Boardman is often regarded as the benchmark of bargain price performance for good reason. There’s a lot to like about the Road Sport in cosmetic and componentry terms , but ride quality was surprisingly unforgiving compared to previous X7 alloy bikes we’ve tested from the brand.
Kit is good for the money, starting with the latest Shimano Claris gear shifters. The tops of the levers are also totally covered like posh shifters rather than having a beginner-friendly gear indicator window, so the whole setup looks more pro.
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Shifting is good, although not quite as good as the older side-exit type. The FSA Tempo cranks are par for the course at this price, with separate arms bolting onto an old-school style square taper bottom bracket, which isn’t the stiffest system but is generally very durable.
Boardman has gone for a slightly tighter 11-28 rather than 11-32 set of ratios on the rear cog cassette. This means really steep hills will be more of a grunt to get up, but the jumps between the last few gears are smaller for maintaining a more consistent pedalling rhythm (cadence) on intermediate terrain.
If you’re heading into the hills regularly I’d upgrade the moulded brake pads to a slide-in style cartridge pad design for more controlled and powerful braking. The Boardman comes in nearly a pound under its claimed weight (420g to be precise), which certainly helps on climbs or when accelerating.
Vittoria Zaffiro 25mm tyres are proven tyres, although like many cheaper tyres they need care in wet, cold and greasy conditions. There’s room for bigger 28mm tyres in the frame and fork, which I’d definitely recommend given the current ride character of the Sport.
Having been really impressed with the compliance of similar X7 triple-butted tubeset frames on bikes such as the Boardman CX Comp I was expecting a real treat on the Sport, especially considering the super-thin seatstays that end in a flat leaf spring-style wishbone behind the seat tube.
The chainstays have a thick rectangular profile and the head tube fits neatly with the V top tube, while the deep oval to flat oval down tube is structurally stout. The seatpost is also a large diameter 31.6mm pipe.
Add a big shouldered, straight taper carbon-legged fork and really thin bar tape and the ride is harsh and jarring, particularly through the bar and front end. Some testers even said it felt like there was no tyre on the front wheel!
The harshness isn’t repaid in a particularly lively or ferocious feel through the pedals either so while it’s light and gets the job done when it needs to it doesn’t pop with enthusiasm. It’s a real shame because the semi-smooth welded frame certainly looks good, and with mudguard and rack mounts it’s potentially a useful all-rounder.