Hands-on with Ben O’Connor’s prototype BMC aero road bike

Ben O’Connor has been riding a prototype BMC aero bike at the 2023 Tour de France. The same bike was also spotted at this year’s Critérium du Dauphiné.

We don’t know what the new bike is called and there’s no official word from BMC yet, but the aggressive frame shapes indicate this is clearly a new aero bike.

Could this be a replacement for the BMC Timemachine? That model hasn’t been updated since 2019, so we think there’s a good chance this will be the latest version of BMC’s aero road bike.

Let’s take a closer look at O’Connor’s bike from the Tour de France.

Aero tech in collaboration with Red Bull

Ben O’Connor’s prototype BMC has an extra-deep head tube.
Simon von Bromley / Our Media

The new frame looks to have exploited the latest slackening of the UCI’s frame geometry rules to deepen the frame profiles, particularly around the head tube.

Despite its aero profiling, we weighed O’Connor’s size 58cm bike at an impressively light 7.34kg.

Ben O'Connor prototype BMC

The new bike has been co-developed with Red Bull Advanced Technologies, which has expertise in Formula One aerodynamic modelling.
Simon von Bromley / Our Media

The bike has been developed in partnership between BMC and Red Bull Advanced Technologies, as evidenced by the logos on the down tube and the fork legs.

Red Bull Advanced Technologies is involved in Formula One aerodynamic modelling and computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations. 

Ben O'Connor prototype BMC

The prototype BMC has widely spaced fork legs, presumably to reduce aero interaction with the wheels.
Simon von Bromley / Our Media

It’s been working with BMC since 2018 to use motor racing know-how in cycle racing.

Red Bull Advanced Technologies says its aerodynamics team has used its CFD expertise to model bike behaviour, as well as enlisting the help of Fabian Cancellara in its projects.

However, given that BMC remains tight-lipped about the new bike, we don’t know Red Bull’s specific involvement in the development of this machine.

The new bike has a one-piece bar/stem design. We reckon this is the same design (or one very similar) as seen on the BMC Kaius aero gravel race bike.

36cm handlebar on Ben O'Connor's prototype BMC aero bike

O’Connor is one of the taller riders in the peloton, at 188cm, but rides with a narrow 36cm handlebar.
George Scott / Our Media

Gravel racing as a test bed for the Tour de France? Who’d have thought it.

Ben O'Connor prototype BMC

The down tube broadens further down to shield the bottles.
Simon von Bromley / Our Media

The bike’s down tube is narrow at its top end, but widens out significantly lower down, likely to provide some aerodynamic shielding for the Elite Fly bottles on O’Connor’s bike.

Ben O'Connor prototype BMC

The down tube bottle cage is a BMC Aerocore, which is designed to be more aerodynamic than a standard cage by integrating with the frame.
Simon von Bromley / Our Media

There are mismatched bottle cages on the Aussie star’s bike – a BMC Aerocore cage on the down tube, which is designed to improve airflow by integrating with the frame, is paired with a 17g Elite Leggero Carbon cage on the seat tube.

Ben O'Connor prototype BMC

The race number holder doubles as a seatpost wedge.
Simon von Bromley / Our Media

Even the race number holder has got into the aero act, with a design that slots into the seat tube junction, rather than being separately bolted onto the seatpost.

We’d guess the retail bikes get a simpler wedge design.

7.34kg weight of Ben O'Connor's BMC prototype aero bike

7.34kg for O’Connor’s BMC.
George Scott / Our Media

Latest Super Record Wireless groupset – at least in part

Ben O'Connor prototype BMC

The bike is equipped with the latest Campagnolo Super Record Wireless groupset.
Simon von Bromley / Our Media

AG2R Citroen is the only WorldTour team sponsored by Campagnolo this year.

O’Connor is using the latest Campagnolo Super Record Wireless 12-speed groupset. 

This follows SRAM’s example and uses cassettes with a 10-tooth smallest sprocket, with the widest range option going up to 29 teeth.

Ben O'Connor prototype BMC

Super Record Wireless uses cassettes with a 10-tooth smallest sprocket.
Simon von Bromley / Our Media

As with SRAM, Campagnolo pairs this with smaller 50/34t, 48/32t and 45/29t chainring options, to give similar ratios to conventional standard, semi-compact and compact cranksets.  

That’s great for us mortals, but the pros like the option to push larger gears, or at least to ride similar gears but nearer the middle of the cassette for a more efficient chainline.

Ben O'Connor prototype BMC

That’s paired with a 54/39t crankset from the previous generation groupset, for some extra top-end grunt.
Simon von Bromley / Our Media

As we speculated in our Tour de France 2023 bikes preview, AG2R Citroen has mixed the new Super Record Wireless with the older Super Record EPS chainset to provide higher gearing.

In O’Connor’s case, that means using the 54/39t Power2Max power meter-equipped crankset from the previous generation groupset.

Non-tubeless wheel set-up

Ben O'Connor prototype BMC

When we saw O’Connor’s bike, the Campagnolo Bora Ultra WTO 45 wheels were not set up tubeless.
Simon von Bromley / Our Media

When we saw O’Connor’s bike at the Grand Départ in Bilbao, it wasn’t set up tubeless, despite the Campagnolo Bora Ultra WTO 45 wheelset using the brand’s 2-Way Fit tubeless-ready (and inner tube-compatible) rims.

They were fitted with 28c Pirelli P-Zero Race tyres at the time, which we measured at a 30.2mm actual width – reflective of the trend for wide tyres at this year’s race.

Ben O'Connor prototype BMC

The 30.2mm width is quite large for an aero race bike but reflective of the trend for bigger tyres at this year’s Tour.
George Scott / Our Media

There’s likely to be a slight weight advantage in using the thinner-walled, non-tubeless Pirelli P-Zero tyres and not needing sealant, particularly if O’Connor is using TPU or latex tubes.

Pirelli quotes a 225g weight for the 28c non-tubeless P-Zero Race tyre against 295g for the tubeless tyre.

Ben O'Connor prototype BMC

The inner tubes are probably TPU, lighter than running tubeless tyres with sealant or standard tubes.
Simon von Bromley / Our Media

Ben O’Connor’s prototype BMC | Specs

  • Frameset: Prototype BMC, size 58cm
  • Groupset: Campagnolo Super Record Wireless (54/39t crankset, 10-29t cassette)
  • Wheelset: Campagnolo Bora Ultra WTO 45
  • Power meter: Power2Max
  • Tyres: Pirelli P-Zero Race tubed clincher, 28c (measured width 30.2mm)
  • Handlebar: BMC ICS Carbon Aero one piece (36cm handlebar width, 14cm stem length)
  • Seatpost: BMC carbon
  • Saddle: Fizik Antares Versus Evo R1
  • Bottle cages: BMC Aerocore/Elite Leggero Carbon
  • Pedals: Look Keo Blade Carbon Ceramic
  • Weight: 7.34kg

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