One of the best things about working at Element Cycles is getting to play with new product and form opinions before it is widely used. While we often lust over the super-bikes and super-components it is the workhorse mid-level products that the majority of us use and love. It is that personal connection that has me excited for Swiss bike manufacturer BMC’s redesigned 2018 Teammachine SLR02 Disc One Ultegra Di2 r8070, which may have the most value per syllable of any bike on the market.
Cyclists have largely settled into the benumbing belief that the future is marginal gains in lateral stiffness, vertical compliance, and 5% increases in bottom bracket strength. While that may be true at the upper limits of road cycling’s evolution it’s not true of every track it has taken. The BMC SLR02 and Shimano’s Ultegra R8070 prove that there is still the potential for massive gains in the middle of manufacturer’s lineups.
The 2018 SLR02 disc mirrors the redesign of BMC’s flagship SLR01. In fact it is produced from the same mold as the race-proven SLR01 Disc, though simpler production techniques and a lower grade of carbon fiber are used to keep the cost lower. Those tradeoffs do add some to the frame’s weight, but the SLR02 is no hog. It still has all the superior riding traits of the SLR01 while being gentler on the wallet. Those of us who don’t attack every climb won’t notice the difference in weight as the SLR02 Disc still rushes forwards with every pedal stroke. After the summit is crested and the nose is turned downhill the bike is steady as a rock through every curve and aggressive line you pick. The Shimano Ultegra hydraulic disc brakes are reliable and confidence inspiring enough to let the rider stop or scrub speed valuable seconds later down the hill.
Even on the flats BMC’s well thought out design shines. The dropped seat stays and D-shaped seatpost of the SLR line absorb rough roads and the agitation of a long day in the saddle. Up front the oversized downtube, reinforced headtube, and carbon thru-axle fork let the SLR02 explode out of corners or sprint to the end of your favorite Strava KOM.
It’s not just the frame that stands out on the SLR02 disc. BMC made the conscious decision to spec the bike with the complete Shimano R8070 groupset. For those confused by Shimano’s new groupset and numbering habits: R8000 is mechanical shifting paired with cable brakes, R8020 is mechanical shifting and hydraulic brakes, R8050 is electronic shifting and cable brakes, and R8070 is electronic shifting paired with hydraulic brakes. Which means Shimano is producing four separate shifters and two different front and rear derailleurs under the Ultegra brand. It is a difficult task to keep the quality of so many different parts high, but Shimano’s process and experience seem suited to it.
R8070 improves on the previous 6870 generation in some key ways that expand the capability and reliability of the groupset. In previous generations Shimano wasn’t fully pleased with the quality of road series disc brakes and hydraulic levers. Rather than branding those components with the Ultegra name Shimano instead called them the uninspiring “Ultegra equivalent” RS685 levers paired to BR785 calipers. With R8070 the calipers, hydraulic levers, and rotors are 100% Ultegra, showing Shimano’s confidence in the future of disc road bikes. Other new features include an expanded range for the rear derailleur which can now fit a new 11-34 cassette for dedicated climbers. Another change to the rear derailleur adapts Shimano’s Shadow Technology from the mountain bike line. Shadow technology brings the derailleur more inboard and out the way of a driveside crash while simultaneously reducing the chances of the derailleur shooting into the wheel during a crash. Shimano’s trickle down of previous generation Dura-Ace tech to Ultegra gives the r8070 levers the same set of buttons on top of the shifter bodies to control a cycle computer.
At $5,000 msrp, if you’re a rider looking to improve this bike will never leave you feeling put out or as if you’ve reached the end of its capabilities, and with its thoughtful design and well chosen groupset it is a bike that truly is future-proof. On the other end of abilities, if you’re a more experience rider looking for a budget bike to rock winter training rides or rail through the local race season then the SLR02 will fit comfortably into your stable (and may come dangerously close to riding like a main steed). When riding the SLR02 Disc feels natural, almost as if it can read your mind, and really what more can you ask for in a bike?