The Boardman Hybrid Comp 2013 is an able winter commuter with nimble yet reassured handling.
I grabbed one via the 2013 Halfords Christmas sale and have been commuting on it and using it for Sunday training rides for 3 weeks. Some immediate customisations were necessary to make it suitable for longer rides of 50 to 60 miles. The saddle, handlebar stem and pedals have been swapped out to provide comfort and a better position and full length mudguards and bar-ends added.
The bike came straight from the Halfords shop floor so had not been serviced. This I did, and it required adjustment of the front mech for height and the wheels trued; everything else just worked and all the appropriate bolts had been greased prior to my inspection.
Brakes – AVID
The Avid BB5 brakes are very impressive for a cable actuated system.
Gears – SRAM
The SRAM X5 9 speed shifters and rear-mech work very well. The front-mech is a cheaper Microshift but again it works very well.
Problems: The left-hand shifter is designed for a triple chainset and on this 9 speed with double chainset set up the chain-line can change sufficiently (even just using 7 sprockets per chainwheel to get the best alignment) that it rubs against the front-mech. On a road bike this is normal behavior that is resolved by fine-tuning the front mech with the Shimano STI or Campag Ergo lever but on this rig it is a problem because the left hand shifter provides no fine adjustment. Upgrading – or downgrading depending on your viewpoint – the left hand shifter to a cheap fully friction based lever (twistgrip perhaps) would resolve this for under £10.
Chainset – FSA Vero compact 50×34
This compact is heavy and in my case warped when I collected it from Halfords. The result is the chain rubbing against the front-mech in various gears – even those that have healthy chain alignment and avoid the extremes such as small ring and smallest sprocket. Diagnosis revealed that the bottom-bracket axle is true, however the chainset spider is warped – at least this means its fixable by straightening the spider with the rings removed. Perhaps a bit more QA required to avoid this sort of thing slipping through the assembling factory.
The wheels are not light but have taken a good bit of punishment with one off-road ride on paths and rabbit tracks which they handled with aplomb. The Hubs are an obvious area of weakness as they are not strongly sealed but rely on external rubber gators. At this price point that is not surprising. The rims are strong, attractive and eyeleted and are matched to Vittoria Rubino 28 mm tyres and it looks like 32mm will fit no problem even with full length mudguards.
The following pictures offer the result of three days of commuting (6 hours of riding since its last clean) and a total ride time of around 30 hours.
The chain started well-lubed every day but January in Scotland is kinda wet! About all you need to make this comfy is a good saddle, Shimano SPD pedals, handlebar stem and bar ends.
Geometry wise it is very close to a standard small compact road frame, like the Giant TCR. On a small frame – 46 cm centre to top of seat clamp – the top-tube is 2cm longer at 54.5cm but it has a small 12cm head tube which is spot on for saddle to bar height. Most other hybrids at this price have terrible geometry’s which ruin their handling.
Headset – FSA Semi Integrated
Three weeks in and the headset is beginning to leak at the top and bottom which is a bit disappointing given its got well under 30 hours ride time.
Otherwise this over-size 1 1/8 set-up is welcome to see.
Ride and Feel
The handling is good and very similar to a compact road bike. There is a bit of delay in the handling under load such as acceleration or descending through corners and this reflects the rigidity of the wheels and frame; but at this price point it is excellent – the angles make for a refreshing ride feel.
I commute on dirty, hilly country roads in darkness into the city and this bike made me feel more confident than riding my usual winter bike, especially on those mornings where it was a bit frosty.
Climbing hills was undoubtedly more difficult than on a £1000 road bike as the wheels and frame seemed to absorb some of the feeble wattage I could muster!
The Boardman Hybrid Comp has the makings of something much better and is just asking for upgrades like a Shimano Tiagra or 105 drivetrain with 10 or 11 speed shifters. Upgrading the wheels to Mavic Crossrides would sharpen up the handling and shed some weight.
I would recommend one of these for the winter commute even as the winter bike trainer if you upgrade some the componentry.
To me Boardman’s input is obvious in the selection of pivotal components in the bike’s handling such as the gears, the brakes and the tyres and the key element of the frame geometry and dimensions. It feels like a road bike.