Like this site? Help us to make it better.


Boardman SLR 8.6



Comfortable, lively ride, an excellent gear range and well-chosen components – one of the best entry-level bikes you can buy
Excellent frame
Good ride quality
Wide-range gearing
Mudguard and rack fittings
Good weight for the price
Balance of comfort and speed
Basic brakes
Tight-fitting tyres
10,220g Recommends

This product has been selected to feature in recommends. That means it's not just scored well, but we think it stands out as special. Go to recommends

At every product is thoroughly tested for as long as it takes to get a proper insight into how well it works. Our reviewers are experienced cyclists that we trust to be objective. While we strive to ensure that opinions expressed are backed up by facts, reviews are by their nature an informed opinion, not a definitive verdict. We don't intentionally try to break anything (except locks) but we do try to look for weak points in any design. The overall score is not just an average of the other scores: it reflects both a product's function and value – with value determined by how a product compares with items of similar spec, quality, and price.

What the scores mean

Good scores are more common than bad, because fortunately good products are more common than bad.

  • Exceptional
  • Excellent
  • Very Good
  • Good
  • Quite good
  • Average
  • Not so good
  • Poor
  • Bad
  • Appalling

The Boardman SLR 8.6 is one of the very best entry-level bikes around. It's light for the price, has a very good range of gearing – and a lively and comfortable ride. The components are well chosen, mudguard and rear rack fittings add real-world practicality, and it's one of the least expensive bikes out there I'd wholeheartedly recommend.

Others you might want to consider are listed in our guide to the best road bikes under £1,000.


If you're expecting a super-sedate ride from the Boardman, think again, it's actually a surprisingly snappy little number. The weight is pretty good for the price. Okay, at around 10kg you're not going to be flying up hills (well, I'm not anyway) but it's not going to hold you back on the flat when you've got up to speed.

2024 Boardman SLR 8.6 - riding 5.jpg

Even with 25mm tyres the Boardman offers enough comfort on poor roads (though I'd still go for full-fat 28mm tyres given the chance) and it even tackled a few miles through woods and on canal towpaths. The tyres aren't really designed for this, but along with the bike they can cope with short forays on moderate unsurfaced routes.

The skinny stays really do their job of keeping things comfortable through the rear end, and I like the Boardman SLR saddle, which is a lot more comfortable than is often the case on bikes at this sort of price.

2024 Boardman SLR 8.6 - seat stay.jpg

The handlebar is 40cm wide, which is a couple of centimetres narrower than you'll find on most bikes of this size, which adds to the Boardman's lively feel. It offers good control, with 75mm of reach and 120mm of drop, and it's a shape that suits my quite small hands very well.

There is a little bit of flex from the wheels – they only have 28 spokes each – but not enough to be disconcerting.

2024 Boardman SLR 8.6 - riding 1.jpg

I found the Boardman ideal for long, steady-state rides, and it proved an excellent partner on my former 16-mile commute largely along the Bristol-Bath bike path, but once you've got it up to speed you can cruise comfortably on this all day. Yes, you will feel the biggest road bumps and potholes through the aluminium frame and those quite narrow tyres, but you won't feel beaten up as the miles tick along.

There's no sense that the frameset lacks efficiency – put the hammer down and you'll notice some flex from the wheels, but there's none evident from the Boardman's chunky aluminium frame, even with its skinny bottom bracket spindle. The result is an enjoyable and very rewarding ride, and with the bike's ability to take mudguards, it would make a handy year-round trainer too.

2024 Boardman SLR 8.6 - riding 4.jpg

If there's anything that's holding back the Boardman it's the brakes, which just don't offer the immediate bite that you want, though replacing the brake blocks will improve this (my own bike has the same callipers but better cartridge blocks – they make a difference). They will stop you, but you'll be braking a little earlier and with more effort than you would if you were using hydraulic discs.

