Boardman HT Comp
Despite a background as a time triallist, track and road rider, Olympic gold medallist and former world champion Chris Boardman doesn’t just lend his name to bikes with skinny, slick tyres.
There’s also a range of bikes featuring wide, knobbly tyres in the Boardman stable. Three have drop handlebars and are intended for the cyclo-cross crowd but those with the flattest bars, fattest tyres and suspension are aimed squarely at the go-anywhere, do-anything MTB market. And the HT Comp is one of them.
Thanks largely to its impressive frame, you’d be forgiven for thinking the HT Comp costs a lot more than its £700 asking price. Made from triple-butted alloy, at 12.2kg for the total build (minus pedals) it’s lighter than you’d expect for something in this price range, and is finished beautifully with welds so smooth they’re all but invisible.
Wishbone seatstays and oversized, box-section chainstays steal the limelight but it’s the small details that leave their imprint. Details, for example, like the reversed seat clamp, which keeps it out of the rear wheel’s debris firing line. The positioning of the rear disc brake mount – straddled between the non-driveside seat and chainstay – is also a nice touch, making it accessible for maintenance and less likely to be damaged in a crash.
Attached to the frame is a Suntour Epicon fork, offering 120mm of travel; nine-speed SRAM X5 gears with FSA crankset and bottom bracket; Avid Juicy 3 disc brakes; and Boardman bars, stem, seatpost and saddle.
Surprisingly capable is probably the best way to describe the way the HT Comp rides. But what’s surprising is just how capable it is. It’s not just that the HT Comp can deal with twisting singletrack, off-camber turns, rocky descents and sharp climbs, it’s that it deals with them so ably. Its performance is all the more impressive when you remember the bike’s price. That it offers a ride like this while costing less than a grand is noteworthy; that it can do so for under 700 quid is astonishing.
Bikes at this price aren’t usually so nimble or agile. You really begin to appreciate the HT Comp’s responsiveness when you feel the wheels skipping over loose rocks or sliding sideways through muddy corners.
But it isn’t just the terrain that the HT Comp responds smoothly and swiftly to – it’s also your approach to riding. It’s just as happy trundling around while you find your feet as it is ripping through tight trails once you have.
With bikes at this price you often get a sense of the ceiling of their abilities – the point at which you’d need a better bike in order to go faster. With the HT Comp that ceiling is higher than you’d expect. Much higher.
Pre-ride our only concern was the fork, coming from one of the less glamorous names in bike suspension. But it provided plenty of damping. There’s enough in these forks to handle the sort of hits you can expect to find on a cross-country course and keep you rolling smoothly and swiftly.
The HT Comp would make a truly great first MTB – not only is it good enough to get you started but it’s also good enough to take racing. It’s forgiving enough to help you become good, and good enough to help you go fast.