First Ride: BMC’s updated Roadmachine
SOLOTHURN, Switzerland (VN) — Do endurance bikes really even exist anymore? I rode BMC’s updated Roadmachine and I’m convinced more than ever that the endurance category has completed its Marvel-esque morph from normal guy on the street into superhero. I’ll say it clearly here: Endurance bikes are dead. Now we simply have comfortable all-around bikes.
The Roadmachine proves it.
See those dropped seatstays? BMC says it was the first company to do that, giving its frames a distinct look and an excellent balance of compliance and stiffness. Now you see that design on bikes throughout the industry, across categories. BMC, in other words, set a trend.
In the same spirit of that trendsetting, BMC launched its GranFondo in 2013 to offer that same balance to the endurance bike crowd. From the bones of the GranFondo came the Roadmachine in 2017, a sleeker, more aggressive version of the endurance concept.
Now we have the newest Roadmachine, which takes the integration, aggressive endurance geometry, and comfort touches and packages it with tools to tackle a wider range of terrain.
But BMC is also quick to note that it avoided marketing this bike with images of cobbles. Who rides cobbles regularly, outside of Belgium? Not many folks. But a lot of us have turned our attention to gravel roads that connect our favorite tarmac, and while not all of us race, we still like to go fast. Oh, and we’re not really into the whole suffering needlessly thing, so comfort is important.
But wait a minute: At first glance, it looks almost identical to the last Roadmachine. And it’s true, this one shares lots of design features with its predecessor, like BMC’s Integrated Cockpit System (ICS) that hides all of the cables completely.
And you’ll still get BMC’s Tuned Compliance Concept (TCC), but it has also undergone a facelift. The asymmetric fork legs have been slimmed down, the seat tube has a cutout to help with compliance by allowing more flex, the chainstays are tapered, the seatstays are flattened to help with compliance as well, and the seat stays have also been lowered by about 1cm to the seat tube junction. And finally, the D-shaped seatpost has been redesigned.
The Roadmachine gets an asymmetric fork for the first time. This design addresses braking forces and weight: The fork is reinforced on the disc side by optimizing the shape of the fork blade to increase strength while keeping weight low. The non-disc side encounters fewer forces, so it is designed with less reinforcement, again to keep weight low. Now all of BMC’s performance road bikes have asymmetric forks.
The geometry has changed too. The stack and reach for each size has changed, mostly on the three largest sizes (56cm, 58cm, and 61cm), which all get a higher stack. The distance between the top and bottom headset bearings get elongated, which BMC says should stiffen the front end. This addresses a complaint from riders of the previous Roadmachine, who noted some flex that could lead to some vague steering feeling. BMC says it has upped the torsional stiffness here by 20%.
On top of that, BMC now offers several stem options. 0-degree stems come in 55mm, 70mm, 80mm, 90mm, and 100mm options. Negative rise stems range from 90-130mm. This, according to BMC, doubles the fitting range on any given frame size.
By making subtle geometry changes, BMC says that torsional stiffness remains fairly consistent across the size range. Yet the company also notes that it has upped the compliance over the previous Roadmachine by a whopping 25%.
And the Roadmachine now fits up to a 33mm tire, which also helps with compliance, as well as stability on less than stellar roads. It’s also great for reducing rolling resistance.
It wouldn’t be a BMC without some clever details, too. There’s an integrated chain catcher, for example, as well as top tube mounts to accommodate top tube bags. (BMC says it has designed its own bag and will release it later in the year, but the mounts will work with any bag designed for top tube placement).
Pricing starts at just under $3,000 for a Roadmachine 02, which will feature three builds. The Roadmachine 01 features four builds, as well as a module that includes the frame and all integrated components like the seatpost and stem.
Switzerland rolled out its foulest weather for our test ride that started in Solothurn and went upward — in a hurry — from there. It rained from start to finish, and the temperature hovered somewhere around 50 degrees. Yet this still ended up being a phenomenal ride.
That’s due in large part to the Roadmachine. It’s an inspiring ride, given the fact that it’s an endurance bike. It in no way feels like an endurance bike, aside from superb compliance. Otherwise, it feels a lot like a race bike, because after all, it really is.
I was shocked at how well it damps rear end vibration. The seatpost has a bit of bounce to it, but you never feel like you’re sitting on a pogo stick. If course, the super wide tires and wheels help immensely with smoothing out road chatter, so it’s hard to tell how much of the silky road feel was due to the frame and how much was due to the wheels and tires. Either way, this bike feels like it floats just a few millimeters above the pavement.
It wasn’t long ago we were bemoaning too-long head tubes, too-sloped top tubes, too-bouncy rear ends, and too-dorky aesthetics. All of that is gone with the Roadmachine. It’s solid and stable out of the saddle whether you’re climbing or sprinting, but when you sit down you get enough comfort to tackle frost-heaved roads on your training ride.
So it’s easy to forget you’re on an endurance bike at all. It’s more accurately an all-around bike that happens to be pretty darn comfortable. You might not have been able to say the same thing about the previous version of the Roadmachine, which, BMC admits, had some lateral flex in the head tube. That led to steering vagueness. That’s gone in the new Roadmachine.
I was perhaps more sheepish on the descents than I would be on a dry day, but it was still very clear that the Roadmachine handles incredibly well. It’s not ultra-responsive like a purebred race bike, but it’s not a wide carver, either. It sits comfortably between the two; in other words, it feels completely natural.
BMC really excels at details. Though I still find those stem bolts that mount behind the face plate problematic (you have to get your Allen key in the space between your stem and the head tube), the ICS looks amazing and keeps the front end clean.
One nitpick, though: The integrated computer mount doesn’t currently accommodate Wahoo computers. If you’re using a computer that doesn’t play nice with a Garmin-style mount, you’ll have to get creative mounting your computer elsewhere.
More importantly, you don’t feel any resistance from the internally routed cables. That’s because the steerer is actually flat on the sides, which means the cables have room to sit between the steerer and the inside of the head tube without any noticeable binding or friction.
After 40-plus miles splashing through puddles, it was clear the Roadmachine fits perfectly into a growing list of bikes that transcend categorization. That’s to the rider’s benefit: The Roadmachine climbs well, descends well, feels explosive out of the saddle, and comfortable in the saddle.
Whenever a company announces we’ll be riding a new endurance bike, I groan internally. But the Roadmachine got me excited about what endurance bikes can and should be. I want to get more rides on it — especially on some big climbs — before I develop my final verdict, but BMC has a very strong bike here, one that wisely blurs category lines.
The bigger question is whether the RoadMachine has blurred the line so much that it has essentially become the TeamMachine. I intend to ride both bikes back to back to find out.