Boardman’s SLR 8.9 is a banger of a bike. The carbon frame means it’s lighter than nearly all of its competitors, and whilst its rim stoppers are falling out of fashion, the reality is that most disc models at this price come with cable versions that proved, in our tests, to be no more efficient in all but the worst conditions. The only downside is the restrictive tyre clearance, if that doesn't bother you, this bike is an excellent investment that - with a few upgrades - could really grow with you over time.
Rim brakes have plenty of bite
Narrow tyre clearance
Boardman’s SLR is a reinvention of its Team Carbon, a frame raced to Olympic glory by Nicole Cooke back in 2008. The new name came with a major frame overhaul, but the bike has maintained its character, and it’s one that has won countless awards - and for good reason.
In 2021, this crept up to £1,100, influenced by the assorted pressures that the year has brought. But for that, it gives up an exceptional ride, lower weight than competitors, and though it may use rim stoppers our tests showed they were more effective than cable-actuated discs available elsewhere.
Boardman SLR 8.9: frame and components
Available in men’s and women’s builds - the differences being in choice of stem, handlebars, and saddle - the 8.9 uses Boardman’s C7 carbon, constructed from Toray T700 carbon. This isn’t as stiff as the dream material we see on top-end frames, which means a bit more material needs to be used resulting in a slightly heavier frame. However, at the £1,100 mark, this is excellent quality.
We tested the Boardman 8.9 alongside the Genesis CDA 30, Giant Contend AL 4 and one further bike yet to be released. Each bike was tested with the standard tyres specced, as well as the Schwalbe Pro One as a control option.
Of the four, the Boardman SLR 8.9 is the only bike that uses carbon as its base frame material, and of course the fork and steerer are carbon too. The cables are semi-internal, routing into the down tube and top tube but remaining external from the bar for relatively easy maintenance. Boardman opts for a press-fit bottom bracket.
Impressively, Boardman has used CFD and wind tunnel testing to optimise this frame aerodynamically, the brand built its own wind tunnel at the Boardman Performance Centre back in 2018. Windtunnel time is excruciatingly expensive, but building one is even more so - evidently, Boardman wanted to make the most from its investment.
With wind tunnel testing you’d expect a racey geometry. Boardman has gone half way there. The small on test has a stack/reach of 520mm/376mm - this is lower than the other bikes on test by quite a bit but the reach isn’t far out, and the 70mm stem specced on this model brings the bars closer, too. Pop a longer stem on and this is a bike that could place you in an aggressive position, but it’s not back achingly so by any means.
The size small comes with a head angle of 70.5, this is rather shallow for an otherwise fairly racey bike. When asked, Boardman confirmed that this is in order to prevent toe overlap on the smaller sizes, the larger bikes come with steeper angles of 72-73. It's a shame that riders on the smaller bike won't be getting quite the same experience, however, I didn't note any sluggishness in handling at all.
Boardman has opted for a high bottom bracket, and this increases clearance as well as creating a fun, skitty personality - though it does sacrifice stability.
Impressively, Boardman has been able to dress this frameset with Shimano 105 shifters and derailleurs, which means riders benefit from 11-speed shifting, something competitors within our grouptest could not provide. The cassette is non-series and the compact chainset is from FSA, but these are functional and can always be upgraded at a later date to save weight if desired.
When it comes to stopping, Boardman has opted for Tektro long arm calipers. Opting for these, plus the carbon frame, brings the weight in at 8.75kg on our size small.
When we compared the brakes against the other four bikes on test, we found that the Boardman brought our rider to a dead stop from 30kph in 4.2 metres, quicker than all three cable-actuated disc brake models with the closest competitor at 4.6 metres.
In very wet conditions rim brakes do tend to become more ineffective, but in all but the worst downpours, these have more bite as long as you keep the pads fresh.
Boardman SLR 8.9: the ride
I rode the Boardman Team Carbon many years ago, and it’s held a place in my list of ‘most recommended’ bikes ever since. Nothing has changed, except the addition of some aerodynamic tweaks and now 11-speed shifting via the addition of Shimano 105. There aren’t many bikes at this price point that come close.
Push on the pedals and the SLR 8.9 responds. The carbon frame is more forgiving than others on test, such as the Giant Contend AR 4 - though not as much as the Genesis CDA 30 with its bomb-along-happy steel fork. The result is a ride that’s compliant enough, but feels ready to accept a few upgrades. Add on a deep section set of wheels, a longer stem and perhaps a cassette upgrade and you really could rock this bike at a criterium or road race.
When launching this frame, Boardman was proud of its 28mm tyre clearance. Times have moved on, and this is now significantly narrower than most. I imagine when Boardman next re-configures this frame they might increase this, but for now those seeking more squish in the tyre department will need to look elsewhere.
The 25mm Vittoria Zaffiro Pro rubber specced as standard is pretty tough, swapping on the Schwalbe Pro One tyres we used across all bikes in our grouptest offered up a faster rolling quality, and I’d suggest an upgrade here would benefit most riders.
Boardman SLR 8.9: value and conclusions
At £1,100, the SLR 8.9 has unfortunately crept outside of the £1,000 price bracket. However, it held that position for a long time, without a performance drop, whilst competitors made adjustments to match inflation and the market trends. The increase in price comes with the arrival of Shimano 105, which offers 11-speed shifting, and really does represent a notable improvement.
The Boardman SLR 8.9 might travel down in the estimation of some by virtue of its rim stoppers, but in practice, these performed perfectly well and left enough cash for a weight-reducing carbon frame.
In short, the Boardman SLR 8.9 compares excellently against the competition, and we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.
|Frame||C7 carbon - aero optimised|
|Fork||C7 carbon tapered steerer|
|Chainset||FSA Gossamer Compact 50-34|
|Brakes||Tektro R315 long arm|
|Cassette||Shimano CS-R7000 11 speed, 11-28|
|Finising kit||Boardman Alloy|
|Wheels||Boardman Alloy Tubeless Ready|
|Tyres||Vittoria Zaffiro Pro 25mm|
Michelle Arthurs-Brennan is Cycling Weekly's Tech Editor, and is responsible for managing the tech news and reviews both on the website and in Cycling Weekly magazine.
A traditional journalist by trade, Arthurs-Brennan began her career working for a local newspaper, before spending a few years at Evans Cycles, then combining writing and her love of bicycles first at Total Women's Cycling and then Cycling Weekly.
When not typing up reviews, news, and interviews Arthurs-Brennan is a road racer who also enjoys track riding and the occasional time trial, though dabbles in off-road riding too (either on a mountain bike, or a 'gravel bike'). She is passionate about supporting grassroots women's racing and founded the women's road race team 190rt.
She rides bikes of all kinds, but favourites include a custom carbon Werking road bike as well as the Specialized Tarmac SL6.
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