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Time and time again Boardman has proved that it can deliver a lot of bike for the money, and it's no different here with the ADV 8.9. For an entry-level gravel/adventure bike, its well-mannered handling will look after you should you be new to riding on a surface that moves beneath your tyres, and if you are likely to spend a fair amount of time on the road then you'll soon see that it is also a very capable tourer.
If the Boardman ADV 8.9 was a movie it'd be rated 'U', suitable for all, and I mean that with the utmost respect.
With its £1,100 price tag it's easy to look at the Boardman and see this as an entry-level model, and if you are a seasoned roadie with good bike handling skills it would be very easy to overlook it for something more advanced (or expensive) when making the transition to gravel. But unless you are racing or are a really fast rider looking for precision handling as your ride passes by in a blur, you really won't be let down by the way the Boardman handles, or rides.
Off-road it's a very capable machine, just taking everything in its stride. On all but the most technical or roughest of descents it just gets on with the job, unlike some big money, speed-orientated gravel bikes.
It's one of those bikes that you can just get on and ignore, really. Just line the handlebar up in the direction you want to go and spin the pedals, it'll take care of the rest. You can just cruise along looking at the view.
This might make the ADV sound sedate and boring, but it really isn't.
If you give the pedals a bit if a hammering the ADV feels responsive, quite lively in fact, and thanks to the stiffness in the frame none of your effort is wasted.
At 10.95kg it's no lightweight, but thanks to the low gear ratios you can still have a laugh on the climbs. On downhill sections you can let it fly, the weight actually helping to give the ADV a planted feel, and with 40mm tyres it feels less flighty on smaller gravel sections.
If you are looking for a 'one bike does all' kind of thing then you can't go far wrong with the Boardman.
Its geometry takes some cues from mountain biking while not detracting too much from the road scene. The biggest change is the slack head angle, which just tames the speed of the steering a little.
This means that on the road it behaves very well. It's no race bike, but if you wanted to press it into commuting duties it'd give plenty of confidence on wet, greasy winter roads. With skinnier race rubber it's a none-too-shabby road bike, especially if you enjoy the very neutral handling speeds.
With mounts for mudguards and a rack, it's got lightweight tourer written all over it.
With such an oversized aluminium alloy frame, I wasn't holding out a huge amount of hope in terms of ride comfort, but it is actually surprisingly supple. Yes, the tyre width helps, but even when pumped up hard for a bit of road use the bike never felt harsh.
Off-road, the Boardman copes well with all sorts of terrain from a comfort point of view. Its relative plushness disperses most of the buzz from small aggregate and corrugated sections, although I would prefer some thicker handlebar tape as standard.
On rockier sections you can still feel the jolts from hitting large stones, but the Boardman doesn't bang and crash all over the place. The carbon fork offers enough flex to cope, and the rest will be left up to your knees and elbows to deal with.
On the whole, the ADV offers a well-balanced and rather refined ride quality, especially at this price point.
The ADV 8.9 uses a triple-butted (three differing wall thicknesses along the length of specific tubes) 6061 grade aluminium alloy frame and a full-carbon fork with a tapered steerer.
Boardman states that the frame uses hidden welds, but while they aren't exactly the most agricultural I've seen on an alloy bike, they aren't exactly undetectable either. I've no problem with that, though. Coated with the thick, robust orange paint, the 8.9V looks very classy indeed. It's also available in a black/grey fade.
It's a chunky looking frame, not just in the usual places like the head tube and down tube. Even the top tube and seat tube have quite large profiles. But as I've mentioned, it does give plenty of stiffness throughout the frame.
Boardman has gone with external cable and hose routing which keeps things simple should you fancy a go at some home mechanics, or if you need to fettle anything while out on a ride.
Ideally on a bike of this style, riding through mud and getting covered in grit, dust and rain over the course of the year, I'd like to see the gear cabling running full outer casing for protection.
Other than that, the cable routing is well thought out and I can't see any issues from water getting trapped in the system anywhere.
For the bottom bracket Boardman has gone down the threaded route, another welcome choice for easy maintenance and reliability.
