Boardman recently revamped its popular line of mountain bikes, and here we have its range-topping full-suspension offering. This new model gets a slightly longer fork than the bike it supersedes, so it’s now a 140/130mm, 650b format. Don’t let the familiar looks fool you - componentry changes among other tweaks mean this bike is a very different proposition to the outgoing model.
Yes, the frame of the Pro FS looks familiar, but you’d be mistaken if you thought it was just a fresh lick of paint over last year’s bike. In fact, Boardman has made a lot of changes including going a touch slacker at the head angle (now 67.5 degrees) and a touch steeper at the seat tower too. Each of the three sizes available now gets 10mm more length in the top tube; that’s to match up with shorter, 50mm stems, which are now standard across all sizes.
Revised suspension and superb spec
The suspension has also been revised, with a reduced leverage ratio for improved small-bump sensitivity through the 142x12mm thru-axle rear end. The FS frame is also ready to accept a dropper post and, thanks to its 1x drivetrain, the front triangle goes without a front derailleur mount. We think Boardman made a good choice to stick with a regular, threaded bottom bracket shell, too.
A stout head tube gives plenty of stiffness
For a penny under £1500 the Pro FS offers an astonishing level of kit: there’s a RockShox Pike RC up front, SRAM’s excellent 1x11 SRAM GX transmission and similarly rated four-piston Guide brakes. A RockShox Monarch RT shock offers a compression switch for improved pedalling, as well as the usual rebound damping adjustment.
Boardman’s own-brand finishing kit has taken a step in the right direction for 2016 too, getting a wider, 740mm handlebar to match with the aforementioned 50mm stem. A branded Prologo saddle is another spec highlight, although many riders will want to swap out the alloy seatpost it’s attached to for a dropper item almost immediately. The FS Pro rolls on Mavic’s dependable but dull XM319 wheels, which are shod in 2.2in Continental Trail King tyres.
A top ride, if it fits
Take a seat on the new Boardman FS Pro and its wide bar and short stem immediately hint at playful intentions. It shouldn’t be a surprise to many that these tweaks make a real difference to the bike’s handling too – sharpening the steering and adding stability at the same time.
The Monarch RT shock gets a climbing switch along with the usual rebound adjustments
The 32t chainring of the FSA Gravity chainset is a sensible choice and should allow most riders to enjoy the wide-range one-handed control and security offered by the 1x transmission. Speaking of which, the SRAM GX components shift every bit as well as the rest of the SRAM 1x family and make for a very quiet ride too.
Despite a burlier build kit for 2016, the Pro FS has refused to put on weight – our size large test bike tipped the scales at around 13kg. This lack of heft also makes for a generally nimble feel and means you’ll embrace rather than endure the climbs.
The longer fork and resulting slacker steering mean the FS Pro is better suited than ever to take on rougher, steeper terrain. The stiff chassis of the Pike means steering accuracy is on point too. It’s not a faff to get sorted either – simply stick the correct pressures at each end, set the rebound dials to your preference and go and enjoy the trails.
The 2016 Boardman Pro FS is a nimble, playful beast
The Monarch at the rear does a particularly good job of making the most of the modest grip on offer from the OE tyres – which themselves are a weak point and are the first thing we’d recommend swapping out. Scrubbing speed is never a problem thanks to accurate and consistent control from the SRAM Guide R stoppers – and their reach adjustment is great for accommodating different sized hands.
By matching sweet handling characteristics to single ring simplicity and a sorted suspension setup Boardman has really hit a sweet spot with this bike. Budget for a replacement set of tyres and you’ll have a machine that’s currently unbeatable for the price. Better still, brand snobs could quite easily spend twice the retail price on a bike other than this one that doesn’t ride as well.
So, why not five stars? Well, Boardman’s decision to still run with just three sizes on the FS range mean that the taller among us are forced to feel cramped on the large sized frame, and when you’re spending this much money – however much value you're getting for it – then you really need something that fits.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.