Carbon, eh? That’s a bit of a clue in this bike’s name, separating it from virtually every other bike in this price bracket. Being able to put together a carbon frame with predominantly branded kit is a great achievement at this price, especially when the bike rides as well as it does. Yes, you might have to overcome your prejudices and nip down to Halfords, and there have been some component compromises, but it’s worth every penny.
The frame is made using carbon fibre from the well-respected Toray brand, and has internal cable routing and a full carbon fibre fork: not commonplace at this price. The frame has the de rigueur oversize down tube, mid-length head tube, a top tube that slims down towards the seat tube and a PF30 bottom bracket, again rare for this money.
The Boardman also comes with mudguard eyelets, adding versatility to a very attractive package. Look under the bottom bracket and you’ll see the initials ‘AX’, for Axman, a Taiwanese company with nearly 30 years’ experience of composites construction. Boardman may be a comparative newbie, but its partners certainly aren’t.
Cartridge callipers are welcome at this price
Compared with Shimano 105, Tiagra lacks a bit of cachet, and the same is true of the basic wheels with their Mavic CXP22 rims and unbranded hubs. But though the cabling isn’t as tidy as 105’s, which is routed neatly beneath the bar tape, Tiagra’s shifting action is accurate and pleasingly light. The wheels aren’t light, but they are easy to service and an obvious later upgrade.
The Tektro calliper brakes are better than a lot of others at this price, offering more control than their non-cartridge counterparts, and you can upgrade to better blocks when the originals wear. Boardman provides most of the rest of the kit, including the bar, stem, seatpost and saddle. The latter is more padded than our testers liked, but it’s easy to swap.
The Boardman has a five-star ride at a less than jaw-dropping price
It’s an oft-repeated mantra that carbon fibre provides a damped, more comfortable ride than aluminium. Well, our experience riding the Boardman on our varied test routes suggests that’s the case here, even with a 31.6mm seatpost. The frame and fork – helped by 25mm tyres – did a great job of smoothing out not just general road buzz, but also the sort of more dramatic broken, pitted and potholed surfaces that are part and parcel of British road riding. The geometry, with a 72-degree head angle and 73-degree seat angle, lends itself to most sorts of road riding too, from training and leisure riding through to the occasional race, if you fancy it. It’s a five-star ride at a less than jaw-dropping price. Hats off to Chris and his team.