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Boardman's new Road Sport is a solid bike that's as capable commuting to and from work with a rack and mudguards fitted as it is getting in the miles on a demanding sportive.
I've ridden bikes at around this price point before that are road bikes in name only. They have two wheels and a chain, granted, but when it comes to performance they're really not much cop. The Boardman Road Sport, on the other hand, is a proper road bike. It does what it's supposed to do, and does it very well.
The Road Sport is one of three new bikes from Boardman aimed at users of the government's Cycle to Work Scheme, which is why there are a few commuter-friendly features on the Road Sport. Obviously, you can walk into Halfords, the UK supplier, and buy one without going through the scheme if you like. It was priced at £499.99 when we first told you about it towards the end of last year, then it went up to £599.99 for a while, and now it's £499.99 again.
Let's take a look at the frame first. It's made from 7005 aluminium alloy and the tubes are double-butted. That means that the walls are thinner in the central sections of the tube to save weight, and thicker at the ends to provide strength where it's most needed. There's plenty going on here and it certainly doesn't look cheap and cheerful. The down tube is a teardrop profile, for example, and the rear brake cable is routed internally through the top tube.
Out back, the rear stays are the same as you get on Boardman's £1,000 road bike. The chainstays are box section and slightly oversized up by the bottom bracket for increased stiffness while the wishbone seatstays are curved, the idea being that they'll flex slightly to increase comfort. The double-pass welds are filled and smoothed so you get neat junctions, adding to the impression that Boardman haven't cut corners in the manufacturing process.
Those commuter-friendly touches I mentioned include rack/mudguard eyelets at the back, along with mudguard eyelets on the alloy fork. There's enough clearance here to fit full 'guards to help keep you dry in wet weather.
Boardman say that the Road Sport is built to a sportive geometry although the ride position isn't as upright as you'll find on some sportive-specific bikes. Our review bike is a large with a 57cm effective top tube and a seat tube of 55.5cm, which is quite short for the size because the top tube slopes downwards.
The head tube is 18cm which isn't mega-tall for a bike of this size. A whole bunch of spacers give you up to 5cm more front-end height if you want it to take the pressure off your back and provide a slightly better view of the traffic around you. With the stem positioned as low as possible, I got a fairly aggressive ride position, similar to the one I use on my own road bikes on a day-to-day basis.
While we're talking about ride position, the drop on Boardman's own alloy bars is 150mm (rather than low drop, which is about 125mm) so, again, you can get into a low and efficient ride position if you want to. There's a generous amount of rearward extension on those bars too, which I found really useful for getting a hold that I liked.
Boardman have gone with entry-level Shimano 2300 for the shifters and rear mech, and a Sora front mech, Sora being the next level up. As with the higher-level Shimano road shifters, the 2300's brake lever doubles up as a gear lever, but the difference here is that rather than having the other lever tucked in behind, you get a thumb lever on the side of the shifter body.
The problem with this design is that it's hard to shift up from the drops. Shifting gear with your hands resting on the hoods is fine; using the thumb lever from the drops isn't. I have big hands and I can just about reach the thumb lever if my hands are pushed right up against the underside of the shifters, but it's difficult and hardly worth the effort. If I want to use the thumb lever, I have to move my hands from the drops to the hoods and shift from there. It's a bit of a faff.
To be fair, most of the likely riders of a £500 road bike are not going to spend much time in the drops, so these shifters will suit them fine. If you're looking for a positive, the 2300's one lever, one function design means that you'll never accidentally shift in the wrong direction while wearing four pairs of gloves in the winter.
Weighing in at 10.78kg (23.7lb), the Road Sport isn't a born climber and you certainly feel that extra heft on the hills compared to lighter bikes. That said, you're never going to get a featherlight speed machine at £500.
The FSA Tempo chainset is a compact (with 50/34-tooth chainrings rather than 52 or 53/39-tooth rings) while the cassette is 12-26-tooth so you get a reasonably wide set of gear ratios to keep you ticking along on the climbs. You'll certainly get to the summits okay, just not quite as fast as on a whiz bang superbike. 2300 is still only 8-speed, by the way, although I didn't really notice that too much in use.
Acceleration isn't as sharp as you get on lighter bikes either, although once up to speed the weight is hardly an issue, the Road Sport rolls along obediently.
When it's time to slow, the Tektro R359 dual pivot brakes perform pretty well. I wouldn't say they're up to Shimano standards but they have a quick release that works with larger tyres and enough stopping power to keep you feeling perfectly safe. You can attack descents rather than tiptoeing down for fear of losing control.
