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On test: Boardman Team Carbon, March 25, 2009
Boardman's carbon bargain
Famed British cyclist Chris Boardman assures the highest level of performance, design and quality standards in his bike range. That's exactly what Mat Brett, Cycling Plus found while testing the Boardman Team Carbon.
This is one high-class rig. Exceptionally light and incredibly quick, it performs like a bike costing hundreds of pounds more. In fact, we went back to distributor Halfords and checked the price twice, just to be sure there hadn't been a mistake.
The frame and fork are fabulous, and the spec isn't far behind. The low riding position won't be to everyone's taste, but we've no qualms in saying that it sets a new standard for sub-£1,000 road bikes.
Ride & handling: Fast, lively, assured, accurate … everything you want in a race-bred frame
Weighing in at just 8kg (17.6lb), the Team Carbon is extremely light for the money, and that's evident from the first pedal stroke. Put your foot on the gas and the Boardman has a turn of speed that belongs to a bike costing way, way more. You'll be stunned at just how much of a helping hand it gives you.
Get out of the saddle and throw the bike around for sprints or climbs and there's barely any sideways movement through the frame - the rear triangle doesn't budge off line. The same is true of the fork - it remained steadfast despite our best efforts to coax it into twisting on the hills.
The ride is certainly firm, especially through the straight-bladed fork and alloy cockpit. It's not severe, but it's more about efficiency than relaxation.
The Team Carbon flicks through turns with poise and assurance, and the only time descents get in any way sketchy is when the light weight causes you to skitter on poor road surfaces. The no-name dual pivot brakes didn't seem to offer quite as much power as those on other bikes at this price, but there's really not much in it.
Chassis: Lightweight unidirectional carbon monocoque frame and fork package with fabulous stiffness built in
There's no mistaking that the Boardman Team Carbon is a race-bred machine. Built around a unidirectional carbon monocoque frame with a matching fork, it's the middle model in Boardman's range of five drop handlebar road bikes and the cheapest carbon option.
Top of the tree is the £3,000 Road Pro Race Prepared, which has the same spec as Olympic and World Champion Nicole Cooke's mount - SRAM Red groupset, Zipp 404 carbon wheelset, the lot. The £1,500 Road Pro shares the same frameset, while our Team Carbon's uses less high-end carbon - T700 rather than T800 - but is out of the same mould.
The Boardman's stealthy, semi-compact carbon frame is an absolute stunner. With a deep teardrop down tube, a big old wedge of a bottom bracket shell and oversized box-section chainstays, this is a bike that's designed to provide race-grade stiffness.
It's the same deal at the front end where the stout head tube flares outwards at the bottom to accommodate a 1 1/2in lower headset race rather than the 1 1/8in version that you get at the top for a touch of extra rigidity. The 150mm head tube gives a fairly low, though not extreme, front end.
The fork that slots in there, unlike the vast majority at this price point, comes with a carbon steerer to cut the grammage, while the chunky crown leads down to confidence-inspiring, triangular-section blades.
Rather than being diverted all the way around that fat head tube, the gear cables duck straight through it, while the rear brake cable runs internally along the length of the top tube.
Equipment: Lightweight SRAM Rival gearing is star of the show, rest of kit provides sound all-round performance
The gearing comes from SRAM's entry-level Rival groupset - and here 'entry level' doesn't mean 'poor quality'. It's about the equivalent of Shimano's Ultegra.
The single lever Double Tap (two clicks for up the cassette, one click for down) soon becomes second nature and, once indexed correctly, you'll rarely need to adjust anything. Find yourself in too hard a gear on a climb and multiple shifts to larger sprockets can be awkward because you have to sweep the lever across several times. That aside, there's really nothing to moan about unless you'd like a sprocket bigger than the 25-tooth fitted to get you up the steep bits.
Ritchey provides the wheels, seatpost and cockpit components. The DS Pro wheels are decent quality and a reasonable weight, and the sealed cartridge hubs spun beautifully throughout testing. Unfortunately, one nipple at the rear unwound completely on our first 90-minute ride. Once we'd eventually retrieved it from inside the 27mm rim and tightened it back into place, the wheels stayed true for the remainder of the test. No harm done.
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Images by www.robertsmithphotography.co.uk