likewise, the integrated and easily adjustable cylindrical chain-catcher remains to protect the bottom bracket area from accidental damage. The internal seatpost wedge, meanwhile, is now accessed from the inside of the front triangle, allowing a more direct path and better tool access. That clamp also now locks in a little firmer than before, and while it can make saddle height adjustments a little slower, it also helps to ensure your post stays where it should.
The previous version wasn’t garish by any means, but the new models are even more subdued. The frame profiles are still clearly BMC, but the branding is even more minimalistic. The matte paints aren’t the easiest thing to clean but at least they are treated to a clear coat along the top tube for easy wiping of your sweat (or drool from the envious.)
The 01 and the 02 – Seven models in total
For 2020, BMC will no longer offer the aluminium-framed Roadmachine 03; instead, the Roadmachine is now a dedicated carbon fibre and disc-only platform. There will be a total of seven models offered between the top of the range 01 and the second-tier 02 – all of which will share the identical frame. BMC will also offer the 01 in a frameset module (US$4,399 / AU$5,899), in either black stealth or amber colourways.
All four Roadmachine 01 models will feature the ICS cockpit with hidden cable routing, while the three 02 models move to a normal stem with external cable routing. As a result of the standard stem, the 02 models are also equipped with a round-steerer fork, so upgrading to ICS will require a new fork, too.
All models are sold with 28c tyres (some tubeless) and a compact crank (or equivalent if SRAM 12-speed) and relatively wide-range cassettes. Most models feature an 11-32T cassette but there are exceptions.
Bikes are expected to land in stores from early July 2019.
Rollling Swiss hills, lots of rain and a new bike
Foreign roads, jet lag, a wholly new bike, wet roads and a single ride are hardly conducive to forming a detailed opinion about a bike. However, BMC did a good job of plotting a route that took us on a sample of its local roads, including steep pinches, fast and winding descents, poorly surfaced farm roads and a few patches of gravel, too. It was just about the ideal route to test a bike that claims to cover the full spectrum of modern road riding.
My 51cm Roadmachine 01 One sample offered a full SRAM Red eTap AXS 12-speed groupset, Enve SES AR4.5 wheels and 28c Vittoria Corsa Control G+ tubeless tyres, which measured at an actual 30.2mm. Without pedals, this top-tier sample weighed 7.5kg.
With geometry that’s barely changed and the tyres setup tubeless and set to 70psi, the ride was always going to feel well controlled. The Roadmachine immediately handles like a bike you’re well familiar with; a bike that responds to your inputs but without a sense of nervousness. It’s certainly a cliche to call a bike stable, but that’s exactly what the Roadmachine is.
I can’t vouch for BMC’s claim that there’s 25% more compliance; in fact, I’d almost dispute it. Regardless, no matter the surface, the bike always felt planted. Staying seated over farm roads revealed a ride with the noise reduced, but not muted and deaf to the surface beneath. Where some endurance road bikes leave me tapping the rear wheel against the ground thinking I have a flat tyre, the Roadmachine retains just enough firmness for awareness and to make the bike feel reactive, too. Goldilocks wouldn’t complain, that’s for sure.
Even BMC’s own compact-shaped (70mm reach, 125mm drop) carbon handlebar kept me happy. Previously BMC equipped the Roadmachine with 3T bars, and while there’s nothing too special about the BMC bar, it does provide cable routing that arcs the brake hoses beneath the bar and smoothly into the front of the ICS stem. This, in combination with SRAM’s wireless shifting, provides an incredibly clean look and smooth feel. You almost have to know the brake hoses are run externally of the bar in order to see or feel them.
I didn’t get a chance to push the Roadmachine anywhere near its limits, and that’s despite going fast enough that would have many race bikes feeling skittish. It’s something I’m eager to test in future and on familiar dry roads, given the Roadmachine seems to have a serious thirst for speed.
In his review of the previous Roadmachine, our global tech editor James Huang likened the ride to that of a GT sports car. “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.” It’s an analogy that still rings completely true.
James went on to write, “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.”
And while BMC has certainly made efforts to expand the Roadmachine to the wider expectations of road riding, James’ sentiment remains mostly true. The bike is unapologetically still a road bike; a road bike that now happens to be pretty damn fine for well-kept gravel sections and paved farm roads, but that’s about as far away from flowy tarmac as this bike should go.
So what’s not to like? Well, not much. There are a few little nuisances, such as the awkward rearward-facing stem bolts on the stock -12 degree stem (the 0-degree version points them forward), or the seatpost binder that needs to be tapped or wiggled before it releases its clutch on the post.
And if I’m thinking about the broader appeal of this bike — riders who are best served by more traditional upright endurance bikes but are attracted to the Roadmachine’s performance-edge — then I suspect the stock -12-degree stem will need to be swapped. These customers will likely be best served by a more upright 0-degree stem option, and when combined with the provided (but not installed out of the box) 32mm tall head top cap, they shouldn’t need to run a stack of additional spacers.
It shouldn’t be too surprising to hear that I enjoyed my time riding the Roadmachine amongst the misty Swiss hills. In many ways, it’s seemingly the same bike our global tech editor James Huang previously sung the praises of – just a little better again. BMC could have made wholesale changes to the Roadmachine, but honestly, they didn’t need to.
As a modern road bike designed to be ridden daily, road raced on Saturday and taken on a varied-surface exploration on Sunday, BMC has nailed the brief. The 2020 Roadmachine is every bit as good as the old, and it offers just enough enhancement to ensure it remains relevant for where road riding is headed.