The flagship model is not always the most desirable in the fleet.
BMC’s futuristic, composite TrackMachine TR01, with its sophisticated stem, allowing easy transfer of aero bars to drops, is unquestionably a technically superior machine to its TR02 sibling, but there is something winning about the simplicity of a brushed aluminium chassis.
The genesis of the TR02 is almost as diverting as its appearance. It is, in essence, an hors catégorie rental bike: the house machine of the Velodrome Suisse, Grenchen, a facility located directly opposite BMC Switzerland’s headquarters, no further than a stone’s throw away.
When, in May 2012, BMC accepted the commission to supply its new neighbour with a rental fleet (they could hardly have refused, one suspects), its design team quickly established the parameters. Stiffness and aerodynamics would be prioritised above weight and comfort; durability would be key.
Critically, quality would not be compromised by cost considerations. "For us, it had to be ‘one up’, everywhere,” design chief, Stefan Christ, tells Rouleur. “Sometimes, projects are not only driven by commercial success.”
There is little doubt that the TR02 is a high-grade machine. Its 7000-series aluminium chassis not only meets the design requirement for durability, but its brushed finish has a timeless quality.
“The strategic decision from the beginning was clear: we had to make something that was not a standard, alloy track bike,” Christ continues. “Many of the design solutions that you find on this bike were driven by that.” The most obvious are the replaceable, stainless steel dropouts: items likely to suffer wear on a privately-owned machine, and still more so on a rental bike.
BMC has two aluminium suppliers, with one catering for its full-suspension mountain bikes, and the other offering a supply for their high-end road machines. It is the latter, higher-grade supply that has been used for TR02. The frame could have been made lighter – by triple butting, for example – but the design team remained mindful of the frequency of crashes among a clientele likely to be learning their trade, and opted for double butting. “We did not go crazy on the wall thickness,” Christ summarises.
The shallow seat-stay has become something of a BMC signature, but its purpose here is adherence to house style, rather than to advance any specific engineering benefit. Christ is convinced of the advantages to comfort of a stay offset with the seat-tube on other BMC machines, notably its high-end composite offerings, but on a double-butted aluminium frame, one with a teardrop profiled seat-tube, its implementation has more to do with aesthetics (or the brand’s “DNA”, as Christ describes it).
The headtube is tapered, but not to the exaggerated degree of many contemporary carbon road bikes. Here, the taper is from 1-1/4” at the lower bearing to 1-1/8” at the top. The more sizable 1-1/5” lower bearing, commonplace in the peloton, is to satisfy demands for a super stiff, but very light fork, and weight, as discussed already, was not a primary target for the TR02. Indeed, the headtube’s external profile makes the taper barely visible. The reduction in diameter is more apparent viewed from the inside, says Christ.
More readily apparent is the heavily sculpted top tube; one of the most attractive features of this desirable machine. It’s another BMC characteristic and one instantly recognisable to owners of the brand’s Time Machine road TT bike – Taylor Phinney, for example. The machines share the same criteria: stiffness and aerodynamics are the prevailing concerns, with weight and comfort secondary. In addition, a straight top tube makes a big look faster, Christ believes.
The specification is equal to the quality of the chassis. Shimano’s beautiful Dura-Ace track chainset is paired with a sprocket also from the Japanese firm’s top-tier, and hubs from the same group are laced to rims from Swiss neighbours DT, shod with Continental Grand Prix TT clinchers, famously used in preference to tubs by Tony Martin in his ride to the 2011 world time-trial championship. The carbon seatpost is BMC’s own, matched to the teardrop profile of the seat-tube, and provides the platform for a Fizik Arione R7 saddle.
If the Dura-Ace chainset has an ageless allure, it is matched by the raw beauty of the TR02’s naked aluminium finish. It’s another elegant solution to the need for durability in what must be the most desirable rental fleet imaginable. “It had to be timeless,” Christ explains. “I think it’s the type of finish that five years ago would have worked, and in five years will still work.”
The understated finish is accentuated by the natural simplicity of a track bike. No gears, no brakes, no paint. None of this would work, of course, if the chassis – its angles, tube profiles, and welds – didn’t stand up to the scrutiny of a bare finish. The honed athleticism of the salaried rider is obvious even as he pads around the hotel lobby in a tracksuit; he does not need to wear his racing kit to look "pro”. Similarly, the TR02 barely needs stickers, still less a painted finish, to look the part.
Should you find yourself in Grenchen (around 90 minutes by train from Zurich airport, and a similar distance from Basel), a few laps at the Velodrome Suisse is a stimulating way to pass the time. You'll find the rental machines of the highest quality. It's available commercially, too. The connoisseur of aluminum bicycles will find much to admire.