Boardman's HYB 8.8 provides an enthusiastic ride that might surprise anybody used to typically lacklustre leisure bikes. It's got a superb spec at a very reasonable price, too, with quality components used throughout. In fact, with just a little more focus on comfort, it could be perfect, and one of the best hybrid bikes available at this price.
More than four years ago, one of the first bikes I tested for road.cc was a Boardman URB 8.8, now a slightly older but still a close cousin of the Boardman HYB 8.8 you see before you. Although the hands of time have moved unrelentingly ever since, it's fair to say the family resemblance remains in clear evidence.
In theory, Boardman's HYB hybrid range should be a slightly more utilitarian and practical alternative to its URB urban warriors, but the riding dynamics with the HYB 8.8 are surprisingly positive. There's no wallowing around with a kind of acceptance that this is a bike designed to be laden with heavy baggage or anti-aero accessories like mudguards and lights. From the first pedal, it's obvious this bike is up for a bit of fun.
The front end is a tad twitchy to begin with, but once up to speed – and you'll be up to speed incredibly quickly – control is reassuringly reactive and dependable. Power transfer is superb and stiffness is certainly not in short supply anywhere on the bike. The undersized rear triangle means putting the power down feels ultra direct.
The payback for this is that, as a multi-use, general interest bike, the ride quality feels just a bit too harsh at times. On smooth surfaces it's a cruising wonder, but hit a bump or two and you'll certainly know about it.
For the typical road.cc reader with thousands of miles in their quads and hardy glutes, that's not a big problem, and you'll probably appreciate the HYB 8.8's enthusiasm more than feel put off by its stiffness. But for the person off the street looking to buy their first bike in a while, it could be a slightly rude awakening; I expect there will be at least the occasional 'saddle like a razor blade' gripe (even though the saddle isn't!) among novice potential purchasers who take one for a test ride.
Part of the reason for the HYB 8.8's exciting ride experience is its triple-butted aluminium frame. It's not quite as exotically sculptured as the URB range – which seems to still be using the same frame I tested back in 2018 – bit it's still got some interesting details and tube profiles.
For example, the top tube is a square-edged affair with a very, very slight curve to it. The down tube has a hefty and slightly more rounded profile. The seat tube is old-school round. And the stays are short and slender – small round tubes for the seatstays; flattened, squarer options at the chainstays.
Adding to this detailed frame spec is a full-carbon tapered fork with little in the way of rake (the distance between the steering axis and the front hub). Just as the frame design plays a fundamental role in the bike's eager character, this dependable and direct front end explains the nifty steering. (If you're not overly familiar with terms like rake and butting, we have an A-Z of cycling jargon that might come in handy.)
An all-up weight of around 11kg is pretty decent for this large model. However, I need to have a quick word about sizing. Getting the saddle height right was easy and well within the available seatpost limits for me at 6ft, but length was a little trickier. Out the box, it was just a tad short. Normally, that's an easy fix with an aheadset stem – just replace it with something longer. But Boardman uses its all-in-one stem and handlebar integrated cockpit, which looks nice but makes fine-tuning your position impossible without a complete transfer of controls to a new bar. I'd opt for sense over style here any day.
And speaking about sense, there are mounting points for mudguards and a rear rack, although none for fork-mounted low rider racks. So the HYB 8.8 will be fine for the commute, but isn't really set up for anything much longer than a weekend tour.
I'm feeling pretty old these days, but I'm trying to keep up with the price of things. So to find the £850 HYB 8.8 comes fitted with Shimano Deore components – albeit in a 1x setup – seems like a very good deal. To my mind, Deore is a substantial step above Shimano's Tourney or Alivio/Acera/Altus and I'm somewhat surprised to find it specced on a mainstream bike at this price point. We'll look at the price of similarly specced rivals below.
Now here's a thing: despite that nice surprise, I actually had a bit of a problem with the gears. Out the box, whenever I attempted to enjoy the many-toothed delights of the 46T biggest rear sprocket, the chain would jump off the cassette completely. We're not allowed to give bad marks for poor setup, and the Deore system is an absolute gem when it is working well, but in the interests of full disclosure, there you are.
And yes, I really did say the biggest rear sprocket is 46T, which is frankly dinner plate huge. The rest of the 10-speed cassette supplies ratios down to 11T, with the FSA Gossamer Compact Mega Exo crankset coming in at 44T. Altogether that means you've got a decent range for climbing and also cruising at pretty high speed.
The one downside of modern wide-ranging gearing options is that the gap between sprocket sizes is getting larger, so you can find yourself facing the frustration of never quite being in the perfect gear more often these days.
No complaints about the brakes, though: Shimano M200s are my absolute favourite hydraulic disc brakes and, to my mind, the sweet spot in Shimano's catalogue when it comes to performance versus price. All-out stopping power is never in question, but it's the ability to really feel how much braking force you need, and then apply it without issue, that sets them apart. Top stuff at this price.
As I mentioned earlier, the all-in-one bar and stem looks very swish but is a bit of a nightmare if the HYB 8.8 doesn't fit you like a dream out of the box. I have a slightly long upper body compared with my legs, so I could have done with another 10 or 20mm on the stem, but that's a difficult proposition with this setup.
Elsewhere the kit is all pretty good. The well-padded Boardman HYB saddle and soft-touch ergonomic lock-on grips do their best to offer some comfort but aren't quite able to soften the bike's less forgiving moments.
Wheels and tyres
Finally: wheels and tyres. Typically at this point in the market there isn't a whole lot to say about hoops 'n' rubber, but the wheels on the HYB 8.8 are actually worthy of some praise. They're rather svelte and the modestly deep-section rims do nothing to hamper ride quality.
