2021 BMC Teammachine SLR01: The fourth generation revealed and reviewed

by Dave Rome


In its 10-year existence, BMC’s Teammachine SLR01 has won the biggest of races: the Tour de France (Cadel Evans), the Road World Championships (Philippe Gilbert) and the Olympic Games road race (Greg Van Avermaet ). Since the beginning, the SLR01 was never the lightest, stiffest or most aerodynamic race bike; rather the Swiss company always proudly claimed that it was the bike that sat centrally in an imaginary Venn diagram of ideal race bike attributes.

New for 2021 is the fourth generation of the Teammachine SLR01, a bike that retains much of what made the previous versions great. Now disc-only (sorry, better buy the old one if you want rim brakes), the latest Teammachine is lighter, more responsive, and now intentionally aero. And while that last element promises a speed benefit, it also happens to produce one of the cleanest looking road bikes out there.

In addition to the flagship SLR01, BMC has given the second-tier and more affordable Teammachine a similar overhaul. Gone is the SLR02 moniker; now it’s just the SLR.

With much of the world still on lockdown, we weren’t able to travel to the planned launch of this bike. Instead, the bike was shipped to me and I spent a sneaky week riding it on my local hills in Sydney.

Now aero

Story Highlights

  • What: BMC’s fourth generation of the Teammachine SLR01 platform.
  • Key updates: Lighter, stiffer, aero optimised, 30 mm tyre clearance, and now disc-only.
  • Weight: 820 g for 54 cm painted frame. 6.8 kg as tested (51 cm with cages and computer mount, no pedals)
  • Price: Complete bikes from €2,799 / US$2,899 / AU$3,999. €10,999 / US$11,499 / AU$14,999 as tested.
  • Highs: Retains the SLR01’s impressive ride quality, more reactive under power, wonderfully balanced handling, clean aesthetics.
  • Lows: Feels less compliant out of the saddle, headset bearings trapped by brake hoses, permanent thru-axle nuts.
  • TL;DR Watch the video above.

The use of advanced computer modelling software has been used in the bike industry for some time, something that’s helped to inform decisions regarding the ideal combination of tube shapes, tube sizes, joint placement and carbon layups. BMC’s version of this software, dubbed ACE (Accelerated Composites Evolution), has been in use since the second generation Teammachine, and enhanced versions have helped refine other BMC bikes since. This latest Teammachine development saw BMC add aerodynamics into the equation.

It’s a similar computer-driven approach to how Specialized came to its existing Venge design, and Trek to its new Emonda. And the result sees the new Teammachine move to truncated airfoil profiles on the head tube, down tube, fork blades and dropouts.

The tubing shapes have been reworked to disrupt the air less.

The head tube and down tube retain the same widths as before but are now stretched front to back. The fork blades are slimmer, deeper and truncated in shape, and are effectively a slimmed-down version of what BMC’s TimeMachine Road (TMR) bike features. According to Stefan Christ, head of product development at BMC, the new fork is responsible for approximately 50% of the aerodynamic gains the new model offers.

Speaking of the TMR, the new SLR01 has borrowed another trick in the way of integrated bottle cages. These bottle cages are all new, made of carbon composite, and are specific to the SLR01. BMC has designed these to help smooth the airflow between the newly reshaped down tube and the regular round bottles they’re designed to fit.

The integration of such a common accessory is something BMC has dubbed “AeroCore”. As a company they’ve always been pretty partial to naming things.

Where the TMR used cages produced by Elite, these new cages are BMC’s own creation. They’re competitively light at 43 grams for the down tube cage, and 26 grams for the simpler version that sits on the seat tube, and are said to be “cobblestone proof”. Better yet, both cages are provided on all price points of the new Teammachine SLR01 and SLR, and the frame can accept boring old bottle cages, too.

Add in a new cockpit setup on the SLR01 (more on that later), and BMC is quite certain the new model is faster in every way than the old.

