Given how many UK riders build themselves 120mm hardtails, it’s surprising that there aren’t more of them available off the peg, but it’s a category that the biggest manufacturers pretty much ignore. Boardman, however, have fully embraced the style, with all of their (expanded and redesigned) 2011 hardtail line going long.
Boardman’s 2011 range is proving extremely strong, and the HT Pro is another winner. The frame finish may not be to all tastes, but there’s no arguing with the sheer value for money. It’s not just great on paper, though – the Boardman has a confident, neutral feel and works well across a wide range of conditions.
Ride & handling: Sorted, trail-friendly handling
The Boardman plays right down the middle of distinctly racy and borderline hooligan. Boardman’s UK-centric design is right on the money, with well-balanced and confident handling making it an excellent all-rounder. The excellent RockShox Reba fork helps a lot – it’s a significant step up from the Recon usually found at this price in terms of control.
The Boardman’s svelte weight definitely helps its trail manners – it’s one of the lightest hardtail bikes at this price by some margin. When it comes to acceleration and climbing, low weight counts for a lot, and you would certainly not be disadvantaged rolling up to a start line on this. The HT Pro never feels flimsy, though, with the frame proving suitably solid. It’s not shy of being pushed hard into corners and there’s no shortage of stomp-and-go potential.
Frame: Well thought out carbon-look chassis
We’ll get this out of the way first – no, it’s not carbon fibre. We only mention it because pretty much everyone who saw the HT Pro asked if it was. The frame’s actually aluminium, but with the tubes joined with a multi-pass welding process that results in smooth, flowing lines. It’s a look that divides opinion – plenty of people loved it, but some prefer their aluminium bikes to look like aluminium bikes and thought the carbonesque look was a bit fake. Whether they’d have thought the same had it not been painted black is hard to say.
Aesthetics aside, it’s a well thought out frame. Starting at the lowest point, there’s an oversized BB30 bottom bracket shell, an unusual feature on a bike at this price. Oversized BB30 bottom bracket shell accommodates a 30mm spindle for maximum crank stiffness, as well as giving more surface area to weld frame tubes to. Heading backwards are tall-but-narrow rectangular chainstays.
On the left is another fairly unusual (although increasingly popular) feature in the shape of a post-style brake mount inside the stays. Boardman has opted to mount the rear brake calliper inside the rear triangle, thus putting braking loads straight into the meaty chainstay rather than the seatstay The top of the seatstays looks like a wishbone, but in fact it’s a plate on top of conventional stays – Boardman’s smooth welding process blends it all in
The main triangle has subtly-shaped tubes, with top and down tubes both having a triangular cross-section – flat underneath for the down tube, flat on top on the top tube. Both tubes have gentle flaring, and there’s a gusset at the head tube/down tube junction. The lump that the gusset produces detracts ever so slightly from the general sleekness of the frame, but it’s not a big deal. All the cables and hoses route under the bottom bracket.
Equipment: Gobsmacking value for money
Boardman have a reputation for killer value, and the HT Pro will enhance that – it’s amazingly well-equipped for its price. It’s not just a couple of headline-grabbing pieces, either – the HT Pro has great spec everywhere you look, starting with the Reba RL fork, through the SRAM X9 transmission and FSA Comet BB30 twin-ring chainset to a decent wheel package and Avid Elixir R brakes.
Finishing kit is all Boardman-branded and perfectly good – you even get a carbon seatpost. The 2x10 transmission takes a bit of getting used to, initially feeling as if you’ve lost the middle ring that you used to be in most of the time. Once you realise that you can realistically use the entire cassette in either ring it makes a lot more sense.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.