BMC’s blue chip speed machine promises much – but does it deliver? Andrew Jackson takes it for a spin
In all sports, there are certain products or pieces of kit for which reputation precedes them. The BMC TM01 falls firmly into that category. For someone who considers themselves a part-time cyclist and full time-triathlete, who has followed the Raelert brothers, Cadel Evans and the wider BMC Racing Team, getting aboard this machine is definitely something to look forward to.
Andreas Raelert rode the TM01 to victory at the 2011 edition of Challenge Roth – the flagship event for Challenge Series racing, a bucket-list event for professionals and a lightening-quick course that stirs the time-triallist’s senses. He didn’t just win, either – he set an Iron-distance record time of 7:41:33, which included a bike split of 4:11:43. This bike can shift (with the right pilot, of course)!
As for Evans, he might be nudging past his very best these days, but in 2011 when he claimed overall victory at the Tour de France, he dominated the final time-trial aboard his TM01, only missing out on the stage victory by seven seconds to three-time TT world champion Tony Martin.
No pressure, then, for the eager amateur climbing aboard, eh? This is an aggressive machine clearly built for speed. My usual bike is a Cervelo P3 – no slouch, either – and though not a direct competitor to the BMC, that platform gives a good perspective from which to assess the TM01.
Look at the frame from any angle and you will notice clean lines and a focus on aerodynamics. This is no more noticeable than from front-on. BMC calls its approach to aerodynamics ‘subA’, which refers to the maximisation of the aerodynamics by minimising the frontal area of the bike. Sounds simple enough, but they’ve done this exceptionally well.
Many top-end bike manufacturers, in order to generate stiffness and aerodynamic qualities, offer bulging frames that then have to be further enhanced through R&D to stop them turning into a cross-wind handling nightmare. The BMC, however, utilises a truncated profile instead of the classic teardrop throughout. This not only helps to manage turbulence, but also saves on weight and – as BMC claims – increases stiffness. However, much of the tubing features a 3:1 length-to-width ratio intended to appease the UCI’s road-sanctioned approval processes.
The aerodynamics are further enhanced by the potential for ‘extreme’ positions during set-up. BMC and its p2p system (position to perform) use a tri-angle concept, allowing the stem to be adjusted in up to 30 different ways. These spacers and triangular forms allow both positive and negative degrees of stem height to be achieved while having a variety of length options.
Initially the setup, slammed to its lowest position, was too aggressive for my size and, I admit, lack of flexibility, but utilising the p2p options – and, frankly, a ridiculous amount of scope for saddle alteration – I was able to get it feeling pretty much bang-on. You must remember, though, that you’re playing around with a ‘superbike’, and therefore it’s not as simple as it may seem at first; I’d strongly recommend having an expert set up and tune it for you. With 25mm of fore and aft adjustment in the saddle position, you can really mess with extremes at either end.
Brake adjustments, for example, are a more complicated job than traditional seat stay mounted assemblies, but this is because they are set underneath the chainstays, tucked tight to the bottom bracket area in an effort to slice air turbulence away whenever possible. The feel at the lever, however, is one area that let me down – but if we’re honest, very few TT bikes excel in this department. The usual combination of basic construction levers, cable bends and calipers with a prioritised design around fitting a space, rather than based on performance measures, means there is always room for improvement.
The BMC’s aesthetics may appear to steer towards straight-line, high-speed efforts, but a closer look at the geometry informs us otherwise. There’s a reasonable range of 10mm that adjusts the effective wheelbase, and while the head tube is a full degree steeper than my Cervelo, once up to cruising speed, the entire ensemble is inspiringly stable.
Yes, there’s a limit to its turning circle, thanks to the frame stoppers – a considered design element to prevent the bars from damaging the top tube in case of a fall – but this never limited cornering, even when slinging it around tight switch-back bends. In addition, the supplied Shimano RS11 wheelset paired to 25mm Continental Ultra Sports ensures a comfortable and, more importantly, reliable choice for training. At this time of year, with weather often unkind to outdoor training, the larger bag tyres are perfect. With a longer test period, I would change the Arione Tri2 saddle to a more favoured option like, for example, my own Adamo Prologue.
One aspect that can’t be overlooked is the group set. I suspect if you’re buying a TM01, the chance you’ll add Shimano Di2 is quite high. While you’re at it, you’ll probably want to throw in, say, some Zipp 808s for racing. Unfortunately, for the purpose of this test, Di2 compatibility would be taken on face value, with this particular package fitted with mechanical Ultegra. It proved a worthy workhorse and swiftly moved up and down the cassette – something that is difficult to achieve with internal-routed cables. This, in turn, allowed me to focus on the job of going faster on the flat and when climbing out of the saddle.
I’m a fan of going up, which obviously isn’t always a huge concern over flat-course bike legs, and although the BMC doesn’t lend itself perfectly to leaping up the side of a mountain, its nimble handling does. There’s a certain amount of positional changes one needs to make when climbing on a TT bike, but the TM01 was more than manageable for short-standing efforts.
The TM01 delivers on the expectations its reputation affords. There’s really no excuse if your split times don’t improve on this machine – or your time trials, if that’s your thing, as it has that added bonus of being fully UCI legal. That comes at a cost, of course, and for the outlay you’ll need to be racing semi-seriously to get value for money. But you get what you pay for, and for my money, it’s worth every cent.