It's rare that you can jump on a time trial bike and immediately feel at home on it. In our experience it usually takes weeks to months to fine tune a position. That's why the Boardman AiR/TT 9.8 surprised us - in a good way. On its maiden journey we were able to get comfy almost straight away, which meant we could concentrate on extracting some decent speed out of it.
Ride and handling
The AiR/TT likes going fast. This was apparent after we'd done 2 miles on it and knew what sort of speed the ride would be. Although it was a low level endurance ride, effort wise, the speed told a different story. We were happy to finish with an average speed of over 22mph and couldn't resist winding it up to 45mph a few times on descents. This was without pushing particularly hard during the ride, evidenced by the Garmin trace here.
Admittedly the Boardman's Zipp Sub 9 disc and 404 front wheel fitted with Vittoria Corsa Evo CX tubulars gave us some extra speed compared to standard training wheels. This is a race ready bike after all. Still, you can't beat the buzz of doing a quick training ride and that's made us keen to do some more testing on it.
We were more than happy with its cornering performance. As a rule, TT bikes don't tend to corner that well but the Boardman's road-like geometry gave us confidence to take smooth lines around bends at speed, on or off the extensions. When on the cowhorns, the Vision Trimax carbon bars give a good, safe position.
Speaking of bars, there's plenty of adjustment in the cockpit too. The elbow pads have three different width settings, the extensions can be shortened or lengthened and even moved outwards if desired, and as a standard stem and steerer are used, it's easy to adjust bar angle and height. This is all quite important in setting up your position, as Boardman himself explained in Aerodynamics made easy.
Braking is something we avoid as much as possible and it's generally of secondary importance on a TT bike, especially one with integrated brakes like the AiR/TT. We were therefore prepared for a bit of sponginess in this department - but didn't get any from the cantilevered TRP callipers. Chalk one up for the 'nice to haves'.
We did however experience a small amount of wheel rub on the non-driveside brake pad when out of the saddle. The cause of this turned out to be the frame alignment being out by a couple of millimetres in our sample model (Andy Smallwood from Boardman Bikes assures us that this isn't a problem with the production models). This produced rub when combined with the wide rim of the Zipp Sub 9 disc, a bit of wheel flex and non-adjustable 45 degree dropouts. We were subsequently able to sort it by backing the brakes off as far as we dared - not the ideal solution but it worked.
Frame and equipment
The AiR/TT 9.8 sits at the top of Boardman's four-bike time trial range although the frames are almost identical among all four. They're largely based on the original Elite AiR/TT/1 with the most obvious change being moving the brakes inside the front fork and underneath the bottom bracket. The fork is a lot deeper than the original, while the box shaped chainstays are also upsized for extra stiffness.
The 9.8 is kitted out with SRAM Red to keep it light, Zipp R2C (return to centre) shifters, integrated TRP brakes, Vision Trimax carbon base bars and extensions, a Zipp 404 (or 1080 if you prefer) front wheel, Zipp Sub 9 disc, and a Fizik Arione Carbon Tri 2 saddle.
Gearing is a little different to what we're used to, although it does make sense: a 54/42t chainset coupled with an 10spd 11-25t rear cassette. The 54 tooth big ring gives you that little bit extra for fast downhill stretches, and we used it to good effect.
All in all it's a light machine by TT standards, with our 56cm model coming in on our scales at 7.85kg / 17.05lb without pedals.
This build costs £6999.99 but you can buy the frame and fork alone for just £1,599.99 - an absolute bargain for a top end frameset. Visit www.boardmanbikes.com to find out where you can buy them from.