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Boardman SLR Titanium 9.2 review

30 Nov 2016
Verdict:

The Boardman SLR Titanium 9.2 is the brand’s first foray into titanium, and it’s done a rather good job - now with seven month update

Price: 
£2,899
For 
Refined ride
Against 
A bit portly, bottom bracket system

Boardman Bikes has grown steadily since its launch in 2006, building a reputation for good value bikes with astute design touches. But it was acquired by retail group Halfords in 2014, marking a major change for the company.

‘It seemed a good opportunity for the management team to reassess the brand,’ says Peter Hunt, product and project manager for Boardman Bikes. ‘We deconstructed it, and recognised we needed to drive it forward. We started with the logo – the redesign has given it real equity and more versatility, opening up more colourways and bike designs. As always, Chris [Boardman] was hugely involved in the process at every stage.’

Boardman SLR Ti 9.2 logo

The rebrand paved the way for a complete range overhaul, which notably now includes titanium bikes. ‘The entire company is full of cyclists and we love all forms of bikes, but titanium is a particularly popular frame material among the design team, so it seemed natural for us to develop titanium frames,’ says Hunt. ‘As with our carbon offerings, we decided to make the best frame we could and separate the level of bike by the choice of components.’

The SLR 9.2 is the cheaper of the two complete builds, and its £3,499 price tag (now reduced to £2,899) includes a complete Shimano Ultegra groupset with RS-785 hydraulic disc brakes, alongside Boardman’s own Elite Five wheels and finishing kit.

Signed, sealed, delivered

Boardman’s PR manager Jamie Mitchell dropped the bike into the Cyclist office, and he was keen to stress that making sure the frame was stiff enough was a priority for the design team. ‘Titanium bikes can so easily feel like noodles,’ he said. ‘ Our team really wanted the bike to feel efficient under power and handle well.’

Boardman SLR Ti 9.2 rear derailleur

The designers have succeeded in this – the SLR 9.2 doesn’t give much away in the form of flex, yet the titanium tubing makes the bike feel markedly different under acceleration than equivalent carbon bikes. Where stiff carbon bikes give intense, immediate feedback and can be skittish under power, the 9.2 surges forward; it gains speed assuredly but feels unhurried as it does so.

This stately ride quality is thanks to the comfort provided by the titanium frame. Boardman has harnessed titanium’s inherent dampening qualities well in the 9.2 – the frame (and well-matched carbon fork) has a particular ability to soak up road chatter without feeling dull. The result is an engaging ride but one that lives up to its ‘endurance’ billing; the longer you are aboard the 9.2 the more pronounced the feeling of comfort becomes. Just like a perfectly fitting pair of bibshorts, on rides of over a few hours you tend to forget the bike is beneath you because there is nothing irritating to demand your attention.

Boardman SLR Ti 9.2 seatstay

Stiffness and ride quality must come at the expense of something, and in the case of the Boardman 9.2 it is weight. It weighed in at 9.5kg on the Cyclist scales and the kilogram or so of extra mass it holds over its titanium competitors at this price is apparent in accelerations or when climbing.

The SLR 9.2 seems a bit sluggish when you stamp on the pedals, which takes an edge of excitement off the ride slightly. That being said, once up to speed you get a distinct feeling of momentum and, when this is combined with the 9.2’s smooth ride, it makes you think you could cruise indefinitely on flat or rolling terrain.

Up and downs

Despite being reliable and robust, Boardman’s Elite Five wheels definitely contribute to the chunky overall weight and are an area ripe for an upgrade, which the frame is good enough to warrant. Swapping out for some Zipp 202’s, for example, would shave nearly half a kilogram of rotational mass off the bike. This would have a massive effect on its inertia and definitely give zip to the ride where it is currently lacking.

Boardman SLR Ti 9.2 Shimano Ultegra chainset

Aside from the wheelset, you wouldn’t need to consider upgrades for anything else – Shimano’s Ultegra shifting is simply outstanding and the disc brakes are consistently powerful. The own-brand finishing kit and Prologo saddle are great quality too and compliment the accomplished frame well.

My only niggle with the componentry was the use of reducing cups and in the pressfit bottom bracket. Although it makes commercial sense to keep the bottom bracket as versatile as possible (pressfit 30 bottom brackets accept all the major cranksets), making the system more convoluted than it needs to be can undermine its performance.

The one in the 9.2 became gritty and required a service after just two months of riding. This is by no means a deal-breaker, but it is slightly frustrating that the area needs more maintenance than if a threaded BB was fitted.

