The attractive 6061 aluminium frame is paired with a tapered full-carbon fork, 9-speed Shimano Sora, a tubeless-ready wheelset and wide-ranging gears with a very low 32×34 pairing.
The frame is triple-butted – the tube walls have three different thicknesses to keep weight down while maximising strength at the welded ends. The welds are very neatly smoothed apart from around the bottom bracket area, where they’re bulkier and less aesthetically pleasing.
The big oversize down tube and the fork’s 1⅛ to 1½in tapered steerer are there to maximise control and stability, though the oversize 31.6mm diameter seatpost is a bit of a surprise. All the rage a few years ago, these have largely disappeared in favour of 27.2mm posts or brand-specific D-profile seatposts.
There was some concern that the extra stiffness would be felt through the saddle, but my fears were unfounded. Thanks to the extra cushion of air offered by the wide Schwalbe tyres there was no excessive firmness, even when running them at their maximum tyre pressure.
Boardman ADV 8.6 kit
The tyres are a good choice too. In spite of their 38mm width and the off-road grip offered by the knobbly tread, they don’t steal much from your speed on tarmac. Yes, they’re going to be a little slower than slicker, narrower tyres but unless you’re chasing personal bests or Strava segments, the extra comfort over poor roads and grip on gravel trails is a more-than-reasonable pay-off.
The gearing is similar to the Pinnacle Laterite, also on test, but with an even wider range and a bottom gear that’s slightly lower. This helps both on hills and on steeper off-road sections.
The Boardman’s handlebar also comes into its own when you swap the tarmac for the trail. Nominally 44cm wide, it actually measures around 41cm centre-to-centre at the lever hoods before flaring out to 50cm at the ends of the drops. It’s a very effective shape and offers great control.
The reasonably narrow hoods keep your shoulders narrow and fairly aero on the road, while the flared drops come into their own off-road. You can hammer along trails quickly and confidently with good grip on most surfaces, at least in the dry.
Boardman ADV 8.6 geometry
The Boardman really is great fun and a very enjoyable ride.
A slightly shallow 71.5-degree seat angle slows the steering down and the ADV’s longish wheelbase and dropped bottom bracket also help keep the handling stable, but don’t do anything to lessen the enjoyment of the Boardman’s character.
|Seat angle (degrees)||74||73.5||73||73|
|Head angle (degrees)||71||71||71.5||71.5|
|Seat tube (mm)||515||530||555||575|
|Top tube (mm)||535||555||570||585|
|Head tube (mm)||130||150||170||185|
|Fork offset (mm)||50||50||50||50|
|Bottom bracket drop (mm)||70||70||70||70|
|Crank length (mm)||170||170||172.5||175|
|Stem length (mm)||80||80||90||100|
|Handlebar width (mm)||420||440||440||460|
Boardman ADV 8.6 ride impressions
The brakes are the one area where the ADV 8.6 loses a little lustre. Whereas Boardman’s ADV 8.9 has Shimano’s excellent hydraulic disc brakes, the ADV 8.6 has to make do with Tektro MD-C510 cable-actuated disc brakes – and it really is a case of making do.
They take a fair few rides to bed in and require more effort to pull the levers, and while you wouldn’t expect hydraulics at this price, I’d prefer Tektro’s dual-piston mechanical Spyres.
When you pull the lever on a dual-piston setup, this pulls just one of the calipers against the disc rotor; on dual-piston brakes both calipers are pulled towards the rotor for better braking and more even brake-pad wear.
The 8.6 is nearly the equal of the 8.9 when it comes to enjoyment, though, making it one of the best gravel bikes for under £1,500. The tyres are a good compromise for the needs of road and off-road riding, and it’s also comfortable. While the absence of thru-axles means you can induce a tiny amount of brake rub if you try, this isn’t really an issue.
But I would have liked better brakes because it’s about the only criticism I can level at the ADV 8.6, which would make a great commuter-cum-fitness-cum-gravel-riding all-rounder. Tough, comfortable, with great control, Boardman’s ADV 8.6 covers a lot of bases. It’s bags of fun too.
How we tested
We put four aluminium framed, carbon forked bikes to the test to find out which is best for your riding needs.
All of the bikes come from major brands but sit in the more real-world price bracket that many of us actually buy from, ranging from £600 to a grand.
All four bikes were ridden head to head in the Brecon Beacons National Park.
Also on test
|Available sizes||S, M, L, XL|
|Headset||FSA Orbit C-40 ACB, integrated|
|Tyres||Schwalbe G-One Allround TLE Addix 700x38c|
|Stem||Boardman alloy 31.8mm|
|Seatpost||Boardman alloy 31.6mm|
|Rear derailleur||Shimano Sora|
|Handlebar||Boardman alloy 31.8mm, 70mm reach, 120mm drop|
|Bottom bracket||FSA Cartridge 68x110.5mm|
|Front derailleur||Shimano Sora|
|Frame||Triple-butted 6061 X7 aluminium, smooth welds|
|Fork||C7 full carbon with tapered steerer|
|Cranks||FSA Vero Pro|
|Cassette||Shimano HG400 11-34|
|Brakes||Tektro MD-C511 cable discs, 160mm rotors|
|Wheels||Boardman ADV asymmetric Tubeless-ready rims, Formula CX-20 front hub, Formula CX-22 rear|