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Boardman MTR 8.6 review

Is this the most affordable ‘proper’ full-suspension mountain bike on the market?

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0
GBP £1,150.00 RRP
Pack shot of the Boardman MTR 8.6 full suspension mountain bike

Our review

The cheapest way to get a ‘proper’ full-suspension mountain bike that’s fun and safe at speed on modern trails
Pros: Geometry, suspension and tyres enable you to ride fast with confidence on proper trails
Cons: It wouldn’t cost more money to smooth a few rough edges, such as the shock tune and some frame details
Skip to view product specifications

The MTR 8.6 is part of Boardman’s full-suspension trail bike line-up, offering superb value and bringing the geometry and attitude of top-of-the-range machines at a more affordable price.

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Boardman’s hydroformed alloy frame plugs in a 140mm fork, balanced against 145mm of rear suspension controlled by a RockShox air-sprung shock absorber.

Bolted to the chassis, the kit mixes lesser-known equipment such as Tektro brakes and Suntour suspension with popular gear including Maxxis Minion tyres.

Boardman MTR 8.6 frame and suspension details

The MTR is Boardman’s full-suspension range.
Mick Kirkman / Our Media

The MTR 8.6 is one of a very small number of budget trail bikes offering sorted performance for not much over £1,000.

The frame has modern ‘relaxed’ geometry and sizing equivalent to bikes costing way more cash and is chunkier and tougher than Boardman’s equivalent MHT hardtail, but also looks a tad clunkier than that model’s sleeker lines.

Thick, beefy 6-series alloy tubes are joined by fish-scale tig welds, with the shock mounted in a proven 4-bar layout, enabling engineers to precisely tune the suspension for eating bumps and efficient pedalling.

Instead of a bolt-thru axle, it uses a quick release on the Boost 148mm hub.
Mick Kirkman / Our Media

Sealed bearings throughout add sensitivity and the chainstay pivot on the Horst-link suspension, similar to top brands such as Canyon and Specialized, helps keep the suspension active when you need it most, grabbing brakes down the steepest tracks.

The rear end’s squared-off tubing uses proper Boost 148mm hub sizing that builds into a stronger wheel by having a wider spoke brace angle, but you can spot Boardman saving cash for the suspension cost in the use of an old-fashioned QR skewer rather than a bolt-thru axle that would add stiffness and security.

A few other frame details could be improved too, including how routing cables under the down tube exposes hoses to potential damage from flying rocks and bottle cage bosses being positioned higher up the down tube so you can’t fit a full-size bottle; it’s odd given the space available.

We’d love to see a dropper post fitted.
Mick Kirkman / Our Media

The massive tubes at the MTR 8.6 head tube don’t need a gusset, but there’s a seat tube brace to allow for more standover clearance, so the frame doesn’t get in the way when pulling shapes.

This is something a dropper post would also better enable; the frame already has ports for one, but you still have to manually lower the saddle for steep downhills at this price point, so this looks like an obvious first upgrade.

Boardman MTR 8.6 geometry

The size large reach measurement (the most useful for explaining a frame’s true size) places your hands 475mm further forward from your feet here, which is plenty of room and adds high-speed stability by making the distance between front and rear wheels greater.

Boosting this stability further, there’s a raked-out head angle that also calms steering and results in less deflection at the handlebars at speed.

The bottom bracket height and chainstay length are fairly typical for a premium mountain bike in this category, so, overall, there’s no sense of the MTR being old-fashioned or having overly traditional cross-country bike geometry.

SMLXL
Seat angle (degrees)75.575.575.575.5
Head angle (degrees)66666666
Chainstay (mm)440440440440
Seat tube (mm)410430475480
Top tube (mm)598615638655
Head tube (mm)90100110120
Fork offset (mm)42424242
Bottom bracket drop (mm)33333333
Wheelbase (mm)1,1821,2011,2251,244
Stack (mm)611620629638
Reach (mm)440455475490

Boardman MTR 8.6 specifications

The Suntour forks are basic in operation.
Mick Kirkman / Our Media

At both ends, the MTR uses air springs that are easy to tune to rider weight with a shock pump and are lighter than coil springs often found on cheaper full-suspension bikes (the 14.4kg weight here is decent for a 145mm-travel bike).

The cheaper Suntour XCR 34 fork is a little primitive compared to similar offerings from other brands, and uses an expanding Q-Loc thru-axle that isn’t the most intuitive either; it can bind inside the hub, causing extra work removing the front wheel to transport the bike by car.

More cost-saving indications are Tektro brakes that feel a bit stiff and don’t offer huge top-end stopping power for heavier riders, as well as a 10-speed gear system that has bigger gear jumps than the 12-speed setups we’re used to seeing these days on single front-chainring MTBs.

The Tektro brakes lacked a bit of bite when speeds really increased.
Mick Kirkman / Our Media

Boardman does, thankfully, use a modern 1x system with narrow/wide alternating chainring teeth to stop the chain bouncing about, jumping off and ruining your fun.

Maxxis Minion tyres ensure it stays connected to the trail and are fitted to wide (but weighty) MTR wheels; these tyres are excellent anywhere where grip improves confidence and traction, especially if you chuck any moisture or slippy off-camber roots into the mix.

Boardman MTR 8.6 ride impressions

Despite its weight, it climbed well.
Mick Kirkman / Our Media

Even though the MTR is a weighty bike, its pedalling action is pretty smooth and the seated rider position places your hips above the cranks ergonomically for effective power transfer, except for on the steepest climbs, where rider weight is a little too far off the back.

Part of this cranking smoothness is due to a lot of rebound damping on the shock stabilising rider weight shifts and stopping too much bobbing. Simply having suspension also means there’s good traction off-road, boosted by the proper tubeless-ready grippy Maxxis Minion tyres.

