Boardman Bikes is bringing their road and triathlon bicycles to the US this year, and we got a quick look (and very quick ride) at PressCamp.
First, a bit of background: Chris Boardman raced the famous Lotus bike at the Olympics, which helped bring carbon fiber bikes to everyone’s attention. He still holds three of the four fastest TdF prologue TT records and a three-time hour record holder. In addition to working on being wicked fast physically, he also focused on what the equipment could do for him…and make sure the product didn’t detract from all the hard work he put into his training and racing. If you looked at his bikes over the years, they may have had sponsors’ stickers on them, but they were custom frames commissioned by Boardman.
Following retirement, he started working with Alan Ingarfield in 2005 to launch Boardman Bikes with the goal of giving the consumer the absolute best bicycle for the money. Their first bike came out in 2007, and since then they’ve been one of the fastest growing brands in the UK. Winning performances from Alistair Brownlee (Gold, Olympic Triathlon), Johnny Brownlee (1st ITU World Championships, Bronze in Olympics) and Pete Jacobs (1st Kona Ironman World Championships) and Boardman’s own name brand awareness hasn’t hurt things, but those will only take a brand so far. The bikes need to perform, and here’s how they do that…
First up, they’ve caught our attention because they’re just now hitting US shores. The first bikes came off the boat in April 2013, and they brought on Fletch Newland (formerly with Cervelo and FSA) to help build the dealer network. They’re focusing on top-level dealers that put an emphasis on fit, with a goal of having 25 to 30 dealers by year’s end. It’s a controlled roll out so they can ensure delivery times and quality customer service.
For the bikes, they have two series, a Performance series that goes up to about $2,000 and the higher end Elite series that they’re bringing to the US consisting of two road bikes and one triathlon bike.
The SLR is their lightweight, traditional road bike. It comes in four versions, a 9.0, a 9.2, 9.4 and 9.8, with all four coming from the same mold. The bottom three are the same frame just with different paint, but the 9.8 gets higher modulus carbon fiber in the chainstays and BB section so it’s a bit stiffer. Speaking of the chainstays and BB, that “piece” is made as a single unit so it’s stronger and lighter.
Raw frame weight on all of them is 895g, but paint adds a bit of weight on the lower three models. Only the 9.8 comes in a matte UD finish for max weight savings.
Chainstays remain thick all the way back with a sharp taper just before the dropout. They say the key stress point at the back is just in front of where it tapers, so they wanted to keep full size stays as far back as they could to make it as strong as possible.
Pricing is pretty good, with the 9.0 starting at just $2,700 with Shimano 105. The SLR 9.2 comes in at 7.09kg (15.63lbs, size XL) with SRAM Force, Ritchey cockpit and Mavic Ksyrium Elite wheels. Prices go up to $7,700 for a 9.8 with SRAM Red, Zipp 202, Ritchey carbon cockpit and a weight of 6.1kg (13.45lbs). The mid-level SLR 9.4 with SRAM Red and house brand carbon clinchers comes in at $5,500 and weighs just 6.8kg (14.99lbs, size Large)…which is right at the UCI weight limit. They say the built the spec so there’s nothing you’d want to immediately take off and replace, with all price points getting Fizik saddles and most getting Vittoria tires.
The AiR platform is an aero road bike designed with CFD and wind tunnel testing to perform well in “real world conditions” with crosswinds up to 20º. Frame weights are claimed just above 1,000g, and complete bikes with deep section wheels can easily come in under 7kg.
They use a tapered steerer and full monocoque fork with flat faces on the inside to reduce pressure spots between it and the wheel. Cables run internally through a carbon pipe with Teflon liner. This saves weight over full length housing while making installation and service much easier.
Like the SLR, all levels of the frame use the same mold with the AiR 9.8 using the HiMod carbon in the chainstay/bottom bracket piece. Despite winning the top short course triathlon events in the world, it’s built with road bike geometry, so you can ride it like normal until you clip on your aero bars and swap in the straight seatpost (versus the 25mm setback option) to get a 75º seat angle. Then you’re ready for triathlon.
The AiR TT frame is a more triathlon specific frame, again with all models using the same molds.
The fork has integrated, rear mounted custom TRP brakes that are completely hidden inside the frame.
Bikes range from $2,700 up to $11,000 with Zipp 808/Disc wheels and full SRAM Red 22.
Frame weights are around 1,250g, fork weight is around 670g with the brake.
All frames come in mechanical or electronic versions, each getting its own frame. The electronic models are a bit cleaner with small entry plugs for the wires.
Some models of the SLR get Boardman’s Carbon SLR clincher wheels, which are their own design.