While Boardman bikes will always be synonymous with the cyclist whose name it bears, it’s also become a byword for exceptional value. The British brand routinely releases road bikes (opens in new tab) and hybrid (opens in new tab)offerings with spec sheets that others find hard to match at a similar price point.
The Boardman HYB 8.6 is its entry-level hybrid that it says is “designed for fast commutes, urban riding or those longer days out.” Which is pretty much the desired trifecta for most hybrids seeking to straddle the line between workhorse and pleasure cruiser.
Boardman HYB 8.6 – construction
By their very nature hybrids must attempt to provide a balanced ride. To make them suitable for the daily commute (opens in new tab)as well for leisure and fitness rides, manufacturers need to juggle comfort, stability and speed, delivered in a robust package that can handle day-in, day-out use.
Boardman looks to strike this balance in the HYB 8.6 by borrowing elements from aluminum road bikes (opens in new tab) and then adding a few tweaks along the way.
The frame is made from triple butted 6061 aluminium. It’s the same material used on the Boardman 8.6 road bike, and should offer a decent blend of stiffness and relatively low weight. Unlike the SLR 8.6, the HYB opts for an alloy fork. It takes a few design cues from its drop-bar brethren too, most notably the dropped seatstays, the tube profiles and the hidden frame welds.
Sensibly the geometry has been adjusted though, no doubt with the aforementioned comfort and stability in mind. The head tube angle on this size small is 73 degrees. The stack height is 554mm. Reach is 396mm while the chainstays measure 435mm. These numbers suggest that the HYB 8.6 should deliver a riding position that’s a little more racy than many hybrids but still upright enough to be functional for the majority of users. They also hint at reliable handling while still being lively enough to make it fun to ride.
While the dropped stays may signify speed due to their use on many of the best road bikes, they’re actually a source of increased comfort; a smaller rear triangle should, in theory at least, allow for the seat tube to flex more thus improving compliance. It’s a good thing for any bike and especially important on a hybrid that could well be ridden everyday of the week. The sloping top tube meant plenty of exposed seatpost too, another sign that the Boardman should, in theory, deliver a pretty cushioned ride.
All of the cables are routed externally. For a hybrid that’s likely to get plenty of use it allows for an easier diagnosis of shifting issues as well as making the required maintenance straightforward too. Being exposed however will likely require this cable maintenance to take place with more regularity.
As for componentry, the HYB 8.6 is equipped sensibly throughout. Shimano’s Alivio/Acera nine-speed groupset is unfussy and should offer plenty of reliability, with replacement parts affordable too. The 46/30t chainset matched with an 11-36t cassette gives you plenty of range; if you choose to utilise the frame’s pannier rack mounts the better than 1:1 low gear should still get you up any hill fully loaded. As for additional mounts, there are bosses for mudguards as well as two bottle cages.
Stopping power comes courtesy of Tektro HD-M275 hydraulic disc brakes. Like the groupset they’re unflashy but should get the job done and are pretty straightforward to bleed should you be interested in doing your own maintenance.
Following the same utilitarian approach, the wheels and tyres are both solid choices. The 700c Boardman branded wheels use Formula hubs, which means getting hold of replacement parts should be a breeze. The rims are tubeless-ready too, a nice touch but perhaps one that not too many will actually use. As for the tyres, Boardman have chosen Schwalbe Citizens in a 35mm width. Armed with K-Guard Kevlar protection they place a premium on puncture-resistance, which given the HYB 8.6’s intended use is pretty sensible.
Finishing kit is as you might expect on a hybrid with a £550 price tag, namely a generic alloy flat bar and stem, ergo rubber grips and a Boardman branded saddle with alloy rails and a decent slice of padding.
Boardman HYB 8.6 – the ride
Any hybrid, including this Boardman, is designed to be practical by nature; a bike to get you from A to B in relative comfort. I decided that I’d split my riding time between some shorter trips in and around the city to emulate a typical commute as well as longer rides designed to replicate a leisure ride. First off was a trip into town.
Within a few minutes of my initial journey it’s clear that the Boardman’s riding position, despite being a little lower than many competitors, is still well suited for short journeys such as this, where navigating traffic safely is the priority. It’s been a while since I’ve ridden a flat-bar bike and while it feels a little alien it does mean that I can sit up and take in the road ahead without compromise.
The bike still gets up to speed quickly however. Combined with the relatively narrow (600mm width) bars, the Boardman feels pretty nimble, allowing me to weave my way through narrow gaps and make quick adjustments in response to the ebb and flow of the city streets.
