Unlike some brands, Boardman don’t refresh every one of their bikes every year. The FS Team is the same as the 2011 model. It was top notch for the money last year, but can it maintain that position?
Ride & handling: Confident, relaxed and ready for anything
The Boardman rides very well by any standards, let alone entry level full-suspension standards.
The Monarch rear shock is a competent and controlled unit and it’s easy to achieve a balanced setup between front and rear suspension. Laser-engraved sag markings on the shock shaft make getting the right air pressure a breeze.
The shock also benefits from adjustable platform damping for lively pedalling if you feel the need, although we tended to run it fully open all the time.
The frame geometry works in your favour, too, with a fashionably relaxed head angle and long top tube/short stem setup making for confident, poised handling. As with all bikes of this shape, you need to put some effort in on the turns, but decent wide bars make that easy.
The ready-for-anything feel is helped considerably by the combination of big frame tubes, tapered steerer and front through-axle, ensuring that the front wheel is aiming the way you had in mind. The Mountain King tyres work well on most surfaces too, although they can get a bit skaty in sloppy conditions.
Really, it’s hard to think of ways to improve the Team FS. A bit more leg clearance on the back end would be welcome, and you could make a case for going even slacker in the head angle. But that’s about it.
The Team FS would still be impressive at a few hundred quid more – at £999 it’s an absolute bargain.
Frame & equipment: Sleek looks with up-to-the-minute geometry
Don’t be fooled by the way the Boardman’s tubes appear to flow smoothly into one another with no visible joins. The Team FS doesn’t have a carbon fibre frame – that really would make the headlines at £999.
It’s actually welded aluminium, but using a multiple-pass welding process that leaves smooth joints reminiscent of old-school fillet brazing (or early Cannondales). The giveaway is around the bottom bracket, where more conventional weld beads are visible. That’s really the only place though – Boardman have really gone to town on the smooth theme.
They’ve done plenty of tube shaping, too, with a tapered head tube and flared top and down tubes. Out back is a chainstay-pivot four-bar layout, with a swing link on the top tube driving an underslung RockShox Monarch shock.
Uniquely at this price, Boardman have used a post-style brake mount on the back end, which allows the callipers to be bolted directly to the frame without any need for adaptors.
This is an impressive frame for a £999 bike – there’s no hint of any generic parts, and lots of attention to detail. The UK design is clearly on display, with bags of tyre clearance around the rear wheel, although the wide-stanced seatstays can brush your legs if you’re sturdy of limb.
Boardman have always had a reputation for value for money, and the Team FS is astonishingly well-equipped for the price. The key thing is that everything on the Boardman falls into the ‘won’t need changing for a long time’ category.
Up front there’s a 130mm (5.1in) travel version of the RockShox Sektor fork, complete with air spring, tapered steerer and QR15 through-axle. It might only have RockShox’s basic TK damping setup, but this is a proper fork – you’d have to spend a lot more to get one from anyone else.
It’s a similar story with the transmission and brakes, with an outboard-bearing twin-ring FSA crank, SRAM X7 10-speed gears and Avid Elixir 3 disc brakes.
The wheels are a cut above the price point norm, too, with trustworthy Mavic XM317 rims shod with chunky Continental Mountain King 2.2in tyres. Given the frame clearance we’d like to see slightly wider rims to make better use of 2.35in-plus tyres, but that’s a niggle.
This is all good stuff, with no obvious weak points in the spec. Even more impressive is the weight – at 13.2kg (29.1lb) it’s light for a sub-£1,000 130mm (5.1in) travel bike.
Boardman team fs: Steve Behr/Future Publishing
This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.