Boardman Air TT 9.0 Full Review

I did promise a full review of my TT bike once i’d ridden it in anger a few times. Last year i used a planet-x stealth which did the job but was starting to look a little bit antiquated next to some of the more modern machines.

the boardman in full flow

The Main Details:

If you’re getting a Boardman it’s worth taking a similar approach to me. Essentially, each frame in the range is the same apart from the very top end one, the 9.8, which has a different carbon layup. All the others are identical, and the aerodynamic properties and design of the 9.8 and the 9.0 are also the same. You are paying for the finishing kit. The 9.0 comes with Aksiums as standard and a SRAM rival groupset. This is fine by me because my intention was to immediately switch it all out and around for the bits i already have.  The 9.0 costs around £2000 for the complete bike and the prices for the others in the range increase in stages, topping out at an eye-watering, kidney-exchanging £8000 for the 9.8.

It’s also worth considering that Chris Boardman is the director of research and engineering for British Cycling and therefore fully involved in the process of ‘marginal gains’ over the past decade. His role was to ensure that the gold-medal winning world champions from within the Brailsford group have the best possible equipment. His attention to detail is carried across to this range of bikes.

Why Did I Buy The Air TT?

I was looking for a bike that didn’t break the bank in the first instance. My other requirements were that it had to be very slippery indeed with carefully engineered tube shapes and minimal frontal area. I also wanted hidden brakes and the cabling to be very tidy, with the outers entering the top tube behind the stem where the air is already swirling around. I need the bike to be light; coming in at as close to 8 or so kilos fully built as i could get. The Boardman fulfilled all of these with aplomb. I also was looking for a red bike. This could have been a deal breaker.

What sort of riding do I use it for? 

This season i’ve ridden 7 races. With the exception of the very first race which was a loosener, i’ve come either 2nd or 3rd in each one. I have done mostly hilly time trials with varying amounts of climbing. For this reason i need a TT bike that climbs and descends well, feel stable and also corners well. I’ve been on the extensions much more than last season because i feel more confident in the bike’s stability. It rides beautifully well. Climbing on the base bar is also pretty good. It’s worth noting that on my first spin out i took it up Belmont Hill and managed a 4.04 – this might mean nothing to you but it’s quick, trust me, for a TT bike with a set of mavic aksiums.

I’ve set a PB on every single course i’ve ridden so far this year. On the hilly courses i’ve been around 3 minutes quicker on each course. This is a huge leap forwards and is down to a combination of things, clearly increased fitness, but the bike plays a part.

Component Changes:

I immediately swapped out the chainset for Rotor Q rings. These look cool and as yet i haven’t noticed any other difference. This is a good thing. I have a hed 3 front wheel and a renn disc on the back with a campag cassette. This meant swapping the SRAM shifters for shimano friction, which then meant i had to swap the rear mech for shimano because of the stupid pull-ratio of SRAM. With these minor modifications the bike was ready to race.

How Does it Ride? 

The Boardman rides like a dream. Sometimes, when i’m really pushing a big gear and it’s pan flat, it feels like i’m sat on a guided missile, remorselessly tracking along. I find it much easier to push the big gear and regularly find that i’m in the 54:11. I’m much much lower than last year and thus have a smaller frontal profile. What this means is i’ve managed to adopt a more aerodynamic riding position without any cost to power output. It’s a delight to ride, really, it feels amazing and goes like the clappers. Or as my dad used to say; “it moves like shit off a shovel”. He also used to say “goes like hot snot” but i never really knew why, i mean, if ever afflicted by ‘hot snot’ as an ailment i might be able to check out the worth of this simile. I hope it never happens.

you can see (or not see) the hidden brake and clean lines.

If you’re thinking of getting a new TT bike then i’d heartily recommend the Boardman. You get proven aerodynamics and a pro-level frame, and if you’re canny it’s possible to put it together on a budget, relatively speaking. Lastly – this bike survived a pretty massive crash on Wednesday without a scratch on it. I was battered to pieces. This is a good thing, i think.

