Mountain Biking UK loved the Boardman Team when they tested it earlier this year, so it was no surprise that it won the What Mountain Bike Max Speed Per Pound award for 2012. Here’s what the judges had to say…
“When the world’s most experienced bike journo says the Boardman Team is “The best £850 bike we’ve ever tested,” you know it’s something special. This genuinely exciting, involving machine doesn’t just deliver generic riding with top value components bolted on; it’s a complete package, and lets you push your riding further than almost any other sub-£1000 hardtail.
The frame is really well made, with a tapered head tube fronting curvy, smooth-welded hydroformed tubes that make it look like more like carbon fibre than alloy. Further detailing includes easy-to-set-up rear brake post-mounts in the angle between the seatstays and chainstays, decent amounts of rear tyre room for muddy conditions, mounts for two bottles and even rack bosses for workday commuting.
The smooth-stroking 120mm RockShox Recon Gold air fork and crisp, 69-degree head angle give a more capable descending feel than any of its price peers.
Mavic XM317 rims are classic super-durable hoops, the FSA Comet is our favourite cost effective crankset and the 42/27 double rings are a great choice on a naturally fast hardtail like the Team. The 11-36T cassette still gives low enough ratios for grunting the steepest climbs, although at just over 26lb it’s a gifted altitude gainer anyway.
The only upgrade it needs is to softer compound tyres; these cheap compound Continental Mountain King IIs are fine in the dry but awful in the wet. The Boardman bar, stem, lock-on grips and long, multiposition saddle prove comfortable contact points and keep the Team enjoyable even on epic Lake District rides or the longest summer days.
The fact it performs as well as most bikes £150 over the magic £1000 mark confirms its true on-trail – not just on-paper – value.”
Read on for our full review of the Boardman Team:
The standard Boardman bike range is sold by Halfords in the UK (there’s also an Elite range sold by independent dealers). There’s no getting away from the fact that Halfords’ buying and selling power keeps the prices very competitive.
The Team’s drivetrain and a smattering of own-brand componentry just about gives away the fact that it’s a sub-£1,000 bike. But everything else, including a superbly finished frame, classy wheelset and excellent 120mm (4.7in) travel fork, conspires to create a machine that’s far lighter than most of its price rivals as well as being capable of a whole lot more on the trail.
Ride & handling: Perfect for downhill trail fun
To put it simply, the Boardman is an easy bike to ride. It’s comfy, confident and stable, and the air-sprung fork deals with trail shocks without fuss. The fact that it offers 120mm (4.7in) of travel rather than the 100 we’re more used to on bikes like this introduces an element of carefree chuck-ability on rough downhills.
A few years back bikes that were set up like this were regarded as hardcore. These days they are what we’ve come to love and expect from the leading edge of the cross-country and trail hardtail market.
Frame & equipment: Fork and wheels outstrip the price tag
The clean, smooth joins of the frame are achieved through double-pass welds that, by the time the lush coat of paint and lacquer have been applied, end up leaving no discernible tube junctures. A lot of riders thought it was a carbon frame.
It’s actually triple-butted aluminium, with a collection of clever hydroformed tube shapes to add strength and rigidity where needed. A tapered steerer head tube and fork keep it as future-proof as any bike in the sub-£1,000 price category. And, while it’s a good enough frame to be worthy of its ‘Team’ tag, it’s also very practical in utilitarian terms.
The bike has two sets of bottle cage bosses, luggage rack eyelets, and a forward-facing seat clamp to keep rear-wheel spray out of the seat tube. It also boasts a stack of steerer washers, to be used for handlebar height adjustments.
There’s plenty of mud room around the tyres and lots of standover clearance. We like the way the rear brake calliper is tucked between the chainstay and seatstay as an integral part of the rear dropout.
The RockShox Recon GoldTK fork is a highlight at this price. It offers a plush 120mm of air-sprung travel, with a lockout lever on the right leg that still leaves a tiny amount of compression, and a rebound damping adjustment dial at the base of the right-hand leg. Inevitably, the head angle is more relaxed than on bikes with shorter forks, to allow for the extra fork travel.
With an 11-36 10-speed cassette out back, the 42/27 double FSA crankset provides more than enough gear ratios on a bike like this. Chainline is good in every one of the 20 gears and the combined axle/crankset and external bottom bracket cups keep the weight low and drive power precise.
The SRAM X7 gears and shifters provided clean, precise shifting throughout the test, and stopping duties were performed superbly by Avid Elixir 3 brakes. Hard-hitters might prefer a 180mm rotor up front, but a 160 emphasises the weight-saving efforts that ultimately benefit the complete bike.
The Mavic XM317 rimmed wheels are a bit of a speccing highlight too. With Formula hubs and Continental Mountain King 2.2in tyres they’re not the lightest on test, and not the fastest rolling, but they can cope with plenty of hard knocks and the knob profile of the treads grips superbly in all conditions.
A Boardman saddle, seatpost, stem and handlebar are cost-cutters but all do the job perfectly, and we’re always happy to see bolt-on grips.