Boardman SLR 8.6 review

Boardman’s entry-level road bike looks like a bargain

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0
GBP £550
Boardman SLR 8.6 road bike

Our review

A lot of bike for not that much money, Boardman’s SLR 8.6 is one of the best budget bikes around
Pros: All-carbon fork, tubeless-ready rims, lovely all-round ride and great practicality
Cons: Average braking and some of us would prefer a wider cassette than 11-28
If you’re looking to trade up from your very first, super-cheap road bike to something with a little more poise and panache and a recognisable brand name, then Boardman’s SLR 8.6 should be one of the bikes to consider.
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And if you’re only experience of riding a bike with drop bars is the notorious BSO – ‘bike-shaped object’ – bought for £100–£150 or so from somewhere other than a bike shop, then Boardman’s SLR 8.6 will be head and shoulders above it. And then some.

In fact, it has a lot of features far more familiar on bikes costing around twice the price, and this frameset could well be the basis for long-term upgrading.

  • The Boardman SLR 8.6 is one of our Bike of the Year bikes for 2019. To read reviews of the other contenders and the categories tested across road, mountain and women’s bikes, visit our Bike of the Year hub page.

Boardman SLR 8.6 frame and kit

Boardman’s SLR 8.6 has an all-new and very neatly finished 7005 aluminium frame. Unusually for such a modestly priced bike this features frame tubes with aerodynamic profiles – Boardman Bikes has invested heavily in its own Performance Centre complete with its own wind tunnel – and a full-carbon fork with mudguard mounts.

The up-to-date dropped seatstays, with their pronounced keyhole profile, should add rear-end comfort and their rack mounts factor in a little more versatility too.

The componentry is pretty much what you’d expect for the money, with Shimano’s 8-speed Claris levers, derailleurs and cassette accompanied by an FSA Tempo compact chainset and the same company’s deep-drop R315 levers. This is very similar to the kit found on comparably priced road bikes from Trek, Giant and Genesis, for example.

The top-tube is on the shorter side, the head tube slightly taller than average, putting it smack-bang into endurance territory

The Claris setup works well, though I’d have still preferred a lower gear than that offered by the 28t sprocket.

The 34×32 bottom gear is certainly lower than would have been standard a few years ago and will get you up most climbs you’re likely to come across, but on steeper hills into double digit gradients you will find yourself out of the saddle and working hard. Shimano does offer an 8-speed 11-30 and 11-32 cassette which would ease climbs.

The dual-pivot Tektro brakes, again typical at the price, are okay but you’d improve stopping power by swapping the non-cartridge blocks for cartridge models when they reach the end of their life.

Apart from the frame, Boardman has made a few other welcome changes over this bike’s predecessors. The new Boardman-branded wheels have a wider profile than the earlier Road Sport’s Mavic rims, which allows the Zaffiro tyres to make the most of their 25mm width.

Boardman has also – finally – dispensed with the oversize 31.6mm diameter seatpost. Hurrah! Combined with the more compact frame and those dropped, shaped stays this means more comfort, without compromising performance. Should you want to upgrade later, say to a carbon seatpost, you’ll have more choice these days too.

Boardman SLR 8.6 geometry

One thing that has stayed largely the same, and which is very welcome, is the geometry.

The top-tube is on the shorter side, the head tube slightly taller than average, putting it smack-bang into endurance territory, without making it so extreme that you can’t get down reasonably low if you want to.

But the position is friendly to your lower back, which is ideal for commuting, fitness and leisure riding, while the mudguard clearance makes it a more-than-decent trainer too, or you can fit 28mm tyres for a little extra plushness.

Great to see tubeless-ready rims here too, another rare sight on bikes around the £500 mark. More familiar are the external cable routing and square-tapered bottom bracket. Both are tried-and-trusted features, and though not cutting edge, make life easier for the spanner-wielding home mechanic.

The cabling didn’t seem to have any negative impacts on the gearing, with front and rear shifting consistently accurate, though without quite the smoothness of Shimano’s more expensive groupsets.

The own-brand stem, bar and saddle are all good for the money and the bar end plugs have expanding wedges rather than just being banged in, another nice little feature. They also all contribute to an attractive, albeit slightly muted, overall look.

Boardman SLR 8.6 overall

Boardman Bikes has been one of the market leaders for entry-level road bikes in the UK over the last decade and the company’s SLR range, launched in 2018, looks likely to further that reputation.

The SLR 8.6’s ride is great in city and country, on the flats and over hills — though I’d have liked a slightly lower bailout gear — and the price is very competitive for a first ‘serious’ road bike for leisure, fitness riding and more. Fancy a challenging sportive? Or your first 100-miler? This’ll do you proud for both.

Rack and mudguard mounts pile on the practicality, the all-carbon fork is very pleasing to see and the aero-profiled tubes don’t detract from the handling. The tubeless-ready rims add future-proofing, the all-round ride is excellent and comfort is very good.

There are four men’s models and it’s good to see three women’s models with pretty much identical geometry. These have narrower bars, female-specific saddles and… pink highlights on the rims and beneath the down tube.

Boardman SLR 8.6 specifications

  • Sizes: (*tested): S, M*, L, XL
  • Weight: 10.33kg
  • Frame: 7005 aluminium
  • Fork: Full carbon
  • Chainset: FSA Tempo, 50/34
  • Derailleurs: Shimano Claris
  • Cassette: 11-28
  • Brakes: Tektro R315
  • Wheels: Boardman Alloy tubeless ready
  • Tyres: 25mm Vittoria Zaffiro
  • Stem: Boardman alloy
  • Bar: Boardman alloy
  • Sestpost: Boardman alloy 27.2mm
  • Saddle: Boardman Road

Boardman SLR 8.6 geometry

  • Seat angle: 73 degrees
  • Head angle: 73 degrees
  • Chainstay: 41.5cm
  • Seat tube: 55.5cm
  • Top tube: 57cm
  • Head tube: 18cm
  • Fork offset: 4.5cm
  • Bottom bracket drop: 6.8cm
  • Price: £550
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BikeRadar would like to thank Stolen Goat, Lazer, Northwave and Effetto Mariposa for their help and support during our Bike of the Year test.