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We unabashedly fill the pages of PELOTON with the best gear we can find, regardless of price, which usually puts us at the sharp end of four figures. But that ethos can work both ways—if it’s a great bike, and price doesn’t matter, then we can put inexpensive bikes in our pages too. Admittedly, that happens pretty infrequently, but it’s happening now, right here; read on about the BMC Teammachine ALR Disc One.
This Article originally appeared in issue 81, get your copy here
Most of us know the Teammachine name from the SLR01, the carbon wonder bike that’s won just about every race there is to win. The Teammachine ALR Disc One is born from the same ideals, and is even considered part of BMC’s Altitude series—bikes designed to race and climb with the best—but this one is made of alloy and costs about as much as the SLR01’s rear wheel. Seriously!
The first thing we noticed about the ALR01 is how well its lines echo the carbon SLR01. While carbon and alloy have vastly different properties, the aesthetic similarities are all about retaining familial properties, not necessarily performance. But if an ALR in matte black can be mistaken for a $10,000 carbon bike, is that a bad thing? It’s certainly good looking. BMC uses triple-butted, hydroformed tubing with smooth welds to achieve the look and performance it wants. In fact, BMC claims the ALR equals the SLR01 in bottom-bracket stiffness, while almost equaling the SLR01’s head-tube-stiffness numbers. But though the stiffness will be comparable, the stiffness-to-weight ratio will not be, and that is the primary driver of a bike’s liveliness. A 54cm ALR frame weighs north of 1,200 grams, a pound more than its carbon inspiration.
Alloy has a reputation for stiffness, which the ALR fulfills, but it also has a reputation for a harsh ride, and the ALR does not repeat that pattern. Using size-specific tube butting and its Tuned Compliance Concept designs, BMC has endeavored to give the ALR very un-alloy-like compliance. The fork is full carbon with slim blades to smooth things out up front, while the seat post is a custom BMC carbon “D” shape to provide significant in-the-saddle compliance. Look at other alloy bikes in this price range and you’ll find most brands cheap out on the seat post, driving ride quality down along with the price.
While the ALR Disc One possesses slightly more stack and reach than an SLR01 it’s no laid-back endurance bike. It shares the same, short 410mm stays with the SLR01 Disc. It’s not a perfect comparison, because the SLR01 comes in six sizes and the ALR only five. We’d like to see BMC add a true 56cm to the ALR line-up, as the gap between 54cm and 57cm’s is quite large. We’d recommend true 56cm riders to size down to the 54cm if they want an aggressive, raceinspired position.
The build is full Shimano 105 with hydraulic braking and an entry-level alloy stem and bar and no-name saddle. It comes with compact gearing and an 11–32 cassette, which most riders not getting paid to ride will appreciate. All of this is quality, if workmanlike stuff, but the one place where the entry-level build really hurts this bike is the wheels. The Shimano RS170 wheels are heavy, brutally heavy, at 2,100 grams. They are well made and play nicely with wide tires, but they’re more than a pound heavier than a decent set of alloy clinchers and the weight is all in the wrong place: the rim. But the $2,200 price tag of this bike may be unachievable with a different set. Of course, these choices add up on the scale. Our 57cm test bike weighed 9.25 kilograms (20.4 pounds), and that’s without pedals and cages.
This frameset is special, one of the best alloy bikes we’ve ever ridden, but it is in a cage of its own making, weighed down by its entry-level group and leaden wheels. Rolling along on the flats, it is smooth and predictable, handling even rough tarmac with a refinement we associate with good carbon, not entry-level alloy. Its angles and torsional stiffness make it a magnificent descender, digging into technical corners with exceptional confidence, handling anything thrown at it with poise and balance. The carbon fork and seat post are tuned to work in perfect harmony with the triple-butted alloy frame. Even high-wattage efforts from a charging peloton are greeted with a pleasing feel at the pedals thanks to the stiff bottom bracket.
That feeling evaporates when the bike goes uphill, or accelerates from slow speed. No magical alloy engineering can eliminate the way that 2,100-gram wheels feel. It is not lively. But here’s the thing—at just $2,200, the ALR Disc One frameset is more than worthy as an upgradeable platform. Put a set of 1,500-gram carbon clinchers on it and you’ll unleash the magic inherent in this frameset. Continue the upgrading and weight shaving and you’ll end up with a bike that will be within a hair’s breadth of the SLR01 for a fraction of the price.
9.25kg (20.4lbs) 57cm w/o pedals or cages Build: Shimano 105 hydraulic disc group, BMC RSM01 stem, BMC RAB 03 bars, SLR02 “D” Carbon seat post with VL-1489, Shimano RS-170 wheels and Vittoria Zaffiro Pro Slick tires