Boardman SLR 8.6 review

Boardman SLR Review
Our Score

In the past, we have been impressed by Boardman’s bikes around the £1,000 price point. However, we wanted to see what the brand could offer at the lower price point of £650. We put the Boardman SLR 8.6 to the test to determine whether it could compete as one of the best affordable road bikes available.

Boardman SLR 8.6 road bike on a red background

(Image credit: Future)

The Boardman SLR 8.6 is constructed from Triple Butted 6061 X7 Aluminium, which features well-hidden welds that give the frame an appearance similar to that of a carbon frame. The bike’s fork is made of C7 carbon, which helps to reduce weight and absorb some of the road vibrations. The bike has a claimed weight of around 10kg for a size medium.

For a size large (58cm), the bike is ideally suited for riders between 181-189cm, with an inseam of 82-89cm. The bike comes equipped with a 110mm stem, 42cm bars (with a 12cm drop and 75mm reach), a 145mm wide saddle, and 172.5mm cranks. Although the bars and cranks are narrower and shorter, respectively, than what is typical for this size, Boardman has followed the recommendations of bike fitters who suggest that narrower bars and shorter cranks can enhance a rider’s aerodynamics and ergonomics.

Boardman SLR 8.6 road bike on a red background
(Image credit: Future) Boardman SLR 8.6 review

The Boardman SLR 8.6 has a frame geometry that is surprisingly aggressive for its price point, with a stack of 589mm, reach of 390mm, seat tube of 555mm, top tube of 570mm, head tube of 180mm, head angle of 73 degrees, seat angle of 73 degrees, fork offset of 45mm, chainstay of 415mm, and BB drop of 68mm. This is a departure from the trend of more relaxed geometry and slower handling seen in other models at this price point.

The bike is equipped with Shimano’s Claris eight-speed groupset, which features a double 50/34 chainring up front and an 11-32t cassette, providing a wide range of gears, albeit with some sizable jumps due to the eight-speed configuration. Tektro’s R315 long-arm front and rear brakes handle braking, while the chain is a KMC Z8.

The Boardman SLR 8.6 features a set of Boardman’s own SLR Tubeless Ready wheels with 28 spokes and Formula hubs both front (RB-31) and rear (RB-30). The wheels are fitted with Vittoria Zaffiro 25mm clincher tires.

Boardman SLR 8.6 road bike on a red background
(Image credit: Future) Boardman SLR 8.6 review


As for the ride itself, the SLR 8.6 is surprisingly lively and nimble for a bike at this price point. It’s definitely more aggressive than other models in this range, but still comfortable enough for longer rides. The carbon fork helps to absorb some road buzz and the Vittoria Zaffiro tyres provide a good level of grip and traction on both dry and wet surfaces.

The Shimano Claris groupset performs well, with smooth and reliable shifting. The wide-range cassette is useful for climbing, although the jumps between gears can be a bit large due to the limited number of speeds. The Tektro brakes are decent and provide enough stopping power, although they can feel a bit spongy compared to higher-end models.

The Boardman SLR Tubeless Ready wheelset is a nice touch, offering the option to switch to tubeless tyres for a smoother and more efficient ride. However, the Vittoria Zaffiro tyres are set up as clinchers out of the box.

Overall, the Boardman SLR 8.6 is a great value option for anyone looking for a more aggressive and lively ride than what’s typically offered at this price point. It’s well-designed, easy to set up, and offers a smooth and comfortable ride.

Boardman SLR 8.6 road bike on a red background
(Image credit: Future) Boardman SLR 8.6 review

It sounds like you made some great choices in terms of additional accessories and equipment for the Boardman SLR 8.6. Adding a power meter and computer can really enhance your training and help you to track your progress over time. The bottle cage and saddle bag are also practical additions for carrying hydration and repair essentials on longer rides. And pumping up the tires to the appropriate pressure can improve handling and reduce rolling resistance. It’s great to see that you were able to take the bike out for a spin with minimal modifications and enjoy the ride.

It’s worth noting that while the SLR 8.6 doesn’t offer the same vibration dampening as higher-end carbon frames, it does have a good level of stiffness, especially when seated. The noticeable flex when doing sprint efforts out of the saddle is also not uncommon in cheaper aluminium frames.

In terms of geometry, the SLR 8.6 strikes a good balance between being snappy and comfortable, especially for a bike at this price point. Additionally, the inclusion of mudguard mounts is a plus for those who ride through the winter, but it’s important to note that the tyre clearance is limited to 25mm which may contribute to increased road buzz.

It’s good to know that the weight of the bike is not too noticeable for steady in-the-saddle riding. This is important as it can affect the overall ride experience and make the bike feel sluggish. The fact that it’s only noticeable on inclines above 10% or when trying to accelerate is not a major concern for most riders, especially at this price point. It’s worth keeping in mind that weight is not the only factor that determines how fast a bike is, as aerodynamics, rolling resistance, and overall stiffness also play a significant role.

