- Excellent frameset
- Comfortable ride quality
- Gear ratios may not suit everyone
Price as reviewed:
While we all know Boardman has had incredible success with its Performance Series of bikes available in Halfords, its Elite Series — sold by independent bike dealers — allows the brand to push its engineering expertise much further. This AiR 9.0 model is designed for fast road riding, and comes with all the benefits of advanced aerodynamic research.
Quite aside from the aero details the AiR 9.0’s frame is stunning. The finish is beautifully applied — metallic red for the most part, with funky yellow highlights on the inside of the stays.
In terms of tube shapes, everything is smoothly rounded and aero-friendly, almost as if they’ve taken a frame with standard tubes and given it a couple of gentle passes with a giant’s rolling pin. And while a raft of sportive bikes now have an arc in their top tube, Boardman has gone the other way with just a hint of a dip.
Hide and seek
Even the seatpost benefits from an aero shape — but what’s this? There’s no visible seatpost clamp. You have to lift the drug-reducing rubber bushing around the seatpost’s base to find an Allen key bolt set inside the top tube. And where’s the rear brake gone? That’s been hidden down on the chainstays behind the bottom bracket. Finally, completing the aero-friendly features, there’s internal cabling throughout.
With all that in mind, there’s no prizes for guessing that this is a quick bike. It’s stiff enough; at 8.4kg it’s light enough; and those aero details work to have you scything through the air. But what’s more interesting is it’s surprisingly comfortable. Bumps are felt, but they’re never felt harshly enough to put you off, which actually makes you want to go even faster.
Pinning our hopes
Having such a superb frame shows up weaknesses elsewhere. For example, Shimano 105 components are great for sportive bikes, but this isn’t a sportive bike. I found myself yearning for the slickness of an Ultegra rear mech, and on this occasion even the 105 brakes feel a tad underpowered.
Similarly, while a compact chainset is fitted, it’s allied with a 12-25t cassette, so climbing could be a grind for the more portly rider. And that leads us onto the clever seatpost clamp, which need big torque to hold up my 16-stone mass.
However, if you’ve done your time on an aluminium road bike, put the miles in, lost a bit of weight and you now want to cash in all that hard work with a bit of unadulterated high-speed fun, this is the bike to choose.
The fact it’s efficient and quick is expected, the fact it’s relatively forgiving too, is a Boardy Bonus. But big boned sportivers would be wise to test it first
The full range of Boardman Bikes can be viewed on their site: boardmanbikes.com
Quick, light, beautiful, comfortable and good value, there’s very little to dislike about the AiR 9.0. The frame so good it deserves top-end components, but at this price it’s a very fair package.
Gears: Shimano 105 12-25t
Chainset: Shimano R565 compact
Brakes: Shimano 105
Wheels: Mavic Aksium
Tyres: Continental Ultra Race 23c
Bar/stem: Boardman Elite aluminium
Saddle: Fizik Ardea
Seatpost: Boardman AiR carbon
Size range: XS, S, M, L, XL
Weight: 8.4kg / 18.5lb (L)