I mentioned the mounting points for mudguards and a rear rack earlier, and along with those you get mounting points for two bottle cages, but that's it.
We're seeing gravel bikes at all price points now coming with more and more places to attach various bags and kit, not only on the frame but also on the fork legs too. The Boardman doesn't have any of that, sticking closer to its road bike DNA, but it's not a massive omission unless you are planning on some major touring. There are plenty of frame, seat and bar bags out there for you to strap on, or you could go down the rack and pannier route.
Tyre clearance is decent. The Boardman website says that this model comes with 38mm tyres fitted, but ours has the slightly wider 40mm Schwalbes; you could easily go for 42mm or even 45mm without mudguards, I'd say.
The brake callipers are flat mount, and thru-axles are used front and rear for wheel retention.
The sizing range of the ADV 8.9 is actually quite – it's available in just four sizes (S, M, L, XL) which Boardman says will roughly cover rider heights of 1.70m to 1.95m.
Here we have the medium, which comes with a 555mm top tube, 150mm head tube and 530mm seat tube.
As mentioned, the geometry of the ADV is balanced between mountain and road biking; for instance, the head tube angle is slackened off a fair bit to bring some neutrality to the steering, at 71 degrees.
The stem is much shorter than you'd find on a road bike of this size, at 80mm; you'd normally be looking at around 110mm. Going shorter gives you a slightly more upright riding position, even with that long top tube, and keeps the handling just on the right side of boring.
The seat tube angle is a much steeper 73.5 degrees, which gives a forward position on the saddle, allowing you to get the power out when seated.
Chainstays of 430mm push the wheelbase length out which adds to the balanced ride keeping the ADV easily controllable when off road.
If you go by stack and reach figures then you are looking at 573mm and 385mm respectively on this medium size.
There is a bit of a mix and match approach to the gearing, but mostly it's based around Shimano's very capable gravel-specific groupset, GRX. The 10-speed GRX 400, to be precise.
If you haven't come across the GRX range yet, then basically in use it feels very similar to Shimano's road groupsets but comes with lower gear ratios, in 1x and 2x options.
The biggest bonus for me is the shape of the brake levers. The front section is flattened, which gives you excellent purchase when riding fast on a rough surface. Even on really rocky sections when you are getting bounced around there is very little chance of your fingers slipping off the levers.
The excellent stopping power of the GRX hydraulic braking and 160mm rotors means you can even control it with just one finger on the lever, leaving the rest of your hand to wrap around the handlebar.
Shifting here is comparable to the equivalent Tiagra 10-speed system, although the rear mech does incorporate a clutch to keep the chain taut and stop any slap against the chainstay.
The action is light, but still defined enough that you know whether you have made the shift or not.
Going for a single or double chainring divides opinion, but from my findings it really comes down to your regular riding terrain.
If your routes are more muddy singletracks and byways than firm and well-drained gravel then there is simplicity in the 1x system: no front mech to get clogged with mud or chainrings to wear under shifting loads. Plus you can use the redundant shifter to control a dropper post if needs be. The large jumps between sprockets can feel a bit gappy, though, and top speed is also limited, so if you are going to be travelling on road sections or your gravel is fast and flowing then I’d take a 2x system any day of the week.
The Boardman is running a double FSA Omega Adventure Mega Exo chainset, with the shifting between the 48 and 32-tooth chainrings being conducted by a Tiagra front mech.
With that 48/32 chainset paired with an 11-36 cassette, I didn't find many instances where I was overgeared, and that's with a few extra kilos of frame bags and kit on board.
On a bike costing just over a grand, it's good to see the combination of tubeless ready tyres and wheels straight out of the box.
The Schwalbe G-One Allround TLE tyres are, as their name would suggest, good all-rounders. The dimpled tread doesn't hold you back on the road as they roll quite well, and their suppleness and the rubber compound provide plenty of grip too.
Off-road they work fine on dry, hardpacked surfaces like byways and gravel trails, and they'll also cope with wooded singletrack in the height of summer. Like the majority of gravel tyres on the market, though, they'll struggle to cope with wet conditions and the type of muddy trails we tend to find across the majority of the UK.
