Being acquired by long term partner, Halfords, in 2014 has given the brand financial stability and freedom to explore what’s possible – and alongside the re-brand they also announced a ‘Boardman Performance Centre’ that will offer customer wind tunnel testing as well as own brand wheels and clothing.
Consisting of top end aero road bikes, super light models with custom paint jobs and some stunning titanium machines, the Elite range didn’t fail to impress. However, prices start from £2,299 and rocket skywards, so when we were invited to check out the more practically priced Performance range, we were pretty excited to see what we could get for £499.
The Performance range consists of road, mountain and hybrid bikes. Within the road family, there are five unisex models, plus two women’s specific versions, as well as two cyclocross machines and a time trial bike.
Boardman Road Team Carbon
The Team Carbon has been available from Boardman at £999 (what to do with that spare £1? Oh the possibilities!) since the very early days and is still built around the same frame that Nicole Cooke used when she sprinted to Olympic Road Race Gold in 2008. In our eyes it has to be the crowning glory of the range.
Both the men’s and women’s models feature a full carbon frame, and Shimano Tiagra gearing with more value minded Tektro brakes. Tiagra is generally specced on entry level machines but provides perfectly efficient shifting, and Tektro brakes do the job but might be one for the ‘upgrade later’ list if you wanted greater performance. The chianset is a 50/34 compact and there’s an 11-28 cassette – a pretty standard configuration on both unisex and women’s models.
The wheels are Mavic’s CXP Elite and come with high quality and puncture proofed Vittoria Zaffiro Pro tyres in a comfy 25c.
Though it’s early days, I’ve ridden this bike twice now – once for 25 miles with a host of bike journos and Chris Boardman himself, and again over 45 miles of Surrey Hills. The full review is yet to come – but the key takeaway is that I’m really impressed.
Frame builders often focus on creating a comfortable rear end, and forsake stiffness that makes the bike feel alive and the road exhilarating. This bike does the opposite.
It’s popular these days for bikes at the magic £1,000 Cycle To Work voucher price point to lend themselves to sportives and endurance riding – often frame builders will focus on creating a comfortable and compliant rear end, and forsake stiffness that makes the bike feel alive and the road exhilarating. This bike does quite the opposite, thought the geometry is still ‘endurance’ the frame material gets the balance just right so the bike feels incredibly lively.
Perhaps those who find road buzz a buzzkill may not be so charmed by it – but I’d have no issues riding longer on this bike and I’d recommend this as a fantastic first or even second bike for someone who wants to race, or just likes feeling a bit racey for that matter.
Asking Chris Boardman himself where he saw the bike on the endurance to race scale, he told me: “[In terms of race vs endurance] you don’t have a pigeon hole, you have overlapping spheres. But if you turned up at one of the highest races on that – not with the wheels, you’d swap out the wheels – you wouldn’t get a second glance. It would be standard, and a serious sportive rider would probably be in that category. By the time you get to that level, you’ve probably got your carbon wheels and swapped out some components, customized it, but that frame platform is proper [for a racer].”
The women’s version has a very slightly shorter top tube and the geometry is tweaked to prevent toe overlap on smaller sizes, and there’s a women’s saddle, narrower bars and shorter stem. The stem, 60mm on the medium I rode, was the first thing I changed before the second ride, beefing it up to a 100mm option. This immediately made the bike feel better to me, but will be a personal choice.
Discussing the women’s bike question, Commercial Director at Halfords (and avid cyclist) Emma Fox said: “We’ve run focus groups and listening groups, and most of the female sportive riders were saying they had the unisex Boardman bike – they’d done tons of research as well. It comes down to personal choice – sometimes even it’s down to colour, and actually if you see a ‘blokes’ bike that you prefer the colour of, you’d usually change the stem or the saddle and be fine.”
