Boardman SLR 8.8 Disc review in a sentence: the pride of the Halfords fleet, this sub-£1000 road bike is perfect for beginners and on-a-budget riders.
The Boardman SLR 8.8 Disc road bike is the top spec alloy bike in Boardman Bikes’ road bike range, exclusive to Halfords. We reckon it’s a great option and consequently it’s on our list of the Best Road Bikes you can buy.
Chris Boardman may have spent his pro cycling career riding the smartest kit out there, but his Boardman Bikes brand specialises in offering good value bikes to the general rider. There’s a range of carbon and alloy framed bikes for road riders, commuters, leisure riders and off-roaders.
BOARDMAN SLR 8.8 DISC: THE FRAME
Boardman’s alloy frameset has a quality look beyond its price. The tubes are shaped to add comfort where it’s needed, like in the thin seat stays, while providing a robust main triangle that helps with power transfer. The down tube changes shape from top to bottom, while the top tube tapers front to back and the seat tube fits a standard 27.2mm wide seatpost.
The finish on the frame belies the bike’s price too. Cheaper alloy frames typically have large blobs of weld at the tube junctions, but the Boardman’s welds at the top tube and head tube are really well smoothed out. The bottom bracket area has cruder fishtail welds on show, but overall it’s impressive.
Cables run externally between stops on the down tube, whereas pricier bikes tend to route them internally through the frame. It may not look as pretty, but the SLR 8.8 Disc’s cables should be easier to maintain and service as there’s no need to chase them through the frame and they’re a lot easier to lubricate or replace.
Boardman fits an all-carbon fork to the SLR 8.8 Disc too. It’s thin and adds to the bike’s ride comfort.
There’s also the option to fit mudguards and a rear rack, with mounting points on the frame, so you can set the bike up for more comfortable all-weather riding or for carrying kit.
BOARDMAN SLR 8.8 DISC: THE KIT
Road bikes are increasingly pivoting towards disc brakes in preference to rim brakes. But hydraulic systems are still expensive, so the SLR 8.8 Disc gets mechanical callipers actuated via a cable. Some mechanical disc brakes can be a bit wooly and lack bite, but the SLR 8.8’s Tektro numbers are very effective stoppers and almost the match for hydraulics.
They work well in all weathers and discs mean that you don’t get the lag before they start to work that you often get with rim brakes, particularly in the wet.
Disc brake bikes usually run on thru-axles, which give more precise wheel positioning to avoid brake rub. The SLR 8.8 Disc has standard quick release wheels, but despite this I never had any issues with brake rub during my rides.
Shifting is via Shimano Tiagra. Its ten speeds may be one down on Shimano’s flashier groupsets, but Shimano cascades its tech down, so Tiagra has much of the look and feel of next-tier-up 105. That includes compact levers with a pretty light action and hidden cable runs under the bar tape.
Shift quality is almost the match for 105 too and surprisingly didn’t degrade noticeably despite extensive rides on wet, dirty winter roads. There’s an 11-32 cassette for plenty of low range for climbs.
That’s matched to a compact 50/34 tooth Vero chainset from FSA. It’s not flashy and runs on an old school square taper bottom bracket axle, but it does the job.
Boardman’s own brand wheels are pretty good too. They’re tubeless ready, so you can ditch your inner tubes if you want, for added comfort, lower rolling resistance and extra puncture protection. It’s another quality touch you won’t always find at this price point.
It’s great to see a decent set of tyres too. The 28mm Vittoria Rubino G2 tyres roll well and help up ride comfort and grip. Bars, stem, seatpost and saddle are all Boardman own brand and do a competent job.
BOARDMAN SLR 8.8 DISC: THE RIDE
The SLR 8.8 Disc rides like a much more expensive bike than its £800 price tag. It’s smooth, comfortable and eats up the miles. A lot of that’s down to those wide tyres, which let you lower pressure to avoid being bumped around on the usual less-than-smooth British roads.
The rims on the well-built Boardman wheels are a bit wider than normal too, so although nominally 28mm the tyres actually measure nearer 30mm wide, adding even more air volume.
The frame does a good job of protecting you from the worst of the roads as well. It feels compliant and the lowered, skinny seat stays and carbon fork help to smooth the way. The bike’s geometry doesn’t sit you too upright, so weighting of the front wheel is good, but you’re not so low that you’re likely to suffer from backache and the Boardman saddle offers the right mix of support and comfort.
The 34x32 lowest gear available on the Boardman means that you’re unlikely to ever run out of climbing options and I found myself further up the cassette than this on most climbs around the Chiltern Hills. It’s nice to have a get-out gear available if it’s needed though and it’s a good option if the climb is particularly wet and sketchy.
The cheaper chainset, with its square tapered bottom bracket, does mean that there’s a bit more flex than in more expensive kit with a wider connection. So I found a bit of rub between the chainset and the front derailleur if I started out in higher gears, but get moving and it soon disappears as you spin faster.
BOARDMAN SLR 8.8 DISC: THE VERDICT
Despite a recent £50 price rise to £800, the Boardman SLR 8.8 Disc still represents great value for money. At this price, compromises have to be made and Boardman has been really clever in speccing cheaper components where they matter less, while keeping parts like the Tiagra gearing, decent wheels and quality tyres that impact the ride feel more.
Handling is responsive and the Boardman SLR 8.8 Disc feels much more lively than its 10.7kg weight would suggest. The ride position is just right too, neither too upright nor too stretched out.
For someone just starting out on their road bike adventures or who is looking for a bike that they can ride all summer – and then pop mudguards on and ride all winter – it’s a great option.