Boardman has revealed updated 9 Series SLR bikes with some models already available at discount, and we headed to the Boardman Performance Centre in Evesham, Worcestershire, to check out the entire lineup.
Boardman divides its range into 9 Series and 8 Series models. The 9 Series is the higher end, Boardman having called this its Elite lineup prior to 2018.
The 9 Series road bikes are further divided into AIR and SLR/SLR Disc models. The AIR bikes are designed with a focus on aerodynamics — the clue's in the name — while the SLR/SLR Disc models are more about all-round performance. That said, aerodynamics has been one of the key considerations of the new design since work began in late 2016.
Before we start, here's a video from Mr Boardman himself...
"Developing a replacement for the SLR Endurance was never going to be an easy task; the old frame was our best-selling carbon platform and won plenty of accolades," says Boardman.
"However, we’re always looking for ways we can improve a product, and the obvious flaw with the SLR Endurance was its aerodynamic attributes. The frame was great for long, steep climbs where its low weight played to its advantage, but we knew it was giving something away when it came to fast flat sections. So that was our challenge for the new SLR platform: how could we capture the award-winning ride characteristics of the outgoing SLR Endurance and make it even faster?"
Boardman says that it was able to take advantage of the aerodynamics research and development that went into its AIR range, but that an alternate solution was required for the SLR/SLR Disc's design because of the need for lighter weight.
"A comprehensive CFD (computational fluid dynamics) research programme, combined with wind tunnel testing at the Boardman Performance Centre helped us develop tube profiles using a broader truncated aerofoil shape versus our AIR platform," says Boardman. "This improved the aero performance versus the old frame without compromising on stiffness or weight."
The AIR remains the most aerodynamically efficient road bike in Boardman's range but the designers reckon that the new SLR splits the difference between the previous SLR Endurance and the AIR in terms of drag. Depending on the size of the bike and the rider, the difference between the AIR and the new SLR is the equivalent of 10 watts at 40km/h (compared with a rider on an AIR, a rider on an SLR would have to put out an extra 10-15 watts to maintain that speed).
The new SLR is designed to offer a more comfortable ride position than a traditional race bike. You get a slightly shorter reach and 15-20mm more stack height. That's significant, but not massive. Boardman's reasoning is that there would be little point working on aerodynamics (see above) if the rider then sat upright in the saddle. The rider (as opposed to the bike) is responsible for about 80% of aerodynamic drag, so a reasonably efficient riding position is crucial to speed.
The medium sized SLR, for example, has a 500mm seat tube, 555mm top tube and a 160mm head tube, whereas an equivalent AIR has a 560mm seat tube, 555mm top tube and 150mm head tube. The stack/reach of the AIR is 1.41 whereas it's 1.44 on the SLR. With a similarly sized Specialized Roubaix you're looking at a figure of 1.56 or higher.
That's why Boardman has now dropped the 'Endurance' tag from the SLR name. The term has become ever more associated with very relaxed road bikes, and whereas the SLR's geometry isn't as aggressive as the AIR's, it's a long way from that of something like a Roubaix.
The seat angle is 73-74°, depending on the size you opt for, although Boardman's SLR Carbon seatpost gives you a choice of three different clamp positions so you can set the layback from 0mm (inline with the centre of the post) to 20mm. You can also move the saddle fore/aft along its rails in the usual way, of course. Boardman uses Fizik saddles across the range.
Making sure the SLR didn't feel harsh on potholed British roads was a key design priority, according to Boardman, so it focused heavily on the design and carbon layup of the seatstays and the fork.
The SLR/SLR Disc's seatstays have a slim profile and they join the seat tube low down. This is designed both to improve comfort by allowing the frame to give a little more than usual, and to create a stiffer rear triangle to help with power transfer.
"This was another area where we spent many months modelling design iterations and working on carbon layup," says Boardman. "Rigorous testing of ride quality and power transfer both in the lab and on the road has given us a great balance between power transfer and rear end comfort. The sloping top tube with integrated seat clamp also ensures there is plenty of unsupported seatpost exposed above the frame, encouraging flex so that the saddle remains a comfortable place to be."
A fork has been completely revised, the lower sections of the legs featuring shallow profiles with a curved, tapered trailing edge to help absorb vibration and impacts.
"Getting the fork right was crucial to the overall ride quality and handling of the SLR, and we tested numerous iterations of the original fork design before deciding we needed to go back to the drawing board to get things perfect – hence the 9 Series SLR bikes launching after the SLR 8 Series version," says Boardman.
The 8 Series SLRs have been available for several months now, the 8.9 securing third place in road.cc Road Bike of the Year 2018/19.
Other frame features
The frames come with tapered head tubes for front end stiffness, PressFit 30 bottom brackets and box-section chainstays, the idea being to ensure the bikes feel taut and that they transfer power efficiently from the pedals to the rear wheel.
The disc brake models have thru axles with a 160mm rotor at the front and 140mm at the rear.
All of the SLR Disc bikes come with mudguard mounts that are subtle enough to be barely noticeable when not in use, and both the SLRs and the SLR Discs have increased tyre clearance.
"Clearance for wider tyres was something we had identified early on and accommodated," says Boardman. "As such, the rim brake models have room for 28mm tyres, and disc brake bikes up to 30mm tyres. Riders then have the option of running lower pressures to enhance comfort and grip further, without sacrificing speed thanks to the tubeless ready compatibility of the wheels on all but the SLR 9.0."
