There's no getting around the fact that Boardman produces some of the most important mountain bikes on the UK market. Its value-orientated line of hardtail and full-suspension models are some of the nation's bestsellers, and their prominence in Halfords stores undoubtedly brings a large number of riders into the sport each year.
Following a rebrand a few months back, Boardman has now announced its latest collection of bikes. Naturally, when the call came, BikeRadar was more than happy to take a trip to Wales to give some of them a go.
Coming soon to a Halfords near you, the new Boardman Pro FS
Arguably the most important bike in the range, and the one we think will stir most interest, is the latest version of its MTB Pro FS full-suspension bike. 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 though, componentry changes among other tweaks mean this bike is a very different proposition to the outgoing model.
For the £1,500 retail price the spec sheet is impressive: there’s a RockShox Pike up front, SRAM’s excellent 1x11 SRAM GX transmission and similarly rated four-piston Guide brakes. The shock is also from RockShox, namely a Monarch RL that offers a compression switch as well as the usual rebound damping adjustment.
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 the current 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. Our size large (19in) test sample tipped the BikeRadar scales at 28.79lbs (13kg) sans pedals, an impressive number.
Large size (19in) frames get an extra gusset above the top tube
The shock position has also changed, making for a reduced leverage rate. According to Boardman engineers, these changes make for a bike with improved small-bump sensitivity without hitting on the rear end’s reaction to pedalling forces. The Pro model also gets a 142x12mm thru-axle rear end and its front triangle does away with a front derailleur mount. All FS frames are also compatible with internally routed dropper posts.
Other notable components are the Mavic XM319 wheels which are wrapped in 2.2in Continental Trail King tyres, and the FSA crankset, which gets a 32t ring as standard. Those who aren’t fond of creaks (AKA most of us) will be delighted to know the FS frames also use a regular, threaded bottom bracket shell.
Don’t worry, there’s still one for a grand
The £999 Boardman Team FS
For a lot of people £1,500 is still too much, and Boardman knows that, so next up there’s the £999 Team FS. For a quid under a grand it appears Boardman has done well to configure this bike too. Spec highlights include a RockShox Sektor air fork, a Monarch R rear shock and more SRAM GX, although cost restrictions mean it’s the 2x10 configuration. As well as having a front derailleur mount, the Team FS also gets a quick-release rear end rather than the bolt-thru item found on the more expensive bike.
You’ll still get the same rims and tyres but the brakes go down to Avid’s more affordable DB1 components. You’re still getting the same finishing kit too, which includes a usefully wide 740mm handlebar. Seating comes in own-brand form for the Team whereas the Pro gets a fancier offering from Prologo.
Enough of that, how does it ride?
I got a go on the new Pro FS around an incredibly gloopy Welsh testing ground – and came away impressed.
The largest size bike was barely big enough for my gangling 6ft 3in / 190cm stature but its wide bar and short stem made for a familiar feel right away. The 32t ring is a sensible choice and should allow most riders to enjoy the wide-range one-handed control and security offered by the 1x transmission. The GX gearing makes for a very quiet ride too, and I’m a big fan of quiet bike.
The impressive suspension allowed us to make the most of the modest grip on offer from the OE tyres. They’d be the first thing I’d swap, but who specs OE tyres that are actually great anyway?
Thing is, aside from that, it’s all good proven parts on this bike. I enjoyed my brief time with the Boardman, and I really didn’t have to think about much other than riding it – and that’s what I’d like to think we all want out of a bike.
It’s a well-rounded package that offers genuinely impressive value for money. Lanky chaps may well require a bike with a bit more length, though. I'm keeping hold of it so will keep you guys posted on how it performs.