Should red really be quickest, then the Boardman Road Sport ought to fly. It’s a brilliant bright red, none of your namby-pamby burgundy. This is a bike that screams rather than whispers, that turns heads, whose looks belie its modest price.
It was introduced in late 2012, sneaking in at £499.99. But it’s £100 dearer now, putting it up against the likes of Giant’s Defy 4 and Merida’s Race Lite 900, both of which have carbon forks rather than aluminium. Boardman describe the geometry as ‘sportive’, but it’s actually pretty racy, and even the 16cm head tube is far from extreme for a medium-size bike.
As with most £600 bikes it’s Shimano’s 8-speed 2300 with FSA’s Tempo compact chainset. It’s functional, though you can’t shift easily on descents and we’d have specced an 11-28 cassette rather than 12-26. The higher top gear and lower bottom would help you to crank it up on the flat and stay seated longer on climbs.
We do appreciate the mudguard clearance and ’guard and rear rack mounts. Entry-level bikes are likely to be used for fitness, day-to-day riding and commuting as well as longer days out. And the beautifully finished smooth-welded frame – with internal rear brake routing – is certainly comfortable enough for long rides and sportives.
We found it more rewarding riding in the saddle than out, where its heavyish weight and slightly shorter top tube don’t do the handling any favours. But go with the hills rather than fight them and you’ll be riding comfortably all day; it copes with descents with aplomb. The Boardman branded bar and saddle are all decent contact points and 25mm is a good width for the tyres.
Boardman – as you’d expect – have delivered a good bike, but the £100 it’s gained since its launch hasn’t helped it against the opposition. It looks a million dollars and won’t let you down as the miles mount up, but unusually for a Boardman it’s not the best equipped or lightest bike at its price.
However, with Halfords having regular sales, there’s a very good chance this will dip below the half-grand mark again, where it really would shine. Good? Yes. Best at its price? Not this time, Chris.