Boardman’s new prototype gravel bike is basically a ’90s mountain bike, but is that a bad thing?
While attending this year's Dirty Reiver gravel event, we had a chance to catch this prototype Boardman flat-bar gravel bike that Boardman’s Product Manager Matt Dowler was proudly showcasing at Kielder.
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You might be thinking, isn’t this a hardtail mountain bike? It’s exactly what Dowler said has been Boardman's inspiration for the prototype, which offers a little more front-end grip and comfort than the brand's ADV gravel bike.
There is no hiding the fact that this bike's geometry is very akin to an old-school hardtail, the tyre width is similar and the tracks and trails it's best suited for are very much the same. The bike has a 70-degree head angle and is equipped with a RockShox Rudy fork with 30mm of travel for extra squish and grip at the front. The bars are 700mm wide for a more upright position and calmer handling - and as Dowler pointed out, make a good option for anyone suffering from back problems.
Dowler, and Boardman in the press info, didn't seem concerned about the mountain bike resemblance of the TRVL but was rather embracing it: “Isn’t UK gravel just people rediscovering that old school XC is super fun on a bike that’s not a mega slack trail slayer? Modern hardtails are great but mile-long reach and tonnes of wheel flop from the rad head angle is a bit of a drag when they aren’t pointed downhill on twisty singletrack. Whilst we can’t say 100% for certain what gravel really is, it’s not that!
"We’ll take disc brakes which actually work, tubeless tyres which don’t pinch tubes and a dropper post over your 90s museum piece any day. We might just steal the colourway though, that’s timeless!" the brand concluded.
On the prototype, there is space for 50mm tyres and Dowler had equipped it with some Goodyear Connectors for the 130km route that he completed in the very grim conditions that the riders were facing on Saturday.
Shifting was a setup of Shimano Deore XT LinkGlide components paired with an 11-50T cassette and Shimano GRX chainset with a 40T chainring for easy gears on the hills.
While the prototype utilises external cabling, this might change when the final bike breaks cover. There are both flat- and drop-bar versions of the TRVL in the pipeline and Boardman says availability can be expected towards the end of the year.
My 90s Kili is super fast and around 22lbs with the Pace forks..... use it as the spare in cross racing, great bike.
It's actually quite a popular thing to do. I do it all the time, and whole lot of other people do too. Search for 'mtb rebuilds' or 'monstercross' and you'll find big community of people doing just that.
I ride my '94 Raleigh Dyna-Tech titanium mtb, now with faster tires, a 1x drivetrain and a dirt drop bar as a gravelbike, and it's awesome. Cheap, simple, easy to maintain, and superfun to ride.
Because 'more capable' doesn't mean more fun. It's overkill for the trails they intended this for. It's like riding over a twig with a tank… where's the fun in that?
Look up 'underbiking', that's the concept (and it's awesome).
I think they've been keeping an eye on Francis Cade. He had a video where he bought a 90s mountain bike off ebay for a small handfull of cash then either upgraded or restored it with some modern tech to make it a fun little gravel bike.
I'll have to check out the video again.
I'm actually a bit of a fan of this bike.. it's not 'pretending' to be something that we don't need.. instead it appears to be a bike made for the UK market, and I'd hesitate for a lot of the UK probably better suited than most non extreme mtb weekly rides. I bet it'll be good value and I bet with a nice set of wide flared drop bars it'll look the business.
And why have a hard tail 90's MTB with stupidly short travel when for a probably a bit less you can have a much more versatile XC 120+mm machine?
I'm gonna say it... Drop handlebars is a requirement to be defined as a gravel bike. Just is. Those are the rules (that I've just made up).
If it's got flat bars, it's a hybrid if it doesn't have suspension, and a hardtail mountain bike if it does.
Hence, this looks like a 90"s mountain bike because it is a 90's mountain bike.
Sorry, just the way it is. I don't make the rules, apart from when I do, but when I do, I'm just right... You all know it.