While the Boardman Fi MTB Comp was the only 26in bike in the women specific category our Hardtail of the Year test, you can’t help but compare it to the 29ers. There’s certainly no questioning the quality here: the alloy frame feels responsive, the geometry is first-ride friendly — and it looks good. And, as the only air sprung fork among the women’s bikes, the Suntour Epicon is a real plus point, offering good set-up options for the lighter rider to get the most out of that 100mm travel. With decent width 2.2in Conti Mountain King tyres on Alex rims, the wheels felt solid, rolled well and had good grip. SRAM’s gears and the FSA triple chainset also offer decent functionality while the Avid Elixir 1 brakes were confidence-inspiring and trouble free.
The Boardman Fi MTB Comp gives an enjoyable ride, and I appreciated its quality and attention to detail. But what is it with these narrow bars? I’m not doing a time trial — 630mm is just not wide enough. Yet, as I switched between the four test bikes I could feel my enthusiasm for the Boardman waning in favour of the bigger wheeled bikes. While the 26in wheels immediately felt more familiar, that familiarity quickly gave way to the reality that they can’t carry speed over obstacles in the way the 29ers do.
All in all, the Boardman Fi MTB Comp is a nice bike and the air forks are a good choice. If you prefer 26in wheels, this is the bike for you. But, when it comes down to it, it seems that size really does matter after all, particularly riding a hardtail. The Boardman was left behind by the best 29ers on the trail.
MBR rating: 8
Frame Triple-butted aluminium
Fork Suntour Epicon LOD 100mm
Wheels Formula hubs, Alex DP20 rims, Continental MTN King 2.2in tyres
Drivetrain FSA Alpha Drive chainset, SRAM X5 3×9 shifters and mechs
Brakes Avid Elixir 1
Weight 12.66kg (27.91lb)
Sizes S, M, L
Size tested M
On test in our Hardtail of the Year competition: