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 27.5×2.3in
Drivetrain: SRAM NX (1×11)
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 Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media
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 1×11 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 Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media
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 1×10 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.