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The Boardman AiR/TTE is the flagship of the 2014 range and was unveiled last month at the Ironman World Championships in Kona Jamie Wilkins/BikeRadar
Boardman Bikes have revealed their new Elite range at a presentation in London. Chris Boardman introduced the range himself, and was joined by British triathlon stars Alastair and Jonathan Brownlee and 2012 Ironman world champion Pete Jacobs.
Unusually, the entire line-up has been completely revamped, at the same time as introducing new models. The new AiR/TTE time trial and triathlon bike is the flagship. It's joined by an all-new SLS 'endurance road' bike, a new range of CXR disc-equipped cyclocross bikes and thoroughly re-engineered versions of the AiR aero-road and SLR road race bikes.
The first of the new bikes will be available in December, others will follow in January and the AiR/TTE will go on sale in spring.
Superlight Endurance Series
The SLS is a completely new addition to Boardman's range. It's described as an endurance race bike – rather than a purely comfort-focused model – so imagine a rival to the likes of the Specialized Roubaix and Trek Domane. The frame is a full monocoque with extensive use of high modulus carbon fibre and a claimed weight of just 850g.
Instead of designing a complex, attention-grabbing, shock-absorbing widget to rival Specialized's Zertz inserts and Trek's seat tube decoupler, Boardman opted to keep the frame simple and use refined geometry and ultra-thin seatstays to provide the ride comfort.
Race-worthy power transfer is ensured by the huge, boxy down tube and chainstays. The bottom bracket is a Press-Fit 30 type, the same as every bike in the range, except the AiR/TTE.
The geometry of the SLS is relaxed compared to its stablemates but only by a small amount. For example, a size M frame has a 10mm longer head tube and 5mm longer chainstays than the speed-obsessed AiR.
Four builds and seven sizes are available, and the frameset can be bought separately.
AiR (Aerodynamic Racing)
Boardman's aero-road bike has been redeveloped in pursuit of more speed while retaining the existing weight and stiffness. Along with reshaped tubing, much of the drag reduction is achieved by moving the rear brake to behind the bottom bracket and, on the top 9.8 spec bikes, by integrating Boardman's own design of V-brake inside the fork.
The final validation tests for the new AiR were running on the same day as the Elite range launch so there are no official drag figures yet, but Boardman Bikes' MD Andy Smallwood told BikeRadar that they had achieved “small but useful gains, especially from the fork, that will make a big difference over a long ride”.
The new AiR was developed in tandem with the TTE time trial machine and they share very similar, but not identical, tube profiles. Furthermore, “The fork on the AiR road bike is the one that we originally designed for the TTE,” says Smallwood. “It's more mechanic-friendly than the one we finalised for the TTE, plus it allowed us to have this bike ready for market sooner.”
The aero shapes were developed “for real world conditions”, by which Boardman mean riding at more normal speeds of 20-25mph rather than the 30mph-plus that is the industry standard for aero R&D and really only sustainable by the best professionals. The key net result of the lower speeds is that the effective wind yaw angle of any given crosswind is increased. (To understand this, imagine the extreme example of travelling north with a 10mph easterly crosswind – when stationary you feel the wind from the east, at 10mph the wind you feel is from the north-east because your riding speed matches the wind speed and the effective wind yaw angle is halfway between the two. If you were able to pedal at 50mph you would feel the wind almost entirely head-on. Therefore, on average, amateur riders are exposed to higher effective crosswind angles than professionals).
To address greater wind angles – up to and beyond 20 degrees – the AiR has slightly more rounded tube shapes. Boardman call the process that led to these shapes Natural Laminar Flow Optimisation.
Other key features on the AiR include the new multi-position seatpost which can be set up for road, TT or triathlon use, and the fully internal cable routing with the cables entering the frame behind the stem instead of into the head tube to get them out of the wind as early and tidily as possible.
The AiR will be available in five sizes, as a frameset and in six builds, including two versions of the 9.8.