Those aerodynamic gains come with a claim that the new SLR01 is, on average, 6% more efficient at 45 km/h than the previous disc version. That figure was arrived at in BMC’s testing of NTT riders within the Grenchen Velodrome that sits across the street from its headquarters. The testing was done with bikes fitted with the same wheels and key components, and while it’s an average, BMC claims that every single rider was faster with the new version.

And that’s just about where the aerodynamic claims end. To date, BMC hasn’t put the new Teammachine against its dedicated TimeMachine Road aero bike. Rather BMC speculates, based on aerodynamic modelling, that the new bike sits somewhere in the middle between the old SLR01 and the TMR, with the TMR remaining the faster pick at higher yaw angles. For reference, BMC previously claimed its TMR saved 8 watts over the previous SLR01 when travelling 40 km/h in a velodrome.

Stiffer, just as compliant, and lighter

Frame stiffness is up. BMC claims a 20% increase in rear-end stiffness, and a “slight” increase in the torsional stiffness at the front end, too.

And despite increasing the frame’s responsiveness under power, the company says that compliance is effectively unchanged, a good thing given the previous Teammachine was one of the comfier options in the pro peloton. While the difference is small, BMC’s bench testing actually shows more vertical flex at the saddle rails with the new frame than the old.

As mentioned, the Teammachine has never been a benchmark bike on the scales, but this fourth generation trims the fat. The frame itself has actually gained 5 grams, with a painted 54 cm SLR01 frame quoted at 820 g. However, as a rideable frameset, the SLR01 is now 160 g lighter than the old.

By using new materials the new fork trims 50 g for a claimed 345 g figure, the seat post gets a revised seat clamp which saves 10 g (now 185 g) and a fairly sizeable 100 g are saved through the new one-piece ICS Carbon handlebar and stem.

And how about the more affordable Teammachine SLR that’s built with lower-grade materials? That one is a fair bit lighter than the SLR02 it replaces. The frame is said to be about 150 g heavier than the SLR01, while the forks add 30 g. All told BMC claims there’s an approximate 200 g penalty with the lower-cost frameset. Weight penalty aside, the SLR offers the same claimed stiffness and compliance figures as the SLR01.

Unchanged Geometry

A look at the geometry figures suggests that BMC was rather content with how its previous SLR01 handled and fit. The geometry of the new version is effectively unchanged across the six frame sizes, with two minor exceptions.

The geometry remains much the same.

The two smallest frame sizes (47 and 51 cm) are now given a longer 48 mm fork rake (versus the regular 43 mm) in an effort to keep trail figures more consistent across sizes.

And the top tube and seat tube junction has been lowered by 10-15 mm depending on the size. According to Christ, this was something the ACE software suggested as a way to improve frame stiffness and reduce weight. And as BMCs typically have quite a high standover, such a change didn’t hurt in that department, either.

At first, I suspected this lowered seat tube junction was done to increase the amount of exposed seat post, and in turn, increase seated compliance, but apparently such a minor benefit was more coincidental than anything else.

The same geometry is shared between the SLR01 and the lower-cost SLR.

New ICS – Integrated Cockpit System

BMC’s Integrated Cockpit System (ICS) was first introduced on the original Roadmachine, and has since been used on the third-generation Teammachine, the TimeMachineRoad (a unique variant of it, at least), the new Roadmachine and most recently the URS gravel bike.

The original ICS system sought to hide all gear cables/wires and brake housing/hoses from view (and the wind) by running them along the bottom of the stem and then down a fork steerer tube with flattened sides. BMC was arguably the first to do fully internal cabling while keeping the system relatively easy to work with, and without any impact on the bike’s steering. Cables weren’t run through the stem, but rather below it and then concealed by an elegant cover – meaning stems can be swapped out without having to undo anything else. The headset spacers were split for easy removal and the system allowed almost any 31.8 mm handlebar to be used.

A look inside. The sides of the steerer are still flattened, but the headset top cap, wedges and spacers are all refined.

