Boardman Team Carbon 2016 road bike – first ride review

Designing a well-specced, full-carbon bike that’s under £1,000 is a tricky proposition. Has Boardman found a solution to the puzzle?

Imagine for a moment that the road bikes in Boardman’s new Performance range are characters in a romantic comedy. The Pro Carbon, with its polished-chrome paintjob and hydraulic brakes, would undoubtedly be cast as the head-turning beauty that gets all the attention. The Team Carbon, meanwhile, would play the slightly plainer but brainier best friend – the one that gets all the best lines and could turn out to be the suitor’s ideal partner.

There’s no denying the Team Carbon isn’t as eye-catching as the Pro Carbon but its charms are more than skin deep. Spend some time getting to know it and you discover a bike with hidden charm, a bike that gradually wins you over by appealing to your head rather than your heart.

– Boardman Bikes launch all-new Performance range for 2016 –

Why? Because it’s a well-equipped bike with a full carbon frame and fork that costs £999, and putting together a package like that is no mean feat. There’s only a handful of companies that are able to offer similarly specced carbon bikes for less than a grand – new bikes, that is, not just discounted models from previous years.

The Team Carbon is Boardman’s sub-£1,000 full carbon machine

The Team Carbon is part of Boardman’s newly launched Performance range, which includes bikes from £499 to £1,799, which is the point that the British brand’s top-end Elite collection, launched in January, takes over. The Team Carbon slap bang in the middle of the Performance range – above it is the disc-equipped Pro Carbon at £1,499 and the range-topping Pro SLR, which gets an upgraded frame made from Boardman’s lighter C8 carbon fibre, while below it come the Comp with mechanical discs at £699 and the entry-level Sport at £499.

The Team Carbon may lack the disc brakes and shiny paint of the Pro Carbon but the monocoque C7 frame underneath that gilding is exactly the same – it isn’t simply an exercise in bolting cheap parts to a cheap frame. Both have broad, sturdy tubes for the front triangle and a rear triangle that pairs boxy, stiff chainstays to slim, supple seatstays.

The two bikes share the same chassis but the way in which they differ becomes most apparent on the spec sheet. The Team Carbon carries Shimano’s ten-speed Tiagra groupset, revamped for 2016, and caliper brakes. It’s a step down from the Pro Carbon’s 105 drivetrain and hydraulic discs but if you’re content with conventional rim brakes there’s no tangible difference when it comes to shifting gears (other than the absence of an 11th sprocket). Bars, stem, seatpost and saddle are all Boardman-branded items but the wheels use Mavic’s CXP Elite rims and 25mm Vittoria Zaffiro Pro tyres.

We were paired up with the Team Carbon at the launch event for Boardman’s 2016 Performance range in Clyro, near Hay-on-Wye. During the warmer months of the year, the hills and rolling roads of the surrounding area would be perfect for riding but the late-January weather had left them damp, dirty and shrouded in mist. To top things off, it was threatening to rain and ice had been spotted on the climbs of the intended route.

Rolling out for a first ride on the Boardman Team Carbon, led by the boss, Chris Boardman

In other words, our introduction to the Team Carbon was perfect rom-com fodder: a first date with plenty of promise taking place under comically unpleasant conditions.

As if adhering to Hollywood conventions, we had no choice but to soldier on and, in doing so, gradually gained a deeper appreciation of the partner we’d been thrown into this situation with. A partner which turned out to be very capable and assured in these circumstances, and would only be more impressive when the going was good.

The Team Carbon is a lovely bike. Not the most visually striking perhaps but lovely nonetheless. It’s a bike you can feel at home on straight away. Its geometry isn’t so aggressive that you ride it with your nose down and tail high but isn’t so relaxed that you feel as though you’re sitting as upright as a ship’s mast. It’s stiff enough to spark into action easily on the climbs but, on this ride, feels comfortable enough that you could spend long hours riding it without feeling beaten up when you climb off.

The Team Carbon in more ideal conditions. It’s a lively and responsive bike to ride – and excellent value

It’s lively and easy to flick about, which came in handy for dodging the damp drain covers and muddy puddles that cropped up on the route. The only thing that seems to be holding the Team Carbon back is its wheelset – but you’re probably used to us saying that by now. A pair of lighter hoops would add a little zip, which is the only thing the bike feels like it’s lacking. Other than that, it’s a fine machine at an excellent price, and ultimately it’s a lot of bike for the money.

It may not be the sexiest bike in the Performance range but when you take a step back and judge the Team Carbon on its own merit, you find it’s got an awful lot going for it.


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