We test BMC’s distinctive-looking Racemachine RM01 Ultegra road bike
BMC Racemachine RM01 Ultegra
It’s been around for a couple of years but rolling updates mean BMC’s distinctive-looking and efficiently smooth-riding Swiss speedster deserves a look for more subtle, long-haul riders.
Frame and fork
It seems the Swiss love geometric frames as much as triangular chocolate, as the Racemachine gets several different shelved squares, some rectangles and even an octagonal down tube in its shape-sorting tube selection. The key thing to notice, though, is the way the seat and top tubes taper from a big press-fit bottom bracket shell and tapered head tube to meet at a relatively skinny junction. A little reinforcing strut across the ‘armpit’ helps compensate for the fact that the seatstays are dropped right down, way below the normal joining point.
The legs of the full-carbon fork slim down suddenly below the wheel line, reducing weight to just 360g and softening the ride. Frame weight is reasonable too, at just over a kilo including trimmings, with external gear cabling helping to save a few more grams and contributing to an all-in weight of 7.47kg for our 55cm test bike.
Shimano’s smoothly solid Ultegra suite provides the braking and driving element of this particular RM01. Add DT Swiss’s very stiff and tubeless ready, if not particularly light, R1650 wheels, and it’s fair value for such a distinctive frame. The Fizik saddle is a definite bonus for conventional (non tri-bar) riding but the square seat tube means BMC’s matching square-section carbon seatpost is the only option. It’s the Easton cockpit that’s the first thing you’ll notice about the BMC in terms of ride feel, however.
In true Continental pro race style, BMC has given even the 55cm-framed model a long 120mm stem and compounded this with surprisingly narrow 390mm bars. The result was a real shock when we jumped off other bikes. The lack of bar leverage makes steering much more about leaning than turning, and the long stem gives a naturally stubborn straight-line feel to an already steady-handling frame. It almost feels like you’re riding with a joystick rather than a set of bars.
The narrow shoulder stance felt cramped for a lot of our pool-pounding multi-sport testers too. On the plus side, it promotes a naturally aerodynamic stance and you’ll either get used to the steering over time or just decide to switch the cockpit.
Even with a tapered steerer, the skinny-legged fork makes the front end feel vague in corners and twangy under braking compared to the short, taut back end. Once you’re used to the approximate rather than accurate character, though, the inherent flex helps keep the softer-compound Mavic front tyre securely planted on rough road surfaces.
Despite the chunky-cut down tube and chainstays on the buttressed frame, the Racemachine also transmits less road buzz and pothole bite than most bikes. This made scruffy back roads perfectly bearable and smoother surfaces positively blissful, to the point where we felt like we’d been transported to the perfect Tarmac playground of the BMC’s Swiss homeland.
There’s potential to make the Racemachine even smoother by swapping the stiff DT wheels for a set of fat-rimmed carbon hoops. We wouldn’t go too deep, though, as the cockpit and fork lack the muscle to control a really deep rim in gusty conditions. Its smoothness does make the BMC a natural home for some short tri-bars, though.
Even with the stock wheels and bars, it’s an extremely efficient and fast cruising machine. There’s nothing outwardly aero about the frame – in fact, the broad, flat-faced down tube is the opposite of drag-friendly – but the RM01 consistently tapped out a higher than normal speed on flatter and rolling terrain. Add the smooth ride feel, and the further we rode the BMC, the more we liked it, making it a good choice if you’re more concerned about just finishing a long-course event than where you finish in the results.
While it’s definitely soft rather than sharp, there’s still a useful sense of purpose to pedalling strokes transmitted through the deep chainstays, oversize bottom bracket, compact rear triangle and big, boxy frame sections. However, big acceleration efforts were never as convincingly rewarded as on some of its rivals.
The RM01 felt best when spun rather than stomped up to speed, so we adapted our approach to climbs to more of a sustained assault rather than a snap attack to reflect that. Luckily it’s lithe and responsive enough that the relatively small 12- to 25-tooth rear cassette only left us grunting on really steep stuff.
+ Smooth, floated ride for extra traction and long-distance comfort
+ Lightweight enough for an easy, efficient spin on the flat or climbs
– Narrow cockpit and flexy fork take some getting used to
– Doesn’t kick as hard as the punchiest bikes at this price when things heat up