The Boardman Elite AiR 9.8 aero road bike
Chris Boardman: Olympic gold medal winner, world hour record holder, multi-time wearer of the Tour de France yellow jersey – and now the man, whose nicknamed The Professor for his meticulous attention to detail, is an exporter of high-end road and TT bikes to North America.
Starting this past January, Boardman Bikes has commenced what it calls a “very controlled” entrée into the U.S. bike market, limiting offerings to its high-end Elite series of road and triathlon bikes, and as of this writing, selling bikes in just five U.S. independent bicycle dealers – two in California, plus one each in Texas, Louisiana and Florida. (Anyone outside that region can purchase through Southern California-based Nytro, which has an extensive on-line retail operation in addition to its bricks and mortar location in Encinitas.)
But this go-slow approach should not be construed as tepid interest in the U.S. market. Instead, Boardman is hoping to grow its dealer network by five-fold in the next year, a message that was front and center during RoadBikeReview.com’s morning meeting with three Boardman Bike’s staffers at Bike PressCamp 2013 in Deer Valley, Utah, on Wednesday.
“We got started a little late this year,” admitted Fletch Newland, the company’s newly hired North American sales director. “But we can already feel the excitement building around the brand and are really excited for what’s to come in 2014.”
The company’s product line in the U.S. includes the Elite Air aero road bike, the Elite SLR super-light roadster, and the Elite AiR TT time trail machine. Within each frame platform there are four spec levels (9.0, 9.2, 9.4, 9.8) with each name being a reference to the year of one of Boardman’s personal achievements on the bike. All frames utilize the same high modulus carbon fiber, but the three top-end 9.8 models get a different lay-up, paint and of course parts spec.
The Elite SLR was designed as a bike that would weigh-in under the UCI weight limit but not compromise stiffness, strength or handling. Rigidity is maintained via an oversized box section down tube, one-piece oversize chainstays, BB30 bottom bracket and a tapered steerer tube. Claimed frame weight for the top-shelf Elite SLR 9.8 is 895 grams with total weight listed at 14.2 pounds for the $7,700 internal-cable-routed bike that’s spec’d with 10-speed SRAM Red and Zipp 202 tubular wheels.
The 9.4 ($5,500) comes with SRAM Red and Boardman-branded carbon clincher wheels. You can also get a Shimano Ultegra Di2 spec for $4,400 or go the other direction with Shimano 105 for $2,700.
The aero-optimized AiR frame was developed to have the aerodynamic properties of a TT frame but with tube profiles more geared toward traditional road racing and riding. Internal cable routing and specially shaped fork and seat stays that are flat on the inside but curved on the outside conspire to reduce turbulent airflow.
Stiffness is maintained via a one-piece oversized chainstays-BB30 lay-up, plus a tapered steerer. Claimed frame weight for the top-end AiR 9.8 model is 1,150 grams, with a full build, including SRAM Red and Zipp 404s, tipping the scales at 15.4 pounds and retailing for $7,700. For $5,500 you get an AiR 9.4 with mechanical Shimano Dura Ace and Boardman branded carbon clinchers. The lower-end AiR 9.0 runs $3,000 and is spec’d with Shimano Ultegra.
The Elite AiR TT 9.8, Boardman’s top wind cheating machine and the bike ridden by 2012 Ironman world champion Pete Jacobs.
The AiR TT bike boasts a design where turbulent air flow is minimized by hiding the front brake inside the fork, tapering the headtube, carefully routing cables. Fully built AiR TT bikes start at $11,000 for a SRAM Red equipped wind cheater that rolls on a Zipp full disc rear wheel and Zipp 808 front. At the other end of the price spectrum in the $2,700 9.0 with SRAM Rival and Mavic Aksium wheels.