Boardman bikes need little introduction. The brainchild of ex-pro rider and world-record holder Chris Boardman MBE (surely he should be a ‘Sir’, by now?), the brand has gone from strength to strength since its launch in 2007.
The SLR 8.6 sits at the bottom of Boardman’s extensive road-bike range, but it still sports a well-appointed, triple-butted aluminium frame and a full-carbon fork (both the blades and steerer are carbon, though the steerer is not tapered).
Above it in the range you have the £800 SLR 8.8 Disc, with an aluminium frame, mechanical disc brakes and upgraded gearing, before the jump up to the £1,100, carbon fibre Boardman SLR 8.9.
Boardman SLR 8.6 details and specifications
The Boardman SLR 8.6’s aluminium frame is semi-compact with a gently sloping top tube. It has dropped, keyhole-profile seatstays for rear-end comfort, front and rear mudguard fittings, as well as fittings for a rear rack.
It’s also the same price as it was a couple of years ago without any reduction in component quality which, as supply issues and inflation take hold in the cycling world, is becoming increasingly rare.
Unlike nine-speed bikes such as the Wizard Spark 2.7 Disc and Triban RC500 Disc Brake, which I tested alongside this, the Boardman uses eight-speed Shimano Claris with a slight down-spec to an FSA compact chainset.
Rim brakes are still common on many of the best bikes for around £500 and that’s what the Boardman SLR 8.6 has here, with Tektro deep-drop calipers.
There were no issues with the chainset, even if it’s not quite as smooth and slick as Sora and above. The SLR 8.6 even has one advantage over the more expensive, carbon fibre Boardman SLR 8.9 – and over the 2020 SLR 8.6, which I tested a couple of years back – in that it has a wider-range 11-32t cassette, rather than 11-30t.
Yes, this inevitably means bigger jumps between gears – especially as there are only eight sprockets – but that lower bail-out gear was always welcome on my local hills, many of which are over 10 per cent, and it will be a real boon to less experienced cyclists or returning riders.
Braking is okay without being inspiring, and I’d certainly recommend upgrading to cartridge brake blocks when the non-cartridge blocks are in need of replacement.
Boardman claims a maximum tyre size of 28mm, or 25mm with mudguards, though I reckon you might be able to fit wider tyres than 25mm with ‘guards because the clearance is pretty generous.
The Boardman SLR rims are tubeless-ready, which is good to see on such a modestly priced bike. The downside of that tubeless compatibility is that tyres are a very tight fit – even removing tyres from these rims requires strong hands. (Read our guide on fitting and removing tight tyres if that is an issue for you).
Vittoria’s Zaffiros are training tyres that maximise durability over suppleness, but even in their 25mm size they proved both comfortable and grippy enough, so no immediate upgrades are required.
The stem, handlebar and seatpost are the usual standard aluminium own-brand stuff you’ll find on pretty much all bikes at this price, and I got on very well with the Boardman SLR saddle, which has a long pressure-relieving groove.
Boardman SLR 8.6 geometry
|Seat angle (degrees)||73.5||73.5||73||73|
|Head angle (degrees)||72||72.5||73||73|
|Seat tube (mm)||515||530||555||575|
|Top tube (mm)||540||552||570||585|
|Head tube (mm)||140||160||180||195|
|Fork offset (mm)||48||48||45||45|
|Bottom bracket drop (mm)||68||68||68||68|
|Crank length (mm)||170||170||172.5||175|
|Stem length (mm)||90||100||110||120|
|Handlebar width (mm)||400||400||420||440|
Boardman describes the geometry as ‘endurance’ and that’s about right. It’s not sit-up-and-beg upright, but the top tube is a little shorter than, for example, the Mango OG 2X8 – as well as having a longer wheelbase, a shorter head tube and shallower head angle.
All of these will slow down the handling and increase the stability, making the Boardman a good commuter bike and long-distance ride.
The ability to fit full-length mudguards and a rear rack maximises its versatility, with the limit on tyre size the main drawback, confining it to tarmac and only the least challenging unsurfaced tracks.
Boardman SLR 8.6 bottom line
If you’re looking for a well-priced bike for road riding – commuting, fitness riding and perhaps the odd weekend away – Boardman’s SLR 8.6 is one of the best you can buy at this price.
Claris may be an entry-level groupset, but it shifts well, braking is good enough if not exceptional, and the slightly upright endurance geometry and comfort are ideal for day-long rides.
I’d upgrade to a set of the best road bike tyres to get more out of the bike, and change the brake blocks when they wear out, but the frame and the other components are all fine as they are. And modest tyres and brake blocks are the norm, not the exception at this price.
Finally, Boardman has to be congratulated on keeping the price the same for the last three years.
A little more… Boardman SLR 8.8 Disc
The Boardman SLR 8.8’s triple-butted aluminium frame comes with 10-speed Shimano Tiagra, including an 11-32t cassette and Tektro mechanical disc brakes with 160mm rotors.
A lot more… Boardman SLR 8.9 Carbon
Boardman’s SLR 8.9 is one of your least-expensive routes into the world of carbon – and one of the best bikes you can buy for around £1,000. The carbon frame with aero tube profiles is paired with a carbon fork, and the Shimano 105 groupset adds to a great-value package.
|Available sizes||S, M, L, XL|
|Headset||FSA no. 10 semi-integrated|
|Tyres||Vittoria Zaffiro, 700x25c|
|Stem||Boardman alloy 31.8mm|
|Rear derailleur||Shimano Claris|
|Handlebar||Boardman alloy 31.8mm|
|Bottom bracket||Shimano RS500|
|Frame||Triple-button 6061 aluminium|
|Fork||C7 Full-carbon, straight steerer|
|Cranks||FSA Tempo 50/34|
|Cassette||Shimano HG50, 11-32|
|Brakes||Tektro R315 deep-drop rim callipers|
|Wheels||Boardman SLR, tubeless ready rims, Formula hubs|