Review: Boardman SLR 9.0 Road Bike
- by Christopher Jones
- Published: 20 February 2012
Boardman is a young brand built on the fame of British cycling legend Chris Boardman who excelled on the track, winning Olympic gold and breaking the UCI Hour Record set by Eddie Merckx almost three decades earlier. Deeply interested in technology while constantly training for increased performance, Boardman was one of the leaders in improving bike design before the UCI began to more heavily regulate the technological advancement in bicycle aerodynamics.
On review is the Boardman SLR 9.0 with a carbon fibre monocoque frame, tapered stereer and BB30. This particular version of the Boardman SLR uses exactly the same frame as the more expensive 9.2 and 9.4 models. It is a well rounded frame that does everything well. It’s more comfortable than some of it’s competitors in this price category, while still maintaining a reasonable amount of stiffness. It is light weight and the steering definitely gave it a very pleasant character on the road.
The components consist of the ever reliable SRAM Force (with Rival brakes), FSA Energy BB30 cranks, Ritchey bar and stem, Boardman seatpost, Fizik Arione seat and Mavic Ksyrium Equipe wheelset. The SLR series is aimed at every aspect of performance other than aerodynamics, which is the focus of the Boardman AIR Series.
The SLR has adequate stiffness between bottom bracket and rear axle for out-of-the-saddle climbing. When we say adequate, we’re not underselling it – for the moderate challenges that climbing presents to the Boardman SLR, it offers no unwelcome flex.
Only under full-bore sprint conditions is the drive structure’s stiffness genuinely tested. In tests up to 1300 watts, the Boardman presented no erratic steering, no brake rub and no rear wheel skipping. Some flex was noted, however the lag between unweighting and re-weighting the drivetrain was nowhere near long enough to be disconcerting or distracting.
When cornering, the Boardman offers a light touch though the response is very predictable.
Uphill the Boardman was responsive, it felt like a bike that would help you on an uphill breakaway.
One of our testers found himself in an emergency braking situation while riding in a 20 strong pack. The steering remained smooth and predictable without any shuddering, even if the same can’t be said for fellow riders.
The great thing about this kind of package is that you get so much actual performance for a comparatively low price. Few companies provide the same frame across an entire range, with many citing higher spec carbon or more intricate layup processes for their higher-end bikes. For those companies, that may or may not be correct. However we applaud Boardman for not “dumbing down” their frame offerings across the range. The fact is that quality Carbon Fibre frames are now becoming a good option at this price point whereas only a few years ago aluminium was a safer option.
If that still makes you wonder about the frame’s credentials, it’s worth noting that the Skil-Shimano team at one time rode a frame that was also offered in bike shops with a 105 Groupset that cost just a little over $2,000.
The differences between the components on the more expensive models and those on the SLR 9.0 offer incremental upgrades that should see some reasonable performance improvements through to the top of the line 9.4. However, at around half the price, the 9.0 is far more than half the bike and on paper only 600 grams heavier (7.2 kg). A model with an integrated seatpost, the SLR 9.8 is also on offer in this range with a retail price more suited to it’s ‘higher up’ model number and the Zipp 202 tubular wheelset.
The Mavic Ksyrium Equipe wheels that come on the SLR 9.0 are a great Rain, Hail or Shine wheelset that can be reliably ridden day in and day out. If you decided to commission a set of lighter or more aerodynamic wheels for race days, that alone would bring the bike close to UCI minimum weight.
The frame finish for review bike was excellent, the artwork detailing and carbon fibre finishing was clean. The internal cabling on this monocoque frame mean that the details, inparticular the yellow colouring on the inside surfaces, lend more character to SLR 9.0. This also means a little more cleaning is required to keep it looking tip top.
You won’t find Boardman in your local shop. As a relatively new brand, the team at Boardman were looking at the options for international supply and with the long and time consuming prospect of setting up and developing distribution partnerships in each country across the globe, they have taken a rather radical approach by partnering with one of the biggest international online cycling retailers, Wiggle. With over a million deliveries a year internationally, Australia is one of biggest markets for Wiggle – and much to the delight of their Aussie customers, processing and shipping times are relatively short. A delivery time of 5-10 days is suggested though you will find numerous reports of even faster shipping times. With the customs charges due (as explained below) the actual delivery time, door to door, will however be longer so allow for time for customs processing, payment and release.
With one of the risks of online shopping being difficulties with services and warranty, a new move by Wiggle is setting up “Service Points” which are exisiting retail outlets cooperating with Wiggle. Currently Australian customers can take advantage of a free service in Sydney at Bike Brain in Pyrmont or at Fuel Performance in Murrumbeena in Melbourne. For the free service, customers need to take in their original invoice and original invoice and ‘service point flyer’, and then also qualify for half price fitting of new equiptment.
The current list price of the Boardman SLR 9.0 is $2430 while shipping starts from $152.98 for delivery to Australia. As an imported item valued at over $1000, you will also have a customs charge made up of Duty, GST and a customs processing fee. This adds circa $480.80 which is payable to customs before the bike is released and means total ‘landed’ cost of around $3020. As a note, because this is an exported item, the 20% English VAT is not applied. For further details and variations surrounding customs processes and charges, here is a useful resource.
In overview, the SLR offers great value for money and at this price point it ticks all the boxes. While Boardman Bikes are still a young brand, with the SLR 9.0 they have avoided the teething troubles that other youngs brands suffer and have earnt our seal of approval.
The Boardman SLR 9.0 retails for $2430 (delivery and customs are extra) from their international distributer Wiggle. View: Boardman SLR 9.0 on Wiggle