Former road racing legend Chris Boardman’s line of Boardman bikes has become a byword for good design and excellent value.
The Pro 29er sits below the range topping, 27.5in-wheeled Pro Carbon but has a spec list that’s a marvel at the price.
Frame and equipment: neat looks and great components for the money
Brushed aluminium tubes and smooth-welded main joints create an interesting mash-up, blending the look of a traditional metal-tubed frame with the organic, flowing shape of a carbon chassis.
We’re not big fans of smoothed welds, but the ones that are left – at the rear dropouts and oversized bottom bracket – look neat, if a little chunky. It’s certainly a good looking frame.
Asymmetric chainstays with a huge non-driveside dropout create room for an inboard rear brake mount, adding to the Boardman’s sleek looks. The ‘wishbone’ seatstays are deceptive though – they’re actually standard stays joined with a plate at the top. We’re not sure what the point is, and the ‘Active Wishbone Design’ acronym and claims of added comfort leave us sceptical.
The ‘wishbone’ seatstays are actually standard stays joined with a plate at the top:
We’re not totally convinced by Boardman’s claims of added comfort from the ‘Active Wishbone Design’ seatstays
A transmission based around Shimano’s peerless Deore and XT groupsets is more than you could reasonably expect at this price, though the hubs are no-namers and the double crankset has been switched for an FSA Comet.
A RockShox Reba fork with tapered steerer and 15mm axle serves up 100mm (3.9in) of smooth, easily adjustable travel, while Schwalbe Schwalbe Nobby Nic treads(in their harder Performance compound) on Mavic rims give an acceptable blend of fast-rolling pace and all-weather grip.
Boardman provides the bars and stem from its own stable – that’s an e4p sl 710mm bar and an e4p sl 70mm stem:
Boardman provides the bars and stem from its own stable – that’s an E4P SL 710mm bar and an E4P SL 70mm stem
The carbon seatpost is an easy-to-miss bonus, shaving some weight and adding a dose of vibration-absorbing comfort, but it’s worth mentioning that carbon kit needs looking after.
Ride and handling: easy-rolling trail miles
Our test bike weighed in at 12.25kg (27lb). For a sub-£1,000 29er that’s not bad, but there’s no doubt the Pro 29er’s relatively basic – and therefore heavy – wheelset blunts performance.
Where the Boardman scores is with absolutely sorted geometry. Perfect back/front weight distribution and a long front centre with relatively short stem provide a good balance of comfort, control and even fun. While it may lack the outright pace of a 29er race machine, the easy-rolling big wheels and surprisingly flick-able feel make for a versatile trail companion.
The boardman’s well-thought out geometry makes it a pleasure to ride in most circumstances:
The Boardman’s well-thought out geometry makes it a pleasure to ride in most circumstances
There are some caveats to bear in mind. The 2×10 transmission sacrifices some wall-climbing ability, which may be an issue if all-day trail rides out in big country are your thing.
The same elements that give it an athletic attitude to acceleration or altitude gain also make it a little unforgiving in rougher situations. The steering is well balanced and calm at speed, but the relatively narrow bar width and short fork travel do have an impact on the technical confidence of the Boardman.
It’s got a noticeably rigid ride feel too, which is great for precision but can be punishing on rockier sections, knocking you off line where rivals shrug through smoothly. Ground clearance is also limited for off piste pedalling.
Big wheels may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if easy-rolling trail munching is what you’re into and your budget is limited, this bike should definitely be on your shortlist.