Boardman HT Pro Carbon - First ride review£1,600.00

Race ready carbon hardtail

BikeRadar score4/5Find prices on Bicycle Blue Book

This is the first of a rash of all-new, designed-from-the-ground-up carbon fibre Boardmans; all hardtails at first, with full-suspension bikes to follow soon. This particular model is part of the Performance series, which uses 120mm-travel forks. The purist Elite series uses 100mm ones for a lower, more taut cross-country race appeal. We think the Pro is a more useful option for most riders.

It's a friendly, rideable and rewarding bike, whether you’re trying to set a lap time or just out to have a great time. It can cope with any trail ride but can be easily persuaded to gallop along like a mad thing. All it needs is a couple of tweaks to the cockpit. We think the carbon fibre Boardmans will fly out of the stores as fast as the alloy framed versions have, so if you like it like we do, you'll need to move quickly.

Ride & handling: Racing or just riding... you pick

We jumped on to ride our medium-sized model, then jumped off to lower the riser bar right down the long steerer. We also took a moment to swap the stem for a shorter 80mm version, and suggest you ask Halfords to do the same for you. The bike rides much better with less weight over the front.

We immediately gave praise to the precise steering of the boxy but airy-feeling carbon frame which allowed us to pin straight through smooth lines and tuck neatly into successive blind turns – trusting that the front wheel would stick and hold.

We haven’t had the opportunity to pin a number on the HT Pro yet, but it's been soundly rallied on tight, rooty singletrack. We’ve had no mud either, not that it would have bothered the bike much as it’s been graced with gobs of room in the rear end to take a dirt swollen 2.2in tyre without gumming up.

The bike weighs a reasonable 23.8lb (10.8kg) without pedals, and the light 28x36T bottom gear makes short work of grinder climbs. It wouldn’t take too much imagination or investment come component upgrade time to envisage losing a pound, or even two, from that, which would plaster an even bigger grin across your face.

It’s not all been plain sailing, though – all our testers felt the stem was over-long and some felt the front tyre wasn't big enough. Given the bike’s line hitting ability, we'd like a 2.3in one. Some riders have also worried about the ‘hollow’ sounds from the large diameter, thin walled carbon frame when battering over loose surfaces.

The claimed comfort-adding vertical flex was felt by some and not by others. The chassis has, so far, given no cause for concern, though it's a bit noisier than most other carbon frames we've ridden in this respect.

Frame & equipment: Precise steering and faultless transmission

The Performance and Elite frames, while differing in carbon layup according to Boardman’s designers – we think a Jeremy Kyle Show style DNA test would prove they’re twins – definitely share the same geometry. Or they would… The 20mm longer fork on the HT Pro nudges the head angle back to 69° from the 70° of the Elite models.

For most riders, even racers, this extra travel and the easing of the steering speed is welcome. Even for traditional head down/bum up cross-country racers the adjustment isn’t going to throw too much of a curve ball and might even serve to let them ride faster for longer than on the shorter-forked Elite.

The combination of tapered head tube and QR15 through-axle fork planted our narrow Continental Mountain King 2.2in tyres right on target, nailing ‘locals only’ lines every time. The SRAM X9 transmission was faultless. It’s a touch less slick than the company’s top end XX group, but not so much that you will lust after a change.

It’s worth noting two small features that add to the enjoyment of the ride. The first is the internal cable routing, which makes for a really clean looking ride with no annoying cable rub to ruin the frame finish. The second is the direct-mount front mech, which thanks to the built-in alignment shifts awesomely fast.

Ritchey kit adorns almost all Boardman bikes, in all genres, and we have no complaints about that as it’s all well-made, tough trail-worthy kit. However, this isn’t Ritchey kit, it just looks like it. The logos of the Boardman own brand kit are very similar, down to the WCS-a-like world champs stripes. The Boardman kit is still sound but just be aware of the marketing subterfuge.

If we squint we can see the bike as we'll have it in a year or so with a trimmed-up set of cockpit kit, different rubber and maybe some lighter wheels on standby for those racy days.

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