The same can be said for the Schwalbe Citizen 35mm tyres, which provide very good traction and secure grip, as well as reflective sidewalls and some puncture protection thanks to Schwalbe's Kevlar 'K-Guard' technology.
Unless you have some specific challenges in mind, there's essentially no need to swap to new tyres any time soon.
Value and conclusion
I mentioned earlier that the HYB 8.8's spec seemed impressive for the price, but let's put that to the test. The most obvious big-name rival I can find is Trek's FX 3 Disc, which comes with a similar Shimano Deore 1x drivetrain but retails at £975.
Among the bikes we've tested, Stu rode and enjoyed the Specialized Sirrus X3.0 with Deore 1x and a price of £849 back in May. However, since then the price for that has jumped to £949 and the drivetrain is now a 1x9 MicroShift Advent setup.
If you want to stay closer to home, there's always the awesome-looking Boardman URB 8.9 with Gates belt-driven 8-speed Shimano Nexus hub gear for an impressive £875.
That URB 8.9 aside, this Boardman HYB 8.8 is a very enticing package. Yes, it has a few small niggles, the main one being the slightly stiff ride experience which I think will put off softer bottoms. But it's a fun ride, a great value package, and there's enough quality in the spec and design to offer, in particular, experienced cyclists a very worthy flat-bar runaround alternative to their drop-bar bike.
Exciting hybrid that offers more performance than you might expect, but it can feel a bit firm at times
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Make and model: Boardman HYB 8.8
List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame: 6061 X7 aluminium with hidden welds
Fork: C7 carbon with tapered steerer
Headset: FSA Orbit C-40 ACB, 1 1/8in-1.5in tapered, integrated
Bottom bracket: FSA Mega Exo
Cranks: FSA Gossamer Compact Mega Exo 1x44t
Rear derailleur: Shimano Deore 10-speed
Shifter: Shimano Deore 10-speed
Brakes: Shimano MT200 hydraulic disc brakes
Cassette: Shimano Deore, 11-46t 10-speed
Chain: KMC X10
Saddle: Boardman HYB
Seatpost: Boardman Alloy, 27.2mm
Stem: Boardman Alloy, 7 degree rise, 31.8mm clamp
Handlebar: Boardman Alloy
Handlebar grips: Soft-touch ergonomic grips - Lock-on
Pedals: Flat pedals supplied
Wheelset: Boardman HYB Disc
Tyres: Schwalbe Citizen 700 x 35c, reflective sidewalls
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?
As its name suggests, this a Boardman hybrid bike aimed at the leisure, commuting and general use market. Boardman says: "Fast, fun and versatile is what the HYB range of leisure and fitness hybrids is all about. Frames take inspiration from our SLR road range, but with an extra bit of stability baked in." I'd say that's fair – it does ride like something aimed more at fast road-based use than multi-terrain.
Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options
There are five models in the pedal-only Boardman HYB range: the entry-level HYB 8.6 and 8.6 women's; this model and its equivalent female-specific version; and the HYB 8.9. In addition to pedal-only models, Boardman also does an electric version of the HYB 8.9 and a women-specific electric HYB 8.9.
Overall rating for frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Very nicely put together. Not quite as flash as Boardman's URB model frame, but still very good.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
It's triple butted aluminium in the frame and full carbon in the tapered fork. You can't complain about any of that!
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
This is one of the most neutral bikes I've tested in terms of geometry, offering quite a good halfway house between head-down aggression and sit-up relaxation.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Could have been just a touch longer in reach – really only 10 or 20mm – otherwise very good.
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Comfort isn't its strongest virtue. It's not uncomfortable by any means, but you do feel problems under tread and the front end, in particular, can feel stiff.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
The rear is very stiff, which is great for power transfer, but as a whole it's probably just a bit too firm for general use or new cyclists.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Very efficient power transfer.
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? Lively initially, although it settles down at speed.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
Very secure and stable handling. No issues throwing it into turns, but ultimately it was very benign.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
I think the comfort issues lie with the frame.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
Wheels felt good – despite looking svelte they seemed plenty stiff enough in use.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
No changes recommended.
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Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
Shimano's Deore drivetrain is a great mix of secure shifting but pretty refined performance.
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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?
I was impressed by the wheels – they felt fast and spun well.
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Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
I'm not a big fan of the integrated stem/handlebar but everything else was fine.
Anything else you want to say about the componentry? Comment on any other components (good or bad)
The Shimano M200 hydraulic brakes are ace.
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 very well priced compared with rivals. The most obvious big-name rival is Trek's 2023 FX 3 Disc, which comes with a similar Shimano Deore 1x drivetrain but retails at £975.
Among bikes we've tested, Stu rode and enjoyed the Specialized Sirrus X3.0 with Deore 1x and a price of £849 back in May. However, since then the price has jumped to £949 and the drivetrain is now a 1x9 MicroShift Advent setup.
If you want to stay closer to home, the awesome-looking Boardman URB 8.9 has a Gates belt-driven 8-speed Shimano Nexus hub gear for an impressive £875.
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Use this box to explain your overall score
For experienced riders looking for a fast hybrid with the potential to do a bit more, such as weekend touring or commuting, the HYB 8.8 is a fantastic option. I think it would particularly find favour with drop-bar riders looking for a flat-bar bike. However, its performance potential comes at a slight cost to comfort, so perhaps not one for newbies.
Age: 39 Height: 6'0 Weight: 16 stone
I usually ride: Islabikes Beinn 29 My best bike is: 25-year-old Dawes Galaxy
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb, Leisure
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