THE BMC TEAMMACHINE SLR02 IS AN AFFORDABLE WAY TO HAVE A BIKE LIKE TEJAY VAN GARDEREN.
2016 Buyer’s Guide: The BMC Teammachine SLR02 Is Brilliant
The bright-blue tubes aren’t the only things about this affordable road bike that dazzle
BY LOUIS MAZZANTE - Bicycling Magazine MARCH 1, 2016
Maybe you’ve experienced this on a ride: Your legs are rising and falling in accord, just fast enough that when you look down between them to the rushing blacktop, their edges are smoothed by the movement. The sensation is disorienting and alluring, because what you see—what you feel—is speed, as if you had just hit fast forward on your ride. I do this sometimes just for kicks, each instance a thrilling reminder that 35 mph is, when attained on a bike, damn fast.
During the several weeks I rode BMC’s SLR02, I did this more often than usual: I did it while climbing over scattershot gravel early one foggy fall morning on Bieber Road; while pedaling hard up the left-hander that leads into the steepest grades of Sweetwood; while weaving between leaves on a nearly empty bike path alongside Bushkill Creek. I did it because it was fun, and riding this bike made me happy. I have felt it on other bikes, but it was heightened here, because the contrast seemed greater: The SLR felt so calm and easy-handling otherwise that looking down at the road rushing beneath my frame was one of the best ways to get a clear sense of how fast I was actually going.
BMC clearly designed the SLR02 for speed. It borrows heavily from the company’s top-of-the-line SLR01 race bike, which Tejay van Garderenand his BMC teammates rode in the Tour de France. While the bikes have nearly identical geometry, they use different frame construction: To keep costs lower, the 02 uses heavier carbon and resin, and a less-intricate layup. The 02 also has aluminum dropouts, whereas the 01 uses carbon ones. The differences add up to about 200 grams—the premium model frame weighs 790 grams with paint and hardware; the SLR02 weighs 990.
Despite the more economical materials, the 02 had an energetic yet pleasing ride. “BMC wanted the same levels of stiffness and compliance in the frame as the SLR01,” said Peter Nicholson, a company spokesperson. In racy situations it was my legs and not the bike holding me back. When I poured my energy into the cranks, pedaling furiously (but not at all smoothly) to challenge a town-line sprint, the bike felt steady and composed, accelerating efficiently (though not as quickly as some lighter bikes).
Compared to some other BMC models, this one felt easier to turn, and more lively. I appreciated this quality while crouching into a tuck on a straight descent and while sawing the bike back and forth climbing a double-digit grade at a single-digit speed. Given the stout frame tubes, I was surprised by how much road shock the frame absorbed. Even with narrow 23mm Continental tires, the bike rolled smoothly across dirt and gravel roads, and took some of the sting out when I slammed into potholes.
When I rode with others, the SLR02 never left me wanting for more bike even though it was often the least-expensive one in the group (sometimes by several thousand dollars). Given its price, I was surprised to see that it had a full Shimano 105 group and RS11 wheels, which is rare. Many similarly priced bikes come with off-brand wheels, cranks, and brakes, many of which are a step down in quality from the Shimano parts on the BMC. The brakes, especially, felt smooth, consistent, and reliable—though not remarkably powerful—which is better than most at this price.
Some riders, especially those who stick to flat or rolling roads, might question the massive 32-tooth cog on the rear cassette because it creates larger-than-normal gaps between the gears. That can make it harder to find the right gear in certain situations. Because I was riding mostly for fun, and not racing, I didn’t find the gaps troublesome, and appreciated the extra-low gear on energy-zapping climbs.
To make the SLR02 even more enjoyable on long rides, I’d replace the thin bar tape and narrow tires. A thicker or lightly padded tape would reduce the buzz coming through the bar and going to a good 25mm tirewould likely add another degree of comfort. Those are both easy and relatively inexpensive changes. One thing I absolutely would not change is the color. The bright blue is a departure for BMC, which previously offered white and red as its boldest color options. But the break from conservative paint suits this model, adding style and a pop of energy. It’s one more reason I kept looking down as I pedaled—because, hot damn, those oversize brilliant blue frame tubes looked stunning when the sun lit up their edges.
With the SLR02, BMC pulled off something special: It made a not-crazy-expensive carbon bike with a complete Shimano 105 group that is comfortable and incredibly exciting to ride. You might not notice it at first, but a quick look at the pavement rushing beneath your wheels will confirm that this the SLR02 can move in a way that won’t stop delighting you.
What You Need to Know
- Has a full Shimano 105 group, including brakes, cranks, and chain
- Yes, the bright-blue paint does make the bike seem lighter and faster!
- The 32-tooth large rear cog means you can spin up hills with less effort (though not faster)
- Nearly identical geometry to the SLR01 that Tejay van Garderen rides
- Comes with 23mm tires, but has clearance for up to 28s.