The Ultimate Driving Machine now has a garage companion that shares a true M badge, the 2011 BMW M Carbon racer, an excellent road bike for the athletic hobby cyclist.
I’ve been a huge cyclist almost all my life. Cycling in my young days represented my mobility and keys to freedom as well as serving to keep me fit. But it was the bonding with my machine that gave me my first experience with mechanical tinkering. Taking apart and reassembling my bike became an almost weekly event; I would strip it down to the frame then cleaning the components before putting it back together. It was a true love affair I had with bikes, a love affair that continues today.
But it wasn’t until seven years ago that I really got into the sport of cycling and with it partaking in some of the classic tours in and around New York and New Jersey areas. Cycling 100 plus miles in a few hours would have been unimaginable to me as a youngster – although I’m sure I did so on a weekly basis – it has become now a regular occurrence a few times per year.
When BMW announced the M carbon racer last year I was intrigued. It was time for an equipment upgrade and knew I would want a full carbon frame with the latest components. At the time my mind was set on a new Trek Madone 5.2 since I had spent the last seven years riding a Trek, and of course, I knew the brand and would be happy to give them my business again. So my research started with what the M Carbon racer was all about, hoping it could sway my decision to have another M in my stable, one that I’d have to pedal myself.
What I didn’t find during my research was a comprehensive review of the M Racer, not even on the most popular cycling forums. Were the real cyclists not buying this bike? Or would most of these beauties be relegated to garage queen duty and never get properly ridden? Therefore, my decision was based on the official specs and components I had knowledge of.
On paper, the M Carbon racer was impressive: 16.2 lbs (without water cages and pedals), Shimano Ultegra group set (Double Compact), Fizik Tundra 2 saddle, and BlackJack R1780 Wheels mounted with Continental Grand Prix 4000 tires. All good stuff which could have been slightly improved especially when you consider the $3,579 retail price.
I have broken down the major components of the M carbon racer to what really matters as well as offering an alternative component that would have fit inside BMW’s price point. Keep in mind that at this price point, there are many alternatives. The BMW M Carbon racer fits in well with its competitors and if you’re an enthusiast cyclist, a test ride is mandatory.
BMW was able to achieve a very low final weight combined with high durability and a super rigid frame by using carbon fiber as the backbone for the M Carbon bike. The full carbon fiber frame comes from Taiwan, where almost all carbon fiber bicycle frames come from these days. Well, all except the very high-end frame makers that use Taiwan and China for their Carbon Fiber production capabilities. The finish of the frame is clear coated exposed carbon with the head tube and ends of the rear wheel stays painted in black. It gives the bike a high tech look that draws attention everywhere I ride it. I named my M carbon racer “The Black Mamba” because the exposed Carbon Fiber looks like the skin of a reptile.
The Group Set
BMW chose to use the Shimano Ultegra group set because it’s reliable, light, and easier to service at almost all local bike shops. The front crank is a double compact and serves to keep weight down while being able to transfer efficiently all the power my legs can muster up long climbs to the ground. Being from the area of NJ with lots of hills, the ability to climb easily and transfer power to the ground is a necessity. I had some concerns about dropping to a double from a triple front crank given the amount of climbing I do on an average ride, but my concerns were pleasantly met with an effortless ability to climb.
The brakes, derailleur, and rear cassette are also Ultegra, and they do an excellent job of balancing performance, reliability and price point. Here BMW could have chosen the lighter, slightly more expensive Shimano Dura Ace group set but the weight savings versus the price increase was deemed unnecessary. I would have definitely spent additional dollars to have the Dura Ace components.
Wheels and Tires
This is another area where BMW could have made a better choice. The wheels are produced by BlackJack inc, model R1780, tip the scales at 1640 grams and are great to look at, but they have been less than reliable for me. I’ve had them trued a few times and had to replace the rim tape on both due to breakage at the spoke holes, popping a few tubes along the way. $38 spent at my local bike shop for new rim tape and re-truing has solved my issues.
My suggestion is that the Shimano Dura Ace 7900 C35 wheelset would have been a better choice. The hubs are sealed ceramic, as opposed to the Blackjack’s traditional steal ball bearings in a cartridge, and rolling resistance would have been among the best available on the market today. Seeing as I’m planning to upgrade to a 50 millimeter carbon clincher wheelset, I’m not so concerned with the stock wheel choice, but for someone not looking to spend additional funds on wheels would have appreciated a bit better wheelset.
The tire decision is spot on. For an everyday training and weekend warrior tire, the Continental Grand Prix 4000 tires are very resilient to puncture, responsive in the turns, and roll very well in the flats.
Choosing a saddle is like choosing a life partner. You will be spending a lot of time sitting and moving around on it so it better be comfortable. For the M Carbon Racer, Fizik comes through with the Tundra2. Long nosed and flat, the Tundra2 fits my seat bones perfectly; there was no need to switch it out. The black and red color scheme also lends well with the red handle bar tape and accents in the wheels.
Winora Group, BMW’s partner in Germany, has been building bicycles for BMW for some time now. Everything from beach cruisers to mountain bikes, but this the first time BMW has commissioned a true race bike, and one worthy of the M badge. All the quality control and assembly of the final components is handled by Winora, and then is boxed up and shipped to fill awaiting orders at BMW centers worldwide.
BMW is credited with making cars that drive like no other. Most of the time you can’t quite put your finger on one thing that you can say clearly that this is what makes a BMW better than other cars. It’s the synergy between all the components as a whole that sets the driving experience apart. With the BMW M carbon racer, I will say the same observation applies. It is simply the way the bike feels that gives me the confidence to ride further, climb effortlessly, and log more miles than some other bikes in my life.
I currently log between 80 and 100 miles per week during my twice weekly training routes, and I have yet to experience a failure, or a defect in workmanship (other than the wheels).
I have noticed that my training times and average speed have increased with this new bike. I attribute it to the lower weight, better components, and the fact I get to see the M badge every time I look down to glance at my speedometer, maybe it’s a placebo affect but it works for me.
If you’re more than a casual cyclist and are looking to upgrade your bike, the BMW M Carbon racer will fit your needs all while complimenting your BMW lifestyle.