Over the last few years, Boardman’s bikes have garnered numerous glowing reviews and its SLR 8.9 has long been one of my favourite road bikes, so the ADV 8.9 has a lot to live up to to equal its tarmac-travelling stablemate.
And this more adventurous, gravel-flavoured 8.9 certainly does, winning our £1,000 Bike of the Year category for 2021.
Boardman says of the ADV 8.9: “It may just be our best value for money bike” that’s equally at home “exploring hidden bridleways and fire roads as it is clocking up miles on potholed roads or long sportives”.
Okay, its price stumbled a little north of £1,000, but there’s very little to fault when it comes to the ADV 8.9’s components.
Boardman ADV 8.9 frame and geometry
The ADV doesn’t exactly excite on the looks front, featuring largely muted colours that seem to be a theme for 2021 bikes, but the triple-butted 6061-X7 aluminium frame does have very neat smooth welds.
And, while its external cabling may make the lines a little less clean, servicing should be more straightforward.
The fork is carbon with a tapered steerer, and the handlebar is an own-brand alloy affair with a six-degree flare, which should help with off-road adventures. Thru-axles (12mm) are good to see on a bike with disc brakes.
There’s plenty of tyre clearance and fittings for mudguards and a pannier rack,
The geometry of the bike is inspired by mountain bikes, seeing longer and slacker figures than a standard road bike. This should give a more confidence-inspiring ride on off-road surfaces, such as loose gravel, without compromising ride position on the road and the relaxed head-tube angle should make for stable handling.
Boardman ADV 8.9 kit
Whereas slightly cheaper bikes make do with modest cable disc brakes, Boardman has gone for a largely GRX setup with the groupset’s excellent hydraulic disc brakes. The only deviations are the Tiagra front derailleur and FSA’s Omega chainset and bottom bracket.
While some brands have gone down the single-chainring route when decking out their gravel bikes, Boardman prefers a sub-compact double, in this case a 48/32, rather than the 46/30 seen on similar bikes such as Genesis’ CDA 30, but it has paired this with a wider-ranging 11-36 cassette.
This gives you the same pleasingly low 24-inch bottom gear, but at 119-inch the 48×11 top gear is harder than the Genesis’ and equivalent to a very old-school 52×12.
The shifting is as impressive as you’d expect from Shimano and the braking, if anything, is better still. Thank you, Shimano!
I’ve lived through centre-pull brakes, side-pulls, cantilevers, V-brakes… but nothing compares to hydraulic disc brakes, which offer smooth, controlled and super-powerful braking with virtually no effort.
The GRX’s hydraulics stop you silently and safely on the spot and with impeccable control aided by the frame and fork’s thru-axles. If you’ve never tried hydraulic discs you don’t know what you’re missing.
Practical touches include plenty of clearance and fittings for mudguards and a rear rack.
And just as with Boardman’s SLR 8.9 road bike, the ADV 8.9’s wheels and 40mm G-One Allround TLE Addix tyres are tubeless-ready, which allows you to run the tyres without inner tubes at lower pressures for even greater comfort and without the risk of pinch punctures.
Boardman ADV 8.9 ride impressions
The Boardman’s ride was as well behaved as its brakes over every surface I tackled.
On tarmac the 40mm Schwalbe tyres are going to be a little slower than narrower road tyres, but this wasn’t really noticeable – though the excellent comfort is a real boon.
The G-Ones have long been one of my favourite tyres. I love how they balance rolling resistance on the road with tenacious grip from the Addix compound on grit and gravel, and it was exactly the same with Boardman’s ADV.
Their 40mm width delivers excellent comfort, with the volume offering much more cushioning than 32mm rubber, let alone 25mm.
One of my few concerns was the ADV’s large-diameter 31.6mm seatpost, which I thought might prove harsh – but I had no complaints about comfort at all. Though some of that may be down to the saddle, too, which I got on very well with.
The mountain bike-inspired geometry, notably that slacker head angle, works in tandem with the flared bar for excellent control off-road.
The wide grips also help with control when you’re descending, and the confidence-inspiring brakes mean you can hit the descents hard.
The ADV isn’t an especially lively climber – wide tyres and a plus-10kg weight will do that – but that low bottom gear lets you tackle even the steepest climbs comfortably, either spinning in the saddle or cranking a higher gear out of the saddle with little obvious frame flex.
The oversized and tapered 11/8- 11/2-inch steerer also gives a feeling of great control and solidity, and the ADV proved to be as big a blast on gravel as it was on the road.
Boardman ADV 8.9 bottom line
All in all, the ADV 8.9 is another excellent bike from the seemingly all-conquering Boardman stable.
It’s the usual great value that we’d expect from Boardman – although I would have liked a slimmer seatpost and more bosses – but there are very few types of riding that you couldn’t use the ADV 8.9 for.
And if you don’t want a garage chock-full of bikes, this will cover year-round commuting over the poorest road surfaces, weekends away, gravel riding and more.
You could easily load this up for extended tours or take in a long-distance sportive or two. Admittedly, you’ll be carrying a little more weight than a dedicated road or sportive bike, but the ADV’s near-perfect braking, wide-ranging gears and excellent comfort more than make up for any extra mass.