Niggles aside, the sophisticated ride of the 9.2 is great to experience. The knowledge that this is Boardman’s first attempt in titanium makes it all the more impressive and future projects from the brand are an exciting prospect. 

Boardman SLR Titanium 9.2 four month update

The completion of the Boardman 9.2’s first review served as an appropriate juncture to ring in a few changes to its specification – most notably to the wheelset. It was highlighted as the area most in need of an upgrade because the quality of the frameset outshone Boardman’s own-brand wheels.

We were keen to fully exploit the potential of the frameset, so with that in mind Stan’s Notubes’ new Avion wheels replaced the specced Boardman SLR Elite Fives.

Boardman SLR Ti update

As the name suggests, Stan’s Notubes is a brand at the forefront of the growing trend for tubeless wheel-tyre set-ups, with all it’s wheelsets designed as tubeless-ready. It therefore felt sacrilegious to use them with inner tubes and regular clinchers so they were shod with Schwalbe’s Pro One tyres - widely considered as the market benchmark for tubeless tyre performance at the moment.

A modification with such minimal hassle wouldn’t have to perform brilliantly in order to be worth doing but the Avion-Pro One combination is not only simple to set up but transforms the ride of the 9.2.

The Avion’s have a 41mm deep profile but still save approximately 300g over the 9.2’s original wheelset, which has a noticeable effect on the 9.2’s acceleration, and it isn’t just speed off the mark that has improved either.

It was mentioned in the 9.2’s initial review that once up to speed it gives a distinct feeling of being able to effortlessly tick off kilometres. The semi-aero profile of the wheels and the Pro One’s low rolling resistance really promote the 9.2’s feeling of carrying speed, such that it feels tangibly easier to maintain speeds upwards of 35kph on rolling terrain.

This advantage validates the change alone but the bike is also now undeniably more comfortable.

Boardman had done a great job with the ride feel before – in its original guise the 9.2 was ideal for long rides – but the inherent benefits of tubeless: being able to ride suppler tyres at lower pressures, for less rolling resistance, has refined ride feel to the point of luxury, almost nullifying all but the harshest road conditions.

It is a joy to spend hours seemingly floating along.

Boardman SLR Titanium 9.2 seven month update

Test schedules at Cyclist wait for no man so my time on the Boardman SLR Titanium 9.2 has reached its end.

A consistent weekly mileage for over six months has seen my initial opinions on the bike confirmed - the frame belies Boardman’s relative inexperience in titanium and provides a refined ride regardless of the terrain or time spent in the saddle.

The frame is fairly neutral geometrically aside from a long wheelbase, which made handling stable and predictable. The bike’s total weight meant acceleration wasn’t exactly lightening fast, but over the long term this stability with the frame’s comfort and Shimano’s excellent RS-685 hydraulic brakes, I was left with faith that the bike would be completely dependable in a given situation.
That goes for both ride behaviour as well as mechanical solidity - aside from one or two punctures and an initial service of the (somewhat convoluted) bottom bracket system, the occasional clean was it that was necessary to keep the bike in perfect working order.

In fact, low maintenance was a concurrent theme - Shimano’s Ultegra groupset remained the epitome of mechanical efficiency and the aesthetic quality of the bike hasn’t diminished over the duration of my test period.

It is an unusually bold move to cover the natural beauty of titanium, but the paint job astutely complements the exposed metal and both were repeatedly brought up like new post-wash.

Despite the 9.2’s attributes it’s initial pricing made it unlikely to stand out as brilliant value in a competitive market segment, however as Boardman’s Jamie Mitchell explains, a recent business-model restructure has allowed the brand to lop £600 pounds off the RRP.
'We have launched our new, fully transactional website, offering our UK customers the chance to buy any Boardman bike the way they want. We researched shopping trends and patterns to assess what we would want if we were the customer. We can now offer the same product at direct prices.’

This change brings the SLR 9.2 more in line with the pricing of its competitors and makes the bike truly tempting as a total package - you would be free to upgrade and refresh components as you wish (now with the spare money to do so), safe in the knowledge that the heart of your build is accomplished enough to complement whatever is changed.

Spec

Boardman SLR Titanium 9.2
Frame Boardman Ti10 endurance titanium
Groupset Shimano Ultegra, 11-speed
Brakes Shimano BR-RS785
Chainset Shimano Ultegra, 50/34
Cassette Shimano Ultegra, 11-28
Bars Boardman Elite, alloy
Stem Boardman Elite, alloy
Seatpost Boardman Elite SLR Carbon
Wheels Boardman SLR Elite Five Disc
Saddle Prologo Nago Evo 141
Weight 9.5kg
Contact boardmanbikes.com

 

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