For £500 the Boardman Urban Team is a well-specced bike that will lend itself to pretty much anything short of racing and heavy touring. There’s lots of competition for your money in the urban bike market, but the Urban Team will stretch it further than most, and it’s a good ride too.
The Boardman Comp scored four and a half stars when we tested it, so how does its urban counterpart compare? To look objectively at the Urban Team, you’re getting a lot of bike for your money: a well-finished aluminium frame/fork; a road/mountain bike 2×9 transmission with a good hollow-axle chainset; hydraulic disc brakes and good quality wheels and finishing kit. The whole package hits a popular price point in the urban bike market with a comparable or better spec than its rivals. It’s a good-looking bike, too, nicely decked out in standard issue urban grey with contemporary graphics and those World Champion stripes for good measure.
The ride position is on the upright side of sporty, making it a good all-rounder well suited to a longer commute or even a day ride. The aluminium fork is less forgiving than a carbon unit would be, but the sizeable air chambers of the 28mm Maxxis tyres do a good job of absorbing road buzz, and they roll well for a big tyre. The comfy own brand saddle and decent grips add to rider comfort.
The 2×9 drivetrain mates a 50/36 compact Truvativ chainset with an 11/32 mountain bike cassette, giving a wide range of gears, but you could easily fit a triple if you wanted to, as the SX-5 triggers are triple compatible.
Wheels are often a bit of a downfall on urban bikes at this price, but the Boardman fares better than most; you get Formula hubs laced to DDM disc-specific rims with double-butted stainless spokes, and the wheels were tightly built and true on our test bike. They’re a good weight for the price, and if you swapped the tyres for something sporty the bike would feel quite quick – the handling is just on the fast side of neutral, good for nipping round town and stable enough on longer rides.
I had some issues with the Avid Juicy 3 brakes, the most serious being a juddering rear brake that made some steep downhill sections a bit more interesting than I’d have liked, but overall the componentry is spot on, and it’s great to see decent quality Ritchey finishing kit on a bike at this price. The Urban Team comes complete with good quality metal cage pedals which are fine if you’re going to use the Boardman as a utility bike; there are rack and mudguard mounts and the bike is sturdy enough to be suited to shopping trips and town commutes as well as longer rides.
Looking through a few forums recently I came across more than a few negative posts about the new Boardman ranges. This is, I think, more a reaction to past customer-service experiences, along with a good dash of snobbery, than any specific indictment of a particular bike. Halfords, as we’ve seen with the mid-range Carrera mountain bikes in the 90s and the Subway series more recently, are more than capable of making award-winning bikes, and Boardman bikes, for all their world champion stripes and swish new branding, are cut from a very similar cloth as their Halfords-own-brand siblings.