All of the 9 Series SLR rim brake models come out of the same mould, and all of the 9 Series SLR disc brake models come out of the same mould, although the type of carbon-fibre varies. Whereas the carbon-fibre models in the 8 Series are made from C7 carbon, which is mostly Toray T700, the lower end 9 Series models use C8, which is a mixture of T700 and T800, and the higher level 9 Series bikes use C10, which is a mix of T800 and T1000. Essentially, the higher modulus carbon allows for a lower weight while keeping a similar level of stiffness.
Boardman claims that the raw C10 frame in a medium size weighs a highly impressive 790g, while the fork is 360g. Combined, this is a saving of around 80g over the old SLR Endurance frameset.
There are five different levels in the SLR/SLR Disc range, each with a rim brake and a disc brake option. You have to pay £300-£500 extra for disc brakes. There are also two women's-specific models, the SLR 9.2 Women's (£2,000) and the SLR 9.2 Women's Disc (£2,300). These use the same frames as the standard versions but they're specced with Fizik's Luce saddles, narrower handlebars and shorter stems.
On top of that, the SLR is available as a frameset. The rim brake model is £1,100 with the disc brake version £200 more expensive.
Compact chainsets (with 50-tooth and 34-tooth chainrings) are used across the board on the complete bikes, matched to 11-28 or 11-30-tooth cassettes to give you some fairly low gears for tackling the hills. In contrast, the AIR bikes all have semi-compact (52/36-tooth) chainsets.
SLR 9.0 £1,249, SLR 9.0 Disc £1,499
These two are the only 9 Series SLRs to use C8 Carbon frames, all of the more expensive models using C10 carbon. Although it uses lower modulus fibres than the C10, Boardman says that the C8 frame still weighs under 1kg (raw medium sized model).
The 9.0 models are built up with Shimano's 105 groupset, although it's the R5800 version of 105 rather than new R7000 Series. That's why the 9.0 bikes have been discounted already, the original prices having been £1,500 (rim brake) and £1,800 (disc brake). Like R7000, R5800 is 11-speed.
The wheels on the rim brake model are Vision’s Team Comp 30 clinchers while it's tubeless-compatible Boardman SLR Elite Five Disc wheels on the disc brake model. The saddle is a Fizik Antares R7 in both cases.
SLR 9.2 £2,000, SLR 9.2 Disc £2,300 (both available in standard & women's versions)
The 9.2 models step up to Boardman's top-level C10 Carbon frames — a little lighter than C8 while maintaining a high level of stiffness, according to Boardman. These frames are used from this level to the top-end 9.8s.
The 9.2 bikes are fitted with Shimano Ultegra R8000 groupsets — a level higher than the Shimano 105 found on the SLR 9.0 bikes.
The SLR 9.2 Disc is equipped with tubeless-compatible Boardman SLR Elite Five Disc wheels, the same as those found on the SLR 9.0 Disc (above), while the rim brake SLR 9.2 has tubeless-compatible wheels from Boardman too.
The prices are excellent for bikes with this level of spec.
Both the SLR 9.2 and the SLR 9.2 Disc are available in women's versions. The frames are the same as those of the standard models but the Fizik Antares saddle is swapped for a women's Fizik Luce, the handlebar is narrower and the stem is shorter. The women's sizing goes all the way down to an XS. The colours are pretty cool too.
SLR 9.4 £2,900, SLR 9.4 Disc £3,200
Like the SLR 9.2s, the 9.4s feature Shimano Ultegra groupsets but the big difference is that this time it's the Di2 electronic shift version here.
The SLR 9.4's Boardman SLR Elite Seven wheels and the SLR 9.4 Disc's Boardman SLR Elite Five Disc wheels are tubeless compatible.
£2,900 for a Shimano Ultegra Di2-equipped road bike looks very good value indeed.
SLR 9.6 £3,600, SLR 9.6 Disc £3,900
The 9.6 bikes feature the same Shimano Ultegra Di2 groupsets as the 9.4s, the difference between them lying in the wheels. Rather than Boardman's own wheels, the 9.6 features a Knight Composites 35 TLA wheelset with 35mm-deep carbon rims.
These are designed with aerodynamic efficiency in mind and they're also tubeless-ready, although the Vittoria Corsa G+ tyres aren't. The internal rim profiles are hookless, meaning the rim tapers inwards to lock down the tyre bead.
The design is said to give up to twice as much sealing surface as previous hooked rim designs, and it also removes the need to use a special pump with an air chamber to get the tyres inflated; a standard floor pump (rather than one with a pressurised chamber) will do the job on the TLA wheels.
SLR 9.8 £4,499, SLR 9.8 Disc £4,999
The top-level SLRs are a departure from the Shimano theme of the rest of the range — they're among the comparatively few stock bikes out there equipped with SRAM Red eTap groupsets with wireless shifting.
The wheels come from SRAM's sister brand Zipp. They're 202 Firecrest clinchers that have a 32mm-deep carbon rims with a maximum width of 25.4mm. The idea is that these wheels combine a good aero performance with a light weight.
The handlebar and stem are from Zipp too.
The prices are amazing for bikes with specs of this level, having been reduced from £5,700 (rim brake model) and £5,900 (disc brake model). The silver Boardman name on the black frame looks stunning too.
For more info go to www.boardmanbikes.com. When we last checked, everything was up on the website apart from the two women's bikes.
Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over 20+ years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for eight years, 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 past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.