Designers can find plenty of potential pitfalls when they create a bike that’s designed to beat the wind. It’s all too easy to end up compromising comfort and handling, making it either too stiff or excessively flexible. Fortunately the team at Boardman got it bang on back in 2012 when the original Air was launched.
Highs: Fast, neutral handling bike with a great riding position and added versatility
Lows: Skinny 23c rubber contributes little comfort to the ride
Buy If: You want a fast bike that’s capable of holding its own in a time trial while still being plenty of fun to ride everywhere
The geometry is pretty aggressive but isn’t quite as racy as it first appears. Compared with Boardman’s SLR, this has a 10mm taller head tube, 10mm more stack – making it higher still at the front – and the wheelbase is a few mm shorter. But though it has parallel 73-degree angles, you can flip the carbon seatpost to give four positions from 73 to 75 degrees. This is handy if you fancy trying a time trial, for example, the steepest position pushing you forward in the saddle for a more TT-friendly position.
The air’s seatpost clamp can be moved into four positions, altering the angle from 73 through to 75 degrees:
The Air’s seatpost clamp can be moved into four positions, altering the angle from 73 through to 75 degrees
As with the SLS we tested recently, the kit is based around 11-speed Shimano 105 with Mavic’s Aksium wheels, though the Air has a non-series Shimano R500 chainset and a direct-mount rear brake mounted under the chainstay. Shifting is quick, smooth and free of fuss, but we could induce the brakes to scrape on the rim when climbing hard out of the saddle, and chainstay-mounted brakes are harder to access for service. The semi-slick tread of the 23mm Continentals works well in wet or dry, and they add a little smoothness to the ride. But on flint- and thorn-strewn winter roads we did pick up a puncture and a few cuts.
We really like the Air’s riding position. Yes, it’s long, but it’s not so low that you feel overly stretched. This is helped by Boardman’s use of size-specific finishing kit. You can achieve high speeds with ease on the flat, and its well-balanced, neutral handling makes it assured through high-speed corners, particularly downhill.
The rear brake sits under the chainstays behind the bottom bracket to make it more aero:
The rear brake sits under the chainstays behind the bottom bracket to make it more aero
Its comfort can’t quite match that of a dedicated endurance bike, but for a speed machine it certainly impresses. It also offers decent value for a bike with a super-fast chassis, 11-speed 105 and good kit, and if you’ve aspirations to ride a time trial, triathlon or duathlon, clip on some TT bars and this becomes an excellent option. If you’re looking first and foremost for a machine that excels at endurance riding, though, you’re probably better off looking elsewhere.