Associating quality and personal improvement with a brand name is always a little foolhardy. However, it’s difficult not to feel slightly fitter, stronger and faster riding a Boardman, especially when the Tour de France is on TV and Chris Boardman, Olympic Champion and World Record Holder during the 1990s, is waxing lyrical about our sport.
Appropriately enough testing commenced on day two of the Tour, inspired by the peloton racing effortlessly along at around 42mph. But significantly when it comes to this test report, long after the champagne sipping along the Champs Elysées has finished, I’m still logging in big miles (albeit at 16mph rather than average Tour speed) on this reliable, solid machine. It’s being used for a twice weekly commute, 20 miles in, 20 miles home.
The Road Team is the top aluminium road bike in the Boardman range. It comes in five sizes (XS, SM, MD, LG, XL) and sits just beneath the first carbon fibre offering in the range which retails for £300 more. Although both frames are made from different materials they share the same race inspired geometry that you’d expect from the Olympic gold medalist and general speed demon.
The triple butted X9 tubing is finished with smoothed welds creating clean lines which give the frame a more expensive ‘carbon’ look. The rear triangle is comprised of wishbone seat stays, designed to absorb some of the vibrations, and box section oversized chainstays which combined with a BB30 bottom bracket increase the stiffness and power transfer. Another nice touch not normally found on a bike at this price point is the internally routed rear brake cable which cleverly runs through the top tube and continues the uninterrupted flow of clean lines. Up front a full carbon, bladed fork increases stiffness and steering precision thanks in part to a tapered steerer which reinforces the area where both the frame and fork meet.
On the components side, Mavic Aksium wheels using bladed spokes continue to give the bike the look of one more expensive and this package weighs in at 3.23kg for both wheels, tyres and the cassette. The weight of these wheels is about average for bikes at this price point but their slick looks are definitely a cut above the rest. The Boardman features Shimano 105 shifters, front and rear derailleurs and cassette and an FSA Gossamer BB30 compact chainset. Previous Boardman models have been finished using Ritchey components however this year’s model uses ‘cboardman’ branded handlebars, stem, seatpost and saddle. Although there’s no noticeable difference in the performance of these components the cost saving has allowed for a ‘cboardman’ carbon fibre seatpost which is a nice bonus. When weighed as a complete bike but without pedals our size large test bike weighed in at a very respectable 9.13kg.
For the 40 mile round trip that I’ve been doing twice a week and my regular Sunday ride of between 40-60 miles the Boardman has been ideal. The more head down, race inspired geometry certainly lends itself to getting from A to B quickly whether it’s a mid week commute or a weekend club ride. This racy position should suit the more serious cyclist who likes to chase fast times, but for the less frequent or older rider the position on longer distance rides might be difficult to maintain comfortably. In addition to this, road feedback from the Boardman is more pronounced than on other more sportive oriented bikes despite the wishbone seatstays and carbon seatpost. Also, despite having relatively long arms I did find the reach of the Boardman to be a bit on the long side but a shorter stem has improved this without compromising the handling.
In keeping with the racy geometry, the precision steering allows for super fast response times when dodging pot holes, especially when riding as part of a fast moving peloton. En masse like this on your local Sunday ride it’s difficult to hold back the speed that this bike encourages you to find. And should you find yourself in a friendly sprint then the Boardman will certainly hold it’s own…as long as your legs and lungs do too.
With a generous helping of Shimano 105 components, which you’ll also find on bikes much more expensive than this one, there isn’t much to complain about. Shimano 105 offers an excellent combination of slick and reliable shifting and a high build quality that I’ve yet to experience any mechanical problems with. Not a single gear has been missed in more than 500 miles, which is a good result, especially given the varying terrain of my commute. The FSA Gossamer compact chainset has also worked without fault over the four months I’ve now had the bike. The flashy Mavic Aksium wheels are in keeping with the more expensive looking Boardman and have to date proven to be a tough rim, spoke and hub combo despite having taken plenty of hits from some of Britain’s ‘best’ pot holes. The Vittoria Zaffiro tyres don’t quite match up to the rest of the bike and feel a little slow compared to tyres you’d find on other bikes at this price point but this is an easy fix.
Taking the Boardman up climbs and out of the saddle the bike felt efficient thanks in part to excellent power transfer and coming back down the steering is predictable and precise even at high speeds. Tektro R580 caliper brakes offer plenty of stopping power and are on par with what you’d find on other bikes at this price range. Cornering or changing direction quickly doesn’t phase the Boardman which feels light and responsive at low and high speed without feeling twitchy.
As a complete bike the Boardman Road Team offers excellent value for money and a ride that will inspire a sense of competition in virtually anyone. The race inspired geometry means this bike wouldn’t be our first choice for long haul rides but as a capable short to mid distance road bike that can also double as a speedy all year round commuter and take on the occasional sportive then the Boardman is difficult to ignore as a sound investment.
At a glance
|Verdict||An excellent value, race inspired speed machine that’s best suited to fast paced short to mid distance rides.|