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
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