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As a confirmed roadie and lover of all things carbon and aero, I’ll confess that my eye has never been drawn by Hybrid bikes. In fact – I’ll be honest here – my cycling snobbery has probably led to me into writing them off to some extent; as the sort of bike you’d choose if you ‘didn’t really know cycling’. But a strangely coincidental series of events recently resulted in me adding one to my own fleet and left me eating those words.
Over the last few months, Mrs. Sprocketwaffle has – to some extent – lost her cycling mojo. In some ways, this is probably partly due to the fact that she’s not been getting much variety; every ride is a road ride and she feels the need to beat herself up on every ride in search of Strava cups (and personal pride of course). Despite my best efforts to get her out simply spinning easy and enjoying it, every time she goes near a road bike it’s full gas or nothing – go hard or go home……That’s my girl.
So, in an effort to level the playing field, I suggested that she look further afield – toward something with slightly more off-road ability. My reasoning was that not only would this be a bit of a leveler (I’m crap off road – so she’d have no problem keeping up with me) but also because I’ve recently started plodding my old mountain bike along some of our local trails and found the experience actually quite enjoyable – a welcome break from the slog of long training hours on the road.
At this point, I think it’s worth pointing out that to my wife, mountain bikes are the work of the Devil. She had one a few years back and despite kind of liking it to begin with, quickly fell out of love with it. That bike ended up on eBay for a fraction of the price we paid for it!!! Ho, hum!!!
But, having recently spent a week giving advice to a colleague who was buying a Hybrid, I’d had my eyes opened to them. So with the need for something with a bit of trail ability combined with some road manners, I suggested we take a look at a few.
A long love affair with the Trek brand naturally put these at the top of the list. But, for various reasons, there was nothing in their range that really ‘popped’ for her. So it was that we found ourselves in a local Halfords branch looking at Boardmans. From their range, two bikes immediately stood out – the MX Sport Fi for her and the MX Comp for me. I’m reviewing the MX Comp here but there will also be a review of the Sport Fi coming from my good lady just as soon as she’s got a few miles under the wheels.
Let’s start with the simple stuff – looks!!! In terms of pure appearance this bike is handsome from any angle. The Platinum paint scheme and Boardman E4P finishing kit all coming together to deliver a look that is classy and refined. As shallow as it sounds talking about looks, I stand by this – a bike has got to ‘float your boat’ when you open the garage door – and this one most certainly does.
That stunning paint scheme is covering Boardman’s triple-butted alloy, smooth weld frame which is home to a SRAM Via Centro drivetrain and shifters and Avid DB1 Hydraulic disc brakes. At either end, you will find Boardman E4P double-walled wheels which are shod as standard with Schwalbe Tyrago tyres, which is a really nice touch – adding a bit of puncture protection with their Kevlar belt construction and nod toward safety with the reflective strip around the sidewall.
Power is transmitted through a standard Via Centro 48/32 chainset, matched to a SRAM PG-1050 (10 speed) 12/36 cassette. In practice, this gives a good spread of ratios and should see you up anything but the steepest inclines. Although I haven’t yet tested it on anything really hilly, I can confirm that the usual climbs that I tackle on my Saturday road rides have presented no problem and even off road I have only ever ventured down onto the small ring when I wanted a bit more control on steeper uphill stuff. Whilst shifting from the Via Centro triggers and mechs is always precise, there is a certain ‘rustic charm’ about it; a click on the lever being rewarded with a reassuring clunk and ping as the chain swaps cogs. But I guess that precision of shifting is what really matters – so I’ll forgive it that.
Of course power, as they say, is nothing without control. And when the time comes to scrub some speed off, the Avid DB-1 hydraulic setup delivers every time; a great mix of power and modulation allowing you to bring the bike to a controlled stop even on really slippery stuff. I tested this along a section of our local sea wall which, after an extended period of heavy rain had become covered in a thin layer of very slippery mud over a hard-packed base. In these conditions, the Avids allowed enough precision to scrub speed off without ever feeling like the front was going to tuck. In fact, I’d even go as far as to say that they were actually quite confidence-inspiring. Top marks.
I guess that for most owners this bike will probably spend most of it’s time filling commuter duties – a role in which it will excel – the real purpose of a hybrid is to be there for you on those occasions when you feel the need to get away from the hardtop and follow the trail. And, in this role, the bike really does not disappoint. Of course, you’re not looking at a full-blown mountain bike here; so any off road will probably be limited to towpaths or forest tracks. But, a ride on the MX Comp through our local woodlands – on a route that I’ve only ever tackled aboard a mountain bike proved that the Boardman really is up to the job. Unlocking the suspension on the Suntour NCX-D forks gives a comfortable 63mm of travel, which is plenty for this type of riding. Through this woodland trail, the bike was equally happy gliding along gravel paths as it was bouncing off of tree roots. At no time did it feel nervous or out of its depth (unlike the rider!!)
With the suspension locked and with hardtop back under the wheel, the MX Comp makes great progress. In fact, on road, it’s just a really nice ride (and coming from this die-hard roadie, that’s quite a complement). That good spread on the gearing means you’ll always find a suitable combination of ratios for whatever it is you’re doing at the time and the frame rewards with good power transfer that, for a bike weighing a claimed 13 KG, makes it feel actually quite spritely. The only time that it doesn’t feel completely at home on the road is during ‘spirited’ cornering when I find that the lofty riding position can translate to a degree of nervousness. But let’s keep some perspective here; if your goal is outright speed then you probably won’t be looking at hybrids anyway.
If I had to sum the Boardman MX Comp up I’d simply say that it’s just a really good bike. Your £600 buys you a ride that you’ll be proud to be seen on and which will cater for whatever you want to do – be that your commute to work, an evening spin around your local lanes or something more interesting along your local trails. At this price, the bike is easily accessible under Ride to Work schemes – and would leave a good few quid for some essential accessories; should you just be starting out. You also get the convenience of mudguard mounts and even luggage rack mounts – which extend the potential usefulness even further. I’d go as far as to say that if you could only afford one bike then your money would be well spent here.
Owning the MX Comp has been a real eye-opener for me. Despite my love affair with speed – and the practicalities of actually needing road and TT bikes to train and compete on – the Boardman has found a natural home in the Sprocketwaffle fleet. However hard you train there will always be that one time when all you want (or need) to do is ride. And when this is the case the Comp will give you the flexibility to do whatever takes your fancy. In fact on one occasion, I found myself jumping aboard and taking off around the lanes without any of the usual GPS / Heart Rate Monitoring / Strava / Garmin paraphernalia that usually accompanies me; I simply rode for the pure pleasure of being out on my bike and enjoying it. What more endorsement do you need!!! The MX Comp has given me back something that’s been missing from my routine for a while; the simple enjoyment of riding a bike and, as John. F. Kennedy said – nothing compares to that.
I’d Give It.
9 / 10
Summing it up…
Just a really good bike - What more can I say!!! But a more refined shift and better handling would get it a 10!!