Initial thoughts on the 2021 Boardman URB 8.8 Hybrid Bike

I picked up my Boardman URB 8.8 from my local Halfords on 5th February 2021, at the time there have been no reviews for the bike and nobody online has shared their thoughts on it. At the time of purchase I paid £700 for the bike but it is now selling a little higher at £750.

Boardman introduced their URB range of bikes a couple of years back with the differing factor from the HYB range being the low-maintenance hub gear system. Aside from the colour, what are the major changes for 2021? They’ve replaced the chain with a Gates Carbon Drive/Belt Drive.

In short that is the reason I bought this bike. I cycle to work and don’t stop cycling throughout the winter and although my road bike has a carbon frame the wheel clearances don’t allow for mudguards and get blocked with crud as shown below.

My Ribble Sportive with tight clearances blocked with winter debris..

A colleague of mines picked up a Cube Editor with the Shimano 11-Speed Hub with Belt Drive and highly recommended it. I’ve always liked my previous Boardman bikes so I thought at £630 (£700 with 10% off) I’d give it a go despite feedback from other owners and share my thoughts with you. At the time of writing I’ve covered 33 miles on the bike. If you’d like to see more of the actual bike itself I’ve uploaded a video with my initial thoughts that you can view below.

My first impressions video of the bike.

The is classified as a “hybrid” which is often something between a road bike and mountain bike, some hybrid bikes fall closer to one way or another – this is closer to the road bike style with it’s thin slick tyres and lightweight frame. The URB 8.8 comes with flat handlebars and 32mm Vittoria Zaffiro tyres which make it good for it’s use case.

Boardman brand this as an urban bike thanks to it’s low maintenance Shimano Nexus 7 internal gear hub (IGH) and even more low maintenance this year thanks to the implementation of the Gates Belt Drive. In the worst and wettest weather you can ride this bike to and from work and not worry about having to dry, clean or lubricate the chain when you get home. My commute is fairly short at 5 miles each way and lubricating the chain does get a bit boring when you have a wet ride day after day.

You may wonder why does every bike not come with this? I’ll not go too much into the detail but summarise it with two of the cons associated with this drivetrain – first the ratio/selection of gears are not as varied as with a derailleur setup which might find you spinning out on some downhill or working a little harder on the hills, the second is that the drivetrain is regarded as less efficient than a chain and derailleur setup. Neither of these downsides are a concern however if you plan to do urban and commuting rides on it.

Rear sprocket on Shimano Nexus 7 Hub with Gates CDN Carbon belt drive.

I plan to do a lot more than this on the bike however and in the coming weeks plan to do a number of 30 and 40 mile cycles with a few climbs and different road surfaces so I can truly share my honest review of the bike. At the moment I can tell you it’s great but 30 miles isn’t enough to provide an honest opinion.

Top tube frame welds.

Something I will call out as one of the only negatives I can find at the moment and that is the frame welds. I’ve had a number of Boardman bikes and the frame welds have always been outstanding, even others comment on this when they see the bikes however the frame welds on this one don’t look so great in my opinion.

Bottom bracket frame welds.

The rest of the bike though I really like. The matte green paint finish looks fantastic and the matte black components compliment it all very well. These bikes have a nice minimalist look to them like a fixie which I personally really like.

The bike is kitted out very well too with proper threaded mounts for mudguards and pannier rack, it has Tektro hydraulic disc brakes that I’ve found to work very well and on par with the Shimano versions fitted to my Voodoo Bizango.

Front musguard mounts on fork.

I opted to fit a set of Bontrager NCS mudguards to my bike which was a fairly straight forward and pain free process. The front mounts are very well placed meaning the mudguards don’t foul with the brake callipers.

Rear mudguard mount behind bottom bracket.

The second negative of the bike was the saddle, I rarely have pain riding a bike especially after a long break however I found the saddle on the URB 8.8 to be awful. I swapped this with my Spoon Charge and found the riding experience to be much better. As I plan to do some miles and hills on the bike I also fitted some Shimano M520 SPD pedals – I wear GoreTex cycling boots for cycling to work.

2021 Boardman URB 8.8 with Bontrager NCS Mudguards, Spoon Charge Saddle and Shimano M520 SPD Pedals.

So these are my initial thoughts on the 2021 Boardman URB 8.8. You may be wondering what the key differences are between the £525 URB 8.6 and the £850 URB 8.9;

Boardman URB 8.6 – Nexus 3 Hub and Chain Drive
Boardman URB 8.8 – Aline 8 Hub, Carbon Belt Drive, Carbon Fork & Shimano Disc Brakes

Both of these bikes are slightly lighter than the URB 8.8.

Feel free to check back, or follow my YouTube Channel for the full review of this bike when I’ve done a few hundred miles on it. I’ll hopefully have a sunny day for that!

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