Boardman’s bikes have always been known for performance, versatility, practicality and great value – traits that helped the adventurous ADV 8.9 take the crown of best bike at around £1,000 in our 2021 Bike of the Year awards.
And while, at £1,150, it is now more expensive than last year, in the current inflationary climate that’s forgivable – and it still represents fantastic value.
In fact, the ADV 8.9 has returned to the top step of the podium once more, winning the budget category in our 2022 Bike of the Year showdown.
This remains a proven class-leader – a true all-rounder with superb performance at a great price
Boardman ADV 8.9 specifications
With its smoothed-out ‘hidden’ welds at most of its frame junctions, and varied tube profiles, you could almost mistake the ADV 8.9 for carbon fibre at first glance.
It’s only when you look closer and see the more visible welds around the bottom bracket shell and rear dropouts, plus the externally attached brake and gear lines, that the frame’s metallic construction becomes obvious.
Built from triple-butted 6061 X7 aluminium, with an all-carbon, tapered steerer fork, the Boardman has good bones, which support a mainly Shimano component selection. It’s all Shimano GRX 400 10-speed, with hydraulic disc brakes, except for a Tiagra front derailleur and an FSA Omega Adventure double crankset.
The tubeless-ready wheelset, bar, stem, seatpost and saddle are all Boardman’s own, and Schwalbe’s G-One tubeless-ready tyres complete a solid specification.
Boardman ADV 8.9 geometry
The ADV range favours the modern long and slack frame approach. My medium size test frame has a 555mm top tube and 150mm head tube, with 71-degree head angle and relatively short 80mm stem. The chainstays are a healthy 430mm long, and the bottom bracket drop is 70mm.
Recommended height range for a medium frame is 177-183cm, and for a small frame it’s 170-179cm, which means that at 178cm tall, I could theoretically ride either. But as someone with fairly evenly proportioned torso and legs, who prefers some room to stretch out, the medium was the right choice.
Boardman ADV 8.9 ride impressions
As the ADV is aimed at gravel and all-road cycling, that’s how I tested it.
Long tarmac rides to remote dirt and gravel tracks, lengthy climbs and technical trails on the way back to town all figured in my testing regime, with some unexpected bridleway mud for good measure.
Because the bike is supplied with inner tubes fitted, I kept tyre pressures higher than if I was riding tubeless.
I’m 78kg, and chose 35psi in the front, with nearer 40psi in the rear, to try to fend off impact punctures, while also allowing me to really feel how the bike managed rough terrain.
Boardman ADV 8.9 performance
My initial concerns that the ADV 8.9 might feel a little short in reach terms were immediately dispelled on my first ride.
The position is upright enough to ensure perfect visibility, relaxed arms, back and neck, but with sufficient scope to tuck in for headwind efficiency and descending. It is around 50mm shorter than my average road position, and 25mm shorter than my cyclocross position, but never felt cramped.
The 44cm Boardman handlebar is wider than that found on an equivalent-sized road bike, and includes drops with a six-degree flare.
It’s a modest flare, but I think it’s sensible on a bike that may well see commuting duties, where excess width could limit practicality.
Otherwise, the tight bend from the bar top into the forward bend maximises space for bar bags, or a wide hand position. The drops are fairly ergonomic, with a secure, comfortable feel for large hands.
The Boardman makes light of tarmac, its Schwalbe G-One Allround tyres rolling along with very little noticeable resistance. When sitting and pedalling, the bike feels smooth and efficient, its characteristically stiff aluminium frame ensuring that your efforts don’t go to waste.
When standing on the pedals climbing, the Boardman’s torsional stiffness easily resists the pedalling torque that can twist frames. This also contributes to the ADV 8.9’s predictably fine handling, both on and off-road.
On any gravel, or all-road bike with large-volume tyres, their cushioning effect usually has the greatest bearing on ride feel, which is one of the reasons why I tested the Boardman with a little more tyre pressure than usual. The result was easy road speed, but more vibration when off road.
Slim seatposts of 27.2mm diameter and below are used for their willingness to flex, adding comforting seated compliance. Carbon fibre magnifies the effect.
Slightly surprisingly for 2022, the ADV 8.9 comes with a 31.6mm alloy seatpost, which, on paper means the opposite. But thanks to the frame’s additional exposed seat tube, and slightly dropped seatstays, plus Boardman’s incredibly plush ADV saddle, seated comfort is very impressive.
Somehow the saddle manages to feel firm enough to satisfy performance-oriented riders too.
The ADV 8.9’s head tube gives the Boardman similarly relaxing handling on the road, but the bike seems to come alive on loose surfaces. The quick-steering short stem makes absolute sense as soon as things get bumpy, with intuitive direction changes reinforcing the feeling of total stability.
