In just a decade, Boardman Bikes has changed the face of British cycling. From a standing start the brand has garnered Olympic road and triathlon gold medals, but more significantly for the wider riding populace, its bikes have become some of the most popular among a new generation of cyclists. This has been helped by their widespread availability, initially through Halfords – which now owns the brand – but also by the popularity of founder, former pro Chris Boardman, as both cycling commentator and respected cycling activist.
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But the company cut its teeth producing bread-and-butter bikes such as this Boardman Road Sport. It comes with Shimano’s eight-speed Claris groupset. This may lack the high-tech materials, classy looks and super-smooth operation of Shimano’s higher-end groupsets, but it’s efficient and functional and worked accurately and faultlessly.
Unlike some earlier Shimano setups, the levers have thankfully lost the small thumb-operated lever in favour of Shimano’s standard STI operation. The large right-hand lever controls the front brake and, if you push it inwards rather than pulling it towards you, it moves the rear mech to a bigger sprocket (lower gear). The smaller, inner lever shifts the mech the other way. The right-hand levers control the rear brake and front mech. Don’t worry, it’s intuitive and much simpler than it sounds.
The frame is made from triple-butted aluminium, which lowers weight without reducing the frame’s integrity, and the internally routed rear brake cable is a neat touch. It’s well finished too, with smooth welds at the head-tube and the junction of the seat-tube, top-tube and seatstays.
The carbon fibre fork has an aluminium steerer and fittings for a mudguard, while the rear has mounts for a guard and a rear rack. The longish top tube links to a medium-length head tube, a fine compromise between all-out race and endurance.
The handling isn’t as sharp or as dynamic as some other bikes we've tested, but the neutral fuss-free feel is perfect for the novice roadie or born-again MAMIL. It’s also a pretty firm ride. The seatstays are quite narrow but they link to a pretty substantial wishbone, which combines with the large diameter seatpost for a firm feel through the saddle. Boardman goes for 31.6mm rather than 27.2mm for the post, and the difference is discernible.
The Road Sport’s compact FSA chainset is paired with a pretty wide-ranging 11-28 cassette. The 50x11 top gear is big enough, while the 34x28 is low enough for most scenarios, though you could fit an 11-32 for the mountains. The dual-pivot calliper brakes have so-so non-cartridge brake pads. We’d suggest that you spend some money on quality cartridge brake pads immediately. The Vittoria Zaffiro tyres are also a budget product, though we’d get the life out of them before going for something livelier such as Vittoria’s Rubino Pro.
It’s another very good bike from Boardman, with the usual compromises that the lower price necessitates.