Considering the price point of £650, the components used in the Boardman SLR 8.6 are on the lower end of the spectrum. The Shimano Claris groupset has its strengths and weaknesses. According to the writer’s experience, the front shifting is excellent and comparable to higher-end mechanical and electronic groupsets. However, the rear mech is not as responsive as in more expensive groupsets, with spongy and less affirmative shifts.

On the other hand, the rear derailleur of the Shimano Claris groupset is not as impressive as the front shifting, and I felt that the shifts were not as precise and felt more soft compared to higher-end mechanical or electronic groupsets. The quality of a groupset varies gradually as you move up the hierarchy, with improvements in shifting performance typically seen in the Tiagra (10-speed) level. However, if you are not overly concerned about a slightly less snappy shifting experience, the Claris groupset will suffice.

Boardman SLR 8.6 road bike on a red background
(Image credit: Future) Boardman SLR 8.6 review

Furthermore, the 11-32 cassette provides a broad range of gearing, which came in handy on steep inclines with the 34/32 gear combination used frequently. Nevertheless, the gear transitions are uncomfortable on undulating terrain, making it difficult to find a gear that matches the desired cadence. The intervals between sprockets are significant, and the 50/11 big gear needs a lot of pedalling on longer descents.

The braking system is the only aspect of this bike that I would consider subpar. The initial bite is slow, and it requires a significant amount of force to slow down on steep descents. I found myself wishing for disc brakes or even Ultegra 8000 rim brakes, even in dry conditions.

Boardman SLR 8.6 road bike on a red background
(Image credit: Future) Boardman SLR 8.6 review

The remaining components of the bike performed well and didn’t feel cheap. The bars and stem were comfortable, although the drop of the handlebars was a little too curved for the rider’s hands to sit comfortably. The cranks and chainrings were sufficiently stiff. The Vittoria Zaffiro 25mm tyres rolled smoothly but lacked the grip of higher-end tyres.

The wheels were satisfactory, but they could have been stiffer laterally. During intense efforts, the wheels would rub against the brake pads. However, the saddle stood out among the components. As a picky saddle user who has always preferred a Specialized Romin saddle for the last 10 years, the Boardman saddle was surprisingly comfortable, supportive, and didn’t cause any pressure points. Despite the alloy rails and low price point, I didn’t find myself missing my Romin too much, although prolonged rides or multi-day rides might change my opinion.

It seems that the Boardman SLR 8.6 is a great choice for a winter bike because of its value, which is cheaper than upgrading components on higher end carbon frames. Additionally, the option to fit full mudguards will help prolong the life of the bike and its components.

If you’re looking for better performance, it would be more advisable to choose the SLR 8.9 instead of buying the SLR 8.6 and gradually upgrading its components. The SLR 8.9 has a carbon frameset while the SLR 8.6 has an aluminum version. The SLR 8.9 also has an 11-speed shifting compared to the SLR 8.6’s eight-speed shifting. It’s easier and less expensive to switch out the wheels, tires, and finishing kit, so it’s better to get the frame and groupset you want from the beginning.


Boardman SLR 8.6 road bike on a red background
(Image credit: Future) Boardman SLR 8.6 review

Overall, the Boardman SLR 8.6 offers great value for money at the £650 price point. The bike features a sleek and modern design, with an aluminum frame and carbon fork that keeps the weight down while providing good stiffness. The geometry of the bike is aggressive enough for riders looking for some speed, while the inclusion of mudguard mounts make it practical for winter riding.

In terms of components, the Shimano Claris groupset is a budget option that offers solid performance, although the rear derailleur is not as snappy as higher-end options. The wheels are decent, but lack lateral stiffness, and the brakes could be better. However, the standout component of the bike is the saddle, which is well-padded and comfortable.

While the Boardman SLR 8.6 may not be the fastest or most advanced bike out there, it offers great value for money, especially for those who are just getting into road cycling or looking for a practical bike for winter riding. If you’re looking for more performance, upgrading to the carbon-framed SLR 8.9 with 11-speed shifting may be a better option than upgrading components over time.


  • +Mudguard mounts
  • +Claris front mech shifts brilliantly – on par with 105 or Ultegra
  • +Weight only noticeable on steeper pitches
  • +Frame feels plenty stiff
  • +Saddle surprisingly comfortable
  • +External cables mean easy maintenance in winter
  • +Welds are near invisible


  • -Claris rear mech is not close to a sharp as 105 or up
  • -Large gear jumps with an 11-32 8 speed cassette
  • -Ride a little uncompromising on rough roads
  • -Wheels are not the stiffest
  • -Brakes are slow to grab on steep descents

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