Boardman's road bikes have been consistently good performers in road.cc tests over the years, and the SLR 9.6 Disc is no exception. It's a really good bike that neatly toes the line between race and endurance, offering enough speed for the former while adding in plenty of versatility for the latter. If you ride quickly on tarmac and you want a bike to handle all your riding, it's definitely one for the shortlist. Boardman has dropped the 'Endurance' tag, presumably to emphasise the fact that this is a quick bike that's been aero-optimised, but it's still a good choice for longer rides too.
- Pros: Engaging ride, versatile enough for all-year riding, excellent value
- Cons: A bit of rotor rub from the fork under load
The frame: more aero, more lightweight
We looked at the whole of the SLR 9 series a while back. Boardman's SLR bikes have been winning plenty of accolades, and bringing a new version to market always carries a bit of risk if the outgoing bike is well liked. One of the areas that Boardman has concentrated on with the new bike is its aerodynamic performance. Boardman has a shiny new wind tunnel of its own now, of course, so plenty of opportunity to refine the design.
"The obvious flaw with the [previous] SLR Endurance was its aerodynamic attributes," Boardman told us. "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 already has the AIR series of aero road bikes so the idea wasn't to make the SLR into that, but just to move it a bit closer in terms of aerodynamic performance. Boardman says it's dependent on the size of bike and rider, but it's effectively halved the gap: at 40km/h the difference between the AIR and the outgoing SLR design was 20W; now it's 10W.
The frame design isn't over-heavy on the aero touches. There's a lot of squared-off tube profiles, a flat-topped top tube, an aero-profile seatpost and a recessed seat clamp.
The seatstays are dropped, and the bike's bottom bracket area is sculpted to allow smooth airflow.
There's a new fork design that uses a thinner leg profile, and both the frame and the fork of the SLR Disc bikes are designed to take up to a 30mm tyre.
Boardman uses the same mould for all the SLR Disc bikes, but the 9 series bikes get the most expensive carbon layup. The 8 series bikes are made from C7 carbon, which is mostly Toray T700, and the lower end 9 series models use C8, which is a mixture of T700 and T800. This bike, along with the rest of the 9 series models, uses C10, which is a mix of T800 and T1000. The higher modulus carbon allows for a lower weight while keeping a similar level of stiffness; Boardman claims a raw frame weight (in Medium) of 790g and 360g for the fork, which is 80g lighter than the outgoing model.
The SLR 9 series bikes start at £1,500 (currently reduced to £1,249) for a rim-braked SLR 9.0 with a C8 frame. The SLR 9.6 Disc I rode is only out-specced by the 9.8 and 9.8 Disc, which get Zipp wheels and a SRAM Red eTap groupset.
The ride: composed, fast, comfortable
If there's one word that sums up the ride experience of the SLR 9.6 Disc it's probably composed. Right from the off the Boardman feels like a bike that's been well considered. It's not a bike that looks especially flashy, but everything about it is high quality, and the ride kind of reflects that. It's a very well-behaved bike to the point where often it doesn't even feel especially fast. There's very little of the seat-of-your-pants feel that you get from some road bikes, especially skittish super-light ones.
At a whisker under 8kg the Boardman is comfortably light, but you can certainly go lighter for a similar spend, not least by opting for the rim-brake version of this bike, which is £500 cheaper and a claimed half-kilo under what the disc version weighs. Some of that extra weight is in the groupset itself, and some in the heavier build of the disc wheelset to cope with the braking forces from the callipers.
The position on the XL bike I tested is 'comfortably quick' but not especially aggressive. With a stack-to-reach ratio of 1.49 in XL it's definitely endurance rather than full-on race; the smaller bikes get a bit lower at the front in relation to their reach. The SLR bikes are available in sizes down to XXS (this is the same frame size as the women's XS) to accommodate riders down to 1.55m. There's a 20mm stack of spacers at the front to adjust your bar height, and the seatpost has a three-position adjustable layback for further tinkering.
I didn't find it hard to get comfortable, and the drops position felt purposeful enough for going quickly.
Wind the Boardman up along the flat and it's happy to cruise along with minimal input. It responds well to sprint efforts too: stamp on the pedals and there's no noticeable flex along the power line.
It's possible to eke out a bit of rotor rub at the front wheel under heavy loads, suggesting that maybe the comfort requirements at the front have taken precedence over out-and-out stiffness there. It doesn't affect the handling: this is a bike that very much goes where you point it, with a planted feel when you lean it into the corners and neutral steering. The excellent Shimano hydraulic disc brakes give you masses of confidence that you can slow yourself up if you need to.
