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Boardman Bikes launch
Posted by: Editor
Posted on: Tuesday 19th June 2007


Tags  Bike Hut  |  Chris Boardman  |  Halfords


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An invitation to ride a bike with Chris Boardman at Longleat House raises all sorts of questions in one's mind! To start with, these days my endurance on two wheels is in the order of, well, zero and the thought of being dropped within sight of the house wasn't going to do the tattered remains of my ego any good at all! And, what if the bike ride was through the animal park? A sort of 'lions take the slowest' way of getting revenge on the cycling press! And so it was that, absent any cycling gear and in trousers carefully chosen to be obviously unsuitable for even getting near to a bike's oily bits, I headed West down the ever-so familiar A303.

The occasion was, as should be obvious, the launch of the new range of Boardman Bikes. A range that has been over two years in the making and represents a real comittment by both Boardman, who retains total right of veto over every aspect of the product, and Halfords/Bike Hut to create and market a new, value-for-money range of hybrid, mountain and road bikes. Ignoring the splutters from the purists about the first two categories, Boardman pointed out that the first bike he ever bought was a Muddy Fox, it obviously makes sense for Halfords/Bike Hut to offer a range that covers the whole gamut of people's cycling needs. Hence the reason that there's also a limited, but as far as I could tell from the samples on show, carefully thought out and well done accessories.

So, what's on offer? Each of the three bike types comes in a basic (Comp), mid-range (Team) and, relatively, top-end (Pro) version. I said "relatively" not as any kind of a slur but as an indicator that this means top-end for Halfords! The Bike Hut operations, and a very few selected IBDs will get a whole different level of product in 2008 which is the Elite range - more of this later. All the models share a common styling and all are definitely no-frills. Chris said that the philosophy is to make bikes that do the job and don't have all the un-necessary trimmings, if you like that's their distinguishing feature. Taking the road models this means that the basic bike is a £599.99 double-butted alloy model with a carbon fork, a Shimano 105 rear mech, Tiagra front and STIs with Tektro calipers and a Truvativ chainset. All solid and dependable stuff and, like the all-Ritchey finishing kit of bars, stem and seatpost, product that the 100 selected Halfords stores carrying the range will be pretty much guaranteed to have on the shelf if anything needs fixing.

Stepping up to the Team model gets you a triple-butted alloy frame, Ultegra drivetrain and the same level of upgrades to all the other components to give you a £899.99 price break. The £1399.99 top-end model adds carbon seat and chain stays, Dura-Ace drivetrain and, again, upgraded components including a carbon Truvativ chainset, Tektro carbon brake calipers and top-end alloy Ritchey bits - which is a pretty stonking deal in anyone's catalogue. All the models share a common frame shape which features a very distinctive, and actually quite attractive, flattened diamond top tube. Other than that they are really quite sober in their styling, there's nothing here to offend but, equally, nothing to actually set the pulse racing. But then, in all honesty, what do you expect for that sort of money? You couldn't describe the comparable models from Trek, Specialized, Giant, etc as being pulse quickening either...

What was pulse quickening, potentially in all senses of the word, was the very private and very sneak preview of a carbon fibre time trial frame which is all but ready and the news of an aero-sectioned road bike model which will form the Elite range that's due to launch for 2008. Absolutely no details on these at this stage but there's every indication, based on what I saw, that these will be highly competitive at a level significantly beyond what you would expect to find in a high street chain. Of course, as Halfords takes pains to point out, Bike Hut isn't a high street chain but a multiple outlet IBD, so there should be no issue with getting sized and being able to buy the necessary accessories like tribars. As to whether they'll be offering wetsuits and tri clothing anytime soon -- well, that's a different matter!

Of the other bikes in the range the most obviously impressive was the £999.99 Pro mountain bike which also seemed to take at least one other journalist's fancy as when it came back from the test ride in Longleat's verdant acres it was absolutely plastered in mud and the rider had a big grin on his face. MTB specs are not my personal bag but a mix of Rock Shox, SRAM, Truvativ and Avid with the de-rigeur Ritchey finishing kit looked the business and certainly seemed to impress those who know better than I about these things. Interesting, also, that a thread of conversation started up about XTERRA races and their growing popularity - just as the road bikes have obvious potential for people aiming at the Blenheim/London/etc races where a start-up price is important so would a solid, sensible and dependable MTB fit the bill for those looking to have a go at the off-road tri scene. Will Clarke and Alistair Brownlee are already sponsored by Boardman (a World Champion who obviously appreciates and understands the needs of other World Champions) but there was talk of aiming at getting the bikes onto the Pro peloton in the not to distant future and one can easily extrapolate that there might well be an Elite version MTB in the wings somewhere.

Overall a very interesting day out and one we'll certainly be revisiting if we can get our hands on either of the Elite models for The Snake to give a going over. The final moment of the day, however, had nothing to do with bikes at all - as I was being shown out the back door of the House (don't ask, too complicated...) a somewhat exotically dressed man with mad professor hair was shuffling down the passage toward me. Odd, I thought, that looks just like the Marquis... And, of course, it was!


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