The Boardman Comp looks like it’s wandered in accidentally from a higher priced bike test. But no, that’s what it costs. And yes, that is a RockShox Recon fork.
Butted and hydroformed tubes form the aluminium frame. Here the welds have been smoothed out or ﬁlled in before being painted over, so it looks almost as if the frame has been ﬁllet brazed. It makes it hard to tell whether the reinforcement at the head tube is a genuine gusset or the result of more hydroforming.
The down tube is biaxially oversized, as usual, while the top tube has been ﬂattened horizontally to maximise any compliance (which is to say, not much) while retaining torsional rigidity. The head tube houses a semi-integrated headset.
At the back, the chainstays are angularly proﬁled but not massive and there’s enough space around them to ﬁt in 2.3in tyres if it’s dry. The seatstays are skinnier, so the bike shouldn’t feel like you’re sat on a girder, and the seat tube slot faces forward – a useful touch for mud riding.
In the hand, the Boardman Comp feels light, and so it is on the scales: a whisker under 26lb without pedals. It’s helped in this by its standout feature: a RockShox Recon Solo Air fork. You don’t see many air forks on £900 bikes, let alone £700 ones.
Features such as external rebound and a lockout that’ll blow through if you hit something hard also appear on RockShox's cheaper Tora forks, but the Recon is a good chunk lighter and feels smoother.
Gearing is 27-speed SRAM X5 mostly, with a rear mech that’s been upgraded to X7. A stiff external bottom bracket will please more powerful riders, while the Avid Juicy 3 brakes are benchmark performers at this price.
The wheels save a bit of cash with no-name hubs, but use decent eyeleted rims and Continental’s marathon racing tyres: Speed Kings. These come in 2.3in as well as the 2.1in ﬁtted, which would give greater comfort at the cost of more easily clogging the Comp’s frame. Even the saddle is relatively light and racy. The only real surprise on this lean racer is its wide bar.
The Boardman Comp rides like what it is: one of the lightest bikes we've tested at this price. It ﬂies along. It’s got fairly steep cross-country race style angles but the big bar gives trail conﬁdence. You’re still pushed forward over the front wheel, but that’s okay because it has a great fork.
Set up for your weight, the Recon is lovely and active over small bumps, yet still tracks accurately over big ones. It’s the main reason for the bike’s expensive-feeling, nuanced performance, plus it drives the weight down.
The Boardman climbs well, in part because it’s so ﬂoaty light, and also because its tyres don’t give up when the trail gets soggy. Long climbs no longer require a 34T sprocket and, for short ones with ruts, hairpins and steps, the wide bar lets you put the front wheel just where you want it.
Downhill, the capable fork and trail-width bar mean it remains composed, while the Juicy 3s provide power and modulation even in pouring rain on slippery switchback descents. Any hardtail at this level that is good enough to get away from the Boardman Comp going down can likely be hung out to dry on the ﬂat or the ﬁrst big climb.
A fast, light bike with a pleasingly high quality fork, the Boardman Comp’s natural homes are pedally singletrack, all-day epics or race start lines. It’ll keep pace with any sub-£1,000 26in hardtail, yet it’s not built solely for speed either.
Tyres that will tackle trails and a comfortably wide bar acknowledge real-world riding. And at the risk of banging on about that Recon, in the kingdom of cheap coil forks, a decent air fork is king. Get this bike if you’re after the raciest hardtail for under £900, and then trouser the spare £200.