New BMC Roadmachine gen 3: Swiss precision and a ride as sweet as Toblerone

Rouleur heads to Girona to ride the latest version of BMC's endurance platform in all three of its guises – road, gravel and electric

Think of Switzerland and you might think of Toblerone, Gruyère, Rolex, the Matterhorn, impeccably clean SBB trains that always leave on time… I predict BMC could soon join the list because the latest Roadmachine blends all the luxury, quality, precision and sharp aesthetics that the country is known for. 

The Roadmachine – the Swiss brand’s endurance platform – is now on its third generation but has received a redesign that substantially bolsters comfort and all-road capability while maintaining the same visual identity. BMC’s tagline ‘Yes, it’s Roadmachine’, sounds as though an indefinite article has been lost in translation, but it quite neatly conveys both the surprise and the familiarity as well as a self-assured certainty within the new family – which as well as the gravel ‘X’ spec also now includes an ‘AMP’ e-bike. BMC launched all three in Girona last week.

Since 2020, when the second generation Roadmachine was launched, competitor endurance bikes have upped the stakes with ever-expanding tyre clearance, plusher rider comfort via clever micro-suspension integration and improved functionality for bike packing, gravel and all-road adventures. BMC claims the new Roadmachine family represents the most capable and functional endurance bikes on the market. So what have they done exactly?

BMC Roadmachine non-driveside

Tyre clearance increases to 40mm up from the 33mm of the previous version, but only adds 1-3mm to the wheelbase (depending on size) in order to keep the bike as responsive as possible. Comfort – or vertical compliance – has increased with the seatpost supplying around 2cm of travel without resorting to a discrete suspension system thanks to a redesigned seat tube/top tube/seatstay junction that rotates and deflects under load. And the Roadmachine now has down tube storage and an integrated StVZO certified rear light.

Geometry wise, there’s 1cm more stack height and a slightly shortened reach (by 2mm in the size 56), with the geometry progressing in the same linear way from size to size as before. Plus a new ICS Carbon Evo integrated cockpit for the top-line Roadmachine 01 range, mounts for full fenders/mudguards for the second-tier Roadmachine range and a chain catcher for them all

BMC’s head of R&D Stefan Christ was in Girona at the launch to outline how the design of the bike evolved, was shaped and executed. “The feedback that we got from the first generation Roadmachine was that it was kind of sluggish, not dynamic, so this was what we wanted to improve from first to second generations. What we call power transfer is mainly torsional and lateral stiffness in the rear triangle, and there’s no harm for any bike if this is as high as it can be. The second generation bike was already very strong in this area – it was very close to an SLR. But the big point to address for generation three was how to improve comfort.”

The comfort factor

BMC was one of the first brands to launch a big-tyred endurance bike – the radical BMC Granfondo in 2013 – and Christ says this bike is still used as a reference point. “For the second gen, if ridden in a road setup with aero wheels and 26 or 28mm tyres it was not as comfortable any more as the Granfondo back in the day. So we wanted to combine the power transfer of gen two with the compliance of the Granfondo. So that’s why we brought back some elements.”

Christ and his team specifically focused on the ‘node’ at the seat tube, engineering around 2cm of travel into the seatpost mostly via deflection of the seat tube thanks to a kink in the seastays, as deployed originally with the Granfondo. “Even in this aluminium bike we had a kink and for it was still the best aluminium frame we’d ever done. So we recycled an old recipe and it’s working very well. It’s pure frame architecture you could call it, using shapes. If you have a beam under compression that’s already pre-kinked it makes it much easier to compress – like a curved fork blade.” The gen three’s bigger rear-wheel cutout not only has the advantage of keeping chainstays short but also a thinner seat tube can deflect more easily, Christ explains. “Moving from 412 rear-centre to 415mm – we have given 7mm more tyre clearance even though rear centre only increases 3mm. That’s quite an achievement.”

BMC Roadmachine rear light

Technically the biggest challenge, however, was to include down tube storage, says Christ. “To maintain torsional stiffness of the down tube while having a big opening in it. In terms of carbon layup, you can always just add material, but you can see the frame weight hasn’t changed.” Frame weight is a claimed 963g for a Roadmachine 01 frame, painted, using BMC’s highest-level Impec carbon, while the lower-tier Roadmachines use a slightly heavier carbon that BMC says maintains the ride feel for a very small weight penalty.

But why design down tube storage if it’s so difficult? It emerged that Christ loves seatpacks, though he admitted himself that they get wet, muddy and lose their looks very quickly. So the BMC team challenged him to design a way to eliminate them. “Having this storage inside the down tube it’s dirt sealed, the pouch that you keep the tools in stays dry and it’s an advantage because you can always carry what you need with you.” The trapdoor is underneath – and part of – the bottle cage. A 180° turn of a dial releases it. The Roadmachine and Roadmachine X (but not the top-tier Roadmachine 01) have full fender/mudguard mounts and all get chain catchers.

