Boardman URB 8.8

One look at the Boardman URB 8.8 and you're not really thinking towpath ambles and parkland potters. This might fall into the ever-expanding category of bikes known as 'hybrids' but it's still a machine that appears built for speed. Hop aboard, and that's not an impression that disappears.


This is a bike designed to race through the urban jungle. The small rear triangle and relatively short chainstays – at least, short by hybrid standards – allow for ultra-efficient efforts away from a standstill and the ability to hit a high-speed cruise with ease. Climbing is suitably rewarding too: more inclined to promote dancing out of the saddle than simply spinning or grinding gears.

The aluminium fork means the front end is responsive. Handling is lively and direct but never falls into the realms of flighty, it simply goes where you want it to without ever having to be asked twice. In fact, the URB 8.8 is so good that it's tempting to start thinking what it would ride like with a drop handlebar fitted... Okay, I know that would totally miss the point of riding a hybrid, but it is a testament to the fact that this is a fairly sexy, fast hybrid.

So far, so good. And if your hometown is a fairy dairy land where rough surfaces and ferocious potholes are banned, this is the bike for you. But let's assume you live in the real world. In which case, the URB 8.8 can at times feel a little harsh. Despite the Vittoria Zaffiro Pro tyres at least nodding towards a spot of bump insulation with their 32mm width, there isn't really anywhere to hide from road imperfections.


I used the words 'sexy' and 'hybrid' in combination above, and it's really not an oxymoron anymore. Until a couple of years ago, the BMC Alpenchallenge was hands-down the most exciting-looking urban cycle. Now other hybrid manufacturers have joined in with aggressively under-sized rear triangles, not least Boardman. I would even go so far as to say that this URB frame has usurped the BMC and taken the top spot in my top-10 sexiest hybrids.

Old-school frame aficionados who like round tubes – and why not? round is strongest after all – won't be impressed by the variety of hydroformed aluminium frame shapes. But it would take a heart of steel to not admit this is an incredibly pretty bike and, as we've discovered, it's not found wanting when it comes to strength. In any case, round tubes largely make up the seat tube and stays.


Certainly, the URB 8.8's beauty is more than skin deep – literally – with internal cable routing for both rear brake and derailleur adding to the classy build. Similarly, in a game of 'Snog, Marry, Avoid', there's enough potential in the build to ensure the URB 8.8 isn't the subject of just a brief dalliance. With a 1x11 SRAM NX1 gearset and SRAM Apex chainset, hydraulic disc brakes, tubeless-ready wheelset and a retail price of a penny off £700, the URB has enough long-lasting excitement to warrant putting a ring on it, or at least a holding deposit. Indeed, despite the 1x11 format being thoroughly of the moment, the choice of 44T chainset with 11-42T rear block suggests this is a machine ready for the long haul and suitable for a lifetime of cycling duties.

The biggest sprocket at the back will cope with fairly serious climbs, or you can make use of the rear rack mounts and carry a bit of weight without fear (it's roughly the same as 34x32 on a typical compact double with 11-32 cassette). Meanwhile, the smallest sprocket provides more than enough potential to break a 20mph urban speed limit (I got the URB 8.8 up to 30mph downhill and still wasn't quite spinning out.)
Speed is obviously what this bike is built for, so the inclusion of hydraulic disc brakes isn't surprising. I have always found Tektro rim brakes to be a case of nearly-but-not-quite compared to equivalent offerings from SRAM or Shimano, and it's a similar situation with Tektro hydraulic discs. They scrub speed off reasonably well but never feel like there's quite enough power or modulation to bring the bike to a halt really quickly and effectively.


I've mentioned that the 32mm Vittoria Zaffiro Pro tyres can't quite take the edge off many road imperfections but they do offer good grip on dry roads without compromising outright speed. The fairly responsive and sturdy Boardman wheels can also be run with tubeless rubber, so traction and puncture resistance should be easy to maximise. Aesthetically speaking, the modern-retro Boardman Canvas grips and saddle are very nice touches. The thin grips have the added advantage of making front-end control feel even more direct – I really like them.
With the saddle, it's a slightly different situation. This is the kind of seat some people would happily pay a premium for if the 'B' emblem stood for Brooks, and you'll probably need a few thousand miles aboard a leather saddle to feel at home on this. It's not very forgiving and I wouldn't blame new riders if they wanted to swap in something a little more padded.


In all, with a recommended retail price of just £699.99, this is a thoroughly impressive package that would blow the mind of a hybrid buyer twenty, ten, or possibly even just five years ago. If it's true that most bike buyers make their purchasing decisions with their eyes, the URB 8.8 will be flying out of shops almost as quickly as it travels on the road. If, however, new bike buyers use a more fundamental part of their anatomy to make purchasing decisions, they might take just a little more persuading.


Super-stiff, super-quick flat-bar road bike masquerading as an urban warrior that just falls down on comfort July 2018 - Full Review  Here