AiR TT 9.8
Th is kona winner isn’t boardman’s very latest tt bike but th e ride’s st ill fresh
he only proven Ironman winner here, the quiet, efficient longdistance speed of Boardman’s AiR 9.8TT is an outstanding option for any level of athlete. To highlight their frameset- only option, Boardman sent us a custom build based on SRAM’s 22-speed Force set-up rather than a complete bike from their four-strong range.
Frame and fork
While the AiR/ TT has been superseded by the TTE frame with its integrated front end and stem it’s still one of our benchmark bikes for easy, efficient speed. The most distinctive element is the front fork which uses a broad crown to completely hide the Tektro V-brakes from airflow. It certainly looks clean too although even a conventional wheel can only be removed if you deflate the tyre, which is a right pain, and fitting a fat rim needs care. The rear brake is tucked under the chainstay too, but that’s not restrictive even with short rear-facing dropouts. The short head-tube means it’s really easy to get low while the seatpost clamp is flush fitted with a rubber grommet sealing the top. An oversized BB30 bottom bracket, tapered head-tube and deep chainstays keep things stiff at all the important points while a flat top-tube and skinny stays feed in flex where it’s welcome.
Our bike was built up to show what kind of machine your local Boardman Elite dealer could put together on the frame-only option. SRAM Force is light, positive and we love the broad R2C levers, but despite the BB30 axle the carbon chainset doesn’t feel as stiff as Ultegra. The Vision cockpit is comfy, but heavy compared to bolted rather than telescopic extensions. There are more aero wheels than the Mavics for similar money too but the Conti tyres are our all-round favourites.
The Boardman is noticeably smoother and quieter on the road straight away, with the rougher sections of our test loop feeling more muted through all contact points. The subtly sprung Vision composite arm pads help in a tuck, but there’s none of the chatter through the pedals that rigid machines transmit.
Even as speed increases – which it does very easily – there’s a real quietness about the bike that actually feels slow until you realise there’s a lot more noise rushing through your helmet vents than you’d expect. Testing time splits and GPS checks confirmed the helmet noise as the true indicator not the bike quietness and the Boardman cruised as fast as the other bikes. There’s a slight sense of flex from the SRAM Force cranks compared to the solidity of Ultegra and it doesn’t feel quite as direct through the pedals as the stiffest bikes here. There’s no wheel rub out of the saddle though and it holds traction really well when climbing on broken surfaces. Once you’ve got your head around the almost disappointing lack of speed sensation, the smoothness pays bigger and bigger dividends the further and longer you ride.
The natural riding position of the AiR TT amplifies the aerodynamic gain of the frame too. The relatively long and low (for its seat-tube length) position of the Boardman shouldn’t surprise those riders who remember the way Chris Boardman rode. If you’re in any doubt, get onto Google images and find the shots of him screaming round track banking or recording the fastest ever opening stage of the Tour De France with his knees pretty much skimming
(Spec shown not as tested) Size tested: M
Boardman’s bikes are great value, but its frame options mean you can build your perfect bike at a good price too
The AiR 9.8 TT still uses a conventional stem but it’s low enough for easy speed positioning