2024 Boardman SLR 8.6 - rear brake.jpg

Frame and fork

It's pretty much what you'd expect for a bike at this price – an aluminium frame with a carbon fork – but both are at the upper end of what you usually see at £650. The frame is made from triple-butted 6061 aluminium, while the fork is full carbon.

Triple butting means the frame tubes are constructed from aluminium that has walls of three different thicknesses – thinner in the middle where less strength is needed, thickest at the ends where they're welded and where the greatest strength is required. It keeps the weight low and the strength high, which frankly is the way round you want it!

A full-carbon fork is lighter than a carbon fork with an aluminium steerer, which is another win that contributes to keeping the weight down to a reasonable amount.

2024 Boardman SLR 8.6 - fork.jpg

Both the frame and fork are well finished too, with very smooth 'hidden' welds around the head tube/top tube/down tube junction and the seat tube/top tube area.

2024 Boardman SLR 8.6 - head tube.jpg

Only the chunky welds around the bottom bracket show that there is an aluminium frame underneath what I think is a good-looking-in-an-understated-way sort of paint job.

2024 Boardman SLR 8.6 - bottom bracket.jpg

There's no fancy internal cable routing, which for me on a budget bike is a bit of a win – though your mileage may vary. Yes, the cables are open to the elements and may need replacing sooner than internally routed cabling, but even with my so-so spannering skills I can do most of the fixing and fettling without recourse to a professional mechanic.

2024 Boardman SLR 8.6 - cable route.jpg

Another very big plus for me is that both the frame and fork have mudguard fittings. After all, this is a bike that could very well be brought in to year-round commuting duties or serve as a winter trainer, keeping your best bike out of the worst of the elements.

2024 Boardman SLR 8.6 - rear quick release.jpg

They're standard mudguard fittings too, so there'll be no messing around trying to get the stays to fit. Both the frame and fork have clearance for 28mm tyres beneath the deep-drop brakes, though I reckon you might be able to squeeze in a millimetre or two more.

2024 Boardman SLR 8.6 - front quick release.jpg

A final further bonus is that the seatstays have fittings for a rear rack, so you can carry panniers or a beam bag on your commute, or load up with a bit of shopping. Yep, it's a practical bike, and I like practicality.

2024 Boardman SLR 8.6 - seat tube junction.jpg

The frame is available in just four sizes, which is fewer than offered by some of its main competitors. And while Boardman's size guide suggests small is the correct frame size for me, I find the medium is the better fit (the same is also true for Canyon bikes), so do check the geometry tables carefully.

2024 Boardman SLR 8.6 - frame size.jpg

The geometry is actually a little more aggressive than you might expect – it's not race-bike aggressive, but with a 72.5-degree head angle and 73.5-degree seat angle it's not in laid-back endurance bike territory either.

2024 Boardman SLR 8.6.jpg

If you take the Trek Domane AL Rim frame with the same size head tube – 160mm – the Boardman's head tube angle is higher, the 384mm reach a centimetre longer, the 568mm stack a little lower. Comparisons are made harder by the Trek coming in eight sizes, but it does show that the Boardman has quite lively riding ambitions.

Finishing kit

This Boardman is a 650-quid bike so don't expect miracles when it comes to the finishing kit. But with that important proviso in mind, I think that Boardman has done a very decent job of decking out what is very much an entry-level bike.

2024 Boardman SLR 8.6 - lever.jpg

First off, you get componentry based around Shimano's 8-speed Claris groupset. There are a few deviations here and there, but no dramatic or unwarranted shortcuts.

2024 Boardman SLR 8.6 - front mech.jpg

And while you only get eight ratios, you do get vastly different – and very much improved – gearing compared with a road bike from a dozen years ago, let alone that of the Raleigh Clubman I grew up with, which featured a 42x24 bottom gear. Tens of thousands of miles riding that might just be the reason my knees aren't what they were... The Boardman has a near 1:1 ratio bottom gear that the younger me could only dream of.

