We ride, review and rate the £1,000 Boardman Road Team Carbon
Boardman Road Team Carbon
Boardman Bikes only launched a few years ago, and one of its initial selling points was that you could buy a good-looking and well-equipped carbon road bike for a grand.
Prices have generally risen a good deal since then, but you can still buy a carbon Boardman with full carbon fork for the same price in 2014 – which is one hell of an achievement. It’s versatile, too. It has front and rear mudguard eyelets but, with its reasonably short head-tube, you can get into a low enough position for faster excursions or tri duties.
You might have to overcome any lingering prejudices about buying a bike from Halfords, but if the bike is the bargain it looks to be on paper, that would be a price – literally – worth paying.
Frame and fork
Carbon fibre is the material of choice when you’re spending £1,500-£2,000, but it’s still unusual to find it on a sub-£1,000 bike. From our experience, a cheap carbon frame doesn’t always outkick a similarly priced aluminium one when it comes to on-the-road performance either.
Fortunately, that’s not the case with the Boardman. The Team Carbon is designed in the UK but it’s made by the Taiwanese company Axman, which has nearly 30 years of designing and constructing in composites under its belt.
The result is a frame with all the design features you’d expect on a much more exotic bike: a tapered head-tube, internal cable routing for the rear brake and a BB30 bottom bracket, housed in the sort of massive downtube/seat-tube/chainstay junction also found on more expensive machines. The carbon fibre itself is T700 from the highly respected Japanese company Toray. The fork is also an all-carbon model with mudguard eyelets.
There have inevitably been some compromises when it comes to kitting out the Boardman – you’re not going to get a quality carbon frame at this price without trimming costs in places. It’s got 10-speed Shimano Tiagra rather than the higher spec Shimano 105 on some aluminium bikes at this price, but that still offers a very light shifting action. True, the cables in front of the head-tube look untidy compared with 105, but we can live with that.
Boardman hasn’t cut corners on the brakes, though, which are cartridge R540 callipers from Tektro. These offer more stopping power and control than non-cartridge brakes, and you can upgrade to even better blocks once worn out.
As is true with most bikes up to £2,000, wheels are the area where costs have been cut most severely. The rims are basic Mavic CXP 22s, the hubs unbranded. They’re not light but they run smoothly enough.
Boardman provides most of the rest of the components, including the bars, stem, saddle and seatpost. The saddle is the well padded, but not the comfiest out there, but it’s easy to swap for your chosen seat. FSA supplies the headset and BB30 bottom bracket.
It’s an oft-repeated mantra Tthat carbon fibre provides a damped, more comfortable ride than similarly priced aluminium. Well, our experience riding the Boardman on our varied test routes would certainly suggest that’s the case here.
The Road Team Carbon did a great job of smoothing out not just general road buzz, but also the sort of more dramatic broken, pitted and potholed surfaces that are part and parcel of the British road-riding experience. The frame and fork absorb jolts through both the saddle – in spite of the oversize seatpost – and the handlebars.
The geometry is pretty standard: 73-degree seat tube with a slightly short toptube and medium length head-tube. This translates to long, comfortable miles in the saddle. It doesn’t have quite the snappy handling of more agressive bikes like the Cinelli Experience, and the acceleration isn’t that dynamic either thanks to its modest wheelset.
But get it up to speed and it holds its speed well enough while changes of direction, even on descents, are tackled with aplomb by the frame, the tapered head-tube and massive bottom bracket resulting in tight, precise handling.
Invest in a set of racing wheels and you should notice great power transfer through the BB30 bottom bracket; as it is, the drivetrain has an impressive air of smoothness about it.
+ An impressive and rewarding carbon frame
+ Light and comfortable
– Modest wheels could do with upgrading
– Light and comfortable