Weighing 10.6kg (23.5lb), this is one of the best equipped, and lightest, mountain bikes we’ve tested for under £1,000. Its ‘Urban’ tag comes from its skinny slick tyres and ﬁxed blade fork but it’s otherwise the same as Boardman’s identically priced Team model with a RockShox Recon fork.
So, while a swap to knobbly tyres will give you a light bike that even without a suspension upgrade will serve you well on most trails, the standard Team is going to be a better bet for those planning to spend most of their time on the trail. Still, this is a superb high-speed commuter that can handle more than you might think in off-road environments.
While it’s fun to see how well you can ride on dry trails with slick tyres, the beauty of this carbon-forked Boardman, once you’ve treated it to proper mountain bike treads, is the way its low weight makes it feel so sprightly, tight and direct. Be generous with tyre size and it’s forgiving even without suspension. In fact, it comes close to feeling like a cross-country race bike, but at half the price.
Ride & handling: An inspiring trail bike that will double up as a fast commuter
A tyre swap is all it takes to turn the Boardman into a thoroughbred. Big tyres and the fat carbon fork take the edge off shocks to a point where with 2.25in treads we only felt the need for a suspension fork when the trails presented a succession of ruts, roots and rocks. The 23in top tube (Medium) and low rise handlebar combine with the low weight (10.9kg/24lb with the mountain bike tyres) to make climbing and acceleration notable attributes.
Handling manages to feel both lively and conﬁdent on the sort of tight, fast singletrack that makes a bike like this a joy to ride. If you’re undecided about whether to go for this or a Boardman that has a suspension fork, consider the fact that a quality rigid carbon fork like this is not a cheapening option. But this rigid forked version has a purist lightweight beauty that will appeal to a lot of riders.
Frame: Bang up to date in construction technique
Boardman’s Team frame is bang up to date in construction technique, with its double-pass-welded joins making it look more like a smooth carbon structure than triple-butted alu. A tapered head tube means it’s ready to upgrade to the latest generation of suspension fork should you wish, while its variously manipulated main tubes are conﬁgured to combine an ideal combination of strength, rigidity and the sort of vibration absorption that used to be hard to achieve with an alu frame.
The low top tube is almost box sectioned on the top but ﬂares wide into the head tube, as does a big biaxially ovalised down tube: both are designed to achieve maximum weld contact to boost strength at the joins. Wishbone seat stays have rack mounts, emphasising the frame’s split race-ready/utilitarian persona, but there are no mudguard eyelets on the carbon fork. We like the way the drop-outs are built to incorporate the disc brake calliper between the seat and chainstays.
Boardman’s fat carbon legged fixed blade fork is a classy offering that shouldn’t necessarily be seen as a downgrade on a suspension fork. Like other well built carbon components, it’s very light and does a fine job of taking the edge off trail shocks. With fat fast-rolling tyres fitted you might not feel the need for a suspension fork.
Equipment: Superb spec
The skinny slick tyres are intended for blacktop use, hence the ‘Urban MTB’ tag, Slick tyres like the Continental Contacts on the Boardman are superb on the road, in most cases gripping far better than tyres with tread. Provided the trail is dry, it’s surprising what you can get away with riding off-road too, but don’t expect much grip on wet or loose trails. If you stick with the rigid fork, replace them with 2.25in treads or bigger to boost comfort.
The rest of the ﬁnishing kit is pure mountain bike. SRAM’s X7 2x10 drivetrain with FSA’s Comet 42/27-tooth double crankset twinned with an 11-34-tooth 10-speed cassette provides all the gears a relatively fit rider should ever need, for on and off-road use. A 42x11 is big enough for fairly high road speeds while a 27x34 is small enough for the most difficult off-road climbs. 2x10 drivetrains will probably be the established mountain bike norm within a couple of years.