This stop-start motion requires plenty of braking and unfortunately the Tektros lack a little modulation. It’s to be expected that fresh out of the box they’ll need some bedding in. But here there is a bit ‘all or nothing’, slow to respond before grabbing on for dear life. The two-finger levers are comfortable though and it doesn’t take too long to figure out the braking nuances so I can control my speed safely.
The tyres are designed to be bulletproof and ride as such. On short commutes or trips into town such as this their lack of suppleness and comfort is a less of an issue and a willing trade-off for the puncture resistance they appear to offer. I found myself riding over plenty of debris and managed to avoid any unwanted mechanicals.
While the gear changes could never be described as smooth, the Shimano shifting is as reliable as I’d expected, with the thumb shifters providing a reassuringly loud click. As for the gear range, I deliberately took in a couple of short, sharp hills and the Boardman’s lower gears dealt with these nicely. At the other end of the spectrum the 46t chainring means that you can roll along at a decent clip when needed.
Considering the usual faffing around that precedes my road rides, there’s something liberating about just getting on a bike and going for a cycle. Looking to test out the Boardman’s abilities as a capable cruiser, I did just that.
The ride to a nearby park involved built-up roads as well as shared access off-road paths, both tarmac and gravel. The HYB 8.6 was well-equipped to deal with the varied terrain as well as the climb up through the park itself. The bike has a claimed weight of just over 11kg but felt pretty sprightly on these gradients, helped in part by those generously low gear ratios.
The tyres have a tread pattern suited to the mixed road surfaces of this ride but I again struggled with their hard and unforgiving nature. Unfortunately, when I let out some pressure they became pretty sluggish. It’s the nature of the beast and you’ll need to weigh up how much you value puncture protection over ride quality.
What goes up must come down, which meant the ride finished with a long, sweeping descent on the road that had me easily running out of gears. The handling was pretty assured though with the bike feeling stable through the corners. I would have appreciated a slightly wider bar however to alleviate the somewhat twitchy steering that only became apparent at speed. Fortunately the braking had improved, with the pads now bedded in.
I also took the Boardman HYB 8.6 on a flatter ride following the path of the river. It’s a route favoured by cyclists and runners so it seemed a good choice on which to assess its suitability for those looking for a ‘fitness’ bike.
As mentioned before the Boardman responds well when you press on the pedals, accelerating quickly. Once you’re rolling it’s easy to maintain and its straight line speed is as good as you can expect from a flat-bar hybrid that pays little attention to aerodynamics.
It was during these long stretches of flattish, straight roads that I struggled to find a comfortable position on the bike due to the bars. On a road bike you can get on the drops or sit low on the hoods and hold it for long periods but the more upright nature of the Boardman had me fiddling around, trying to find a comfy hand position on the bars. I never really attained this, especially as the ergo grips started to dig into my palms.
Interestingly, I hadn’t noticed this – or a lack of comfort in general – when I was riding around the city. Perhaps, the shifting of body position and the concentration required to navigate the traffic meant that I didn’t have time to dwell on it? It’s worth adding that grip comfort and handlebar style and width is subjective and my issue won’t necessarily be yours too.
Value and verdict
At £550 and coming with a 9-speed Shimano groupset and hydraulic disc brakes, the Boardman is, like many of the brand’s bikes, undoubtedly good value. The Triban RC 500 costs £649.99 and like the Boardman is fast and agile by hybrid standards but comes with mechanical disc brakes rather than hydraulic.
It’s impossible to be down on the Boardman HYB 8.6 despite my minor gripes. For a little over £500 you’re getting a well-specced bike that performed admirably both on the city streets and during longer leisure rides away from traffic. While a short-term review such as this can’t attest to a bike’s durability, all the components here would suggest that this could be used as a year-round commuter without problem. Likewise, it’s well set-up for leisure riding too. The riding position is relaxed but not overly so, while the wide gear range means that it can handle a mix of terrain. Even the tyres make sense from a reliability standpoint, something which all hybrids need to be.
- Frame: 7005 Alloy, smooth welded
- Fork: Alloy bladed fork, 1 1/8” cromo Steerer
- Cranks: Prowheel, square taper, 46/30t
- Front Derailleur: Shimano Acera T3000, 31.8mm clamp
- Rear Derailleur: Shimano Alivio M3100, 9-speed
- Shifter: Shimano Alivio, 2×9
- Brakes: Tektro hydraulic disc, Tektro 160mm rotor
- Cassette: Shimano HG201, 9-speed, 11-36 Tooth
- Weight: Approx. 11.2kg
- Wheelset: Boardman Alloy 700C Tubeless Ready, Formula hubs
- Tyre: Schwalbe Citizen 700 x 35mm, kevlar guard. Kenda presta tube