Thursday, March 14, 2013

Boardman Bikes : Elite Mountain EM1.7 Mountain Bike Review

I have owned bikes over the years and I was recently asked by Bike Elementz to check one of their bikes out specific for Mountain Biking. Since the owner is a buddy of mine and he found out that I will be racing Xterra Malaysia in a months time, he offered a preposition that I find hard to resist - if the bike is right, it's yours use if for Xterra. In order for me to see if this bike indeed fits my need, I would obviously need to ride to evaluate it. So, i brought the bike into Bukit Kiara one fine Sunday and rode the Office trail twice with the first round dedicated to the production of this video alone. Enjoy.
The Elite Series Frame
The bike that was lend to me was the Elite Mountain 1.7. The parts however, is from the Performance Series HT Pro range. Logic from this is that owner do not do serious mountain biking and that the parts from the HT Pro was more than suffice. 
The Boardman EM/1.7 Carbon Frame. Photo from Boardman Bikes website
The EM/1.7 is the absolute top of the range for Hard Tail Mountain bikes by Boardman that took accumulation of 2 years to develop centred around the XC World championship athletes testing. If you look at the frame, there is a few noteworthy features that are worth mentioning that otherwise will be missed by many. To start with, the frame is High Modular Carbon. Being a High Modular Carbon meant that the carbon fiber used is of the highest specification at 55MSI (million pound per square inch). MSI is a measurement of tensile strength and being HM meant it is the stiffest there is in the market while offering the best weight-to-stiffness ratio. 
Square and Stiff. How some girls love their men. 
The geometry of the bike is such that it will suit a 100mm or a 120mm drop for XC or Trail application respectively. If you noticed from the frame photo above, you will notice that the frame is square rather than the usual round/cylindrical. This include the approach at the chainstay section where there is an oversized box approach that will ensure maximum power transfer. A few other design consideration were placed to ensure increased torsional and accurate steering response that will be appreciated by fast riders.
Carbon seatpost come as standard to complement the whole setup
One of the nicer touch to the bike was the concealed cabling or internal cabling. It add to a smoother finishing to the bike, giving it a "faster" look.
Color coordinated cables
This feature is becoming more common nowadays with the only problem to be dislodged internal cable and having to use cable tie to secure external cabling. This happened on my Orbea Ordu Tri bike.
FSA Headset. Noticed the super smooth finishing at places usually with butting or joint. Notice the dual internal cabling - gear and brakes in the photo above
One more feature that not many will appreciate or notice is how the brakes are mounted on the chainstay part (at the delta area) instead of the usual seatstay position. As an engineer, i noticed and appreciated the re-positioning as logically that part at the intersection of the chainstay and seatstay will be at the stiffest and flexes the least - lending more positive feel and improved braking.
Notice the position of the rear brake caliper? The seatstay is where the smaller EM1.7 decal is. Now compare it to my Orbea below
Bracket on the seatstay on my Orbea
Marriage With HT Pro components
The decision to "mix and match" the frame with these components from HT Pro was a personal choice. Bike Elementz does customisation and you are limited by your imagination (and credit limits). Parts you see in the photos below are from the specs for HT Pro, unless stated otherwise.
I been a faithful Shimano user with exception of my Italian Stallion (which is on Italian groupsets). The reliability of Shimano parts are known throughout and this will be my first experience with SRAM. The biggest difference is at the shifter, instead of the usual trigger-pull of the index to downshift, it is pressing-down the front trigger to downshift. Upshifting is the same aka pressing with thumb. So, in SRAM, you use your thumb for both shifting.
The big X9 shifter is to change to lighter gears while the smaller shifter infront is to downshift. Both requires pressing with thumb movement.
It did not take me long to get used to the shifting. The shift came sharp and crisp. While the rear is fitted with X9, the front is kitted with X0 FD. It came with 2x10 FSA Comet Crankset. Sufficient for XC and trails. The pattern ha shifted somewhat to dual-crank rather than the traditional triple where it is suited for mountain as well.
42-27 combo sufficient for most riders
Another first for me. FSA or Full Speed Ahead ;-)
SRAM X0 FD. The frame came with a metal decal to protect the carbon body during incidences of chain-drop. Nice touch there Boardman.
Next is the brakes. I have heard much of Avid Elixir 7 (though the specs actually denote R, maybe this is a variation). Most probably from how words of mouth said it was easy to modulate. The advances with mountainbike technology when back in those days were we were adding in a U-clamp at the cantilever brakes to stiffen the fork or seatstay for the sole purpose (or perceived) of improve braking.
Stopping Power
For shocks, the RockShox Reba SL with 120mm, motion control rebound and compression damping and lock out. I, again, has never owned a RockShox - the price is beyond my means (back then). 
Reba SL in white
Refer to manual for weight-pressure setting. Easy to set if you know how.
Lock out compression
The wheelset were Mavic XM319 Disc shodded with Continental MountainKing 2.2. Mavic makes strong rims that is weight concious and Conti 2.2 gives good traction on dry to slight wet trail.
Bet you never know these rubber cost more than a standard car tire...
The non-standard equipment that was added where the stem and straight-bar, of which both were from Reverse. It is well, reversible for either a raise position or a neutral seating. Both stem and handlebar are carbon fiber finished in white. You can now see where the owner are kitting the bike up with the Black-Green-White theme.