Lengthy rough gravel sections highlighted the difference in vibration felt through the handlebar, compared with the well-cushioned saddle.
Despite the full-carbon fork’s best efforts, the bar transmits quite a lot of chatter to your hands.
It’s not harsh, and definitely not a dealbreaker, but is quite noticeable, particularly at speed with firm tyres.
Shimano’s GRX is reliably brilliant, even in this entry-level RX400 spec. It may only have a 10-speed cassette, and deviate with a Tiagra front derailleur and FSA Omega Adventure crankset, but from the saddle you’d never know.
The gearing matches 48/32 rings with sprockets from 11-36, giving a super-wide range that covers all bases, from pedalling fast downhill to climbing walls. Gear shifts are as slick as you’d expect from an all-Shimano setup, and the cherries on top are the hydraulic disc brakes.
Their relentlessly dependable performance in all conditions breeds enormous confidence, and allows you to get the best out of the bike.
Boardman’s ADV Tubeless Ready wheelset comprises Boardman Asymmetric Adventure alloy rims and Formula hubs. They’re shallow, wide and well matched to the bike, but unsurprisingly, aren’t the greatest performers.
Although the additional rotational mass of wheel and tyre can be felt on every uphill, they can still be hustled along at a decent pace.
They’re strong too, as proven by relatively high tyre pressure testing, and a four-mile tarmac and gravel ride home on a rear flat because I forgot my pump.
Converting the wheels to tubeless would add puncture protection while permitting lower tyre pressures from the G-Ones, and undoubtedly improve grip and comfort.
As it is, the ADV 8.9 is capable of performing multiple roles, whether all-road adventuring or commuting, and you can fit it with full-length mudguards and a rear rack.
Some might bemoan the lack of any further mounting points, but should you really need to fit more accessories, there are plenty of after-market options with universal fittings.
Boardman ADV 8.9 comparison with a similar bike
The Genesis CDA 30 is an adventure road bike, which shares the same geometry and much DNA with Genesis’s Croix de Fer.
Its aluminium frame and slim-legged steel fork are covered in a huge array of mounts for attaching just about anything to your bike, and fully justifying its adventure classification. They’re guaranteed for life too.
The frame tubes are double-butted, and the groupset mixes 10-speed Tiagra with GRX derailleurs and double crankset, but the disc brakes are Promax cable-operated units, which are a little disappointing.
The wheelset is weighty, but the 37mm WTB Riddler tyres impressed on rough roads and gravel. The gearing offers a very wide range, with a 24in lowest ratio that may only be limiting if heavily laden on long climbs.
It’s a very pleasant ride, so long as you temper your speed expectations, as its 11.69kg total mass (size M) does hamper acceleration. For £1,099.99, the CDA 30 offers plenty to the budding adventurer, with a good drivetrain and luggage versatility, but those brakes let the package down.
At just £50 more, the Boardman ADV 8.9 offers a full-carbon fork, equivalent drivetrain, but excellent hydraulic brakes and larger tyres with tubeless-ready rims. It lacks the variety of accessory mounts the Genesis can boast, but is lighter, faster and more comfortable.
Boardman ADV 8.9 bottom line
Boardman’s ADV 8.9 demonstrates again why it’s such a strong all-rounder, both in terms of the ride and your finances.
It’s fun and engaging to ride, with decent speed and comfort, and a specification that’ll please the great majority of potential riders, from commuters and gravel riders and potentially to bikepacking, too.
As it comes, the bike is a great package that will provide fine service.
The only areas that could be improved are few, the simplest being a tubeless conversion allowing lower tyre pressures.
Cushioned bar tape would be another inexpensive upgrade, while a dearer carbon seatpost or ShockStop stem could be options too, but none are essential, as the ADV 8.9 proves every time I ride it.
Budget Bike of the Year 2022 | How we tested
Our 2022 Budget Bike of the Year testing was handled by regular BikeRadar contributors Simon Withers and Robin Wilmott – two highly-experienced testers who have reviewed dozens of road and gravel bikes at the budget end of the market over the years.
Testing involved long rides on favourite routes around Bath, as well as laps of rolling hills in Somerset. Unlike our more performance-focused categories, the best road bikes around £1,000 are also more likely to be used for commuting by bike and other errands.
With this in mind, we’ve paid close attention to how easy the bikes are to live with for day-to-day use and how they fare on urban jaunts.
Our 2022 Budget Bike of the Year contenders are:
- Boardman ADV 8.9
- Forme Monyash 2
- Giant Contend 1
- Trek Domane AL 2
- Triban RC 500