Boardman Bikes are one of the newest brands in the market. But thanks to the name behind them – Chris Boardman is one of the few cyclists that the average Brit might actually be able to recognise – and the fact they’re sold through high street giant Halfords, they’ve achieved a good degree of brand awareness.
This prominence was increased by a gold medal-winning ride last year, and when we tested the £999 Boardman Team Carbon we gave it the unusual accolade of a 10/10 review, describing it as “fast and exciting, setting a new standard for £1000 road bikes”.
So what does the Pro Carbon give for your extra 500 quid? The frame has an upgrade from T700 to T800 carbon ﬁbre – the same material used in the ﬂagship Race Prepared model, the wheels are more expensive Ritcheys, and SRAM provides its Force groupset rather than the cheaper Rival.
With that in mind we naturally had very high hopes for this better-specced big brother. After all, the frame’s lighter, the kit’s better and while the price is higher than the Team, you’re getting an awful lot of bike for your cash. Or not much bike, if you look at it another way, as the overall weight is a scant 7.4kg, or just over 16lb.
Frame & fork: The lightweight, unidirectional carbon monocoque with Olympic heritage and full carbon fork is made for speed more than comfort (8/10)
Handling: Fast on the ﬂat, conﬁdent on the hills and a good descender. What more could you ask for? (9/10)
Equipment: The SRAM Force groupset is a high quality performer. The saddle and brakes are the only weak points (9/10)
Wheels: Ritchey wheels and Continental tyres combine to good effect (8/10)
When we ﬁrst rode the Boardman Pro we didn’t love it immediately in the same way that we loved the Boardman Team. It rode well, it never let you down, and it didn’t hang around, but it didn’t offer the Eureka moment the second you put your leg over it that some bikes do. Having said that, as more of us rode it over a period of several weeks, we slowly began to fall for its charms.
It was as if we were trying too hard, cranking away in an attempt to test its mettle when in reality it suits a smoother, more controlled pedalling style. If it was good enough for Nicole Cooke riding the wet course in Beijing last year, there was no reason it wouldn’t be good enough for Cycling Plus’s assembled testers.
One of our riders – an experienced racer – used it for several weeks of hard riding over a variety of terrain. He found it stable at whatever speed he rode it, and equally capable of tackling the steep, 20 percent plus Surrey Hills and their inevitable descents. Though he reckoned it really comes into its own powering along in a straight line, he also felt it would make an excellent all-rounder, capable of tackling the occasional time trial.
The SRAM Force groupset proved popular with pretty much everybody, although if you’re used to Campag and Shimano it might take a ride or two to get used to its shifting. The Boardman saddle (made by Velo) wasn’t universally popular – though most of the testers preferred it to Specialized’s Toupe on the Tarmac – and the only part of the setup that anyone felt was a bit of a letdown was the Tektro brakes, which lacked bite.
This really is a bike aimed at racing snakes rather than those looking for an armchair-comfort ride. As an all-round package, it is very hard to beat at the price.
Although Chris Boardman is well known, there could still be a perception problem for serious racers buying a bike sold through Halfords. It would be a shame if snobbery did come into play, as this is a bike good enough for racing, whatever the name on the frame and the place of purchase.