As the bike brand responsible for bringing the defending Kona title holder from T1 to T2, Boardman Bikes has quite a responsibility on its shoulders. With all eyes on Pete Jacobs, Boardman had a great opportunity to dazzle the world with a new bike. And boy, have they delivered! The new TTE is a really great entry into the world of modern tri bike designs. It’s sleek, minimal, highly integrated, and purportedly pretty easy to fit.
We had an opportunity to take some time out with the bike, so we took it over to the beach and had a field day shooting it. This article is just meant to be a “First Look,” and won’t be an in-depth kind of review. I really do want to give this bike its due time with a real review, hopefully some time down the road. For now, I’ll provide what commentary I can
One of the most striking aspects of the TTE’s design is just how stripped-down it is in appearance. The finished bike basically looks like a bare frame with wheels. That’s AWESOME, and it’s quite an accomplishment. Here’s why: the more “fully-integrated” tri bikes become, the greater the risk that they turn into a visual mess. Take, for example, the Pinarello Bolide. The Bolide is a good-looking bike, but it’s an obvious example of an integrated rig. There are lines everywhere suggesting the mechanics underneath; the external steerer gets its own bright color plate, etc. It looks slippery, but it also looks very complicated. The TTE, on the other hand, is brilliant in its minimal design and clean lines.
And make no mistake, this level of cleanliness is NOT easy to achieve. As is often attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Let’s break down just one component – the seatpost – to see how that plays out. The original AiR TT seatpost telescoped into the bike at an angle ot 76 degrees relative to the horizon. It had a pretty substantial offset allowing effective angles of perhaps 72 to 80 degrees, but that offset tends to look a little busier than a zero-offset post. The new TTE seatpost telescopes at exactly 78 degrees, which itself is more conducive to an effective tri bike fit, no offset or fussing necessary. This new post has different offset positions, but by telescoping at an angle closer to what the rider will actually be riding, the bike gets to shed some of its complexity, its weight, and its busy aesthetic. Moreover, the new seatpost ditches the two-bolt rear-address seatpost clamp mechanism for a side-address internal wedge. The result is sleeker and more minimal than the original, and probably lighter as well.
That minimalist ethos carries throughout the bike. Not a single cable is visible, because they are all brilliantly hidden within within the aerobar/stem combo and the frame. The bike The front brake, a custom-built piece integrated into the TTE fork, keeps the cable brilliantly hidden as well, ditching the hideous loop of sidepull cable housing in the original AiR TT. I haven’t had the opportunity to inspect the internals of that brake, but at the very least, everything is hidden VERY well.
The Boardman AiR TTE follows the integration story of many other modern tri bikes, perhaps the first of which was Trek’s Speed Concept. The aerobar, stem, and brakes are all integrated into the frame, forming a single cohesive unit that has exclusive compatibility throughout. That is, all the aforementioned parts MUST be sold together, and ONLY work with each other and nothing else.
Usually, the biggest issue with highly integrated bikes is how easy or difficult the assembly and adjustment of the bike actually is. That much is something I’d have to see in person by building the bike up. At present, all I can say is that it LOOKS like it’ll be great. But final judgment will have to be reserved for a full-on review, if and when I get one of these beauties to play with.
The other thing that makes my eyebrows rise is the question of front fork aerodynamics – how does the TTE fork work with the TTE down tube? Looking at the bike side-on, the TTE fork doesn’t look as well-thought-out as, say, a Cervelo FK26 (which you see on the Cervelo P3, P4, and S5). It’s not that the fork looks unaerodynamic – in fact, it looks great all by itself. But I worry about how it works within the context of the whole bike. That is, it doesn’t look like a perfect match for the TTE down tube in the same way that you see on the Cervelo frames using the FK26. Other frame manufacturers also worry abut this kind of integration. See, for example, the Felt DA, B2, and now IA. Or look at the Specialized Shiv. All these bikes have front forks that mate beautifully with their respective down tubes. This is a detail you don’t see in the Boardman TTE. Maybe it’s not that big a deal, but I’d like to know for sure. I want to know exactly what these design differences mean in terms of drag, especially when so many well-regarded manufacturers are going through the trouble of designing their frames to better mate with the front forks.
In the end, there’s very little that I know about this bike right now. That is, the integrated bar/stem combo looks beautiful, but what are all the ins and outs? What’s the weight? Bolt count? Clamping mechanism? I really want to see all these things before rendering my verdict on the bike. Again, this means I really need to get my hands on a complete bicycle. For now, just enjoy the images, and best of luck tomorrow morning for all the athletes we know and love. Maybe Mr. Jacobs will defend his title and Boardman will have a big hit with the TTE.