Aero isn't everything

BMC seems to have thought of everything, but one area where it perhaps surprisingly doesn’t include any data, however, is aerodynamics. “That doesn’t mean we’re not looking at it, but it’s clearly not the focus of this bike,” answers Christ. “First of all, the average speed at which endurance bikes are ridden is slower than a race bike. Secondly it’s the comfort, power transfer and confidence that are more important. As I mentioned for every new bike we have a set of learnings we can use from our competition bikes the Teammachine R, the Speedmachine triathlon bike and also the new SLR. The main areas where those were applied on the Roadmachine were the head tube and down tube, which are the biggest contributors to aerodynamic drag. If we look at the bike only as a system that creates drag without the rider, we know for instance that the front wheel is one third of the total drag. So the elements we influence whether it’s fork or frame, are getting even smaller when you look at the bigger tyred bikes. In the overall gravel bike system the rider is 80% of the drag and the bike is 20%. In that 20%, what you can influence with the frame structure is somewhere within the 7% area, which makes it difficult to justify putting a high level of effort into those things. Gravel racing at least is still happening at quite high speeds – between 35 and 40kph, but for the majority of consumers the aerodynamics of the frame and fork are not in the focus. It’s much more important to be confident on the bike, to have a good position, to work on your riding equipment.

"We always have the approach that we look at four things together. Stiffness and weight are the historical ones. Twenty years ago all bikes were optimised for those two. Then comfort was coming on top of that and now the fourth pillar is aerodynamics. No matter which bike we do we balance between those four pillars. Our Teammachine SLR has been a bike where we try not to prioritise any of them to get as high as possible for all of them, which gives a very homogenous product. Then depending on application, for Roadmachine it was clearly the power transfer, which is referring to stiffness, and then comfort, those were higher rated. You might think you have to compromise on the others, but I would say weight and aerodynamics are still good.”

BMC Roadmachine: first ride

Most bike brands launch their new bikes in exotic locations with warm weather and smooth roads, and Girona – a long-time favourite training destination of pro teams for these exact reasons – ticks all those boxes. Yes, it’s slightly cheating because the glorious riding around Girona with the spectacular snow-capped Pyrenees rising in the distance would be enjoyable on any bike no matter how cheap and nasty, but on the other hand riding up a Swiss mountain in a blizzard – still a possibility at the beginning of April – would be a nightmare even on the most beautiful and expensive machine.

BMC lined up a total 130km of riding split between the three versions of the Roadmachine. The first and longest leg was on the Roadmachine 01 TWO, which is the second model down in the range and is built with Shimano Dura-Ace and DT Swiss ERC 1100 wheels and weighs 7.1kg. BMC is now partnering with Canadian power meter brand 4iiii and the bike was fitted with 4iiii's new flagship Precision 3+ Pro dual-sided unit, which integrates very neatly with the Dura-Ace chainset. These also include Apple's Find My technology, meaning you can track your bike (or power meter) with an Apple device. The Teammachine 01 R and Teammachine SLR 01 will also come with OEM 4iiii power meters and the brand promises more high-end BMC bikes will come factory fitted with 4iiii in the future.

Next was the gravel Roadmachine 01 X, the top bike of three in the gravel range with SRAM Force and CRD-321 wheels and finally for the run back into Girona, the Roadmachine AMP. Even with an electronically assisted finish (up to 25kph only, remember) it was enough to give us an indication of what the new platform is really like.

Although I’ve been told before and by other brands that endurance bikes are the ones all of us non-pro road racers really should be riding, I’ve never quite agreed with that and neither do my bike fit numbers. But although I wasn’t able to take exact measurements of the Roadmachine 01 that was set up for me, I didn’t feel as upright as I did with the Canyon Endurace CFR or the Specialized Roubaix Expert and so this time I’m not going to caveat the geometry with “watch out for the shorter reach and higher stack” or similar. It wasn’t by any means aggressive, but it didn’t feel alien. The numbers confirm that the stack/reach ratio of the size 56 Roadmachine is 1.53 compared with the 1.56 of the Endurace and 1.55 of the Roubaix (a number which doesn’t include the stack-increasing Future Shock front suspension).

Not only is the position slightly racier but so is the ride. The Canyon’s VCLS seatpost gives it a bounce at the rear while the Roubaix’s Future Shock acts as front suspension, but the BMC relies solely on carbon frame architecture – the way the seat tube and seatpost can deflect – and the 30mm Vittoria Corsa NEXT tyres it comes with. This gives it for me a purer ‘road bike’ feel. The ride quality is incredibly smooth but keeps the directness – the power transfer – that head of R&D Stefan Christ was at pains to preserve.

We didn’t have the roughest roads to fully test the comfort, but riding the gravel spec (the same frame but with BMC’s MTT suspension stem and gravel tyres) the rider behind me said he could see the seatpost moving with the impacts. The smooth roads from Girona to the beautiful Bay of Roses didn’t trouble it, but there were rolling roads with steepening drags and twisty bends on the other side to be taken at speed, and an all-out town sign sprint for Sant Pere Pescador that BMC’s head of marketing was intent on bagging for himself. In every situation the Roadmachine was fast, responsive yet confidence inspiring and super fun. It’s a bike I would certainly be happy to ride in every situation. There’s no reminder that this is an endurance bike.

BMC Roadmachine X against the sea

As far as the gravel-spec Roadmachine X is concerned, with the 34mm rubber we rode it was slightly under-tyred for some of the ambitiously rocky sections that included a dry river bed and the steep descent off Puig Segalar. But it’s exactly the same frame as the roadgoing Roadmachine with just the MTT suspension stem to absorb front-wheel impacts, and it’s impressive given that BMC told us the bike is aimed mostly at light gravel or towpaths. The point is that you could own the bike and swap the wheels depending on the terrain.

I’d love to spend longer on a Roadmachine on my own roads to see how it compared directly against other bikes but after the first ride I can say with some certainty that this is a fast, fun, versatile and capable bike that has the looks too. Move over Toblerone, there’s a new iconic Swiss product in town. 

All the prices and details are available at BMC's website.

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