Boardman’s well-regarded FS Team has had a ground-up redesign for 2011, but maintains the brand’s reputation for value for money. It's an impressive step up from the old model, which was an excellent bike. The new model is light, amazingly well-equipped and certainly won’t hold you back out on the trails.
Ride & handling: Inspiring trail manners and great looks
With a little more rear travel than most of the competition at this price (130mm/5.1in), Boardman have opted for a RockShox Sektor fork up front to match. Impressively for the money, it’s a QR15 through-axle variant.
Combined with the big frame tubes and tapered steerer, there’s no shortage of front-end stiffness and the Team FS tackles rough trails with considerable authority, helped along by relaxed geometry. The fork uses RockShox’s simpler TK damping setup, but it behaved itself perfectly well.
RockShox’s Monarch rear shock impressed, too – with a laser-etched sag gauge and adjustable Floodgate platform damping, it’s easy to set up and tune. All this talk of through-axles and oversized frame tubes makes the Team FS sound heavy, but it weighs just over 29lb. That’s impressive for a longish-travel bike at under £1,000.
We did encounter one niggle – the suspension design brings the front of the seatstay a fair way forward, and the stays are fat and widely spaced, leading to them occasionally brushing riders’ calves. We adapted quickly, but if you’re particularly large of leg check before you buy.
Frame & equipment: UK-designed chassis and terriﬁc spec
It’s hard not to do a bit of a double take when seeing the FS Team for the ﬁrst time with that £1,000 pricetag in mind. 2x10 transmissions may be the latest thing, but in general they’ve not trickled down to the lower price points yet.
The Boardman is something of an early adopter with its FSA twin-ring chainset and wide-ratio 10-speed SRAM X7 rear setup. As for the rest of the kit, Avid’s Elixir 3 brakes are strong and controllable, while Continental’s Mountain King tyres have reassuring volume and roll fast, but get out of their depth in gloop.
You could be forgiven for thinking that the FS Team has a carbon ﬁbre frame. But the way in which the tubes appear to ﬂow into one another is a result of clever welding – the FS Team has a butted aluminium frame. The organic joints are the result of a multiple-pass welding process, leaving smooth welds old-school riders will ﬁnd remarkably similar to the ﬁllet-brazing process popular in the early days.
Boardman aren’t the only manufacturers to use smooth welds, but they've used them heavily – only the bottom bracket joints reveal more familiar weld beads. The combined effect of tube shaping, external reinforcement and smooth welds is certainly eye-catching.
A tapered head tube leads the way, an impressive inclusion at this price, and the top and down tubes are ﬂared at the front to put plenty of meat into the head tube area. At the back, a variant of the four-bar suspension design delivers 130mm of travel.
Rather than a rocker link on the seat tube, the Boardman has a swing link hanging off the top tube, with the RockShox Monarch shock sitting roughly in line with the chunky seatstays. At the very back is a post-style brake mount rather than the common IS (International Standard) style.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.