We review the Boardman AiR TT 9.2 Ironman triathlon bike
Boardman AiR TT 9.2
If you’re after top-level clock-stopping experience, then multiple world and Olympic track champion and legendary time-triallist Chris Boardman will take some beating. It’s a measure of the work he’s invested in perfecting the aero bikes bearing his name that they were the last part of the Boardman range to be slotted into position. Composed at speed and confident through the bends, the new AiR TT will take some beating.
FRAME AND FORK
There’s a lot of detailing on the AiR TT 9.2 considering the price. The tapered head tube might give a wider front aspect than most straight steerer head tubes but the fat-topped, wide-stance forks completely swallow the rear-mounted front mini V-brake. Smooth teardrop and oval aero-section tubes then extend backwards from the deep head box, which swallows the vertically inserted internal cable routing. The flat oval top tube ends in a neat two-bolt clamp for the reversible aero seatpost, which can be switched to change seat angles depending on how aggressive you like your ride.
The oversized BB30 bottom bracket and box-section chainstays are moulded in one piece to carry power to the rear wheel with minimal loss of effort, and the rear U-brake is tucked behind flanges under the bottom bracket to further smooth airflow. The buried brakes with their grub screw and barrel cable anchors are a right pain to set up though, and you’ll need to deflate the tyres to get the wheels in and out of the bike.
Don’t think the muted silver grey paint hides a similarly subdued material beneath though, as the whole frame uses high-modulus carbon, making it the lightest chassis in this test by a big margin – and lighter than most full tri bike frames at any price.
The Boardman is the only bike here with a SRAM rather than Shimano gearset, but Force is essentially the equivalent to Ultegra – which is reflected in this having the second highest complete bike price on test. The carbon-armed, BB30-axled time-trial chainset comes with a big 54-tooth outer plate as standard, but you can opt for a compact chainset when you order if you prefer to spin rather than stomp. The level of spec detailing can be seen in the choice of a quieter-running Shimano rear cassette and easy-maintenance KMC chain.
Like the Argon, the Boardman is obviously crying out for a deep aero wheelset to complete the clock-stopping package, but the Mavic Cosmic Elites are sharp and responsive, and fine for now. Vittoria’s Open Corsa CX tyres underline the ride with a particularly supple, high-speed quality too. Completing the bike is an FSA cockpit, which includes particularly neat telescopic extensions, and the excellent Fizik Arione Tri2 TT saddle even gets fancy, floaty titanium rails.
If there’s any criticism to make of the AiR TT it’s that the impeccably balanced, all-round competence of the chassis is as subtle and understated as the silver grey paintjob at first. It takes a couple of miles in the cockpit to realise that a bike that melts away into the background is exactly what you want when you’re up against the clock for 112 miles – and you still need to leave some power in your legs for the run afterwards.
Its low weight and excellent powertrain stiffness provide a booster rocket start to any bike split, and the Boardman is always quick to kick back up to race pace after corners. That responsive character means it’s no slouch on climbs either, extending its aero advantage further into hilly courses than most full-on tri bikes – a definite bonus for many less-than-flat UK races. Decent brakes, the accurate tracking tapered forks and a generously long wheelbase ensure it sticks to the ground, and top-quality rubber makes it surefooted and confidence-inspiring on descents too.
Having spent some of the test shod in our default Zipp 808 aero wheels, it handled deep-section rolling stock with equally nonchalant and nerve-free composure, even on gusty days. Be prepared
for a bit of swearing while adjusting the cable barrel grub screws to get fat wheels to fit with the brakes, though.
While getting up to speed and holding it through rolling terrain is always a bonus, it’s the ability to let you hold an efficient aerodynamic position for hours on end that really marks the AiR TT out as a great Ironman machine. The 10cm head tube allows you to get super-low and flat-backed if you’ve got the flexibility. The springy armrests create a very smooth tricep- and neck-friendly ride. The cunning telescopic extensions also mean there’s nothing protruding back from the base bars to catch your knees.
Despite the drive stiffness, the ride isn’t harsh in the saddle even after several hours, and the stable handling adds an element of relaxation that you’ll welcome as you stride out into the run with looser shoulders than normal.
- Frame and forks
Size tested: M
Sizes available: XS, S, M, L
Weight as tested: 8.62kg
Frame weight: 1,326g
Fork weight: 590g
Frame: AiR TT Aerodynamic, carbon fibre monocoque
Fork: AiR TT Aerodynamic, full carbon
Chainset: SRAM Force BB30
Bottom bracket: BB30
Cassette: Shimano 105 11-25T
Chain: KMC X10
Derailleurs: SRAM Force
Shifters: SRAM TT500
Front: Mavic Cosmic Elite
Rear: Mavic Cosmic Elite
Tyres: Vittoria Open Corsa CX 700x23c
Wheel weight: 1,200g front / 1,570g back
- Other components
Stem: FSA OS150
Bars: FSA Trimax Team, R bend
Headset: FSA semi-integrated
Saddle: Fizik Arione Tri2 Ti
Seatpost: Boardman Carbon AiR/TT
Brakes: TRP integrated
+ Light, fast and comfy aero frame with excellent cockpit
+ Composed and balanced handling, and excellent aero efficiency
– Needs deeper-section wheels to fully realise its potential
– We’d love to see a Di2 electric shift version in the range