With carbon riser
The seat is from Fizik and it is an upgrade from the original. Magnesium seat rail help with weight reduction without compromising the strength.
Butt Insurance
The setup is complete with the Odi grip. A non-standard equipment.
Completing the Look
The bike weigh about 10.5kg with the whole mix-match setup and it is easily 2 pounds lighter than my Aluminium Orbea. While weight is not important (or as important) for mountain bikes, it sure become a talking point when your ride is light - as it will reduces energy expenditure when you have to dismount to push or carry the bike over obstacles.
The Test
Fresh from the Zero2Hero MAD that I attended, I was eager to put my new found confidence to test. The only limiting factor will be how familiar i am with the Boardman EM/1.7. I am comfortable with my own setup and familiar with how the bike handles. As my height and the owner's height is about the same, minimum adjustment needed to be made. I pushed up the trailhead where I still do no have the skill to ride on the cobblestones up an incline. I once rolled down from the top to the bottom and that leave pretty deep scars physically and emotionally. I might need to attend a support group just to get over that fear. But once cleared the trailhead, it was pedalling all the way. Coincidently the Zero2Hero Silver members were being guided through that portion of the trail. How i wish I am part of that!
Cranking it up in The Office
I entered The Office and the trail started with a slight decline and roots to clear. No issues as the bike handled accurately - it went where I pointed the wheels. Of course you will need to look infront and plan your lines as you are riding. It is all mentally taxing and that is why it is fun to an extend. Adrenaline flows and i cleared the first incline with ease. The power transfer were smooth and sure. The front suspension worked well absorbing any bumps along the way making sure the tires are planted on the trails. Skills learnt during the MAD were put into good use. Weight distribution was near perfect and happy how the ride went thus far, I stopped to take some videos. Each section of the videos I uploaded above were ridden a few times to get the feel and to make sure it wasn't fluke shot that i cleared it.
Right where it belong - in the trail
The Elixir7 were a joy to use though th bike owner has the setup a bit too close for my comfort. It was twitchy at first as I learnt to modulate it and once i get how much pressure to place, it was smooth all the way. I must say I am super proud that there were no incidences of dragging the rear tires as i roll down some declines. Allowing the momemtum to carry me over the next "bump" and pointing the wheels to where it should go.
Straight Bar - something I used to love, but find it hard to like since I am the Riser-kind-of-guy
The MountainKing was ok in the trail and perhaps a bit too wide for Kiara. You see, in my opinion, a 2.0 would do great in Kiara as the trails are typically technical and having something thinner will allow you to clear tighter roots without the sidewall lugging itself and giving you a few dramatic loss-of-control-moment.
OK, maybe that was just my bad riding skills talking.
With the first loop around Office completed, i went for a second loop and this time I waned to time trail it. Without any need to stop to take photos (i brought along a small tripod, as I was alone), i get the real feel of how the bike and the flow of the The Office is like. Yes, Kiara is addictive and if I ride this often enough, I will know it like how I knew it from running. Things does move faster in the trail once you get more confident with where you want to move and land.
- Frame was as stiff as it claimed to be but at the same time offering enough shock absorption without making the ride felt harsh.
- Components (SRAM X9 and X0 combo) were accurate and crisp. The shifting was superb and positive and it gives me the ratio I want everytime. However, i attribute this to how the bike was tuned and maintained. In this aspect, the Bike Elementz guys did a fantastic job
- Brakes works as it should. Modulation were predictable after a few tap
Straight bar is not my thing. But that's personal preferences.
- The 2.2 wide tires is a bit too wide for my liking. 
- The bike is not mine to keep. Haha. Then again, you can make it yours and customise it at Bike Elementz.
Washing up to return to the owner
About Bike Elementz
Bike Elementz has a facebook page here: Click Here
The shop is based in Kepong and the full address is per below. Click on the address to show on map where they are located.
Tel : 03-6243 3398

About the Boardman brand

The latest exciting range of Boardman bikes inspired by a true cycling legend. From mountain and road to performance hybrid and track bikes there is something in the range for everyone - so no matter what kind of bike you ride, or what level you’re at, Boardman keep your cycling experience at the forefront of their minds. Chris Boardman MBE, record holder of the fastest ever Tour de France Prolog, achieved many victories throughout his illustrious career including World Champion, National Champion (at both Junior and Senior level winning over 30 titles) and his iconic Olympic Gold Medal winning performance aboard the famous Lotus track bike. Chris has represented his country at four Olympic Games, the Commonwealth Games and the World Championships, and went on to work at the cutting edge of bike design with the record breaking Beijing Olympic track team and now brings his expertize to you through Boardman Bikes.


  1. Wow! This bike is really cool and I want to have this. I think this is really good quality for a race. Hope someday I can ride on this kind of bike and experience a mountain bike trails.

  2. Hello! Thx for this report. Do you know how much does the frame weigh ?