We were in London last week meeting with Chris Boardman himself, his bike company’s director Andy Smallwood, and the other dozen people that make up the Boardman Bikes team to talk about their brand overhaul for the 2016 Elite bike lineup. They’ve reevaluated all of their top end bikes, and refocused their priorities. Boardman talked a lot about how the whole company wanted a bit of a change of direction. After chasing their tails to try and keep up with demand, he said they were a bit lost, and spent the last year finding their focus, especially for their Elite road bikes.
A lot of that focus is in practical bikes that can be ridden on any type of surface. That isn’t to say that performance is being sacrificed, as the bulk of the bikes are built of premium carbon (and now titanium too) and spec levels are in most cases Ultegra at a minimum. But what it means is that there is an endurance emphasis put on a lot of their new road bikes, with features like disc brakes, hidden mud guard mounts, and generous tire clearances throughout. Join us after the break for a close and detailed look at many of the new road bikes, like the SLR Endurance Disc Signature edition above and ti, eTap, cross, women’s, and custom painted versions below, including pricing…
Boardman Bikes is very much a small company – just 14 employees make up everything from design to logisitics to management – and Chris Boardman kept referring to this small group as his Team. He spoke like a proud directeur sportif, and talked about how nobody in the Team had cutting edge on the top of their list. Boardman himself said “most of my riding is on a cyclocross bike now… my relationship with cycling has changed too“. He quoted the company’s PR manager who put the overall spirit of the group into words, that they were “more interested in the journey than the destination“. Everyone in the company rides, and it was pretty unique to see that in all of the company marketing materials and all of the photos on their website and catalogs, it was this team of 14 people out riding the bikes. That is where their Out There With You and #RideTogether social media campaigns came from, and it represents a shift in where the Team is developing the bikes that they are passionate about riding.
Boardman rethought the delineation of their Super Light Road (SLR) bikes to now include both Race and Endurance offerings that share high performance frame characteristics, but differ in geometries, tire clearance, and braze-on flexibilities. While the SLR Race versions offer complete bikes under the UCI 6.8kg mark, the SLR Endurance bikes in both disc and rim brake versions seemed to be closest to the Team’s heart.
The top-of-the-line carbon road bikes each get a Signature edition build option with the black frame and a red to yellow gradient paint job. Coming spec’ed with Dura-Ace Di2 and Zipp 303 carbon clinchers, this SLR Endurance Disc Signature retails for a whopping £8000.
The SLR Endurance Disc starts out at £2300 for the Ultegra 9.0, climbs to £3000 for this 8.4kg white Dura-Ace bike, to £3500 for the Ultegra Di2 9.4, £5000 for the Dura-Ace Di2 9.8. The bike is also available as a framest only in the £1400 9.8 black and silver color or for £1600 in the Signature paint scheme.
The SLR Endurance Disc is clearly Di2 ready, but includes clean internal routing for both electronic and mechanical builds. Like all of Boardman’s disc brake equipped bikes, the SLR uses thru-axles front and rear, sticking with 15x100mm and 12x142mm standards for all bikes. The SLR Endurance Disc uses thin, slightly curved and s-bend seatstays for a comfortable ride, and a sizable bottom bracket connected to tall, boxy chainstays for efficient power transfer.
Again, like all of their bikes, the SLR Endurance Disc uses post mount brakes and comes spec’ed with 160mm rotors. But all disc brake frames and forks are able to run 140mm rotors as well. The carbon disc brake frames also all get bolt on dropout hardware to protect the carbon from the axle interface, but which also might give some future thru-axle standard flexibility.
The SLR Endurance Disc is built around big tire clearance, but all of the bikes that Boardman had on hand were fitted with 25mm tires. That being said there was clearly room around the fork, seatstays, and chainstays for at least 28mm rubber on the carbon bike.
In addition to shaking up the carbon SLR range, Boardman has also added a completely new ti bike – the SLR Titanium – in two models. The innate ride quality of titanium meshes well with the SLR Endurance character that played a big part in the Boardman road shake-up, so it seemed fitting to see this bike added. With modern endurance geometry, disc brakes, and Di2 compatibility the ti SLR aims to be the ultimate endurance bike.
Both the blue £3500 mechanical Ultegra SLR Ti 9.2 and this black £5000 Ultegra Di2 SLR Ti 9.4 use the same frameset, with paint jobs that add a nice touch of color, but thankfully highlight the raw beauty of the titanium. The frames use a thin 3-piece seatstay for maximized comfort, paired with tall chainstays for a stable core. The bikes use a oversized tapered headtube with a full carbon fork.
Like all the disc brake bikes the SLR Ti bikes opt for hydraulic braking throughout, and Boardman’s new in-house developed wheelsets that offer lighter, quicker, and better spec’ed wheels than most OEM options. The wheels tended to save Boardman more than 150g, while also delivering a deeper and wider rim profile for the same cost as other OE wheels.
The ti SLRs use PressFit30 bottom brackets and clamp-on Shimano derailleurs, with integrated chain catchers. The chainstay bridge hints at both their slightly longer chainstays and their mud guard compatibility.
The rear end (and forks) get standard thru-axles like the other bikes, this time with a modular, future-proof bolt-on dropout. Boardman even hinted that it could be possible that they could make a single speed friendly bolt-on dropout for the ti SLR if there was interest in the future. Di2 routing is internal, but the ti frames have external stops for mechanical groups.
Taking a closer look, the sparkly black paint is pretty stunning, as is the nice little magenta fade. But what is also hiding that you notice up close on the ti SLR is the extra braze-ons. While the rear hydro hose and Di2 wires are routed inside the frame, there is an extra bolt for a removable downtube stop for mechanical shift cables. Then under the mono-seatstay and inside the seatstays at the dropouts are low-profile braze-ons for full fender mounting, making these bikes truly all-weather endurance machines.
Boardman also wants to be on the leading edge with wireless shifting. They were highlighting two SRAM Red eTap bikes that they hope to be some of the earliest available to customers. Both eTap bikes come at Boardman’s 9.9 level and include Zipp wheels and finishing kits. The rim brake version of the carbon SLR Endurance 9.9 gets SRAM Red eTap and a set of Zipp Firecrest 202s for £6300. The new aero road bike AIR 9.9 with eTap swaps in a Zipp Firecrest 404 wheelset for £6500,
After Chris Boardman’s comments about riding off-asphalt at the top of the presentation, it was no surprise to see a substantial overhaul of the cross bike. The new all carbon CXR gets even more versatile with hydraulic brakes across the entire range, plus a new spec CXR 9.4 with a SRAM CX1 group.
The £2700 CXR 9.4 is the key bike for Boardman out of the cross range, as it’s the first time they’ve really focused on building the bike to properly race cyclocross, as apposed to just using it as a do-it-all bike, and comes in at a claimed 8.4kg.
It does still get the versatility and even low-profile mudguard mounts that have run through the CXR in the past in its carbon/alloy incarnations.
The CXR carries over one lower end model – the £1600 CXR 9.0 that still uses last seasons carbon frame with aluminum QR rear drop outs, but does get upgrades to the new full carbon 15x100mm thru-axle fork and a Rival groupset. The all white CXR 9.2 gets the new full carbon frame with a 12x142mm rear end and an Ultegra double for £2500. The top level black and silver CXR 9.8 above gets bumped up to an Ultegra Di2 double for £3500, with a frameset available for £1400.
The new all carbon CXR frames use a very thin, but wide wishbone seatstay configuration for a comfortable rear end.
The new frames get a 12x142mm thru-axle out back and come spec’ed with a Formula XQR-12E quick release axle. Again the frames get a simple bonded-in aluminum thread insert at the drops for fender compatibility.
Boardman also has introduced a Women’s road line for 2016, but paid special attention not to just pink and shrink them, as that wasn’t what their Team or customers were asking for. Instead, the women’s bikes all get a subtle black and teal finish, with no branding denoting them as women-specific, and have the option of smaller-sized but standard geometry that is also available in the men’s versions as well. The only real difference then is in the contact points – bar width, stem lengths, and saddles – that are more in line with the fit needs of smaller riders. Boardman is very interested in personalized fits, and said that their dealer network should always be able to work to fit smaller riders, whether they are men or women, so this is much a small rider range as anything else. The Women’s range includes a single Ultegra-level build in each of the SLR Endurance in both disc and rim brake versions, as well as the ATT with their Aero Surface Trip system and a Dura-Ace AIR bike.
Adding on to all of the new bikes, Boardman has just launched an all new website with a lot more functionality. While part of that is behind the scenes stuff for retailers and the broader accessories lines, including more clothing and a bunch of new wheel offerings that could even warrant another post, there is also a new Custom Elite bike configuration tool that lets you get the color scheme you want for your new bike. While it isn’t unlimited in colors, it does offer a nice touch to make a new bike purchase unique, no matter what component spec level is chosen. The color picker does add a price premium, but at about £300 per frameset, I’d guess it will get a good bit of use.
While Chris Boardman talked of riding cross bikes and endurance bikes more these days, his pedigree is really against the clock and in the wind, and bikes for that type of riding certainly weren’t lacking at the launch. Boardman also had a handful of new aerodynamic bikes on hand for us to take a look at, too. They are cooking up a lot for 2016, and we’ve got plenty more to show and share, so keep an eye open for that.