Boardman bikes are always good value, with spec levels that can make rivals look ordinary by comparison. That’s because they’re sold solely through UK motoring and leisure chain Halfords, which relieves the pressure of dealer margins and means more money in the budget for, say, a groupset one tier higher.
But there’s more to making a good bike than throwing money at it. It still has to be designed properly. This is. It could have a slightly wider gear range but otherwise it’s uncompromised. Ride to work with mudguards and rack. Do intervals on it in the lanes. Change the tyres and turn up at a cyclo-cross race. Or just use it for hammering around on.
Frame: Smoothly ﬁnished, lightweight with clearances for mudguards. The all-carbon tapered fork with plenty of room under its crown is a high point, and the chainstay disc mount is a nice touch (9/10)
Handling: It feels better when you’re putting the power down rather than pootling, and as a fast ﬁtness bike that’ll also go off-road it takes the ﬁght to the new breed of recreational cyclo-cross bikes (8/10)
Equipment: Excellent brakes, decent gearing and bonuses such as lock-on grips. Bar ends and wider range Apex would make it even better (9/10)
Wheels: Rims are good and strong, if wide, shod with tyres that roll well but could be sturdier. With narrower rims, tougher tyres and Marin’s security skewers, this package would be unbeatable (8/10)
Boardman hybrid team: boardman hybrid team Seb Rogers
The Boardman’s carbon fork is unusual in that it has a carbon steerer instead of an aluminium one, which saves weight. It has bags of room over its 28mm tyres, or you could ﬁt cyclo-cross tyres (more on that later). Our pre-production sample was missing eyelets on the fork but there are blanks by the dropout where they could go – Boardman assure us that’s the case.
The fork is tapered, as of course is the head tube it sits in, with the lower headset race being bigger than the top. Tapered head tubes are becoming more common, stiffening the steering response and adding durability to the more heavily loaded lower bearings. Here it’s not critical but it looks good, and if you decide to ﬁt ’cross tyres and go pinging around your local bridleways you might be glad of the reinforcement.
The rest of the frame is so smooth and organic it looks as much like carbon ﬁbre as hydroformed aluminium. The practical ﬁttings are here too, with separate eyelets for rack and mudguard at the dropout and a set of rack eyelets on the wishbone seatstay. The chainstays aren’t very long though, so you’ll need to use smaller panniers for heel clearance.
The back of the bike feels rock solid. It’s a model on which you can put the hammer down, but sometimes you’ll feel the road surface hammering back. The chainstays are shorter than on some of the Boardman’s competitors and both chain- and seatstays are pretty beefy. An 18mm-wide wheel rim is also approaching the limit of what’s comfortable with a 28mm tyre ﬁtted.
In an ideal world you’d want a 35mm tyre or a 15mm rim so that the tyre was less stretched and would feel more supple over bumps. On the plus side, if you want to ﬁt cyclo-cross tyres or ride without mudguards, fatter tyres will go on this 18mm rim readily. The wheels should be strong enough for pitted streets and off-road excursions.
The Ritchey OCR rims are eyeleted and the spoke holes are offset from the centreline – that’s what OCR means: Off-Centre Rim. Theoretically you get a stronger wheel because the spokes are less steeply angled, and even if the effect is minimal you don’t lose anything by it. We’d have specced different tyres for the daily grind, choosing Continental’s similarly priced GatorSkin above the Ultra Race.
The 10-speed drivetrain is mostly SRAM Apex, with an outboard-bearing compact chainset driving an 11-28T cassette. The bottom gear of 34x28T isn’t bad, but there’s a 48/34T compact chainset and 11-32T cassette in the Apex range – we’d pick both. You’d gain a sub-30in bottom gear and you’re still not going to spin out that 117in top on tarmac. If you plan to go off-road you’d be even happier with a wider gear range.
Brakes are Avid Juicy 3 hydraulic discs, which are the kind of stoppers you see on decent entry-level mountain bikes. In the urban environment they give you all the stopping power you need and then some, with decent modulation. The rear calliper is mounted to the chainstay, which gets it out of the way if you ﬁt a rack. Because it’s hydraulic rather than mechanical you won’t get water ingress into the calliper and performance will be unaffected on the road or off.
What’s with all these off-road references? Only this: in many ways the Boardman Hybrid Team feels less like a ﬂat-bar road bike than a ﬂat-bar cyclo-cross bike. It’s light, pacy and racy but it also has the clearances and capacity for non-technical rough stuff.