Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
BMC quietly rolled out a few days ago a curious new flagship road bike called Masterpiece. There was no online launch event, or even a press release. There is, however, a dedicated web site littered with even more hyperbole than we’re used to seeing in the bicycle industry.
“Iconic.” “Unequalled fidelity.” “Perfect at birth.” “Flawless.” “An exclusive and unparalleled example of what can be done when no expense is spared.” “Driven only by perfection.”
What’s conspicuously missing from the page are the usual performance claims associated with top-end product. Is the Masterpiece some groundbreaking aero road racer? An ultralight climbing bike? Some new fully custom project?
No, no, and no. It’s actually not even exactly “new”, either.
The Masterpiece is based on BMC’s current Roadmachine, a versatile carbon fiber all-road bike that earned our praises when it was first introduced in 2016, and again when it was redesigned just a few months ago. The shape is the same, as is the geometry, and all of the salient features are carried over.
However, while the standard Roadmachine frameset costs US$4,399 / AU$5,899 / €4,000, the Roadmachine Masterpiece “module” (including the frame, fork, seatpost, stem, and handlebar) costs well over twice that at US$10,000 / €10,000. So what exactly are you getting for that hefty premium?
According to BMC global media and PR manager Melanie Leveau, each Roadmachine Masterpiece frameset is built using the same mold as the standard Roadmachine, only a “much higher quality” version that is apparently more precisely machined and polished. In addition, while the standard Roadmachine is made in Asia, the Roadmachine Masterpiece is made in Germany.
“That means the frame is perfect when coming out of it and therefore doesn’t need and further treatment,” she explained. “So no finish like sanding, clear coat, or anything like that. The frame is raw.”
Essentially, what we have here in BMC’s version of Cervelo’s Rca and R5Ca, two ultra-premium frames that were based on existing production versions, with similar-sounding levels of production scrutiny.
Coincidentally, those frames also cost US$10,000, but whereas Cervelo was quite boastful of how those limited-production items were built in the company’s California studio by its own engineers, and were also lighter than the production versions — partially through the use of more premium materials — BMC is curiously opaque about how it differs from the standard Roadmachine aside from the that “perfect” raw frame finish.
“For the Roadmachine Masterpiece, we focused on the design, not on the usual attributes of a bike,” Leveau admitted after a bit of prodding. “So we’re not talking about stiffness, weight, compliance or anything like that. These are actually equal to the values of the Roadmachine as you know it and rode it.”
Claimed weight for a finished 54 cm Roadmachine Masterpiece frame is 871 grams — a difference of just 24 grams from the standard Roadmachine, not accounting for paint — while the matching fork is said to tip the scales at 405 grams. The included carbon fiber seatpost adds another 135 grams, and BMC is offering Masterpiece customers their choice of one-piece or two-piece cockpits.
But whereas the regular Roadmachine is available in six sizes, from 47-61 cm, the Roadmachine Masterpiece is offered in just four (51-58 cm). Custom geometry is not available.
So basically what we have here is a more “perfect” version of the existing Roadmachine, only with fewer size options and a single raw color.
In essence, BMC is offering the Roadmachine Masterpiece simply because it can, and because there are likely a handful of very well-heeled customers who can afford (and want) the exclusivity. That may sound ridiculous to most of us, but then again, most of us don’t have the sort of disposable income lying around to casually consider something like this. It’s perhaps worth noting, too, that this bike isn’t just called “Masterpiece”; it’s the “Roadmachine Masterpiece”, which implies — at least to me — that BMC is potentially leaving the door open for additional Masterpiece models depending on how well this one goes.
How many of these will BMC sell? How many does the company even expect to sell? And does that even matter, or is it more of a marketing and branding exercise?
We’ll likely never know. But it sure is pretty. And yeah, I’ll admit that I kind of want one, too.