Earlier this year I made an unplanned purchase of a second hand TT bike, a Boardman Air TTE 9.8 (c2011 vintage), with some Zipp 808 wheels which I think are even older. Sadie (as I named her) will mean I can get into a better aero position and should be more aero than my road bike too. However. With one thing and another it has taken me two months to get it into a good state for riding. This post is intended half as a cautionary tale and half to document a specific issue with the front brakes on some Boardman bikes.
tl;dr: The design decisions taken on TT bikes mean unusual components are used. This makes it hard to find spares for older bikes. This can matter more than you’d expect.
The first issue was that some of the spokes had lost tension. I asked the local shop to sort that out and balance the wheel, which they did, but ended up breaking a couple of spokes in the process. They’re flattened steel spokes (and of an unusual length), and needed ordering in, so I left the wheel with them. Didn’t end up being a blocker in the end.
The next issue was that the cockpit wasn’t right for me, and the TT bar bolts were rounded out. Tried a number of tricks, including angle-grinding a notch in the bolt head and using a flathead screwdriver and using bolt extractor, before I ended up drilling the bolt heads off and extracting the bolts that way. Stock levels of Zipp risers and bolts are very low in the UK at the moment. I wasn’t able to find like-for-like bolts, but I’ve found that standard countersunk socket cap screws work OK. I transferred the Profile Design Sonic Ergo bars from my road bike and they work great. It’s the first time I’ve dealt with bar-end shifters, and I’ve now learned to be very, very careful to identify exactly which shifters I’m dealing with before messing with them. I found an exploded parts diagram for one kind of shifter, along with a warning that “the 5mm adjustment bolt should not be removed”, but no instructions for installation or adjustment. Also another manual for a SRAM shifter I thought was the right one, that instructed to remove a 5mm adjustment bolt to change the angle of the shifter paddle. The second one seemed more likely so I followed that. Error. Looking at the positives i) I learned why you shouldn’t remove the 5mm adjustment bolt, and ii) I already had an exploded parts diagram, which turned out to be useful 🤦♂️.
The biggest problem, though, was the front brake. When I needed to adjust the brakes to fit my cheap alu training wheels to the bike, I found that there were spacers missing and one of the springs was missing. Now, Boardman bikes at that period in history designed their own V brake to sit in a recess they’d sculpted in the back of the fork, because aero. At some point they switched the TTE 9.8 over to using a TRP v-brake of a similar design (although different size and mount diameter), but they kept using their own V-brake until at least 2016 in the T8 fork, as shown in this video:
I haven’t been able to find replacement springs for this component, or replacement brake assemblies Update: Halfords did eventually find the right part, so I now have an entire spare brake assembly :-) . I even explored getting bespoke springs made1, but in the end I somehow hit the right google search to get something that was close enough. So if you’re also looking for replacement springs for a Boardman TT bike that uses their own design V brake system, you can make do with the springs from an old Shimano Altus brake (BR-CT91-F, BR-CT91-R), with part numbers Y-8GK06000 and Y-8GK07000. I bought mine from Greenwich Market Trader. The original spring is both smaller in coil diameter and wire diameter, so I had to drill the existing spring leg holes, and use a bit of force to get the bolt to centre when assembling. But they’re on, and working well.
This experience has made me even more wary of the super integrated component direction bikes are going, especially in triathlon. It’s not just that they’re more awkward to work with - using special components also means it’s going to be hard to get spares, which ultimately reduces their useful life.
A friend recommended Small Order Springs & Pressings who were super helpful and gave me a very reasonable quote really quickly. If you’re looking to replace these springs here are the specs to save you some time with the calipers: The springs are 2.5 coil torsional springs made from 1.5mm wire. The legs are axial and arranged at 180° (although the offset doesn’t really matter). ↩︎