Boardman’s off-road offerings are a relatively new venture and the Halfords-backed brand just keep springing surprise after pleasant surprise on us. We had high hopes for the aptly-monikered Pro and it didn’t disappoint.
Ride & handling: A revelation, in every sense of the word
We loved the Pro and have happily ridden it day after day. If the season had started we’d have taken it racing but instead settled for a few unintentionally fast rides where it successfully laid waste to erstwhile friends while retaining a cheery grin.
It’s managed to capture some of the old-school ‘tool for the job’ mentality that really makes a hardtail shine, and although having 100mm up front might sound limiting, it’s surprising what you can actually ride when you put your mind to it.
The delicate looks harbour a latent aggression that that sees you in the big ring more often than is wise and transforms scrabbly, tenuous ascents into reﬁned exercises in uphill poise. It’s tight, balanced and ﬂatters every spare watt of power out of your engine.
Frame: Clean and crisp, with great attention to detail
Straight out of the box this one is a stunner. White bikes have that enduring, undeﬁnable ‘thing’ – and manage to hang onto it even when plastered in a test’s worth of muck. The Pro drew admiring glances from all angles thanks to its good looks and, at just over 24lb, there’s a respectably racey frame at its heart.
It looks like the quintessential lightweight hardtail in proﬁle but from any other angle it’s obvious that serious work has gone into making it as stiff and light as is machinely possible.
From the severely ﬂattened diamond proﬁle top tube that’s wider than it is high to the ﬂared, oversized down tube, the single conventional tube proﬁle left on the bike is the seat tube.
The seatstays have just enough heel-clearing kink to keep us happy, chainstays are square proﬁle to kick back every scrap of power and the ﬂared head tube accommodates a sleek, tidy integrated headset.
Cutaway dropouts are an elegant touch, while a slightly offset seatstay/top tube junction underlines the contrast between skinny, buzz-killing stays and the burlier, stiffer front end and down tube.
Equipment: Flawless spec for the money
The build of the Pro is astonishingly good value: it might only give you a penny’s change from a grand but it wrings every advantage out of its spec.
RockShox’s Reba fork never fails to slap a big grin on our faces, and the Race variant here saves an ounce over the SL and features the external Floodgate adjustment.
It would be tempting to criticise the lack of remote lockout on a race-orientated bike but the fork’s more than good enough to render it redundant; compression damping is proper ‘set-and-forget’ perfect and, once you have the Floodgate threshold tweaked to perfection, you really won’t miss having a ﬁfth bit of handlebar furniture to smack your knee on.
Ritchey’s Pro seatpost, saddle and pleasingly comfortable mid-rise bar are in keeping with the overall speedy theme and, although it’s not as light as the carbon we’d no doubt be tempted to upgrade to, it isn’t going to hold you back.
Matching Ritchey XC Disc wheels are light and tough with double-butted stainless spokes, resilient rims and sealed cartridge bearings.
Continental Speed King 2.1in tyres are the only choice we’d query; they ﬁt the fast and light brief perfectly but are small with a very tall, narrow proﬁle, forcing us to run a higher tyre pressure than is comfortable. Fitting something marginally larger but, crucially, rounder in shape would up the Pro’s fun quota even further and, with a careful tread choice, shouldn’t impede rolling resistance either.
Forward motion is taken care of by a mixture of SRAM X.O and X9, with an attractive Truvativ Stylo GXP chainset drawing more lust.
Avid’s Elixir R brakes match neat, slimline levers with good stopping power. With 160mm rotors ﬁtted at both ends you’re not going to be hauling yourself up out of freefall with them without a struggle but they suit the ethos of the bike and we never really managed to outrun them.