Five freshly updated road and hybrid bikes make up the core women's-specific range from Boardman bikes at UK cycling and motoring retail giant Halfords – and you can expect to see them in stores from Thursday 28 January 2016.
The range comprises two road bikes and three hybrids, ranging in price from £499 to £999 – all comfortably within the UK's Cycle to Work scheme voucher limit.
Another point of note about the women's-specific Boardman bikes is that they have the same technical specifications and prices as their unisex counterparts. There is no premium to be paid for wanting a women's specific bike here. Boardman doesn't, as yet, offer a women's-specific mountain bike, but hasn't ruled out releasing one in the future.
NB – if you're reading this outside the UK, availability and pricing for all these models is TBC.
Boardman Bikes, which was set up by ex-professional cyclist Chris Boardman in 2007, was acquired by Halfords in 2014 but operates as an autonomous brand. This means Boardman still designs and develops its own range of bikes, does its own research and development and owns its frame moulds – but Halfords has input and offers support.
The brand has performed well over the years. Nicole Cooke took Olympic Gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics on a Boardman, and the bikes are a common sight on roads and routes up and down the UK.
Boardman conducted a rebranding exercise in 2015; the new bikes all show off the firm's updated logo and are part of a release package featuring a number of new road, cyclocross, hybrid and mountain bikes.
Chris Boardman, who launched the new bikes, was (perhaps predictably) keen to highlight the brand motto of 'Out there, with you'. "We only make bikes we are genuinely proud of," he said. "We only make bikes we want to ride."
The bikes in Boardman's women's range have all been designed with gender-specific geometry, developed in response to customer feedback, and market and physiological research. Boardman acknowledges that female-specific bike design doesn't suit every woman (for example, if you're at the taller end of the spectrum you may be more suited to a unisex model), but says there are enough women for whom it will make a difference to justify the separate range.
In general, the women's specific bikes here have shorter top tubes, reducing reach, and lower standover. Other elements of difference include narrower handlebars, shallower drops, women's specific saddles and the final colour and look of the bikes.
As with unisex bikes, of course, the intended use of each bike also influences its geometry. So, for example, the Road Team Carbon places the rider in a slightly racier, more aggressive position than the Sport women's road bike. Ride the latter and you'll find a more upright, relaxed posture.
For women who are looking for a higher-end performance-oriented product, Boardman's Elite Series FI (Female Informed) range launched in early 2015 and is available through Boardman dealers, but not Halfords. Prices start at £1,799, and the range includes carbon road, aero and TT bikes.
Road Team Carbon women’s road bike
The fanciest of Boardman's new women-specific offerings is the equivalent of the unisex Team Carbon road bike, and as far as cost and components go it's a like-for-like deal.
For £999 you get a full carbon frame and fork, a Shimano Tiagra 2x10 crankset with 12/28 chain rings, Tektro dual-pivot rim brakes and Mavic CXP Elite wheels with Zaffiro Pro 25c tyres. The cost slots this bike in perfectly just below the Cycle to Work scheme's threshold.
If you're looking to get onboard the disc-brake revolution that's sweeping the world of road bikes, the unisex Pro Carbon road bike gives you want you want, with hydraulic Shimano models specced. But there is a price jump to get them – it's £1,499 – and obviously the geometry and finishing kit may not suit you as well, depending on your height and build.
Sport women's road bike
Coming in at a very accessible £499, and with a more upright, endurance-focused geometry than the Road Team Carbon, the Sport women's road bike has a triple-butted aluminium frame (meaning the tubes' thickness varies along their length to save weight), with carbon forks and and alloy steerer.
The Sport also features dual-pivot brakes and a 2x10-speed Shimano Claris drivetrain with 11/28 chainrings.
MX Comp women's hybrid bike
The £599 MX Comp, like its sibling the MX Sport (below), is a women's-specific hardtail hybrid bike with front suspension to smooth out the worst of rough roads, and will also suit leisure riding around parks, fire roads and forest paths.
The MX Comp is the more premium of the two MXes, and has Avid Hydraulic disc brakes and an SR Suntour NCX D LO fork with 63mm of travel, which can be locked out for when you're riding on smoother terrain. Gearing comes courtesy of a SRAM Via Centro double chainring and 10-speed cassette, and the wheels are Boardman items.
MX Sport women's hybrid bike
As with the MX Comp, the Sport (£499) is based around an aluminium frame, but there are a number of spec differences that reflect the cheaper price tag.
The hydraulic disc brakes are Tektro rather than Avid, and the Suntour fork is an NEX HLO model, though it still provides 63mm of travel along with the ability to lock out the fork. The drivetrain sees the biggest difference: here, a SRAM X5 triple crankset and nine-speed cassette gives a huge range of gears, which will help newer riders get up the steepest of hills.
Hybrid Comp women's hybrid bike
The £499 Hybrid Comp sits more towards the roadie end of the hybrid spectrum than its MX stablemates, and should be a good choice if you're after a lighter, more agile steed for commuting or leisure-riding on.
The triple-butted aluminium frame is fitted with Tektro hydraulic disc brakes; the fork is aluminium with a chromoly steerer, and gearing is 3x nine-speed Shimano Acera, again meaning a massive range for climbing if you live somewhere hilly. The Boardman double-wall wheels come with Vittoria tyres that feature integrated reflective elements on the sidewalls.