Although the Boardman SLS 9.2's slightly muted grey and yellow paint job didn’t win universal appeal from our testers, it is of course what’s underneath that’s important. In this case that's a lightweight carbon frame with an oversize down tube, bottom bracket shell and industrial-looking near-rectangular chainstays. And a damned good ride.
Though Boardman made the move from rider to manufacturer in 2007, Nicole Cooke and Alistair Brownlee have since piloted Boardmans to Olympic and Commonwealth medals – which isn’t a bad recommendation for his machines.
In its eight years the Boardman road range has expanded hugely, encompassing race, aero, endurance and disc-braked bikes. The SLS (Superlight Sportive) series is for the rider ‘who appreciates the ride feel and performance of a high-end race bike but also needs comfort’.
It’s a promise that Boardman and his design team deliver on. The frame is made from T800 and T1000 carbon from one of the material’s biggest names, Toray, and weighs an impressive claimed 850g.
Slimline seatstays and chunky chainstays: comfort and power
While a lot of your budget clearly goes into that quality lightweight frame, there are no obvious kit shortcuts anywhere, with Shimano Ultegra throughout, including the wheels. These aren’t glamorous, and they lack the glossy logos wheel manufacturers love, but they’re seriously good tough and tubeless-ready wheels that should go on for years. Their cup-and-cone hubs are serviceable, though the lack of spoke holes in the rims will make replacing spokes trickier.
Although nominally an endurance machine, the geometry isn’t very far removed from that of a race bike, with near-73-degree angles through most sizes, and the head tube isn’t particularly tall. The top tube is a little shorter than a race bike’s and the wheelbase a tad longer, but you could easily employ this on competitive duties as well as for endurance riding, its low weight coming into its own when you’re looking to accelerate.
The handling is very well sorted too. Thanks to its low weight and light wheels it ascends eagerly, with a stiff frame and enough gears for seated climbing. The front end is solid and reassuring on descents, it accelerates smoothly and the Ultegra brakes bring proceedings to a halt safely.
All of the Boardman’s cabling is routed internally
We also liked the matched Fizik Ardea saddle, which along with the carbon seatpost helped to keep the rear end comfortable.
The SLS9.2 will find a home with sportive riders looking to improve their times, maybe upgrading from alloy or entry-level carbon.
The Boardman name may not have the cachet of some of the opposition, and the brand’s long association with Halfords' bike shops may put some snobbier riders off. But Boardman hasn’t grown so quickly without offering a quality product at an attractive price.
And though this bike may look a little low key, don’t be deceived. Just as with the former furniture maker from the Wirral, there’s a lot of poise, power and performance beneath a quiet exterior.