If you’re after top-level clock-stopping experience, then the Boardman AiR/TT 9.2 by multiple World and Olympic track champion and legendary time-triallist Chris Boardman will take some beating. It’s a measure of the work he’s invested in perfecting the aero bikes bearing his name that the TT bikes were the last part of the Boardman range to be slotted into position.
Ride & handling: Light, fast and comfy
If there’s any criticism to make of the AiR/TT it’s that the impeccably balanced, all-round competence of the chassis is as subtle and understated as the silver grey paint job at first.
It takes a couple of miles in the cockpit to realise that a bike that melts away into the background is exactly what you want when you’re up against the clock, particularly for longer TTs.
Its low weight and excellent powertrain stiffness provide a booster rocket start, and the Boardman is always quick to kick back up to race pace after corners. That responsive character means it’s no slouch on climbs either, extending its aero advantage far into hilly courses – a definite bonus for many less-than-flat UK races.
Decent brakes, the accurate tracking tapered forks and a generously long wheelbase ensure it sticks to the ground, and top-quality rubber makes it surefooted and confidence inspiring on descents too.
The smoothly sculpted boardman frame routes its gear cables into the top tube for minimal airflow disturbance: Sam Needham/Future Publishing
The gear cables are routed into the top tube for minimal airflow disturbance
Having spent some of the test shod in our default Zipp 808 aero wheels, it handled deep-section rolling stock with equally nonchalant and nerve-free composure, even on gusty days. Be prepared for a bit of swearing while adjusting the cable barrel grub screws to get fat wheels to fit with the brakes, though.
While getting up to speed and holding it through rolling terrain is always a bonus, it’s the ability to let you hold an efficient aerodynamic position for hours on end that really marks it out as a great TT machine.
The 10cm head tube allows you to get super low and flat-backed if you’ve got the flexibility. The springy arm rests create a very smooth tricep- and neck-friendly ride. The cunning telescopic extensions also mean there’s nothing protruding back from the base bars to catch your knees.
Despite the drive stiffness the ride isn’t harsh in the saddle, even after several hours, and the stable handling adds an element of relaxation.
Frame & equipment: Needs deeper wheels to fully realise potential
There’s a lot of detailing on the Boardman AiR/TT 9.2 considering the price. The tapered head tube might give a wider front aspect than most straight steerer head tubes but the fat-topped, wide stance forks completely swallow the rear-mounted front mini V-brake.
Smooth teardrop and oval aero-section tubes then extend backwards from the deep head box, which swallows the vertically inserted internal cable routing. The flat oval top tube ends in a neat two-bolt clamp for the reversible aero seatpost, which can be switched to change seat angles depending on how aggressive you like your ride.
The oversized BB30 bottom bracket and box-section chainstays are moulded in one piece to carry power to the rear wheel with minimal loss of effort, and the rear U-brake is tucked behind flanges under the bottom bracket to further smooth airflow. The buried brakes with their grub screw and barrel cable anchors are a right pain to set up though, and you’ll need to deflate the tyres to get the wheels in and out of the bike.
Don’t think the muted silver grey paint hides a similarly subdued material beneath, as the whole frame uses high modulus carbon, making it very light.
SRAM’s tt chainset has carbon arms but an oversized bb30 axle for maximum torque through the 54t aero chainring: Sam Needham/Future Publishing
Carbon arms but an oversized BB30 axle for maximum torque through the 54T aero chainring
The Boardman is equipped with a SRAM gearset, rather than Shimano, but Force is essentially the equivalent to Ultegra – which is reflected in this having a relatively high complete bike price.
The carbon-armed, BB30-axled time trial chainset comes with a big 54T outer plate as standard, but you can opt for a compact chainset when you order if you prefer to spin rather than stomp. The level of spec detailing can be seen in the choice of a quieter-running Shimano rear cassette and easy-maintenance KMC chain.
The Boardman is obviously crying out for deep aero wheels to complete the clock-stopping package, but the Mavic Cosmic Elite is a sharp and responsive wheelset, and is fine for now.
Vittoria’s Open Corsa CX tyres underline the ride with a particularly supple, high-speed quality too. Completing the bike is an FSA cockpit, which includes particularly neat telescopic extensions, and the excellent Fi’zi:k Arione Tri2 TT saddle even gets fancy, floaty titanium rails.
This article was originally published in Triathlon Plus magazine, available on Zinio.