The Bike List

2014 Boardman AiRTT/9.8 Custom Build £6000 (frameset £1800)

Tested by Nik Cook, tester for The Bike List

I sound a bit like a spoilt child when I say I was waiting for a £6K bike to arrive with a bit of a sense of disappointment but, when Boardman Bikes launched their 2014 Elite Range, all the attention and hype surrounded the new and super slippery looking AiR/TTE. The bike that was winging its way to me from their Bromsgrove HQ for longterm testing over the spring and summer was the TTE's predecessor, The AiRTT. I knew that this wasn't a shabby bit of kit by any stretch of the imagination, the 2012 AiRTT had propelled Pete Jacobs to his Kona triumph and this newer version had been tweaked and refined to make it even faster, but it just wasn't the super sleek, "not a single cable or bolt visible to the wind" AiR/TTE.

Unboxing and building the AiRTT definitely started to lift me out of my childish sulk. I was already a massive fan of the AiR 9 Series range. I'd tested and then, having liked it so much, bought with my own hard earned cash, an AiR 9.8 road bike, which I'd been hammering over my local Peak District roads joyously for the last 12 months. The AiRTT looked exactly like its Road twin when they were nestled down together in my bike store and, once I'd dialled in my ride position, from the very first pedal strokes, it just felt right. After 30 minutes and a couple of hard digs on the dual carriageway, I'd completely forgotten about my infatuation with the TTE.

Compared to the 2012 AirTT frame, the front end has been significantly tidied up, with all cabling now routed through the top tube and the minimum amount of cabling exposed to the wind. The seat post clamp has been fully hidden and covered by a neat rubber cowl and the seat post now offers you four points of adjustment and seat angles ranging from 76-79 degrees. The bottom bracket area has also been beefed up after extensive Finite Element Analysis and the frame is compatible with both electronic and mechanical groupsets.

Retailing at £1800 for the frameset, when you consider the bike's heritage and the extensive R&D process that all of the Boardman Elite range go through, it represents staggering value for money. Just compare it to some of the competition.

A Cervelo P5 frameset will set you back £3000 and a Specialized S-Works Shiv and Trek Speed Concept 9 will both leave a £4500 dent in your bank account.

Within the Boardman stable, a TTE frameset costs £3500. The considerable saving leaves you more budget to pimp it out with some serious second saving kit and potentially a significantly faster bike. Boardman Elite dealers can spec one out however you want and, for my £6K budget, I got a genuine über-bike.

A Zipp Sub-9 tubular rear disc paired with a Zipp 1080 tubular front wheel is not only proven fast in the tunnel but, once you get that disc up and spinning, the sound alone is worth a significant placebo wattage boost. An FSA SLK Light crankset was matched with SRAM Red and Shimano Ultegra mech to give a drivetrain that left me with no cause for complaints. The Vision Tri-Max Carbon cockpit was adjustable and stiff and the Zipp VukaR2C shifters a really classy touch. The ISM Adamo saddle might not be to everyones' tastes (or backsides) but it topped off a seriously impressive, genuinely race ready and no excuses available to me if I didn't ride quickly build.

On my first competitive outing, my local club Tuesday night TT. I set a new PB in less than ideal conditions and, on a course with twelve sharp turns to negotiate over 3 laps, was blown away by the AiRTT's acceleration and handling. It was stiff and responsive to sprint efforts out of the bends, hummed along efficiently on the A6 section, behaved impeccably in some gusty winds and cornered as well as any TT bike I've ever ridden. I continued to get faster on the AiRTT as the weeks went by and, at a few Open 10's, even managed to pocket some prize money, if only for the fastest Vet. It performed on all courses, tackling climbs with enthusiastic willing and, the TRP integrated brakes and great handling, making it a joy on the more technical ones. At the Birmingham City Triathlon, in a relay team, I rode it to the fastest bike split of the day by over 3 minutes and, on the narrow and heavily congested 8 lap 40 km course, was very glad of its superb handling.

Most importantly, over the course of the summer, its allowed me to claim back some key local Strava segments!

Its been a superb bike to have on test and I'm going to be extremely sad to see it go back. If I had the cash, it'd definitely be joining its road bike sibling in my store. I'd probably tweak the build a bit. I'd go for Ultegra Di2 with satellite bullhorn shifters, Rotor Q Rings and a Fizik Tritone saddle but the joy of this frameset is that its incredible value really does give you so much build flexibility. I tested a £3500 build at the end of last year and, although that came with fairly stodgy Shimano RS31 wheels, it still posted some seriously impressive splits on local test segments. The quality is in the frame and, having spent some time with the guys at Boardman and witnessed the time and meticulous detail that goes into their R&D processes, the AiRTT is an absolute steal. If you're looking for a frameset that has proven performances on computer modelling software, in the wind tunnel and on the roads of Kona but don't want a second mortgage, look no further. I looking forward to getting my mitts on an AiR/TTE next season but it's going to have to be extremely special to surpass the AiRTT in my affections.

Size tested: LG Overall weight: 8.1 kg (without pedals)

Frame and Forks
Sizes: XS, SM, MD, LG, XL
Frame: AiR ultralight full carbon monocoque, tapered headtube, PF30, internal cable rout-ing
Fork: AiR ultralight full carbon, tapered steerer, integrated brake

Transmission
Chainset: FSA SLK Light Carbon 53/12t
Bottom Bracket: FSA PF30
Cassette: SRAM Red 12-25t (10-speed)
Chain: SRAM Red
Derailleurs: Rear: SRAM Red Front: Shimano Ultergra
Shifters: Zipp VukaR2C

Wheels
Front: Zipp 1080 Tubular
Rear: Zipp Sub-9 Disc Tubular
Tyres: Vittoria Corsa Evo CX

Components
Stem: Zipp Service Course SL
Bars: Vision TriMax Carbon
Headset: FSA Carbon Integrated
Saddle: ISM Adamo Racing
Seatpost: Boardman AiR/TT Carbon with 4 position clamp
Brakes: TRP integrated

For more information and full geometry go to: boardmanbikes.com

At a glance

Verdict Great value speed machine for testers and triathletes.
Value
Performance