Boardman launched their dedicated AiR aero frame in 2012, and when we first tested it we were suitably impressed – for something designed to beat the wind it’s both light and great value, especially in this bottom-of-the-range 9.0 guise.
Each of the bikes in the AiR range comes from the same wind tunnel-honed mould, but the carbon gets more refined further up the lineup. That said, a frame weighing in at a little over 1,300g is impressive for a bike that features fully aero tube shapes, which inevitably add grams over more standard shapes.
Frame & equipment: Great value on a racy frame
The frame’s geometry is as you’d expect for a bike designed for the rigours of racing – a fairly short tapered head tube leads into a long top tube, and the deep aero down tube meets the oversized BB30 bottom bracket shell. Both the chain and seatstays are aero profiled, with every cable internally routed to continue the wind-cheating theme.
Boardman’s Elite range is available through select dealers, and sits above the bikes we’re familiar with as being exclusive to Halfords. The excellent value for money the company are built on is still there, though. So for a penny under £2,000 you get Ultegra throughout, save for the new hollow-construction FSA Energy BB30 compatible chainset (available in both standard and compact chainring combos).
The Elite AiR 9.0 runs on impressive rolling stock, with Mavic’s Ksyrium Equipe wheelset and Vittoria’s Zaffiro Pro tyres. Mavic’s Ksyriums have legendary build quality and the Equipe version is the mid-range model. They weigh in at about 1,650g a pair without cassette or tyres, making them a good option at this price.
The Zaffiro Pro tyres roll well and grip well in all but the dampest conditions, where they occasionally started to break away midway through high-speed corners, meaning we held off going full tilt more often than we’d like. Tyres, however, are an easy fix, and the Zaffiros will do an adequate job until it’s time to replace and upgrade.
Ritchey provide the all-aluminium cockpit, with the anatomic (semi pistol grip) drops offering a great low-down position. The bar is quite a stiff unit, though, and over broken tarmac it does transmit a fair amount of vibration to your hands.
Seating duties are taken care of by Fizik’s legendary Arione, which sits on top of a dedicated aero carbon seatpost. The post’s clamp head offers bags of adjustment fore and aft, making it easy to tune the reach between races or longer rides. We did experience a bit of seatpost slip until we applied a liberal coat of carbon prep.
Ride & handling: Comfortable aero option
The AiR manages to be rapid on the flat but offer smoothly neutral handling through the bends. Comfort is ample, which is impressive for an aero road bike, although it’s still firm compared to some more dedicated endurance bikes. And for a bike that’s all about the business of going fast and beating the wind it’s one of the best around.
The gearing combines a 50/34 and 12-25T cassette, giving the AiR sportive capabilities, although the long, low position isn’t the best for endurance distances with plenty of ascents. On the climbs we found ourselves more comfortable staying out of the saddle to keep pace, rather than settling in to push up steeper gradients.
If your riding consists mainly of sportive events, you’d be better served by the similarly great value Boardman SLR (it shares the same great value spec). But if you have aspirations to race – be it road, crit, time trial, triathlon or duathlon – then for the money there’s little that can touch the 9.0.
This bike was tested as part of Cycling Plus magazine’s 2013 Bike Of The Year feature – read the full results in issue 273, on sale Friday 1 March and available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.