Monday, July 30, 2007

BMC SL01 Road Racer review

After putting in some miles training, racing and a week in the mountains, I feel like I can give a comprehensive review of my new BMC SL01. For specs, geometry and marketing stuff, check out BMC's site. Other than BMC sponsoring my team, I had several reasons for buying this frame in the first place:

- Longer top tube and steeper seat tube to fit me better
- Lighter weight than the Basso I was riding before
- Carbon seatstays and integrated headset
- Stiffer chainstays
- Aluminum

Fit and weight were the big reasons for me. I have a longer torso and shorter femurs than most, so this was getting close to a custom fit in an off-the-shelf frameset. I'm happy to report that it does indeed fit better, but if you have a short torso and long legs this isn't the bike for you. It's about 180 degrees from women's specific fit! The geometry is pretty race-oriented, with the steeper seat tube and fairly fast steering, but not overly so. It does handle better in criteriums, carving the corners confidently. The first crit I did on this bike made me smile! I can't say I noticed any difference with the beefy shaped chainstays, but then again I'm more Rasmussen than Hushovd anyway. The seat lug and carbon stays do seem to make for a more comfortable ride, and well over 120 miles in the saddle for the Triple Bypass proved that this racer is good for a long day in the saddle too. One editorial suggested this bike is favored by domestiques - the workhorses of the peloton.

I'm a bit of a traditionalist, so I don't go for the latest carbon for the sake of carbon thinking. This bike is lighter than many carbon frames (I was looking at Masi for example and it came in lighter), especially anywhere near the price. It is pricey compared to other aluminum frames, but I'd say this is about the pinnacle of aluminum engineering, which makes it better than entry-level carbon. I wouldn't say no to the high-end BMC Pro Machine of course, but that would be too expensive for me.

The components were moved over from my Basso with a couple of upgrades: Campagnolo 9 speed Veloce drivetrain with Mirage Ergolevers, Truvativ Rouleur crankset (the light non-OEM version with alloy chainrings and bolts), sweet ultra light and sexy Cane Creek 200SL sidepull brakes that are worthy of a separate review, FSA-RD200 wheels, light Wellgo MG-8 pedals (dis them all you want, I like them), Thompson Elite seatpost, Kalloy stem, Salsa Short and Shallow bars, Velo saddle. I won't get into the components, since this review is of the BMC frameset.

With the good out of the way, I have a couple of nitpicks about the frameset. For this price it would have been nice to have the Easton EC-90 fork instead of the EC-70 that ships with it. Also, I would prefer a higher bottom bracket for criterium cornering, however it's still higher than some. Some people like the loud orange and white color scheme, and while I've gotten used to it I would have preferred a stealthier option like the black/silver scheme offered last year (which also happens to go with my team's colors!). The other yellow/black scheme offered this year is pretty loud too. On the other hand I have to credit BMC with doing something than the red or blue that everyone else does, and the naked carbon Pro Machine is about as sweet-looking as it gets.

In summary, if you're looking for the best aluminum race-worthy bike you can find, prefer an aggressive fit, and want a light, stiff yet not unyielding frame that will truly get you to the finish line quickly, then the BMC SL01 is worth very serious consideration.