2024 Boardman SLR 8.6 - rear mech.jpg

The drivetrain consists of a 50/34-tooth FSA chainset and an 11-32 8-speed Shimano cassette to go with the Shimano Claris levers and and mechs. The result is a very impressive 28-120in gear range (my old Raleigh? 46-106in! My poor knees!), which should be sufficient at both ends of the spectrum unless you're riding daily in the Alps or perhaps the Pennines.

2024 Boardman SLR 8.6 - drivetrain.jpg

Okay, there's an inevitable trade-off when you have a wide range of gears and only eight ratios to play with, and that's some biggish gaps at the lower end of things, gaps of four teeth between the sixth and seventh gears and the seventh and eighth.

2024 Boardman SLR 8.6 - cassette.jpg

Is this a trade-off worth making? Absolutely, yes, if you value your knees. Frankly, I'd have gone the whole hog and specced the 11-34 cassette for a full-on 1:1 ratio bottom gear (the resulting bottom gear would be 26in rather than 28in, which isn't a huge advantage but it is around 7% lower, and where would be without marginal gains?), but this is the next best thing.

2024 Boardman SLR 8.6 - rear mech 2.jpg

You can forget any form of disc brakes on most bikes at this price, let alone hydraulic; the excellent £1,200 Boardman ADV 8.9 is about the cheapest drop bar bike with a hydraulic setup.

The SLR 8.6 has super-simple calliper brakes in the form of Tektro R315s, a deep-drop design to cope with having to work with mudguards. They're okay stoppers without being inspiring, but the design has worked for decades and, once again, they are very easy even for the modestly competent home mechanic to adjust.

2024 Boardman SLR 8.6 - front brake 2.jpg

They are a basic non-cartridge design, though, so to make the most of your braking I'd recommend upgrading to a cartridge design for better power and control. Upgrading to Shimano 105 brake pads will cost you about £20 and SwissStop brake pads come in at a similar amount. It's a quick, simple and reasonably inexpensive upgrade, and one worth doing. They'll give a difference you'll notice.

2024 Boardman SLR 8.6 - rear brake 2.jpg

The same is probably true of the tyres, though I'd wait until the quite basic Vittorias fitted needed replacing. I'd go up to 28mm rubber, too, perhaps something like the Pirelli P Zero Race 4s.

2024 Boardman SLR 8.6 - tyre and rim.jpg

Boardman mentions the SLR 8.6's maximum 28mm tyre width, so it surprises me that it's still speccing 25mm tyres while pretty much everybody else is going up to 28mm for the extra comfort with no loss in performance. I've gone wider on my own Boardman, which has the same wheelset, and I feel it's a change worth making.

2024 Boardman SLR 8.6 - front brake.jpg

The Pirelli tyres might also help with one of the issues I found with the Boardman – the tyre and rim combo made fitting tyres very hard indeed. I suffered one puncture during testing (thanks to the weed-clearing crew on the Bristol-Bath bike path throwing ballast all over the surface) and needed help from a fellow puncture-sufferer to get the Vittoria back on the rim, as the tyre proved a very tight fit.


At £650, the Boardman SLR 8.6 is right up there when it comes to value.

The aluminium Trek Domane AL2 Rim also has mudguard fittings and 8-speed Shimano Claris gearing with an 11-32 range, but it will cost you £750 – though it does come with 28mm tyres and in an impressive eight sizes from 47-62cm.

The Claris and FSA-equipped Giant Contend 2 – the cheapest in the Contend line-up – is more still at £849. But you do get a wider-ranging 11-34 cassette (the Trek has 11-32) and its 28mm tyres actually measure 30mm.

Ash really liked the Triban RC 520 Disc but it's now £899.99 compared with the £729 it was when he tested it in 2020, and it's also lost its Shimano 105 in favour of MicroShift. That said, its TRP hybrid mechanical-hydraulic brakes still mean you are getting a hell of a lot of bang for your buck.