The wheels are made up of Formula hubs and Mavic CXP22 rims with 32 spokes at the rear and 28 up front. They're not especially light but they're sturdy, and that's important if you're intending to use the Road Sport for commuting. You don't want to fit a rack, load it up with a heavy bag and then find the spokes pinging halfway to work. That would really put the mockers on your morning. I've been riding this bike pretty much every day for six weeks and the wheels are still perfectly round and true, which is a good sign.
The Vittoria Zaffiro tyres are good quality too, offering a fine combination of grippiness and durability. They're 25mm rather than the more usual 23mm, making for a larger air chamber between you and the road, and a touch more comfort.
Boardman's own chromoly-railed saddle provides more comfort. There's a load of flex in the shell and plenty of foam padding too. If anything, it was a little too squishy for me, but I'd rather that than it was too hard. I've done plenty of long rides on this bike and I've always felt comfy throughout, although I'd be tempted to put some thick gel tape on the handlebar to take the edge off that all-alloy front end.
The Road Sport is a very capable road bike. When you're riding along you don't think, 'Well, this is okay considering it's only £500.' You think, 'This is a decent bike.'
It's not the sparkiest or most exciting bike I've ever ridden, but that's obviously going to be the case; we review some real high-end machines here at road.cc. What it is, is a bike that does what it's designed for in a very reliable manner, and there's a lot to be said for that.
Yes, there are compromises here – chiefly the weight and the shifters, in my opinion – but they're understandable at this price point. Something has to give.
Overall, this bike is easily up to the job of commuting, especially if you add mudguards and a rack. And it's certainly competent enough to take you on longer rides – big weekend rides, group rides, sportives – in comfort. It's a real road bike rather than simply road bike-esque and it puts in a strong performance for the money.
Solid alloy road bike that'll handle both commuting and big rides at the weekend.
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Make and model: Boardman Road Sport
Size tested: Large
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame Lightweight alloy double butted, full smooth welding with mudguard clearance
Fork Lightweight alloy with mudguard clearance
Shifters Shimano 2300
Front mech Shimano 2300
Rear mech Shimano 2300
Brakes Tektro R359 Dual Pivot Caliper Brake
Chainset FSA Tempo Compact - 50/34t
Cassette SRAM PG850 12-26t
Chain KMC Z72
Bottom Bracket FSA Cartridge bearing
Rims Mavic CXP22
Hubs Formula 32 hole QR
Spokes Stainless Steel
Tyres Vittoria Zaffiro 700c x 25c
Headset FSA Semi-integrated
Pedals Wellgo alloy body
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
It has been designed specifically for the Cycle to Work scheme, so it's intended for people to ride to/from work and for all-round road bike use outside of that.
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
The 7005 alloy frame is pretty good for the money, the smoothed welds improving the overall look.
The fork is alloy whereas you can sometimes get carbon blades or occasionally a full-carbon fork on bikes of this price,�but don't assume that carbon is always going to be better. At best, the difference in performance is marginal.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
7005 alloy. The frame is double-butted to bring the weight down.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Boardman call this a 'sportive geometry' although there are plenty of bikes out there, such as the Specialized Roubaix, that are considerably taller at the front end than the Road Sport.
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Yeah, it's comfortable enough. There's loads of flex in the saddle body which helps to reduce shock and vibration from the road.
If I were keeping the bike for longer than the test period, I'd put gel-padded tape on the handlebars, or sling a second layer over the existing tape to add some more front end comfort. The front end isn't especially harsh, but it's not especially comfortable either.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Yeah, no worries on that front. Cheaper bikes are often stiff enough, it's just that it takes more material to produce that stiffness, so they're heavier.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
It felt efficient enough, yes.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
Just a touch but it wasn't a problem.
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Neutral
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
It's predictable and the bike felt well grounded over rougher roads.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
The saddle has plenty of flex in the shell and quite a depth of foam padding. It could easily get away with less padding.
Acceleration isn't it's strongest suit, but it's okay for the price
Not stunning, but better than average for the money
The 25mm tyres are a touch more comfortable than 23s
They work as they should although they fall short of Shimano's usual high standards in terms of ergonomics.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
The 2300 shifters come with thumb levers that are really difficult to operate from the drops. If you spend your whole time riding on the hoods, that's not a problem although I found it a bit of a faff compared to higher level Shimano controls.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes.
Would you consider buying the bike? If I was after a bike at this price point, it would definitely be on the shortlist.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? As above.
Anything further to say about the bike in conclusion?
£599 was an okay price; £499 makes it very good value for money.
Age: 41 Height: 190cm Weight: 75kg
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding,
Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.