The Boardman-branded wheels use asymmetric rims, with the spoke bed being offset from the centreline to increase dishing (the angle of the spoke between the rim and the hub) on the drive side of the rear wheel, and the rotor side on the front wheel, to increase strength.
The Formula RX-512 (front) and RX-142 (rear) hubs run smoothly and have stood up to the abuse of the test period, which saw a real mixture of dry, dusty rides and some wet ones.
Overall, the wheels are decent performers. They'll deal with day to day riding over rough surfaces, with little to complain about. They are on the weighty side, and I reckon if you are going to spend a fair bit of time in the hills then you could easily drop a few hundred grams going for an upgrade.
Their narrow rim width doesn't lend them that well to wider gravel tyres either, giving an almost bulbous 'lightbulb' profile rather than a smooth, rounded one achieved by wider rim widths.
The bar, stem, seatpost and saddle are all Boardman branded, and it is decent quality kit.
The alloy handlebar has a shallow 120mm drop, but more importantly a 6-degree flare to make the 44cm bar wider at the drops. This gives you a better stance for more control when travelling at speed off-road, and I also find that the slightly slanted angle of the shifters gives a more comfortable hand position when riding on the hoods.
The ADV uses a 31.6mm diameter alloy seatpost. It's often said that a narrower 27.2mm option brings more flex, which it does marginally, but it's not enough to really affect the comfort overall.
The Boardman saddle is quite plush without being overly bulky, and that'll definitely take care of any additional firmness from the post.
This is where the ADV 8.9 sticks its chest out – it's a lot of bike for the £1,100 price tag and, more importantly, highly upgradable over time thanks to the excellent frameset.
The Genesis CDA 30 is an aluminium alloy gravel bike and has a very similar ride to the Boardman, though the latter is a touch more lively thanks to being around half a kilo lighter.
The CDA comes in at under a grand (£999.99) which looks decent at first glance when you see the GRX finishing kit, but it drops the hydraulic levers and callipers in place of mechanical Tiagra shifters and Promax cable-operated brakes, which really take the shine off the stopping power.
It also lacks a carbon fibre fork, coming with a steel version instead, which is where a lot of that extra weight comes from.
A similar beast to the ADV 8.9 is the Merlin Malt G2X GRX. It's light on mounting points, but thanks to its revised geometry over the previous version, it's a fun bike to ride and makes a great entry to gravel riding.
For its £1,199 price tag it's specced similarly to the ADV, with alloy wheels, Schwalbe G-One Allround tyres and alloy finishing kit.
It uses a GRX groupset (1x) but it is the 11-speed GRX 600 setup, which sits one higher than the 400 on the Boardman. The Merlin does use GRX 400 callipers, though.
Like many brands, Giant's prices have increased for 2021. Back in 2020 the Revolt 1 with its Tiagra/FSA groupset blend and Conduct mechanical/hydraulic braking system would have set you back £1,149.
Now, for that sort of money you need to drop down a model to the Revolt 2, which comes with a 9-speed Sora groupset and Tektro MD-C550 mechanical braking. That costs £1,199, and doesn't come close to the Boardman's spec. It's not like the Boardman doesn't match the ride quality either.
The Boardman ADV 8.9 is a classy bike. It balances everything well, like comfort and stiffness, and the neutral handling still provides enough fun for the bike to be a laugh to ride. It's a really versatile package too, when you consider the way the geometry lends itself well to both riding on the road and off.
An excellent entry point to gravel riding thanks to sorted geometry and a great ride quality from the Boardman's frameset
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Boardman ADV 8.9
Size tested: Medium, 55.5cm
About the bike
List the components used to build up the bike.
