BMC recently released the new Teammachine R. This redesign of the firm’s day-to-day racer is slippery enough to have dispatched the firm’s Timemachine aero bike and will likely become the go-to bike for BMC-sponsored riders. Its profile has been created in collaboration with the aerodynamics and composite experts at Red Bull Advanced Technologies (RBAT), the people behind Red Bull Racing’s Grand Prix-winning cars.
Their design brief included improving the efficiency of BMC’s most aerodynamic road bike while remaining within 50g of its dedicated climber, the SLR. Teased at the Critérium du Dauphiné and finally released to the public at Il Lombardia, we spent a couple of hundred kilometres aboard to bring you our first impressions.
What’s it for?
The Teammachine R has been created from the ground up for racing. This means it sits just above the UCI’s weight limit of 6.8kg while grabbing for every aerodynamic advantage possible. To achieve this, BMC has collaborated with the engineers at RBAT on a frame that pushes to the limits of what’s permissible under the current rules for road bike design. This approach can be seen in areas including the colossal headtube junction, the extremely deep bottom bracket, and numerous fairing-esque spoilers that direct airflow over the bike.
The Teammachine R’s fork is just as striking. Called the Halo in a nod to its F1 heritage, it’s incredibly wide to allow air to pass between it and the wheel with minimal disturbance. It and the frame maintain some of the boxy and truncated profiles of former BMC bikes. However, their shapes are enough of a departure from previous designs that you’d need an informed eye to have identified the Teammachine R as a BMC before it was announced as such.
Nevertheless, some tech carries over. In keeping with BMC’s other bikes, the Teammachine R’s Aerocore cages are proprietary and help integrate your bottles into the frame efficiently. The bars are narrow, and the wheels are deep. It’s part of an all-in approach that considers not just the bike but also the rider and the things they need to carry with them.
In killing off the old Timemachine aero bike, the Teammachine R is helping BMC slim down its range. This process, where brands’ go-to models become more aerodynamic and bump off an adjacent sibling, is well established. Specialized’s Venge-negating redesign of the Tarmac is perhaps the prime example of the trend.
Yet BMC isn’t keen on the ‘aero bike’ label swapping from the outgoing Timemachine to the new Teammachine R. This is unsurprising, as it tends to conjure up the idea of bikes that are fast but often uncomfortable and a bit of a handful. So, if the Teammachine R isn’t an aero bike, what is it?
Let’s start with where the Teammachine R is least strong. It goes uphill acceptably, thanks to a moderate weight of around 7kg. However, its deep wheels, slim bars, and narrow cassette mean this isn’t its forte. Climbing out of the saddle can feel a little cramped, while the bike’s extended side-on profile also means it’s prone to getting buffeted when whipping around corners in blustery conditions.
Where the Teammachine R excels is on the flat, or even better, wide-open descents. The effects of its time in the wind tunnel are most noticeable when chasing people down. The faster you go, the quicker the Teammachine R closes in. In keeping with the laws of physics, I assume this is because drag increases exponentially with speed. It’s in these moments that you’re most aware of the benefits the bike provides you.
BMC claim the Teammachine R and its rider will be 3.5% more aerodynamic when compared to the Teammachine SLR. It should also be 1.9% faster than the now soon-to-be-departed Timemachine. Given that these figures are for rider and bike, and that the bike only makes up around 20% of overall drag, this is a significant improvement. This 3.5% figure apparently translates to a 1.5kph gain when the rider and bike are plonked into a wind tunnel at 45kph.
The Teammachine R definitely feels quick on the road. It’s a bike that asks you to get onto the drops or tuck yourself in and hammer away, which is never harmful to your average speed. Plus, above a certain velocity, the freewheel and airflow over the bike combine to make a sound like an idling jet engine, which really reinforces the idea of going fast.
BMC makes much of the bike’s rider feel, having borrowed the term from its collaborators at RBAT. The idea of how connected the user feels to their machine and the road below it is as applicable in motorsport as cycling. If I had to characterise the Teammachine R, I’d say it’s a bike that keeps you alert.
Geometry has primarily been carried over from previous BMC racers. Given their long service in the peloton, it’s unsurprising that the handling is pretty engaged. Let your attention drift, and you may end up in trouble. However, you’ll be covered if you want to weave through the bunch or reappraise your trajectory while swinging around a corner. It’s very much a machine ready to make the best of any opportunities that come its way.
The oversized frame is stout and unyielding. Given its massively deep bottom bracket and colossal headtube, you’d expect as much. Yet, to complete cycling PR’s favourite couplet, there’s at least a degree of vertical compliance on offer, too. This may come from the frame’s flat profile tubes or skinny dropped seatstays. Alternatively, it could be down to the fulsome 28mm stock tyres, which can be swapped for models up to 30mm if you wish. It certainly won’t be down to the wheels, which are extremely deep and aggressive models from DT.
