You might expect a brand that bears the name of an ex-racer to turn out bikes that are a bit racy. And you’d be right.
Despite its relatively modest price tag, Boardman‘s Team 29er borrows a lot of inspiration from the kind of big-wheeled hardtails that have become de rigueur on the cross-country race circuit. With a good component mix, is it still versatile enough as an all-rounder?
Frame and equipment: sensible choices
With its smoothed welds and flowing lines, from a distance you might mistake the Boardman for a carbon bike. It isn’t, but the material du jour has clearly influenced the chassis design. Shaped and flattened top and down tubes morph into an apparently seamless single structure up at the tapered head tube, creating a stiff backbone that’s backed up by the fork’s through-axle to improve steering precision.
Kicking back the seat tube above the front derailleur enables Boardman to keep the chainstays short and the seat angle relaxed while still giving space for the rear wheel – all aimed at providing tidy handling, decent mud room and good traction on the climbs. Slender seatstays join at the top to form a wishbone arrangement, and the chainstays are asymmetrical and dropped on the non-drive side to make room for the inboard, post mount brake calliper.
So far, so racy and high-end. But, surprisingly, the cut-out dropouts have eyelets for both a rack and a rear mudguard. That’s good news for anyone looking for a weekday commuting hack as well as a weekend trail blaster.
RockShox’s Recon Silver is a decent budget air fork – and it’s particularly good to see it offered here with a 15mm through-axle to keep the steering tight and accurate. There’s a lockout to reduce bob on sprints and climbs, though wannabe racers may be disappointed that they’ll have to reach down to the fork rather than flick a switch on the bar. For the money, we’ll live with it.
We’ve become used to Boardman’s bikes being well thought out, and the Team 29er is no exception. Small touches such as the big stack of headset washers under the stem, allowing you to fine-tune the handlebar height, are good to see. The Boardman E4P finishing kit is all good stuff, though white grips are a daft idea that only looks good in the showroom.
The 2×10 SRAM X7 based transmission is geared for speed rather than trail riding versatility, with a 29x36t low gear. Combined with the big wheels, which are slower to accelerate than the 26in or 650b equivalent, this reduces the bike’s overall climbing ability, especially on steeper and more technical slow-speed trails.
Ride and handling: light feeling, tough talking
From that tight, wishboned rear end to the chunky down tube, this is a bike that owes more to World Cup cross-country race machines than its price – or weight – might suggest. And that’s entirely borne out in the riding.
Despite carrying enough excess heft to ensure most weight-obsessed racing snakes would never deign to throw a leg over it, the Team 29er has the kind of instantaneous pick-up that we’re more used to seeing in far more expensive bikes. Stomp on the pedals and it sets off like a whippet with a rocket strapped to its back.
The Boardman Team 29er’s rear end is uncompromisingly short and stiff, with responsiveness – and ride quality – to match
The team 29er’s rear end is uncompromisingly short and stiff, with responsiveness – and ride quality – to match: Steve Behr
The Team 29er’s rear end is short and stiff
The tight rear end and relaxed seat angle create a distinct sense of sitting directly over the rear wheel – probably because that’s exactly what you are doing. The short stays also keep any sense of “give” in the frame to an indiscernible minimum, making it feel as though your feet are directly connected to the rear tyre.
There’s a rather obvious flipside to this uncompromising efficiency – this Boardman doesn’t suffer fools (or the clumsy, lazy or anyone simply having a bad day) gladly. That connected-to-the-trail feeling doesn’t just encourage you to keep selecting higher gears, it also transfers every trail nuance, every bump and every misjudged line directly to your arse. The big wheels will roll willingly over everything you put in their way, but you’ll feel everything, too. Much more so than on most other 29ers.
On a high-end race bike this wouldn’t be a concern. The thing with the Team 29er is that it isn’t a high-end race bike – it’s a very affordable one, and one that’ll be used for all kinds of riding other than racing. If you’re a fit, skilled and fluid rider looking for a precision instrument with which to dissect trails at speed, it’s a gold-plated bargain. For general trail use though, we’d approach with caution – this is a bike capable of biting back.