At first glance the SLS 9.0 looks no different to last year’s model, which made it into the top five finalists in our 2014 Bike of the Year contest, but a few subtle improvements have reduced weight by a couple of hundred grams.
Highs: Super light chassis and a brilliantly balanced ride with exciting handling
Lows: Small amount of bar buzz on bad surfaces, and not everyone liked the paint job
Buy if… You want a bike that combines a fantastic chassis with low weight and great handling at a good price
SLS stands for ‘Superlight Sportive’ and Boardman has the numbers to back that up, with a frame that weighs a claimed 850g. The geometry closely mimics that of the racing SLR, but the SLS has a taller head tube and slightly longer reach, creating a riding position that’s just about spot on. We love that Boardman fits a size-specific stem, too, with this 58cm model coming with a 12cm unit.
The 41cm chainstays are longer than the SLR’s too, by 5mm, pushing the wheelbase to just over 1m. It’s a neat trick that keeps the SLS perfectly balanced – elevating the front can shift more of your weight backwards and make the steering feel light and a little vague, but with the 9.0 you get none of that. As soon as we got out on it we found the 9.0 familiar, comfortable and ideally poised for riding fast.
The wheels have been upgraded from Mavic’s base model Aksium to the 60g-lighter-per-pair Aksium Race, and Grand Sport Continentals offer a supple ride and superior wet weather grip over the Mavic Aksions they replace.
The 50/34, 11-28 gearing is similar to last year with one significant improvement – it’s gone to 11-speed, with the addition of an 11-tooth sprocket. Progression through the gears is consistent, with no major jumps, but at the top end you’ve got a little extra oomph, meaning you can exploit the handling prowess of the SLS on fast descents and pummel the pedals on flat sections.
Take the 9.0 uphill and it’s similarly impressive, the stiff, responsive frame and great position making it a very able ascender. It’s not the lightest here, but it certainly rides light thanks to its nimble responses and easy riding feel.
Our only niggle is that you can feel a little buzz through the alloy bar on particularly rough surfaces, although it’s in no way a deal breaker.