Boardman Air TT 9 Review

I’ve got some new weaponry for the TT series. my planet x served me very well but it was looking a bit passé. and as we know, looks are everything. over the winter i decided to buy a boardman TT bike. this was based on lots of research trawling through typically conflicting internet reviews. ultimately, i trusted Jeff Jones, who said it was very very fast. he should know, being also very very fast.

i’ve used it a couple of times over the winter on the turbo trainer, not fully set up or anything. recently i got strada to do a couple of tweaks, it seemed a bit criminal for me to be bodging a brand new bike with my patented srampagmano™ system so i opted to get a professional (matt dawson of strada) to do the jiggery pokery for me.

today was the first day i’ve ridden it out on the road. having been on the fairly relaxed winter bike for the past 6 months the first shock was the low and aggressive riding position. i’ve dropped the stem pretty much as low as it can go, thus creating a very aggressive and aerodynamic profile. i was using a set of aksium training wheels rather than the full disc and trispoke, for obvious reasons. the brakes are recessed inside the fork crown and hidden above the bottom bracket. they work extremely well and are much better than the dual pivot campag brakes on my road bike. i was surprised by this, to be honest.

i went out and tackled a hilly loop. i could feel yesterday’s exertions but it didn’t have that much of an effect. once i got used to the handling and comfortable on the extensions i tucked in and floored it. it feels quick and incredibly aerodynamic. i rode for an hour with about 1400 feet of climbing and averaged 21 mph. this included my fastest time on belmont this year – a 4.13, not that far off my PB of 4.02, which was a shock because i didn’t think i was pushing that hard. there was a slight tailwind, but not enough to  pull a super quick time out of the bag. i can conclude that the low weight and power transfer, including the super stiff bottom bracket, means it climbs very well. handy to know with the upcoming hilly events. similarly, it felt pretty tasty on the descents – although it is a TT bike so it’s a case of throwing caution to the wind. i managed 42mph on the descent of Clarken Coombe, startling a few motorists.

where are the brakes?

the bike comes in 4 variants with an ascending price scale. the thing to remember is they are all exactly the same in terms of profile and frame design, the only different one is the uber expensive 9.8 which has a slightly different carbon layup, making it arguably stiffer, although i doubt the layman like me would notice. the price point changes on account of the spec. if you have already got some fairly bling bits then it makes sense to go for the cheaper 9.0 and then swap bits out. this is what i did, switching the stock chainset for rotor Q rings and then changing the rear mech and shifters so i can run my campag disc wheel in the back.

like biopace, but snazzier

i’m going to probably take it out for another spin on wednesday. having ridden it today i’ve already noticed that my muscles are acheing from the different setup. this was anticipated and it’s important to ride in the position before the first race to avoid a really painful experience. all things considered, i’m looking forward to the weekend, fingers crossed for the weather!

narrow profile

Mixing Groupsets

I’m doing some tweaking on my new TT bike. now is the season to be fettling. i had left it, thinking i’d do it later on, but the change in the weather has led to me reassessing my off-off relationship with the turbo trainer.

essentially, i want to run my campagnolo disc wheel with a sram groupset. the reason i want to do this is because it’s the cheapest solution. therefore, i need to switch out the sram shifters with a set of shimano bar-ends instead. you can run sram with shimano. you can sometimes run campag shifters with sram cassettes. but generally, you run into noisy, clunky, shifty problems when attempting to introduce campagnolo to anything else that doesn’t have tullio’s seal of approval.

this is the bike:

purest smut

i’ve got a red one. it’s even faster because it’s red; this is a well-known fact about red bicycles. anyway, the red one is much cheaper because ‘the finishing kit’ is a lot cheaper, although the frame is exactly the same. i’ve got a hed 3 trispoke on the front. it came with a set of mavic aksiums which are perfect for training and/or turbo usage. the frame is fantastic, with hidden front and rear brake calipers, internally routed cables (behind the stem, where the air is already ‘dirty’, or so they say).

i bought it from echelon cycles in pershore. i highly recommend this bike shop. the proprietor is a really lovely chap called Tim, who races a bit as well. they couldn’t have been more helpful. i was also swayed in my decision to get this bike by Jeff Jones, who said it’s one of the fastest bikes he’s ever ridden, and that is was ‘fast right out of the box’, i.e without 100 hours of adjustments and faffage. i can’t wait to ride it in anger. i’m going to be seeing to my position and getting in some turbo hours between now and march. i will review the bike properly in the new season.

so anyway, it’s now a crazed hybrid, shimano, campagnolo and sram altogether in one ungodly mix. i currently have one sram and one shimano lever on there, which is horrific, but I am tempted to leave it like that just for bonus points when i turn up to the first race of the season. when you mix shimano and campag it’s sometimes called ‘shimergo’ (because of campag ergolevers). i don’t quite know what to call this miscegenated mishap… shrimpagnolo, srampagnomano, crampagano… it’s going to upset the purists whatever happens; those who would sooner eat a dead pigeon taken from the soles of the feet of one sick with the plague, than ride shimano.