Given the stiffness on offer everywhere else, the Teammachine R’s aero-looking bar is a bit of an outlier. Despite my puny arms, I could still elicit a twang from the drops. It’d be interesting to know how the pros get on with it. So far, none of the riders at BMC’s Tudor Pro cycling or AG2R Citroën teams seem to have swapped the cockpit, so assumedly, they reckon it’s okay.
This is just as well as the one-piece cockpit on the Teammachine R plays a big part in determining its character while also dictating the rider’s positioning. Although you’ll find a comprehensive range of different stem lengths, the dimensions of the ICS Carbon Aero bar are fixed across all frame sizes. Their narrow top is just 36cm across, fitting the trend for narrow bars and encouraging users to tuck themselves into an aerodynamically efficient shape.
This design suited me perfectly as a narrow-shouldered rider who prefers dinky bars. Those who are stockier will also likely see a significant aerodynamic improvement but may find it less enjoyable with regard to handling. However, given the focus of the Teammachine R is going fast, it’s a sacrifice they’d be wise to make.
Sitting in contrast to the bar’s tops are the much broader drops. These sit 42cm apart and are shallow and easy to get a hold of. This combo of narrow upper and wide bottom ensures aero-efficiency is maintained up top while imparting confident cornering while covering the brakes or driving from the drops.
Parts and pricing
I won’t pay too much attention to the bike’s pricing. Unsurprisingly, it’s super-premium, even when pitted against other top-flight bikes. Instead, I’ll work on the assumption that if you’re spending more than €10,000 on a bike, it’s a false economy to try and save a few thousand and get anything other than the exact bike you want.
Unlike other brands who offer their designs in economised versions with modified layups and materials, all Teammachine R bikes use the same high-end frame. This means you’ll always get a full-fat experience, although you’ll have to pay for it in full.
With four models available, LTD, ONE, TWO, and THREE, you get a pick of top-end groupsets from SRAM and Shimano. All include some form of a power meter. The DT wheels on the top two models come in at 62mm deep. Spend a tad less, and you’ll find 50mm deep rims on the two BMC-branded alternatives found on the slightly cheaper builds. The tyres come from Pirelli, the saddle from Selle Italia, and the seatpost is proprietary and comes in various offsets. It’s all good stuff.
Do you need one?
If BMC has spent the last few years stripping weight and adding stiffness to the Teammachine R’s frame, I’ve managed rather the opposite. This raises the question, how useful is this type of bike for riders who are unlikely to be getting a pro team call-up in the near future?
The varied qualities of the Teammachine mean it’s almost certainly going to become the first choice of BMC’s sponsored athletes. The lighter and more forgiving SLR remains for mountains, but I reckon the R might also get used for cobbled Classics, even if it is less forgiving and offers less clearance.
So, should consumers interested in going fast automatically opt for the Teammachine R?
In the end, it depends on what you want. There are plenty of super-bike-esque bicycles that make concessions to flatter the average user. However, the BMC doesn’t soft-pedal its abilities. Its user-friendliness isn’t bad. It’s just not a prime concern. Yet, when you spend serious money, I think you want something a bit extreme in return. The BMC Teamamchine R is extreme. Extremely fast, extremely fun, and extremely expensive.
It’s also likely among the fastest bikes you can pick for a given day’s riding. There may be bikes that are more forgiving or whose handling demands less attention, but only some make such a concerted effort to translate all of your efforts into speed. At the same time, the Teammachine R’s stack and reach aren’t unmanageable for people with moderate flexibility. And while it’s stiff, it’s not skull-rattelingly so.
By picking the Teammachine R, you’ll lose out on a few things. None are absolute deal breakers. You could go for greater comfort, lower weight, a more normal cockpit, or easier serviceability. You could, no doubt, also save yourself a fair bit of cash by looking elsewhere.
There were times on our spin around the course at Il Lombardia when we would have swapped the Teammachine R for another bike. Grinding up the 20% plus slopes of the Muro di Sormano was one such moment. But there weren’t many. When riding with a group, soloing to find the next one, or rolling up and over the smaller climbs, the hardships it puts you to are always rewarded with the maximum amount of forward momentum.
The R in the name might be for racing, but it’s still a very fast bike, even if you don’t have a number on your back. The BMC Teammachine R is far from cheap, but we reckon there will be plenty of riders capable of extracting value from the kind of all-round fast it offers.
Cover photo courtesy of BMC