The men’s Team Carbon is a bumblebee of black and yellow, whilst the women’s version uses grey and Céleste which reminds us of a certain Italian brand that rhymes with Chianchi and shall not be named. So that’s the Team Carbon – a full review is coming soon, but we genuinely love it (with a longer stem).
Boardman Road Sport
Also available in a women’s and unisex version is the alloy Team Sport – with an incredibly wallet friendly price tag of £499.
The alloy frame is triple butted, which allows the builders to use three different thicknesses of tubing – going for heavy duty metal where stiffness is desired, and toning it down where it’s less important to save weight. The fork is carbon, which saves weight where you’d really notice it and creates smoother handling.
The gearing is one step down on the Shimano ladder, this time using Shimano Claris – but this is still a perfectly reliable groupset that should be long lasting and efficient. Again there’s a 50/34 chainset and 11-28 cassette – plenty of options for the hills without being so widely spaced you’ll notice huge differences between gears. The wheels are Mavic’s CXP, again with winter friendly but faster rolling 25c tyres from Vittoria.
In unisex fit only is the Boardman Road Comp – at £699 this uses Shimano Sora gearing and has Tektro Spire mechanical disc brakes for faster, all weather stopping power.
Boardman Road Pro Carbon
One rung above the Team Carbon in the spending stakes is the £1,499 Pro Carbon – this isn’t available in a women’s specific version, but could of course be tweaked with a saddle swap and a reconfiguration of the front end via handlebars and stem.
The pro is upgraded with Shimano 105 gearing, but its true party trick is the Shimano hydraulic disc brakes. The chainset moves up a gear at this level, to a semi-compact 52/36, but still with an 11-28 cassette which should still give you plenty of climbing cogs.
There’s also a swanky Prologo New Nago Evo saddle in a spicy green colour to match the frame accents.
Filling the gap between the Elite range and the Performance models is the Boardman Road Pro SLR. Where the other machines in the range are certainly designed to follow an endurance geometry, this is a more performance minded set up. Using a slightly higher grade carbon, this also features a SRAM Force groupset and major wheel upgrade in the form of Mavic’s lightweight Kyserium Equipe.
A fast rolling, racey option, these wheels and the groupset mean this one has a price tag of £1,799.
Boardman CX Comp and CX Team
Cyclocross bikes are incredibly popular these days – in fact Chris Boardman himself told us that he covers most of us miles on a CX bike flitting between roads and trails.
There are two CX bikes within the range – the Comp and the Team. At a competitive £649, the CX Comp comprises of a triple butted alloy frame with Tektra Lyra mechanical discs supported by Shimano Sora gears with an 11-32 cassette and 50/34 double chain ring to provide plenty of options on the hills.
A step up the ladder at £999 is the CX Team with a SRAM 1x chainring and 11-42 cassette, as well as SRAM rival hydraulic discs. This duo means the bike represents excellent value for money, and is designed to be a full on race machine. In fact, it’s the bike Chris Boardman told us is his favourite in the entire range, and the one he would see himself spending the most time on.
The frame is still alloy, a popular choice for crashing through the woods (hopefully not too literally) and despite being an out and out racer there are eyelets for mudguards and panniers.
Boardman Road Team TT
With Chris Boardman’s own Time Trial expertise and hour record achievements, a proper aero machine was always going to be a necessity and the brand supports multiple athletes including Olympic Triathlon duo the Brownlee Brothers.
At just £999, this time trial bike is designed to be a ‘first race bike’ platform. The carbon frame features an aero fork and seatpost, and there’s a race-ready ISM saddle which suits many riders along with slightly deeper profile Boardman aero alloy wheels. However, the Vision aero bars aren’t hugely adjustable which might lead to an early upgrade and many racers would be likely to swap the 11-28 cassette in favour of a slightly narrower ratio which offers fewer low resistance gears but easier selection.
For under £1000, this is a perfect starter bike that might want a few tweaks over time.
We can’t wait to test more bike from the range, and will be bringing you a full review of the Women’s Team Carbon soon.
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