Boardman Bikes' Road Comp offers a lot for under £700
Boardman bikes need no introduction, although I think this may be the first time I’ve actually tested one in earnest. Like most people, I’ve only ever heard good things about the products — the blend of sensible geometry, tube shapes, spec, and pricing seeming able to tick almost everyone’s boxes.
One thing I would never have said about Boardman bikes, though, is that they broke new ground in terms of appearance. But with the Road Comp I take that back. It looks absolutely stunning. The finish is officially called fluid platinum, and combined with the rather cool decals, it is visually amazing. No matter how it rides, Boardman has already won the best-looking bike here.
Get away from the blinging colour, though, and there’s more to be impressed by. There’s a splosh of through-frame cable routing for the rear brake. There’s a nice selection of rounded tubes (I wince in anticipation every time I see square-edged tubes on an aluminium frame). And particular highlights in terms of aesthetics are the areas where tubes meet: the junctions at the head tube and seat tube top are as fine a bit of bike building as you’ll find on a mass-produced aluminium cycle.
Ready for anything
But enough ogling. If the Merida settles into its stride when you hit a hill, the Boardman seems eager to please from the off. The frame is a lively little number, urging to push on at speed from the start. It’s very responsive too, both in terms of direction changes and reacting to effort input. On smooth and flat surfaces it’s as cool as you like, but even over less impressive surfaces it feels more forgiving than the Merida Ride 90.
Hit a hill, though, and things change just a little. The Boardman’s 28t rear sprocket is big, but it doesn’t offer quite as much ‘sit and spin’ potential on the steepest stuff that the Merida’s 32t does. That’s possibly more noticeable because the rest of the bike is so eager and you feel you should be pushing on, while the Merida seems suited to sitting up and spinning. It goes to show the tooth fairy isn’t the only one who has to pay for lost teeth.
That climbing confusion wasn’t helped by the Vittoria Zaffiro tyres. I tested all these bikes on cool, damp — but not raining — days, with a little bit of road moisture under the treeline. While the Merida’s Continental tyres didn’t miss a beat, the Vittorias span out and lost traction. Meanwhile the total weight of 9.7kg isn’t a problem, but it’s not exactly anything to write home about either.
Show and go
However, let’s not focus too much on those complaints, because the rest of the bike lives up to the incredible visuals. The Sora nine-speed gearset is more plush than the Claris, and you get an extra sprocket at the back to play with. The Tektro brakes are a jump ahead of the stoppers specced on the Merida, meaning you can really get your head down without worry when the road drops. Indeed, the overall feeling of the bike is one of being happy at speed.
You can see more from the British brand on their site: boardmanbikes.com/road
This is a grown-up bike — it is going to appeal to people who have been riding for years, not just newbies. There’s enough ability in the frame for experienced riders to really test their bike control skills and push a little further than perhaps the Merida would allow. In fact, don’t look at the price and assume this will be a fine winter or second bike — it’s a fine bike for all year round.
Lightweight triple-butted aluminium with carbon fork
Shimano Sora 9sp
FSA Velo compact
Mavic CXP-22S rims on aluminium hubs
Vittoria Zaffiro 25c
Boardman E4P aluminium
Boardman E4P aluminium
52.5, 54, 55.5, 57, 58.5cm