The new Teammachine brings refinement to this system and introduces two new options: a new stem in the way of ICS 2, and the ICS Carbon one-piece handlebar and stem. In both cases, the regular round headset cap has been replaced with a sleeker offering specific to BMC. It leads to a slimmer profile surrounding the steerer tube and looks quite elegant when combined with the concealed stem bolts. There are fewer small parts, too, with the headset top cap wedges now integrated with the top cap.

More changes are seen with new aero-optimised headset spacers which now split at the front and back, rather than on the sides like the previous versions. These new spacers are available in 3 mm and 10 mm heights. BMC now also offers a special top cap assembly which allows the use of regular round spacers on top of the stem while you figure out your ideal steerer length.

The new ICS Carbon.

The new one-piece ICS Carbon is BMC’s premium offering, and at 305 g, it’s one of the lightest integrated cockpits on the market. This new setup is a key ingredient in BMC’s claim that the new SLR01 is lighter than before, and saves a claimed 100 g compared to BMC’s separate ICS 2 stem and carbon handlebar.

The handlebar shape is based on BMC’s pre-existing RCB01 and offers an extended ergo top shape, compact bend, 127 mm drop and 67 mm reach. There are three small (3 mm hex) stem clamp pinch bolts, which are hidden behind a rubber cover that sits flush with the exterior of the stem. And cables/hoses are run internally through the bar and stem before running down the sides of the fork steerer – the end result looks cleaner than fresh disposable gloves.

The ICS Carbon is included with BMC’s SLR01 frameset module and the top two spec bikes (including my test sample), or can be bought separately for €699. BMC will be offering it in 400 and 420 mm widths in a variety of stem lengths ranging from 90 to 140 mm. Come November, BMC will also offer “Team Issue” versions which combine narrower 400 mm bar widths with longer stem lengths (110-140 mm). According to BMC, cockpit sizing selection is an option provided to its dealers and distributors, and so it will be up to your place of purchase to ensure the dimensions of your one-piece handlebar and stem are right for you.

A look at the ICS 2 stem layout.

For those shopping for the third- or fourth-tier SLR01, or that perhaps want a little more customisation in the setup, then the ICS 2 is for you. This is much like the original ICS system but sees an overhauled alloy stem that’s now 15 g lighter and with a wider handlebar clamp that adds stiffness. Add in the new top cap and the stem is noticeably slimmer and sleeker, too. Like before, just about any regular 31.8 mm handlebar can be paired with ICS 2, while the stems are now available in 80 to 140 mm lengths. And just like the original ICS system, stems can still be swapped out without disconnecting or trimming cables/hoses.

BMC has designed matching integrated computer mounts for both the ICS Carbon and ICS 2 stems, and each allows a universal GoPro-style mount to be added beneath for compatibility with lights or action cameras. Now made from aluminium, the included mount brackets are far stiffer and stronger than previous offerings from BMC, and are now compatible with both Garmin and Wahoo computers (via replaceable plastic insert pucks).

The supplied computer mounts are now extremely solid, but will only (at least for now) work with Garmin and Wahoo devices.

Annoyingly BMC went its own way with those plastic pucks, rather than repurposing an existing shape from someone else. As a result, further computer compatibility is currently unavailable but may be added in future with enough demand. In the meantime, those wanting to run a different computer with the ICS 2 stem can do so with a regular handlebar mount, while ICS Carbon can accept (with the use of some small washers or spacers) almost any two-bolt inline mount that’s intended for one-piece cockpits.

Perhaps my favourite part of these two new ICS systems is that they are almost entirely backward compatible with most older bikes (original Roadmachine excluded) when matched with the appropriate new steerer spacers and headset cones.

However, there is one clear caveat to these two new setups and the SLR01 frame they’re intended for: mechanical cables are not an option. Yep, the new SLR01 is designed with only electronic (or wireless) gearing in mind.

All of this is a different story for the cheaper SLR, which does without the ICS’ flattened steerer tube and resulting fully internal cabling. Instead, the SLR uses a traditional round steerer tube and more traditional stem setup, while the cables enter the frame at the down tube. This more traditional method allows the use of mechanical shifting, something that opens the Teammachine up to a far wider range of budgets.

