Boardman MHT 8.9 review

Evolution not revolution creates an instant classic

BikeRadar score5/5

Boardman’s rework of its big-wheeled, high-speed trail hardtail the MHT has been subtle, but then there wasn’t all that much that needed fixing.

The MHT frame is new and deftly mixes performance with practical durability. It’s got a short tapered head tube, smooth-welded main tubes and flat wishbone seatstays.

A curve in the seat tube brings the back wheel in tight, but there’s enough bottle-mount-free straight length to let you drop the seatpost low.

Running the gear cable ‘naked’ outside the down tube gives a clean shift feel, the screw-in bottom bracket is a durability boost and there are rack fixings too. The 67-degree head angle and 73-degree seat angle give well-balanced poise and steering, and the reach is okay (an extra 10mm would be even better).

Boardman MHT 8.9 kit

Smoothed welds at the head and seat tube junctions give the MHT a carbon-like look, and it’s comparable in weight to cheap composite bikes too
Smoothed welds at the head and seat tube junctions give the MHT a carbon-like look, and it’s comparable in weight to cheap composite bikes too

Boardman has got the aesthetics sorted. The understated black and grey of the frame is mirrored on the wide rims. Vittoria’s new Barzo tyres get grey sidewalls to complement the look, and their ‘TNT’ casing makes tubeless conversion easy.

The 120mm RockShox Reba fork has low-friction black stanchions. Even the Shimano SLX mech and cassette, with its 10 grey teeth and big black 46t crawler cog, are on point.

The 45mm stem gives instant steering correction through the 760mm bar, and the tapered lock-on grips make the excess upsweep less obvious.

Boardman MHT 8.9 ride impressions

It was obvious straight away that the MHT was in a different class to other bikes in the same price category also tested. It’s 2kg lighter (on average) than bikes such as the Diamondback Heist 3.0+, Jamis Dakar A2 and Voodoo Canzo, which is a huge benefit in terms of it feeling fit and healthy when you press on the pedals.

Light can mean flexy, but the Boost back end is shorter than that of the other bikes mentioned above and, along with the stiff, boxy mainframe, means it doesn’t squander any of your pedalling effort. Its hardwearing tyres, rack mounts and low weight make cycle-to-work duties less of a chore too.

The grey-wall Vittoria Barzo tyres look classy, roll fast and are ready to go tubeless on the wide Boardman rims if you add an upgrade kit
The grey-wall Vittoria Barzo tyres look classy, roll fast and are ready to go tubeless on the wide Boardman rims if you add an upgrade kit

The Boardman doesn’t just feel sharp through the pedals. Its M500 brakes are more communicative than the cheaper Shimanos you'll find on other bikes, and the straight-line external cable routing brings out the best in the SLX shifting.

With its bolt-through Boost axle, the Reba fork feels super-precise through the big bar and short stem. The slim grips, tight frame, firm saddle and fat seatpost turn feedback through the contact points from 1,080p to 4K, too.

Basically, the whole bike means serious business, compared to the chubby-tyred Diamondback and heavier, softer, more basically-equipped full-sussers.

Unsurprisingly, this tight ride means less comfort and compliance when you hit bigger lumps slowly, but even then, the Boardman isn’t a jackhammer. The fork is impressively composed on rocky descents, and the 29er tyres roll over roots and gaps that will stall smaller wheels. There’s room to fit 2.35in rubber if you want.

As it stands, the wide rims shape up the tyres enough to give decent cushioning. The tread and compound are enough to cope with most mud and muck, yet still feel swift on the road.

RockShox’s excellent Reba RL fork brings easy set-up sag marks, ‘Fast Black’ stanchion coating, Boost bolt-through accuracy and its latest recessed-air-cap detailing
RockShox’s excellent Reba RL fork brings easy set-up sag marks, ‘Fast Black’ stanchion coating, Boost bolt-through accuracy and its latest recessed-air-cap detailing

When the MHT does slip, the quick steering means you can catch most slides before they dump you. Taking a ‘harder and faster’ approach works surprisingly well for skipping through trouble.

Because speed is so easy to pick up, it’s easy to create an exhilarating upward spiral where the faster you go, the better the MHT feels. The 67-degree head angle and stiff front end and fork help it self-correct back onto target noticeably better than a steeper-angled bike. Obviously, there is a point where the skipping stops and the slamming starts, and it comes earlier than on a full-sus.

You’ll need to ride smooth and hover over the saddle to keep your back alive on longer, rougher rides too.

Comparing apples with apples, though, the Boardman feels nothing like a price-compromised ‘value’ bike and everything like a pedigree high-velocity trail hardtail that could easily cost double the price or more.

This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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