Closer in price is the Vitus Razor VR Road Bike that comes in at £699.99, with MicroShift gearing and Tektro R317 dual pivot brakes (Stu rated the Razor Disc Claris highly when he tested it in 2022), but as a Wiggle brand it's presently not available. This situation may change of course. Just carry on reading the runes...


Looking for a road bike but don't want to spend a fortune? The Boardman SLR 8.6 might be exactly what you're looking for. The ride is rewarding, lively and comfortable – helped by a good saddle and quality bar tape; I got on very well with both – and rack and mudguard fittings boost its day-to-day practicality. The gearing range is excellent and the components generally well chosen, though the brakes could be better and the tyres are a very tight fit.


Comfortable, lively ride, an excellent gear range and well-chosen components – one of the best entry-level bikes you can buy test report

Make and model: Boardman SLR 8.6

Size tested: Medium, 552mm

About the bike

List the components used to build up the bike.

Headset: FSA no.10, 1 1/8', Semi Integrated

Bottom Bracket: Square Taper 68x118mm

Cranks: FSA Tempo Compact, 50-34

Front Derailleur: Shimano Claris, double, 31.8mm clamp

Rear Derailleur: Shimano Claris, 8 speed, short cage

Shifter: Shimano Claris 2x8

Front Brake: Tektro R315, long arm

Rear Brake: Tektro R315, long arm

Cassette: Shimano HG50, 8 speed, 11-32

Chain: KMC Z8

Saddle: Boardman SLR

Seat Post: Boardman Alloy, 27.2mm

Stem: Boardman Alloy, 31.8mm clamp

Handlebar: Boardman Alloy, 31.8mm clamp, 75mm reach, 120mm drop

Handlebar Tape: Boardman Soft-grip

Pedals: Toe strap road, 9/16'

Weight: Approx. 10kg

Wheelset: Boardman SLR Tubeless Ready

Hubs: Formula RB-31 front, RB-30 rear

Rims: Boardman SLR Tubeless Ready - 28h

Tyre: Vittoria Zaffiro, 700c x 25mm

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 8.6 is our entry-level road bike – but that's not to say that it's a basic machine. With a hidden weld aluminium frame, a full carbon fork, and Shimano's slick-shifting Claris gears, this is a bike which delivers market-leading performance without breaking the bank."

And I think Boardman has pretty much hit the nail on the head with this. You'll be hard pressed to find a better bike for the money, and it's every inch a 'proper' bike, miles away from the notorious 'bike-shaped object'.

Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options

The SLR 8.6 sits at the bottom of the Boardman Bikes range, which includes two women's models – an SLR 8.6 and 8.9. The range includes the popular 8.9 entry-level carbon bike that's now £1,200 and tops out with the £3,950 SLR 9.6, with Shimano Ultegra Di2 and carbon wheels. The top four models all have disc brakes, with just the 8.6 and 8.9 having rim brakes, though there's also an SLR 8.9 Disc at £1,750.

Frame and fork

Overall rating for frame and fork

Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?

The SLR 8.6 is very well finished indeed for the money, with the 'hidden' top tube welds very smooth.

Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?

It's about as good as you'll get on a bike for well under a grand. The aluminium frame is triple butted to keep the weight down, and you get a full-carbon fork too.

Boardman lists them as:

Frame: Triple Butted 6061 X7 Aluminium with hidden welds

Fork: C7 Carbon

Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?

It's not that radical, but it is a little more aggressive than you'll find on most entry-level bikes. The 72.5-degree head angle is quite steep and the wheelbase isn't that long. It's not full-on race bike territory but it's a long way from an endurance bike.

How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?

With the Boardman only coming in four sizes, compared with seven for the Specialized Allez and eight for Trek's Domane Rim, it's hard to make direct comparisons, but the Boardman is slightly more aggressive, with a lower height and greater reach, albeit not massively so.