While it's likely to be outsold by each of the other new bikes, because of its specialist nature and exclusivity, the AiR/TTE is the flagship of the brand's 2014 product onslaught. Time trialling is what Chris Boardman is famous for and, as director of R&D, it remains his passion and speciality. The TTE will be offered with Shimano Di2 shifting with a choice of Dura-Ace or Ultegra builds, or as a frameset.
The TTE is UCI-legal for top-level time trialling. Whereas some rivals (notably Felt's new IA) have ignored the UCI regulations in order to make the fastest possible bike for customers who almost exclusively do not take part in UCI events, and despite sponsoring several triathletes but no professional road team, Boardman Bikes kept the TTE within the boundaries. However, as Smallwood explains, that didn't require any sacrifices to be made: “It wasn't our top priority to make the TTE UCI-legal, the goal was to make the fastest bike. The R&D process brought us to this bike and we weren't faced with having to make a compromise in order to keep it legal. There is a cover for the rear brake and the option to run a steeper seat angle which would make it non-legal.”
The most distinctive feature of the new TTE is the raised top tube which integrates with the cockpit but look again and you will notice what's missing – cables. The gear and brake cables are now completely hidden, as first seen on the Factor Vis Vires road bike. The TTE's front brake is integrated into the fork and the rear is slung under the chainstays behind the BB386 bottom bracket.
The TTE will be offered in five sizes and provides a massive range of adjustability in the cockpit. The armpads have a range of 10cm for height, 5cm back and forth, and 12cm for width. The base bar is fixed in place for now, to preserve the integration through the stem and head tube, though other base bar options are being considered.
So, is it faster?
Twenty-four per cent – that's the claimed drag reduction achieved by the TTE against its predecessor in a wind tunnel at 20-degree wind yaw angle and it's a big number that would make a great marketing headline. That isn't Boardman's style though, and he goes on to tell us that at 8-degree the saving is 14 per cent and head-on (ie on a still day) there is still a saving of five per cent, which is impressive, as Boardman have been able to make big gains at the high yaw angles while still improving at zero degrees. That's the aero equivalent of being both stiffer and lighter, two goals that are often mutually exclusive.
What's even more impressive is that, during the presentation, Boardman himself pointed out that, because the rider makes up 80 per cent of the total drag, the total system drag reduction is actually four per cent and when you also factor in rolling resistance and other frictional losses that drops to 3.3 per cent. This underlines two things: that the frame is only one of the areas (and probably not the first) that requires your attention when chasing faster times, and that Chris Boardman MBE is a man of science who is happy to make his marketing team wince in the name of accuracy and integrity. Not for nothing is he known as 'The Professor'.
CXR (Cyclocross Racing)
Boardman’s first cyclocross bike was conceived as an affordable, tough all-rounder, yet it won men’s and women’s national cyclocross titles. The new CXR range is cut from the same cloth but raises the bar for performance and switches to disc brakes. They look every inch the serious racer until you clock the rack and mudguard mounts that give them real versatility.
The entry-level 9.0 is built around a new triple-butted aluminium frame with a carbon fork and, impressively, equipped with a SRAM Force 22 groupset. The brakes are mechanical Avid BB7R. The 9.2 uses the same build kit but switches to the new carbon fibre monocoque frame.
The carbon framed 9.4 gets Shimano’s brand new Ultegra Di2 hydraulic groupset – it’s the first off-the-shelf bike we’ve seen to use it. Andy Smallwood told BikeRadar that, “We had just enough of a heads-up about Shimano’s hydraulic group to ensure that our carbon CXR frame’s cable routing is compatible. We’re sure that there’s a market for hydraulic disc brakes on multi-purpose bikes such as the CXR… and it gives us a head start as we can foresee these brakes spreading into more bike categories.”
We’re surprised that there isn’t a model with road tyres fitted as standard to create a more obvious rival to the myriad disc-equipped road bikes now on the market but as swapping the tyres yourself is relatively cheap and straightforward that shouldn’t put anyone off.
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