Cassette/Freewheel: Shimano CS-HG50, 10-speed, 11-36T
Tyres: Schwalbe G-One, Tubeless ready
Bottom Bracket: FSA Mega EXO
Chain: KMC X10, 10-speed
Chainset: FSA Omega, 48/32T, S - 170mm M/L - 172.5mm XL - 175mm
Front Hub: Black Alloy, Thru axle, 12x100mm
Front Brake: Shimano GRX Hydraulic, 160mm rotor
Front Derailleur: Shimano Tiagra FD-4700 double, 34.9mm clamp
Front Mech: Shimano Tiagra double, 34.9mm clamp
Gear Shifters: Shimano GRX, Integrated levers
Groupset: Shimano GRX, Hyrdaulic 2x10
Grips: Velo Black Bar tape
Headset: FSA No.42, Tapered 1/18 - 1.5"
Pedals: Pedal with toe clip
Rear Brake: Shimano GRX Hydraulic, 160mm rotor
Rear Derailleur: Shimano GRX RX400, 10-speed
Rear Hub: Black Alloy, Thru axle, 12x142mm
Rims: Boardman tubeless ready
Seatpost: Boardman Alloy, 31.6x350mm, 34.9mm clamp
Stem: Boardman alloy, 80mm, 7 Degree rise, 31.8mm clamp
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 ADV 8.9 might just be the best value for money bike we have ever made, given that it's essentially 2 bikes for the price of 1. It's equally at home exploring hidden bridleways and fire roads as it is clocking up miles on potholed commutes or long sportives.
A triple-butted 6061 aluminium frame with hidden welds, and a full carbon fork with tapered steerer, with thru-axles at both ends, make up the heart of the bike. Blending comfort and control without compromising efficiency or sacrificing precise handling – this is an ideal platform to build the perfect all-road bike around.
The ADV takes inspiration from the MTB world with its geometry – trail bikes have become more capable as top tubes have got longer and slacker, and this is passed onto the ADV. We've kept the top tubes long and slackened the head angle versus our road bikes, which gives a confidence-inspiring ride on loose surfaces, but without compromising body position for road riding. A slightly taller front end and a shortened stem keep the bars close to hand and sharpen up steering response."
Boardman has balanced the benefits of a road bike and an off-road bike well, to create a neutral-handling gravel machine that works well on both terrains.
Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options
This model sits in the middle of a line-up of three. Kicking things off is the ADV 8.6 at £750, with the carbon framed ADV 9.0 at £1,800.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Good quality throughout, with neatish welds and a durable paint finish.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
The frame uses triple-butted 6061 aluminium alloy tubing while the fork is full carbon fibre with a tapered steerer.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
The geometry is a blend of road and mountain bike, which makes for a smooth-handling machine whatever the terrain.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
The stack and reach figures for this size are pretty typical for a bike of this size.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Ride quality from the frame is impressive considering the tube profiles are quite large. Back in the day this could translate into a harsh frame; it certainly doesn't here.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
It's not the stiffest frame I've ever ridden, but I certainly never felt like it lacked the tightness to cope with hard efforts out of the saddle.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
For a bike of this weight it seems to shrug it off and feel quite efficient wherever you are riding. The low gear ratios help here.
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? Neutral on all terrains.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
It's a bike that gives no surprises. Feedback levels are great and when paired with handling that is so easy to live with, the Boardman is a fun bike to ride, never boring.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
The saddle offers a good balance of comfort and firmness, so no energy is wasted.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
There's a bit of flex from the wheels when really hammering it, but for 99% of the time it's not an issue.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
A good choice of gear ratios work on the road and the gravel.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
The Shimano GRX components work brilliantly both when it comes to gear shifting and braking. Bringing other brands/ranges into the mix doesn't affect performance either.
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?
Decent enough wheels for the job in hand, but well worth an upgrade if you want to go lighter or go wider with your gravel tyres.
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?
Good tyres if you ride on a mixture of surfaces, and the fact that they are tubeless ready is a bonus.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
Decent finishing kit for the price range, and it's good to see a flared, shallow bar included at this price.
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?
It's well priced against the something like the Giant Revolt 2 and the Genesis CDA 30 when you look at things like finishing kit. It's closer to the Merlin Malt GX2 GRX, but that does get very slightly better finishing kit.
Use this box to explain your overall score
The Boardman obviously scores well on value when you consider the kit that you are getting. It doesn't use decent components to mask an underperforming frameset though, this is a very good bike both in terms of ride quality and bang for buck.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!