Riding the bike

Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.

The ride quality is very good for the money. Okay, with 25mm tyres and narrow-ish rims you're never going to get a super-smooth ride over broken surfaces, but the handling is true and never let me down.

Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?

Yep – I had no issue with stiffness.

How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?

For an entry-level bike it feels very good. There is some flex from the wheels but none evident from the frame.

Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so was it a problem?

No overlap. I had about 1cm clearance between my shoes and the front wheel, and with a mudguard it would have been tight – though it wouldn't be enough to prevent me fitting guards.

How would you describe the steering? Was it lively neutral or unresponsive? Between neutral and lively. Boardman has gone with a slightly narrower bar than you'd usually find on a bike of this size.

Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?

It was absolutely fine – there were no handling issues whatsoever. The so-so brakes mean you'll be braking earlier than you would with hydraulic discs, and with more effort, but that's the main issue.

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?

I got on very well with the saddle in particular, and the bar and bar tape were fine. The only thing I'd change for boosting comfort would be to ditch the 25mm tyres for 28mm tyres. I can see no reason not to go wider, unless you're fitting mudguards, when 25mm tyres are officially the widest rubber you can run.

Rate the bike for efficiency of power transfer:
Rate the bike for acceleration:
Rate the bike for sprinting:
Rate the bike for high speed stability:
Rate the bike for cruising speed stability:
Rate the bike for low speed stability:
Rate the bike for flat cornering:
Rate the bike for cornering on descents:
Rate the bike for climbing:

The drivetrain

Rate the drivetrain for performance:

Good choice of gearing range, though the rear mech's action isn't as snappy as you'll find on Shimano Tiagra and above.

Rate the drivetrain for durability:

FSA and Shimano – I've no reason to doubt you'll get thousands of miles and years of service out of these components.

Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?

All the drivetrain components worked without issue. Personally, I'd go for an 11-34 cassette rather than the 11-32, but I grew up using a 50/36 chainset paired with a six-speed 13-24 cassette, so the Boardman's gear range is much wider, with a much lower bottom gear (28in rather than 40in) and with more sprockets. That's a win-win-win as far as I'm concerned.

Wheels and tyres

Rate the wheels for performance:

They're not the stiffest wheels in the world but they roll smoothly.

Rate the wheels for durability:
Rate the wheels for weight:

The low spoke count – just 28 on each wheel – helps with the lowish overall weight of the Boardman.

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've ridden a bike with the same wheels without issue for a couple of years and thousands of kilometres, and while they are a modest pair – and the frameset is good enough to justify a swankier set – I've felt no need to upgrade.

Rate the tyres for performance:

They're okay and feel suitably tough, though they are an exceptionally tight fit on the Boardman's rims.

Rate the tyres for comfort:

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?

The tyres worked well in some quite poor riding conditions. I suffered one puncture, hitting a large piece of stone that I mistook for a leaf in dappled lighting conditions, and discovered as a result that the tyre is a very tight fit on the rim; it took two of us to refit the tyre. As there's room for 28mm tyres (without mudguards) I'd definitely go wider, though I'd probably wait until I'd worn out the Zaffiros.


Rate the controls for performance:
Rate the controls for comfort:

Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?

All good. Claris may be well down the Shimano groupset hierarchy but it's still a very effective groupset. Yes, with only eight sprockets there are some large jumps across the cassette, but I think it's worth it for the wide-range 11-32 gearing that it offers.

Anything else you want to say about the componentry? Comment on any other components (good or bad)

The Tektro rim calliper brakes were the one real area of disappointment. They're okay without ever being inspiring, and I would upgrade to cartridge brake pads sooner rather than later. It's an easy and inexpensive upgrade and one that I feel is worth making. I'd go wider on the tyres, but I'd leave that until the tyres wear out.

