When Chris Boardman first launched his bike brand back in 2007 it quickly established a big reputation for bikes that competed well with the biggest brands and had the advantage of a value-packed spec to boot. Quite quickly racing success came with Olympic golds, European, National and World Championship victories across road, triathlon and MTB, but while over recent years the racing successes have continued Boardman hasn't quite managed to hit the same mark on the value front with increased competition from the likes of Canyon, Rose and Ribble.
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2017 could however be the year that Boardman packs value back into the equation and going on this 9.2 it's hard to resist a specification that includes Shimano Dura-Ace, an FSA SLK carbon crank and high-level RS785 hydraulic discs all for just a pound under £2,200.
Now trinkets such as top-flight Shimano parts are all well and good, but if the ride doesn’t match the jewellery then I think you're better placed finding a superior chassis and upgrading the bits. Thankfully that’s not an issue with the SLR.
The 9.2's ride is a brilliant balance between stiff and supple, the sense of sharpness through the cockpit gives the SLR a real sensation of a rapid machine, which is sweetly balanced by the smooth ride coming from the back end — helped by the excellent Pro Logo saddle and carbon seat post.
As you’d expect, the gear changes are slick, silent and smooth and the SLK chainset is a decent partner with smooth shifts from the deep patterned teeth and machined ramps. It may not have the ‘bling’ factor of a polished Dura-Ace 9000 unit, but at 619g it's actually a few grams lighter (DA 9000 weighs 637g).
The wheels are from Boardman and these shallow 28mm deep SLR5 aluminium models use neatly machined hubs and stainless steel straight pull spokes to keep the weight down to a reasonable 1,718g a pair — rival Aksiums are 1,965g. Over some pretty treacherous test rides — come rain, shine, ice, and rough roads — the wheels, along with the Rubino Pro slicks, proved hardy and hassle-free, although the Pro Slick isn’t the finest tyre for coping with rain sodden and filthy back lane climbs.
I also really like where Boardman has gone with the SLR’s geometry, it’d be all too tempting to create a relaxed short and tall machine to satisfy sportive fans, but it's kept the Endurance a little more on the aggressive side (though not so much as to induce back pain in the less ‘flexible’ riders), with classic parallel 73-degree angles and a 1,006mm wheelbase on my large/58cm test bike. With a stack of 582mm and a reach of 392mm its race bike low at the front but the reach is a little less, meaning you aren’t quite so stretched so you can still get into a nice low ride position in the drops should the need for speed take you.
There is however a small issue with the SLR and that’s the specifications on the frame. It's great to see thru-axles and Boardman was quick to adopt them when discs became a thing on the road, but the choice of a 15mm up front and a 12 at the rear puts it in the minority compared to the 12/12 adoption by most. Also, Boardman has stuck with standard disc mounts rather than the more minimal flat mount.
The RS785 brakes fitted are brilliant and the non-flat mount should only be an issue should you want to upgrade, but as the 785 is pretty much an Ultegra/Dura-Ace-grade brake (based as it is on the legendary XT M785 MTB brake) you’ll probably never see the need to. A flat mount will save a few grams, but as the 9.2 is only a few grams over 8kg anyway it's not exactly desperate for a diet.
The 9.2 just comes across as one of the great all-rounders; it's relatively low weight overall, its wheels with the lovely gear range make it an able climber and its responsive enough to exploit gravity once you’ve crested the rise. It's smooth enough too to look after you on many miles of mixed tarmac surfaces and the 785 brakes impress.
If you can live with the older style disc mount standard and the slightly odd 15mm/12mm thru-axle pairing, then you’ve got one hell of a seriously good bike and at a seriously great price.