Boardman AiR 9.8 review

Wind-tunnel-honed

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0
GBP £4,999.99 RRP | USD $7,974.00

Our review

Wind-tunnel-honed chassis and top componentry create an outstanding machine
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Boardman’s top AiR model is an almost perfect aero assassin that proves they can compete and win globally at the very highest level, in addition to cornering the sub-£1,000 ride to work market. Quiet aero efficiency and understated performance might not be what everyone is after, but the AiR 9.8 combines phenomenal long distance speed potential and superb value.

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  • Highs: Ultra-efficient, lightweight, comfortable aerodynamic speed chassis loaded with the best possible equipment at an astonishing price
  • Lows: Trades charisma for ultimate efficiency and feels slightly soft up front when cornering and out of the saddle.
  • Buy if: You want a near perfect maximum efficiency speed and distance machine at a competitive price

Together with his coach Peter Keen, master time triallist Chris Boardman was probably the first truly scientific aero-aware rider to translate tech into Olympic, hour record and multiple stage win success. It’s no surprise that the AiR bikes have been obsessively honed in the wind tunnel to increase their energy efficiency. While that’s the first thing that strikes you aesthetically, it’s the weight that dominates initial impressions. 

Deep main tubes and deep section wheels normally mean a trade-off on the scales, but the ultra-light unidirectional carbon layup of the AiR brings it in significantly lighter than most aero bikes. Add a genuine wishlist parts kit including ultra-light Ritchey cockpit gear and the latest Zipp 404 Firecrest tubular wheels, and this bike is as light as legally allowable for UCI racing. 

The superbly balanced handling of the Zipps – even in gusting sidewinds – means the Boardman is almost underwhelmingly sorted at first. The BB30 crankset and box section seatstays certainly don’t waste any of your power, but it doesn’t leap and pop forward from the first pedal stroke.

The skinny main tubes also mean a softer feel than some other high-end bikes if you get out of the saddle and try to get your shoulders involved. As we’re sure Chris would tell us, that isn’t efficient riding – instead if you sit and spin smoothly through the gears the effect is simply devastating. 

The Zipps and profiled tubes developed from those used on the Boardman time trial bike might not dramatically flatter speed gain, but their ability to sustain it is breathtaking – for riders trying to keep up, that is. Time and again as ride speeds spun up past 20mph, the AiR would just slide off the front of our test groups leaving other bikes in its wake.

The low weight means that it’ll let you slip ahead of your mates as easily on long, fast climbs as it will on the flat, but it’ll also drop like a polished stone as long as you don’t hit the corners and brakes hard enough to fluster the front end. Its slight compliance is a tangible comfort bonus on longer rides and less than perfect surfaces too, so it’s a compromise most riders will be very happy with.

Boardman air 9.8:
Dave Caudery
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This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

Product Specifications

Product

Name AiR 9.8 (12)
Brand Boardman

Cranks SRAM Red 53/39, 175mm cranks
Head Angle 73
Top Tube (cm) 55.5
Standover Height (cm) 75.5
Weight (kg) 6.5
Stem Ritchey WCS Carbon 110mm
Shifters SRAM Red
Seatpost CBoardman AiR aero
Seat Angle 73
Saddle Fizik Arione
Rear Wheel Weight 1235
Rear Derailleur SRAM Red, short cage
Headset Type FSA
Seat Tube (cm) 52
Fork AiR ultralight full carbon, tapered steerer
Chainstays (cm) 40.5
Bottom Bracket Height (cm) 27
Handlebar Ritchey Superlogic Carbon 420mm
Front Wheel Weight 945
Frame Weight 1122
Frame Material AiR ultralight carbon monocoque
Fork Weight 440
Chain SRAM Red
Cassette SRAM Red 11-25
Brakes SRAM Red
Bottom Bracket SRAM Red BB30
Description XS, S, M, L, XL sizes, Wheels: Zipp 404 Firecrest tubular, adjustable bearings; spokes: 16 bladed front, 20 rear, 2-cross offside, Vittoria Corsa CX tubs, 700x23 tyres
Wheelbase (cm) 98.5