Throw in slippery wet surfaces, bark-stripped roots and dusty rocks and the MTR 8.6 provides a sure-footed platform, especially compared to similarly priced hardtails.

Having meaningful rear-wheel travel sees the MTR often get you across little techy sections without dabbing where a rigid rear end bobbles and hunts for traction too.

The 10-speed Deore drivetrain proved to be faultless.
Mick Kirkman / Our Media

And, if only having 10 gears rings alarm bells for climbing (compared to the dozen with a massive, incline-easing 50t gear on the MHT’s SRAM SX cassette), I didn’t have any issues.

I also had no problem with the excessive jumps between gears or a lack of range with the MTR’s 46t biggest cog for climbing, so this component choice looks like a lesson is good budgeting.

Shimano’s Deore setup here is smoother and more positive overall and a better-quality 10-speed drivetrain with proper HollowTech Shimano BB and stiff Deore crank arms trumps SRAM’s budget SX package with more precise shifting. The SX setup can also feel a bit flexy on big flat pedals when bolted into a chassis with a solid rear end.

The Maxxis rubber is grippy.
Mick Kirkman / Our Media

With rebound control and a progressive compression damping lock-out dial to firm the fork for tarmac or smooth fireroads, Suntour’s XCR fork offers enough adjustments. However, it struggles to truly absorb small bumps, providing less grip when scrambling up tight hairpins or staying balanced over lumpy steps uphill.

Although the MTR’s weight means it takes some effort to get up to speed, once there it carries it well and there are no real complaints about its climbing manners for this much cash.

Boardman MTR 8.6 descending performance

It was on the descents where the MTR really performed.
Mick Kirkman / Our Media

Pointed the other way back down, one word sums up the MTR, and that’s ‘calm’.

It rides much like a more expensive trail bike and smooths out pretty hefty lumps and bumps for the confidence to get off the brakes and find some flow.

Riding at a local trail centre, where the trails are really eroded, this was evident in how it stayed smooth when threading through niggly trail passages or crossing lumpy rough sections.

We’re not talking only about bombing downhill either – it maintains some fluidity and rhythm through lumpy rocky trails, where you’d expect a lighter bike to find pace easier.

The suspension is a little less refined than the best mountain bikes here. It can feel too smooth at times and a little dull on the ground.

Small-bump performance wasn’t the best.
Mick Kirkman / Our Media

Yes, Suntour’s fork is sophisticated enough to have lighter, thicker alloy legs rather than skinny steel ones found on plenty of cheap full-suspension bikes, and, like the RockShox Deluxe shock (limited to rebound damping adjustment only at this price point) that’s fitted to the rear of the MTR, it gets the job done.

Both ends of the suspension feel a little less fluid than pricier kit though, and we ended up running the Deluxe fully open, since Boardman has tuned the damper with a slow rebound, where more than a few clicks added sees the shock get really bogged down.

This will likely be an issue for lighter riders, where the shock’s spring force (air pressure) isn’t enough to bounce it back into position for consecutive impacts fast enough.

Arguably, the rear shock’s rebound was over-damped.
Mick Kirkman / Our Media

Hard-charging riders might also find the frame a little flexy and appearing eager to smash through the first part of the travel if really pushing it.

If you are really cracking on, the Tektro brakes could also do with a bit more grunt to stop you coming faster into sudden turns or unexpected obstacles; you really have to grip the levers to get enough braking force at the rotors.

It’s testimony to the MTR, though, that you find yourself heading downhill comfortably at speeds where you’re even worrying about braking power.

How does the Boardman MTR 8.6 compare to the Boardman MHT 8.9?

It had plenty of traction on the climbs.
Mick Kirkman / Our Media

I’d choose the MTR from this Boardman pair every time.

After years of evolution in mountain biking, messing about on purpose-built MTB trails with turns, lumps and berms is ultimately what it’s all about for most riders. The MTR’s suspension and slacker geometry enables you to get stuck in and play on proper trails with tons more confidence and security than the sharper, more mileage-orientated, MHT 8.9.

Boardman MTR 8.6 bottom line

The suspension absorbed technical sections of trail well.
Mick Kirkman / Our Media

In the past, cheaper full-suspension bikes were frequently too compromised by dodgy kit and dated geometry, but Boardman’s sorted MTR 8.6 has up-to-date, trail-taming geometry and a dialled ride that simply gets on with it.

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It’s not perfect and could look a bit more elegant, but looking around at Boardman’s budget full-suspension competition, it’s genuinely hard to find a contender that comes close for this much money; especially now the award-winning Calibre Bossnut appears to be no longer available.

Product Specifications

Product

Price GBP £1150.00
Weight 14.4kg (L)
Brand Boardman

Features

Available sizes S, M, L, XL
Headset FSA 42 Internal sealed
Tyres Maxxis Minion DHF 29 x 2.4in EXO TR f, Maxxis Minion DHRII EXO TR r
Stem Boardman alloy 45mm
Shifter Shimano Deore 10-speed
Seatpost Boardman alloy 31.6mm
Saddle Boardman MTR
Rear Shocks RockShox Deluxe Select
Rear derailleur Shimano Deore 10-speed
Handlebar Boardman alloy 31.8 x 780mm
Bottom bracket Shimano HollowTech
Grips/Tape Boardman Lock-on
Frame Boardman 6061 alloy 145mm travel
Fork Suntour XCR 34 LO-R DS Air 140mm
Cranks Shimano M5100 170mm
Chain KMC - 10-speed
Cassette Shimano M4100 11-46T
Brakes Tektro HD M285 180mm f, 160mm r rotor
Wheels Rims Boardman alloy 32h