Bonded axle inserts and other small parts

Adding to the new Teammachine’s clean profile are fully enclosed front and rear dropouts which see the thru-axle nut bonded in place. Add in the countersunk bolt-up thru-axles and the result is stunningly clean, and according to BMC, it’s more aerodynamic and lighter, too.

Clean.

Compared to many other designs, BMC’s approach means the thru-axle end nuts are no longer replaceable, and if something were to go wrong with that thread, well, that wouldn’t be good.

This is something I discussed with Christ, who assured me that these threaded inserts can survive more torque than the thru-axle itself, while the way the wheel is captured should make it almost impossible to cross-thread the axle in. Chris suggested that the NTT team has been using this design with electric drivers for some time now, and not a single issue has appeared.

There’s easily enough frame space to clear a 30 mm tyre and retain room in case of a muddy patch. Pictured is an actual 25 mm tyre.

Tyre clearance is claimed at 30 mm actual-width, although I got an actual 31 mm tyre in there without issue. Either way, the actual tyre width limitation won’t be based on the height of the tyre (for which there is plenty of room), but rather how comfortable you are with narrowing the gap at the seat stays.

BMC has stuck with the same “Shimano standard” press-fit BB86 bottom bracket. And while none of the CyclingTips team is truly in love with press-fit systems, we do all agree that the BB86 is one of the least problematic and easiest to silence if needed. Similarly, the size of headset bearings is unchanged from the previous version.

The flat mount front brake caliper adapter is specific to the new Teammachine.

The front brake caliper mount has been reworked with a wider bolt spacing that’s now easier to center the caliper with. This bolt spacing is quite close to Shimano’s flat mount standard, but BMC has used its own angled mount to match the aerodynamic profile of the fork leg. This mount is designed for use with a 160 mm rotor and nothing else, while the rear brake allows either a 140 or 160 mm rotor.

The D-shaped carbon seatpost offers a revised shape that’s specific to the new Teammachine. All models and sizes come with a 15 mm set-back version, while straight and 30 mm options are available separately.

Lastly, the seatpost binder wedge features an updated design that easily releases simply by pushing on the loosened bolt. And that bolt is still placed at a 45º angle between the seat tube and top tube, allowing easy tool and torque wrench access. According to Christ, the frame construction around this wedge is greatly reinforced from the previous generation to accept more tightening torque. My pre-production sample had a 5N m maximum torque listed, but the production versions will likely quote a 7 Nm max.

Models, colours and prices

The new Teammachine SLR01 is available as four different bike models, and as two framesets (one with ICS Carbon, the other with ICS 2). Of those four models, the top two offer the ICS Carbon cockpit, while the other two come with an ICS 2 stem and separate BMC handlebar. The SLR01 frameset is available in a choice of three colours. Two framesets (€4,599 / US$4,699 / AU$6,999) include the ICS Carbon cockpit, while the third option (€4,299 / US$4,399 / AU$na) is fitted with an ICS 2 stem and separate handlebar.

Moving to the lower cost Teammachine SLR and there are four complete bike models, with no frameset option. All models and prices are shown in the gallery below. Availability will vary based on region, but the bikes are already in production and shipping.

And what about the Teammachine ALR, BMC’s performance alloy option? That one carries over without any changes to the frame.

Ride impression

With over a week with the bike and few clouds in the sky, I got to know the new Teammachine far better than I would have at any launch. I’m confident in saying the new Teammachine retains that balanced, smooth and well-mannered ride that the platform is known for, and adds a small – but still detectable – performance edge on top.

The new SLR01 offers the exact feeling a good race bike should provide with a noticeable snap forward under power. Whether it’s out-of-the-saddle attacks or all-out-power sprints, the bike responds with pure efficiency and there’s no sign of sway between the front and rear ends.

Simply, this bike is a pleasure to sprint with.

