Boardman ADV 8.9 2021
For an entry-level gravel/adventure bike, its well-mannered handling will look after you should you be new to riding on a surface that moves beneath your tyres, and if you are likely to spend a fair amount of time on the road then you'll soon see that it is also a very capable tourer.
With its £1,100 price tag it's easy to look at the Boardman and see this as an entry-level model, and if you are a seasoned roadie with good bike handling skills it would be very easy to overlook it for something more advanced (or expensive) when making the transition to gravel. But unless you are racing or are a really fast rider looking for precision handling as your ride passes by in a blur, you really won't be let down by the way the Boardman handles, or rides.
Off-road it's a very capable machine, just taking everything in its stride. On all but the most technical or roughest of descents it just gets on with the job, unlike some big money, speed-orientated gravel bikes.
If you are looking for a 'one bike does all' kind of thing then you can't go far wrong with the Boardman. With mounts for mudguards and a rack, it's also got lightweight tourer written all over it.
Tyre clearance is decent. The Boardman website says that this model comes with 38mm tyres fitted, but ours has the slightly wider 40mm Schwalbes; you could easily go for 42mm or even 45mm without mudguards.
There is a bit of a mix and match approach to the gearing, but mostly it's based around Shimano's very capable gravel-specific groupset, GRX. The 10-speed GRX 400, to be precise.
The excellent stopping power of the GRX hydraulic braking and 160mm rotors means you can even control it with just one finger on the lever, leaving the rest of your hand to wrap around the handlebar. Shifting of the clutch mech is light yet still defined.
Value is where the ADV 8.9 sticks its chest out – it's a lot of bike for the £1,100 price tag and, more importantly, highly upgradable over time thanks to the excellent frameset.