The SLR is a pretty comfortable bike for a fast machine. Partly, that's down to the fact that Boardman has specced the 9.6 Disc with Vittoria's excellent (if slightly fragile) Corsa G+ tyres in a 28mm width, which I was happy to run at 80/85psi for general riding. They're great all-rounders, offering a big air chamber for comfort and lots of grip when you lean the bike over or get out of the saddle on a greasy climb.
Even with the tyres pumped up as hard as they suggest is sensible, the Boardman is no boneshaker. There's a bit of suppleness in the ride that makes it easy to pilot even on dubious back-road tarmac. It's no sofa, and is still a firmer ride than more out-and-out endurance bikes, but I've completed 100km+ rides on this bike with ease, in spite of it having a Fizik Arione saddle fitted as standard, which is a long way from being my favourite.
The 9.6 Disc uses Boardman's Elite Alloy handlebar, which is a perfectly serviceable standard compact design, and own-brand tape that's decent enough too.
The Knight Composites 35TLA wheels are excellent; 35mm is ideal for an all-round wheel and they performed very well even in some very gusty conditions. We've tested the wheels on road.cc before and they did very well; these wheels made for Boardman don't have quite the same build quality – DT Swiss hubs are swapped out for Knight-branded units – but they're very well built and they feel like a quality addition to the bike's spec.
They're tubeless-compatible too, if you want to embrace the world of sealant and compressors. The Vittoria tyres aren't, though, which is a shame. However, they're not the longest-lived of tyres, so it won't be long before you can lob some tubeless tyres on in their place.
Shimano's Ultegra Di2 groupset probably needs no introduction: it's the best value electronic groupset out there, and offers exceptional shifting performance for the money. Boardman has located the junction box on the stem which isn't the neatest solution or the most aero, but it is easy enough to get to there. My only bugbear with the Di2 system is that it's too easy to forget which button does what as they're not a different action like the mechanical shifters are. Left to my own devices I generally reprogram the shifters so they work more like paddle shifters, with the top buttons doing the front and the bottom doing the rear.
So who's the bike for? Well, you could show up to a local race on the Boardman fresh out of the box and not feel like you were giving anything away, but realistically most people aren't racing; a rung below that, it's a great bike to chuck at a sportive, the local club chaingang, rides with your friends... more or less anything that's quick, really.
The Di2 groupset and hydraulic disc brakes are superb in all conditions, and Boardman has sensibly added hidden mudguard mounts on both the frame and fork so you can winterise the SLR if you don't want to swap to another bike when it gets cold and wet, or you just don't have another bike.
If you're looking for a proper endurance bike for longer events then the position will be good for that and it's reasonably comfortable, but it's firmer of ride than an out-and-out endurance bike. The option to fit a 30mm tyre goes a long way to mitigating that, and if you went tubeless with a set of Schwalbe G-One Speed tyres the Boardman would certainly be all-day comfortable.
Not cheap, but a lot of bike for the money
This bike has an RRP of £3,900, but it's £3,499 on Boardman's own site, and everywhere else, so that's realistically what you're going to be laying out. You might consider Boardman to be a value-led brand, and if you do you might be thinking that three and a half grand is a lot to be paying for one of its bikes. But let's unpack that.
A Ribble SL Disc with Di2 and Cosmics would cost £3,800, and the Knight wheels are more costly than a pair of Cosmics; okay the Knights on the Boardman aren't quite the £2,000 aftermarket build with DT Swiss 240S hubs, but they're still very nice wheels. A similar Canyon Ultimate CF SL build is over £4,000, and a Giant TCR Advanced is £4,500. So you're getting an awful lot of bike for your money.
All that's to naught, of course, if the Boardman doesn't perform. But it does: it's a fast and efficient bike that's comfortable and easy to live with. It doesn't have any obvious foibles, and the level of spec for the money is top drawer. You can have the same spec without the posh wheels as the 9.4 Disc for £600 less, but the Knights are excellent and it'll cost you plenty more than that to upgrade later, so if you don't have nice wheels already and you want some then you might as well go the whole hog.
I've been very impressed with the SLR 9.6 Disc and I can thoroughly recommend it as a bike that's well equipped for fast riding. If you're after a do-it-all bike that's good for everything up to the odd race, then it has a lot going for it. If it's just a race bike you're after, then the lighter, cheaper rim-braked version would be the one to go for in my opinion.
Excellent bike for fast riding that can cope with everything from racing to endurance
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Boardman SLR 9.6 Disc
Size tested: XL
About the bike
List the components used to build up the bike.
Boardman SLR Disc - C10 Carbon
Boardman SLR Disc - C10 Carbon
FSA PF30 with 24mm adapter
Shimano Ultegra Di2 R8050 SS
Shimano Ultegra R8070 Disc Brakes 160mm Front / 140mm Rear Rotors
Shimano Ultegra R8000 - 11-30
Shimano Ultegra Di2 R8070 2x11
Shimano Ultegra R8000
Shimano Ultegra Di2 R8050
Fizik Antares R7
Boardman SLR Carbon 0-20mm adjustable offset
Boardman Elite Alloy
Boardman Elite Alloy
Approx 7.9kg - based on a Medium
Knight Composites 35 TLA Disc
35mm Carbon, Tubeless Ready Clincher
Vittoria Corsa G+ 28mm
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?
Boardman says, "The SLR 9.6 Disc enhances the already impressive package of the SLR 9.4 Disc with the addition of a Knight Composites 35mm TLA wheelset. These 35mm deep tubeless ready carbon wheels are lighter and more aerodynamically efficient, meaning the SLR 9.6 Disc cuts through the air even more efficiently along the flats, as well as flying up the hills. Knight have designed their wheels to reduce turbulence at the trailing edge, meaning cleaner air is flowing onto the frame, letting the SLR frameset's advanced aerodynamic profiles work at their best.
"With the same light, stiff and comfortable frame and fork as the flagship SLR 9.8 and Shimano's fantastic Ultegra Di2 hydraulic disc brake groupset taking care of shifting, the SLR 9.6 might well be the perfect all-round road bike. With clearance for 30mm tyres and hidden mudguard mounts on the frame and fork, there's no reason to put your summer bike away when the weather turns and the roads get rough with the SLR 9.6 Disc."
Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options
One off the top: 9 series bikes start at £1,500 rrp (currently £1,249) for the rim brake SLR 9.0 and top out at £5,900 rrp (currently £4,499) for the SLR 9.8 Disc.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Very nicely built and finished in matt silver.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
C10 carbon, which is Boardman's mix of Toray T800 and T1000 fibres.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
See geometry chart at https://www.boardmanbikes.com/gb_en/products/2258-slr-9.6.html for full geometry.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Stack 600mm, reach 402mm. Mid-way between full race and endurance.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
It's a firm but comfortable ride. The ride quality is generally good, with the bike coping with poor tarmac pretty well.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
All pretty good, save for some rotor rub on the fork under load, especially climbing.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
It feels very efficient, with cruising speeds needing minimal input.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively neutral or unresponsive? Pretty neutral.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
The bike is easy to live with, it goes where you point it with no twitchiness in the handling.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
I'm not a fan of the saddle but that's a personal thing. Handlebar tape is decent rather than great.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
Wheels transfer power well and are nice and stiff.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
The Vittoria tyres do a good job of keeping you rolling when the surface is poor.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
You can't really go wrong with Ultegra Di2.
Wheels and tyres
Tell us some more about the wheels.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so what for?
Knight wheels are high spec for an off-the-shelf build at this price.
Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so what for?
Vittoria Corsa G+ tyres are lovely while they last, which isn't ages.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
Boardman own brand bar is good, bar tape is okay.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
How does the price compare to that of similar bikes in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
A Ribble SL Disc with Shimano Ultegra Di2 and Mavic Cosmic wheels would cost £3,800. A similar Canyon Ultimate CF SL build is over £4,000, and a Giant TCR Advanced is £4,500.
Use this box to explain your overall score
Boardman has neatly dissected race and endurance with the SLR. It's not necessarily the absolute best out there at either, but it does a better job than most of being versatile enough to do both. Okay, £3,499 isn't exactly small change, but you'd be hard pressed to find a bike this well specced for the same or less. Overall it's a compelling package.
About the tester
I usually ride: whatever I'm testing... My best bike is: Kinesis Tripster ATR, Merida Scultura
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track
Dave is a founding father of road.cc and responsible for kicking the server when it breaks. In a previous life he was a graphic designer but he's also a three-time Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling world champion, and remains unbeaten through the bog. Dave rides all sorts of bikes but tends to prefer metal ones. He's getting old is why.