Your summary

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

Similar bikes with aluminium frames, rim brakes and Shimano Claris components come in more expensive than the Boardman. Trek's rim brake Domane AL2 costs £750, though it does have internal cable routing and 28mm tyres, and it comes in a wider range of sizes. The cheapest Giant Contend – the Claris and FSA-equipped Contend 2 – is more still at £879. Its 28mm tyres actually measure 30mm and it also gets a wider-ranging 11-34 cassette; the Trek has 11-32.

Rate the bike overall for performance:
Rate the bike overall for value:

Use this box to explain your overall score

The Boardman is simply a very good bike. At the heart of it is a very good – and I think good-looking – frameset with a triple-butted frame and full-carbon fork. The ride offers a very good balance of speed, comfort and quite lively handling, and I always like to see fixtures for mudguards and a rear rack for the practicality they add.

I think the value is good too. There are a few shortcuts, which are inevitable on a bike at this price, but it comes in at least £100 less than similarly specced bikes from other big names.

As far as I'm concerned – and in the present absence of Vitus from the market – this is one of the least expensive bikes that I'd wholeheartedly recommend.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 57  Height:   Weight:

I usually ride: 2018 Giant TCR Advanced 2 with Halo Carbaura disc wheels  My best bike is:

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, touring, sportives, general fitness riding,

Simon has been riding since he was a nipper and more seriously since his university days way back when. He has been a cycling journalist for more than two decades and reckons he has upwards of 200,000 miles in his legs. In his time he has competed (in the loosest sense of the word) in time trials, triathlons, duathlons and a lone cyclo-cross; he has been a long-distance commuter for decades – on road and canal towpath. He has also toured extensively in Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia and has ridden 4,000km from Cairns to Melbourne in Australia, and the 700km from Picton to Dunedin in New Zealand. If his legs carry on working, he'd like to ride from Perth to Sydney...

Add new comment


Secret_squirrel | 1 month ago
1 like

The Triban 520 still seems to be available in 11x 105! guise for 899 and Microshift 749.

daccordimark | 1 month ago

I've had one of these since November and agree it's good value for money. For me, the ride is a bit harsh and I can't really detect any comfort benefit from those shaped stays but there's no doubting the stiffness of the frame when having a little dig. The biggest disappointment is the wheels which always get a positive mention in reviews but on my bike are pretty rubbish. The front wheel did anything but roll smoothly when I got the bike because the cones were done up so tight the axle barely turned. The rear was much better but soon deteriorated to the point where the wheel would catch if you took it off and spun it by hand. I stripped the bearings down and found a chunk of metal in them that must have come away from the inside of the hub because it was too big to have made it from the outside. A couple of months on from that and the bearings have got rough again so I suspect more debris in the bearings.
Having said all that, when adjusted properly the wheels roll okay, just not as smoothly as the Shimano Deore loose bearing hubs on my touring bike. Taking into account the price, I'd be happy with that if they don't fall apart and for me they're plenty stiff enough.
The saddle is a bit too wide for me but comfy enough not to be a problem on rides up to seven hours so far. I disagree with Boardman's idea of using narrower bars, on the medium size I have, they are 40cm and I need 42cm to feel comfortable.
The gears shift well, I am pleasantly surprised how good the Claris stuff is, it just took a bit of time to get used to the Shimano ergonomics coming from Campagnolo. As for the brakes - the review is spot on.
Overall, a good choice which is doing well as a commuter (with mudguards and pannier rack), an Audax bike and on damp clubruns when the best (mudguard-less) bike stays at home.

Dnnnnnn replied to daccordimark | 1 month ago

Good review of the review!
I'm with you on the narrow bars thing - it seems to be a trend but having recently (and not for the first time) swapped from 42cm to 44cm, I really noticed a positive difference. Maybe I'm 1% less aero but comfort and easy breathing are important!

espressodan | 1 month ago
1 like

There should be a law against using the 'SLR' moniker for a 10kg bike.

Latest Comments