BOARDMAN ADV 8.8 £750 BOARDMANBIKES.COM
Synonymous with good value and available from select independent shops as well as Halfords, Boardman has been turning heads with ever more appealing paint jobs and a diverse range. The ‘gravel’ ADV claims to be for every kind of riding, from bridleways to sportives, as well as commuting.
We’ve often found that bikes from Boardman punch above their weight. Putting together a build to suit a moderate budget requires trade-offs and, at this price, it requires attention to what makes a bike work well to avoid producing a dud. There are several interesting component choices intended to reduce cost in one area so that better equipment can be used in another.
For example, a full carbon fork, which will increase front-end stiffness and make for more responsive handling, is a reasonably expensive choice. However, the fork comes with quick-release dropouts: a cheaper option than the disc-brake optimal bolt-thru option.
Quick-release wheels aren’t as stiff as bolt-thru arrangements but are easier to remove.
Using a threaded square-taper bottom bracket and cranks also frees up cash to allow Shimano Sora shifting components. Square taper set-ups are sealed units with no outboard bearings and spares are easily available, but they usually require a little more routine maintenance than more expensive alternatives. You can’t see what’s been sacrificed to fit 40mm Schwalbe G-One tyres, as they’re a welcome addition. The fork is tapered, and has internal routing for the brake line and mudguard mounts. The headset’s the increasingly popular internal type, while the rear brake hose and external gear cables will please those who like to work on their own bikes.
The rear end has both mudguard and pannier rack eyelets, opening up commuting and touring/adventure riding as not just viable options, but potential primary reasons to buy this bike. Two bottle mounts inside the front triangle are fairly common, and they’re far
enough out of the way to fit a reasonable-size frame bag.
LIVELY BUT NOT TWITCHY
While not quite the same geometry as its CXR cyclocross bike, Boardman has borrowed heavily from it to create a bike that’s playful and sprightly, but not as twitchy. It’s happy to be taken as far as you’re happy to go off-road, and it’s ready to go fast on tarmac, too.
On the road it’s a reliable, engaging yet predictable ride. Accelerating hard out of the saddle the rear-end feels stiff enough, and were it not for the slightest of audible drags from the front brake you’d be convinced the fork was matching it. The brakes themselves are reasonably powerful once bedded in – I’ve ridden the TRP Spyres on a few different bikes and, while not matching hydraulic brakes for absolute power, they’re consistently good at slowing down in most situations. While less
“This bike is a versatile, fun investment that will handle a commute as readily as it’ll take you off on weekend multi-surface blasts”
adjustment is required than most cable-operated disc brakes, the twin ‘pistons’ do require a little adjustment from time to time.
Shimano’s Sora groupset is a staple in this price range; it’s precise and benefits from the trickle-down effect. The gear range is wide enough to allow fairly steep pitches to be tackled off road, while leaving plenty of top-end for triathlon race efforts.
The own-brand alloy rims stayed true despite my often less than careful riding on some local bridleways. Bars, stem, seatpost and saddle are all own brand, and we’d no complaints about any of them. The slightly flared bars offer a comfortable hood position.
This bike is a versatile, fun investment that will handle a commute as readily as it will take you off on weekend multi-surface blasts. While not a full touring bike, it’s forgiving enough to take you bikepacking, too.