Since they launched three years ago, Boardman have established an enviable reputation for cracking bikes at remarkably low prices. It's machines like the Team that show why. Okay, so it doesn't have years of racing pedigree behind it, an Italian name on the head badge or a frame made from the latest cutting-edge carbon blend. But it's light, quick and comfortable, with geometry that's neutral enough for beginners without boring the pants off more experienced riders.
Ride & handling: Lively all-rounder that belies its budget pricetag
Pick the Road Team up and one thing immediately becomes evident: this is no heavy alloy chassis masquerading as a lightweight road racer under the cover of a smart paint job and a smattering of name-brand kit. Our size XL test bike weighed in at 18.87lb (8.57kg), without pedals – not far off Boardman's claim of 8.1kg for a medium.
That's a good couple of pounds lighter than the market leaders in this price bracket, and that light weight is immediately felt out on the road, where the Boardman responds to pedalling input eagerly and winds up to speed quickly. Alloy frames can sometimes give an unsparingly harsh ride, or, conversely, end up weak and flexy if too much weight is shaved, but the Team seems to avoid both of those traps.
Sensibly sized chain- and seatstays mean road buzz is filtered out to a degree – although admittedly not to the same extent as on a decent steel, carbon fibre or titanium frame – while up front the carbon fork offers a welcome hint of vertical flex. The downside is that, on steep, fast, off camber descents we found the front end has a tendency to wander slightly off line and needs to be muscled back on track.
This isn't helped by the Road Team's long head tube (18.5cm on our XL). While the Boardman never feels totally confident in these situations, running the stem as low as possible and shifting your weight towards the front wheel keeps things in check. And these off-camber descents are the only occasions when the handling left anything at all to be desired.
Frame: Shapely alloy chassis; more relevant for most riders than its carbon stablemate
While the Boardman's butted aluminium alloy frame looks fairly classic from a distance – with a near-horizontal (actually gently sloping) top tube, long head tube and fairly restrained graphics package – up close, the tube shaping shows it's bang up to date. The top tube starts round at the seat tube but becomes diamond in profile as it reaches the head tube.
The teardrop-shaped down tube shifts its axis as it heads towards the bottom bracket, and welds are smoothed to give a carbon-alike finish. The fork is a full-carbon monocoque unit – an upgrade from the alloy-steerer-tubed units found on Boardman's cheaper road bikes – and it spins in an integrated headset.
The Team has a carbon fibre cousin, the Team Carbon, which costs £150 more. Both bikes are decked out with exactly the same finishing kit and money saved by opting for the alloy Team will more than make up for the difference in weight (0.5lb). The change is enough to buy a better pair of wheels (although the Ritcheys found here are perfectly adequate), some lighter finishing kit or even a full set of riding gear.
The alloy bike will stand up to everyday knocks and dings better, too – an important consideration if you're after a bike for commuting or winter use. There are no rack mounts, but you can always use a seatpost fitting pannier for small to mid-sized loads, and you can get around the lack of mudguard eyelets by using Crud Road Racers or the like.
If it's carbon's much touted – but difficult to quantify – comfort benefits that appeal, bear in mind that the Road Team is a far from harsh-feeling bike, and you could always invest in a carbon seatpost with some built-in flex. The steerer tube on the carbon fork has been left long so you can run plenty of spacers underneath if you prefer a more upright riding position.
Equipment: Good spec for the price, including SRAM Rival and Ritchey wheels
Instead of the Shimano Tiagra found on Boardman's cheaper Road Comp, the Team upgrades to SRAM Rival (as well as getting a lighter "super-butted" rather than double-butted frame). We reckon the difference in performance is well worth the money. The DoubleTap levers are comfortable and easy to operate from the hoods as well as the drops.
While we couldn't describe the shifting system as intuitive – tap the paddle behind the brake lever to shift up, and apply more force to shift down – it's fairly easy to get used to, even for habitual users of Shimano or Campagnolo shifters. Having said that, we did find that when swapping back to the Boardman after riding other bikes, it took a while to get into DoubleTap mode.
We also experienced a few mis-shifts when riding over uneven tarmac, when input from the terrain turned our finger taps into more powerful pushes. While shifting is slightly clunky, it's accurate and positive-feeling, and the 50/34T compact crankset and 12-25T cassette provide enough gears for all but the steepest hills – as long as you're unladen.
So, it's the perfect bike? Not quite. The Tektro R580 brakes are underwhelming, offering reasonable modulation but only adequate power, the own-brand saddle is less comfortable than the Fizik Arione it mimics – although it will suit the majority of posteriors – and we felt the bar was on the narrow side for this size bike, with a not particularly comfortable bend.
A quick-release seat collar would also be useful for quick height adjustments, although the bolted unit supplied is a deterrent to opportunistic thieves. However, these are small niggles, and the seat and bar are things that are always down to personal preference and can be easily changed. The component package, with a smattering of Ritchey finishing kit, is very good overall for the price.
The Ritchey DS Pro wheels stayed true throughout testing and in over six months of testing we suffered only one flat through the grippy Continental Ultra Sport tyres – although experience of this rubber on other bikes suggests this is more due to luck than any inherent puncture resisting qualities.
In fact, that puncture was the only 'mechanical' we had to deal with during the test period, although it did happen in a particularly insalubrious area of Bristol and nearly led to the main tester being mugged. Thankfully a timely police siren and the lightning-quick acceleration of the Boardman once the flat was hastily fixed allowed him to make his escape!