That improved directness has the new SLR01 feeling stiffer from a comfort point of view, well, sort of. Seated comfort is still blissful and right up there with the most welcoming bikes of the WorldTour. However, standing out the saddle on rough roads reveals more buzz through the pedals than I recall with the previous version. Equally, square edge hits like potholes or joining lips reveal a noticeable jolt through the soles of my carbon shoes. Take a seat with that flexible D-shaped post and it’s like sitting on a well-padded kitchen stool. Stand up and it’s clear that BMC has added some serious stiffness to the lower half of this bike.

What surprised me most is that this increased stiffness hasn’t impacted the SLR01’s ability to make you feel like a master puppeteer on descents. The Teammachine remained poised on the same roads that typically see super-stiff race bikes chatter and skip about, and it’s a feeling that just begs you to push harder and brake later.

The SLR01 is a bike with an easy handling characteristic.

Certainly, BMC’s well-dialled geometry plays a large role here, and with a trail figure that’s on the long side for a race bike (63 mm), this is no skittish ride. I often found my mind wandering elsewhere as I seamlessly tipped the SLR01 from one apex to another, and while in hindsight that makes this bike sound boring, it certainly didn’t feel that way at the time. Rather I could conserve energy and more safely descend at speed without having to micromanage where the wheels were going.

Controlled it may be, but this is no Sunday cruiser. The stack is race-friendly low and that handling remains sharp enough to carve a corner around a pothole. BMC certainly hasn’t dumbed down its flagship race bike for mass appeal — after all, they have the Roadmachine for exactly that.

I can normally find something to complain about with most one-piece cockpit setups, but I had no such issues here. The handlebar shape proved comfortable and offered enough wrist clearance when sprinting in the drops. The bars are stiff enough to have you feel like the front wheel axle is directly connected, but not so overly stiff that you feel every ripple in the road. In fact, there’s a noticeable amount of vertical give to these when in the drops. And perhaps my favourite part was just how smooth the back of the stem was, meaning no matter how sloppy your sprint is, your knees will be safe.

I got on well with BMC’s compact handlebar shape.

Also worthy of praise is just how unhindered the steering is with the internal cable system – there is no detectable resistance. Of course, such a system, like almost any other, does come with its negatives. BMC has mitigated many of those negatives with the ability to add and remove headset spacers with ease, or even easily change stems with the ICS 2 setup, but replacing the headset bearings remains an issue and requires the disconnecting of brake hoses. Keep them greased!

The bottle cages really are quite nice to use. The down tube cage offers a large catch zone and with little resistance to receiving the bottle. As a result, it almost feels like you’re dropping the bottle into place. On the reverse the bottle is just as easy to grab, and despite my best efforts (sorry wheels), I didn’t lose a bottle.

The seat post did give me some slipping issues, but that all went away when I upped the torque.

My biggest issue with the bike was a slipping seat post with the torque set to 5 Nm. However, this was solved after chatting to BMC and learning this area had been reinforced for a torque closer to 7 Nm. I still have some fears over the general lack of serviceability that the co-moulded thru-axle nuts offer, but admittedly they gave me no issues. Getting a wheel in and out is easy with this frame with obvious axle guides provided at both ends.

I think it’s worth ending on a note about the aesthetics of this ride. While I feel the chunkier tube shapes are a step backward from the previous version, that’s easily balanced by the stealthy seat post binder, hidden stem bolts, integrated bottle cages and enclosed rear thru-axles. Add in that striking red angular bar on the front and this bike remains unmistakably a BMC amongst so many look-alike products, and that’s no easy feat when all of your competitors are chasing the same performance metrics.

The type of race bike I’d want to own

Those that are aero-obsessed may be disparaged by BMC’s general lack of comparative figures here, and I hope they correct that in the near future. Data aside, the BMC Teammachine has long been the type of race bike I’d want to own. On paper, it’s not the highest-performing bike, but on the road it offers a wonderful balance of efficiency and enjoyment. And this new Teammachine merely refines that recipe.

I still think the more relaxed geometry of the Roadmachine makes it a better choice for the masses, but if you’re after a true racer that’s also ideal as your daily ride, you’ll be hard-pressed to do better than the new Teammachine.

Gallery

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