Chris Boardman’s bike brand has plenty of tri history, with Ali Brownlee taking two Olympic golds on a Boardman and Pete Jacobs riding their AiR 9.8 to victory at the 2012 Ironman Worlds. Yet their prominence in world-class tri has waned recently (the Brownlees are now with Scott Bikes), which is reflected in their latest TT/tri bike.
The TTE is described as ‘a race-focussed TT bike’, with an updated down tube profile that Boardman say reduces drag, and a fully integrated cockpit. How do they validate their aero claims? In their wind tunnel at the Boardman Performance Centre, of course, and Boardman say they’d expect the TTE to outperform their ATT tri bike to the tune of 15 watts at 50km/h.
A full Shimano Ultegra Di2 drivetrain with Dura-Ace shifters on the 9.4 model, now reduced to £2,499, seem almost unbelievable. This is down from £4,000 when the new version launched late in 2018, with Boardman telling us the new RRP is thanks to them selling directly through Cycle Republic and Tredz who, like Boardman, are both under the Halfords umbrella.
The cockpit set-up, with an integrated bar and stem sitting flush with the top tube, means you do lose the option of top tube storage (storage options are limited to behind the saddle and between the bars). We were also disappointed with how difficult the cockpit is to disassemble. Once removing the cover that houses the headset, cables and Di2 battery, there’s a wedge behind the headset that needs to be fished out in order to remove the handlebars, which is tricky and time- consuming. This is stressful for the travelling athlete, and even if you’re only using the bike domestically, headset or brake adjustments may require a trip to a bike shop.
With issues arising before we’d ridden it, we were hoping the TTE would impress us on the road, and it largely does. It’s not twitchy given the aggressive geometry, with a 100mm stem to balance the handling, and the C10 high-modulus carbon frame with a wide bottom bracket shell beefs things up to offer a stiff ride feel that transfers power.
Our test bike came with unusual component choices, namely an 11-25 cassette and 165mm cranks. The former will be fine for flat TTs and racers of yesteryear would’ve scoffed at anything bigger, but we’d want a 28t cog at the back for hilly terrain. Boardman say the shorter cranks are specced with aerodynamics in mind, minimising hip angle restriction at the top of the stroke and flattening the rider’s back. Yet if you’re used to standard 172.5mm cranks on a road bike, it might feel different. Boardman tell us build options aren’t negotiable if buying online, but you can customise in store. Vision Team alloy wheels and Vittoria tyres are acceptable at this price, and the rims roll smoothly with the 35mm depth offering some minor aero benefits. The TRP hidden brake calipers stop you, but aren’t as snappy as Cervélo’s brakes and it’s tricky changing the pads.
The TTE 9.4 certainly isn’t slow. In fact, if you’re after something for domestic TTs and tri up to Olympic-distance, it’s a steal for the £2,499 price. Carbon wheels would make it race-ready for podium-chasers, but for most triathletes we’d suggest Boardman’s ATT thanks to its more manageable front end and better storage options. In the real world we just feel the TTE isn’t the upgrade most triathletes are asking for, especially those who travel.
Verdict: While it’s incredible value for money and undoubtedly fast, it's its unsuitability for long-course racing – plus the difficulty we faced while trying to make minor adjustments – means it’s not the most practical machine. 72%
Buy from www.cyclerepublic.com
MORE OR LESS OPTIONS:
The Boardman ATT 9.0 is available for £1,499 with a Shimano 105 groupset, while the top-of-the-range TTE 9.8 with Knight carbon rims and a Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 groupset will cost you £3,999.