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Pro bikes, February 25, 2009

Markus Zberg's BMC Racemaster SLX01

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Photo ©: James Huang

Stiff and steady

By James Huang

Markus Zberg's (BMC) BMC Racemaster SLX01 isn't the lightest bike in the Tour of California peloton at 7.41kg (16.2lb) but BMC says the primary goal in designing their latest road frameset wasn't shedding grams but rather maximizing stiffness. And it certainly takes a rather unique approach in doing so.

While most other companies concentrate on tweaking their carbon construction methods, BMC has reverted back to aluminum for the SLX01. Hydroformed and triple-butted 7005 aluminum is used for the seat tube, bottom bracket shell, chain stays, dropouts, and majority of the down tube. To make for a more rigid backbone, the down tube runs the full width of the bottom bracket shell, the seat tube is similarly flared at its base, and the tall chain stays are widely set.

However, BMC does use carbon for the Racemaster's top half, which includes the seat stays, T-shaped top tube, head tube, and part of the down tube in order to shave a few grams and add some rider comfort. Save for the bottom bracket shell, all of the other joints are bonded in place and the complete package is certainly distinctive, especially when wrapped in the special paint job to celebrate Zberg's Swiss national road title.

The Racemaster may be impressively rigid as a result but its weight is less inspiring: the frame alone is roughly 1400g and the matching fork adds another 520g.

Zberg's premium build package keeps the overall weight respectable, though, owing in no small part to Campagnolo's brand-new Record 11 group. In addition to being lighter than in years past and adding an extra cog out back, Campagnolo has also given its Ergopower levers a curvy new shape and unique multi-density 'Vari-Cushion' hoods for what is quite possibly the most comfortable perch in the peloton. Interesting, Zberg apparently prefers his levers positioned surprisingly far down on the bars.

Campagnolo has also revamped the front and rear derailleurs for additional rigidity - making for snappier shifts - and a new coating on the more narrowly spaced chainrings add durability. Though narrower, Campagnolo says the new chain is stronger, too.

Fitted at either end is a set of carbon deep-section tubulars conspicuously tagged with enormous DT Swiss logos and wrapped in Continental Competition Pro Limited Allround tires. The only problem is that DT Swiss doesn't actually offer deep-section carbon rims and these are, in fact, Easton carryovers from last year. DT Swiss does, however, make the superb 240s front and rear hubs as well as the Aerolite bladed stainless steel spokes.

Easton also provides the semi-anatomic EC90 SLX3 carbon bar and forged aluminum EA90 stem, while seating arrangements come courtesy of Selle Italia's ubiquitous Flite Team Edition and BMC's own Streampost 73.5 carbon seatpost, which foregoes a conventional clamp in favor of a clever internal wedge.

Rounding things our are Speedplay Zero Titanium pedals, decadent Elite Custom Carbon bottle cages, an FSA integrated headset, and a Cateye Strada Wireless computer.

Zberg's BMC Racemaster may not be ultra-light but the added weight didn't seem to hold him back much on stage 8 as he crested Millcreek Summit with a ten-man breakaway group and the frame's rigidity may have come in handy as the group jockeyed for position on the finishing circuits of Pasadena. However, it wasn't ultimately meant to be as the Swiss rider missed the decisive move and finished fourth on the day. 2010 will bring yet another Tour of California, though, and more chances at victory.

Full specification

Frame: BMC SLX01 Racemaster, 54cm
Fork: BMC Custom

Critical measurements
Rider's height: 1.79m (5' 10") ; Weight: 71kg (156lb)
Seat tube length, c-c: 520mm
Seat tube length, c-t:
Saddle height, from BB (c-t): 785mm
Tip of saddle nose to C of bars (next to stem): 613mm
C of front wheel to top of bars (next to stem): 572mm
Top tube length: 555mm
Head tube length: 155mm

Front brake: Campagnolo Record D-Skeleton
Rear brake: Campagnolo Record D-Skeleton
Brake levers: Campagnolo Record 11s Ergopower Ultra-Shift
Front derailleur: Campagnolo Record 11s
Rear derailleur: Campagnolo Record 11s
Shift levers: Campagnolo Record 11s Ergopower Ultra-Shift
Cassette: Campagnolo Record 11s, 11-25T
Chain: Campagnolo Record 11s
Crankset: Campagnolo Record 11s Ultra-Torque ST, 172.5mm, 53/39T
Bottom bracket: Campagnolo Ultra-Torque

Rims: Easton EC90 Aero carbon tubular (badged as 'DT Swiss RRC')
Front hub: DT Swiss 240s Radial
Rear hub: DT Swiss 240s
DT Swiss Aerolite
Front tyre: Continental Competition Pro Limited Allround tubular, 22mm
Rear tyre: Continental Competition Pro Limited Allround tubular, 22mm

Bars: Easton EC90 SLX3, 42cm (c-c)
Stem: Easton EA90, 130mm x -6º
Headset: FSA integrated
Tape/grip: Easton cork

Pedals: Speedplay Zero Titanium
Seat post: BMC Streampost 73.5
Saddle: Selle Italia Flite Team Edition
Bottle cages: Elite Custom Carbon
Computer: Cateye Strada Wireless

Total bike weight: 7.41kg (16.2lb)