Boardman Bikes have gone from strength to strength in just a few years – from a new brand to a company who sponsor a pro team, have an Olympic gold medal to their name and are expanding worldwide. It's bikes like the Race on which Boardman built their reputation: a straightforward, attractive road bike at a wallet-friendly price. A machine designed to appeal to the newbie or occasional sportive rider, or perhaps someone returning to cycling.
Boardman are up against brands with history behind them, but they offer as much – or more – for your money at just about any pricepoint. The Race is no exception. It looks as good as any bike we’ve seen at the price, the finish putting that of many dearer bikes to shame. As for the frame, there’s a lot going on with the tube profiles, uniformly round tubes clearly being passé. The down tube has an aero profile at the top, rounding out by the time it meets the bottom bracket. We’re not convinced this offers tangible performance benefits, but along with the super-smoothed welds it looks the part.
More significant is the aluminium tubing’s triple butting – the walls being thickest at the ends where strength matters and thinning towards the middle where fewer forces are at work. Strong and light, it contributes to an all-in weight that challenges bikes costing around a grand. Weight is further diminished with the carbon fork. A number of bikes around this price have carbon forks and aluminium steerers, but this is the cheapest we’ve tested with an all-carbon fork. It’s also unusual to see an internally routed rear brake cable at this price, even if this is more of an aesthetic than a performance benefit.
The Race claims to have ‘sportive geometry’. In effect this means a parallel 73-degree head tube and seat ube – pretty much standard road bike geometry and similar to that on comparable frames from the likes of Trek and Specialized. As a result handling is totally predictable. It gets up to speed reasonably quickly, is reassuring on descents, and over long rides the frame is stiff enough without proving punishing, aided by the Fizik Arione-like own-brand saddle.
Components are what you’d expect on a bike at this price, based around a nine-speed Shimano Sora groupset with compact FSA chainset. Sora differs from Shimano’s dearer groupsets in having a small thumb-operated lever on the inside of the brake hood for upshifting the rear mech. It allows only a single gear change per shift, and you can’t change up while riding on the drops, unless you’ve got thumbs like an orangutan. But it works well, and we’ve found it durable too. The Tektro brakes are okay without being inspiring. However, the wheels are a step up on those usually seen on £650 machines. The Mavic CXP22 rims aren’t super-light but are strong, should prove easy to service, and contribute to the controlled handling of the bike.
As usual, Chris and co have put together an extremely attractive package. And while the Race is aimed at the wannabe weekend racer or sportive rider, Boardman have sensibly made room for front and rear mudguards, adding year-round versatility, so that this summer’s racing bike can double as next winter’s trainer. If you’ve got £600-£700 to spend on your first serious road bike, the Race is a definite contender for your cash.
This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine.