Boardman FS Team 650b review£1,000.00

Long-running budget full-sus champ continues to hang in there

BikeRadar score4/5

Boardman’s FS Pro and FS Team double act have been the award-winning benchmark for bargain full-suspension bikes for several years. The Team is still better equipped than many hardtails at the same price, and the overall ride character is efficiently enjoyable and helpfully controlled on most trails too.

Sticking with a proven frame design

The frame is a well-proven design based around triple-butted tubes that are also bulged and shaped to cope with the extra structural load in high-stress areas. The hourglass-shaped tapered head tube earns the front of the frame some extra stiffness and precision that’s backed up by the broad down tube and ovalised top tube.

The pivot for the hanging suspension linkage pierces straight through the top tube, with a reinforcing plate smooth-welded underneath. A diagonal strut on the top side braces it against the extended seat tube.

The mainframe tubes are joined with deliberately smoothed-down welds to produce a seamless carbon look:
The mainframe tubes are joined with deliberately smoothed-down welds to produce a seamless carbon look:

The mainframe tubes are joined with deliberately smoothed-down welds to produce a seamless carbon-like look

While there’s no internal dropper post routing, the top tube does get clips for an external cable/hose. The curved seat tube, asymmetric keyhole chainstay bridge and bridge-free seatstays mean big tyre clearance too.

While it doesn’t get the 142x12mm through-axle rear end of the pricier FS Pro, the Team’s chainstay pivots are double sided to create a reasonably stiff rear end. To keep costs down, the frame only comes in three sizes.

Generous kit for your cash

Limited sizing, only small-detail frame changes over the past few years and the fact its bikes sell direct through mega-retailer Halfords mean Boardman has plenty of componentry cash to play with.

As a result the RockShox Sektor fork plugs into the frame with a tapered steerer tube and connects securely to the front wheel with a 15mm thru-axle. Heavy steel stanchions (the tubes that the lower legs of the fork slide up and down on) add a bit of weight but you get reasonable rebound adjustment and a rudimentary low-speed compression damping dial too. The rear shock only gets adjustable rebound, but the RockShox Monarch is generally a consistently controlled unit – though we had issues with our first sample.

The sram x7 type 2 clutch-equipped rear derailleur means much less chain slap and joyfully easy wheel removal, courtesy of the cage lock button:
The sram x7 type 2 clutch-equipped rear derailleur means much less chain slap and joyfully easy wheel removal, courtesy of the cage lock button:

The SRAM X7 Type 2 clutch-equipped rear derailleur means much less chain slap and joyfully easy wheel removal

Gearing is a SRAM mix, including a clutch-equipped X7 Type 2 rear derailleur to reduce chain slap. The twin-ring, thru-axle FSA crankset is good looking and appreciably stiff.

The wheels are based around high-quality Mavic XM319 hubs, and the budget Continental tyres are much grippier than last year’s because they’re made in Conti’s own new Asian factory. The Avid Elixir brakes are up-specced with quieter Centerline rotors, including a rare sighting of a 170mm disc up front. Finishing kit is all Boardman own-brand stuff, including a usefully short, reaction quickening stem, mid-width bar and firmly comfortable saddle.

Fast-feeling and impressively precise

The backswept seat tube and large amount of backwards offset on the seatpost create a rearward saddle position that meant most of our testers ended up sliding the seat a long way forward on its rails to get a balanced pedalling position. We also had to do a fair amount of pressure juggling with the shock.

The sample we had turned out to have a blown compression damping circuit, but even with a fresh shock (and going by previous FS Team test experience) the Boardman needs to be run with more pressure than you’d expect to reduce bouncing when pedalling, particularly out of the saddle. The relatively low wheel weight and fast-rolling X-King tyres mean it spins up to speed encouragingly if you stay seated and spinning though.

The fs team's handling is fast and precise, aided by its tapered-steerer, thru-axle equipped front end:
The fs team's handling is fast and precise, aided by its tapered-steerer, thru-axle equipped front end:

The FS Team's handling is fast and precise, aided by its tapered-steerer, thru-axle equipped front end

The Boardman’s steering lacks relaxed rowdy-trail confidence, but the stiff frame and trusty-tracking thru-axle fork mean its fast reactions are impressively accurate. It can handle some trouble too, whether you’re forcing the fork through rocks and roots or dodging between the really dangerous stuff.

The rear shock can, however, unsettle stability and create an over-tall front end feel as it dives deep into its travel if you start driving the bike hard into corners or hauling on the anchors. That can be balanced reasonably well by reducing fork pressure and pushing the saddle forward, but that then cuts into the effective reach of the frame.

The relatively short wheelbase also undermines its confidence in high-speed sweeping turns on slippery surfaces. If you’re after a naturally faster feeling and handling bike though, it’s still excellent, smooth-riding value for money.

This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

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