The 2016 Team FS bike feels much more balanced than the previous version
The last time we tested the Team FS we complained that our knees knocked on the upper shock linkage and that the 130mm travel suspension felt too comfort focused, lacking the support needed to push the bike to the limit.
Our criticisms didn’t go unnoticed, and Boardman has now fitted a narrower upper linkage with much improved clearance, and it has also change the angle of it relative to the shock to make the suspension more progressive and supportive.
And Boardman hasn’t stopped there. The frame geometry has also been tweaked. Yes, the head angle has actually got steeper, but the frame has also increased in length, so the bike feels much more balanced than the previous version. Also, with the extra reach, Boardman can fit a 50mm stem as standard without the cockpit feeling too cramped. All that’s needed now is a size XL frame for riders over 6ft.
Just like all of the other bikes in this test, cost dictates that the Boardman gets a 135mm quick-release rear end, not the stiffer 142x12mm thru-axle design on the Pro FS. And due to the pivot placement on the chainstay, the back end is not quite as stiff, or direct, as the Calibre Bossnut.
All of the pivots use sealed cartridge bearings to reduce friction and make servicing easier, and the overall frame finish — smooth welds and fluid-formed tubes — is first rate. The end result being that the Team FS looks like a bike costing double.
With slightly more air pressure than recommended for our weight, we easily achieved the front-end support we wanted from the 140mm Sektor fork, even if it meant that we couldn’t quite reach bottom out. With a tapered steerer tube, 32mm upper legs and 15mm Maxle lowers, the Team FS takes hits big and small without complaint. It also puts Boardman on a level playing field with Calibre and VooDoo.
Even though the Boardman is rocking 10mm less travel at the rear, the bike felt really well balanced from the off. But, just like most of the other bikes in this test, we had to run the rebound damping on the Monarch R shock wide-open. So, again, we get the feeling that all of the brands wrongly assume that it will be heavier riders buying these bikes.
The Team FS is the only bike in this test not to use a Shimano drivetrain. Instead, Boardman has opted for a SRAM GX 2×10 set-up. Shifting is both crisp and precise, but we had noticeably more dropped chains on the Boardman than any other bike. We’ve had no such problems with the chain stabilising Type II rear mechs on SRAM’s single-ring GX drivetrains, so we suspect that the frame flex we mentioned earlier — or more likely, the FSA Comet chainset — could be the real issue here.
And, if we’re being really picky about the components on the Boardman, we’d like to see an inline seat post to help offset the slack seat tube angle. As it stands, when you raise the saddle height, it ends up being too far behind the bottom bracket, which makes it more difficult to keep the front wheel comfortably loaded on steep climbs.
And while it’s great that the Team FS comes with lock-on grips, they are too skinny for size large hands on a size large bike.
Sometimes you need to take a step backwards to move forwards, and that’s exactly what Boardman has done with the Team FS. And even though we’re big fans of slacker head angles, the handling of the Boardman is so much more balanced with the steeper steering geometry and extra length in the front end of the frame.
So, when the hard compound Continental tyres break traction — which they regularly do — you still feel in control of the bike. If you can survive the sketchy drifts from one corner to the next, the Conti tyres reward you with reduced rolling resistance. Less experienced riders, however, will be rolling the dice every time they ride.
All of changes that Boardman has made to the Team FS for 2016 are positive ones. You still get one of the best-dressed bikes for under a grand, but the frame now possesses a ride quality that’s every bit as fitting as the finishing kit adorning it. In the end, it was a very close call between the Boardman Team FS and the Calibre Bossnut. If the Team FS came with the stiffer, 142x12mm rear end, and better tyres, Boardman could easily be looking at a double-digit rating.