Boardman MTR 8.9 first ride review

Better on paper than on the trails

Boardman’s FS range delivered top-value full-suspension trail bikes for years, so its four-bike MTR line-up is big news for bargain hunters.

The spec of the 8.9 looks great on paper too, but its lack of a dropper post, sketchy tyres and sticky fork restrict its potential.

Boardman MTR 8.9 specifications

  • Frame: Hydroformed, smooth-welded 6061 aluminium alloy, 140mm (5.5in) travel
  • Fork: RockShox Revelation RC, 140mm (5.5in travel)
  • Shock: RockShox Deluxe RT
  • Wheels: Boardman tubeless-ready rims on Boost hubs
  • Tyres: Vittoria Morsa TNT 27.5x2.3in
  • Drivetrain: SRAM NX (1x11)
  • Brakes: SRAM Level T, 180/160mm rotors
  • Bar: Boardman, 740mm
  • Stem: Boardman, 45mm
  • Seatpost: Boardman rigid
  • Saddle: fi’zi:k Ponente
  • Weight: 14.24kg (31.39lb), large size without pedals

Boardman MTR 8.9 frame

The rear end is controlled by a relatively long-stroke (55mm) RockShox Deluxe shock
The rear end is controlled by a relatively long-stroke (55mm) RockShox Deluxe shock

With its boxy down tube and humped top tube, this is a wholly new chassis. While the back end has a similar four-bar layout to the FS, with a pivot just ahead of the rear axle, the chainstays aren’t as asymmetric and the rectangular ‘seatstays’ are bigger.

The hanging shock-driving linkage is larger too, and drives a metric-sized RockShox damper to give 140mm of travel. By slackening the head angle by a degree (67.5 degrees), Boardman has given the large size a 25mm longer wheelbase and extended the reach to 455mm, although the top tube length is unchanged, at 630mm.

Boardman MTR 8.9 kit

Apart from the obvious omission of a dropper post, Boardman has done a good job with the kit.

SRAM NX is a reliable — if heavy — way to get 1x11 gearing and the Level T brakes are adequately powerful and reasonably communicative. The Deluxe shock gets a lever to stiffen it up for climbing, as does the matching Revelation fork.

While the wide tubeless rims are a good call, the freehub is gappy and the hard-compound Vittoria tyres don’t work well in typical UK conditions.

The limited room to lower the seatpost in the frame (due to the curved seat tube) makes the lack of a dropper more of an issue and the MTR’s obvious competitors (the Vitus Escarpe and Calibre Triple B) come dropper-equipped for less money.

The Deluxe shock gets a lever to stiffen it up for climbing
The Deluxe shock gets a lever to stiffen it up for climbing

Boardman MTR 8.9 ride impressions

On less testing terrain, the lack of a dropper isn’t an issue and the rolling speed of the tyres is an ego booster. It’s a naturally efficient bike to pedal too, so if you’re looking for a weekday workhorse that can also explore woods and bridleways at the weekend, then it’s just fine.

The short stem, stiff-tracking frame and longer geometry encourage more adventurous riding than that though, and that’s where the MTR starts to come unstuck.

Most obviously, the tyres are treacherous on anything remotely damp and fold or flop if run at lower pressures. The lag between starting pedalling and the rear wheel actually propelling you forward can catch you out too, especially if you’ve only got space for a pedal stroke or two between trail features.

None of the tuning tweaks I tried could rid the Revelation fork of its jarring ride, and the tendency of the rear end to rush deep into its stroke unless you add volume spacers (in which case, it’s still only okay rather than good) unbalances the overall suspension feel.

Finally, the lack of seatpost-slamming room means you’re going to have to find the money to add a dropper if you want to feel confident on steep descents, drops or launches.

That all makes buying the MTR 8.8 and spending the £400 saved on better tyres and a dropper look like the sensible option, despite its 1x10 transmission and theoretically worse but actually more consistently smooth RockShox Recon RL fork.

Boardman MTR 8.9 early verdict

Stiff and sorted frame, but the fork, freehub, tyres and lack of dropper are frustrating off-road.

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

Related Articles

Back to top