We've wanted to get our hands on the Boardman Pro Carbon ever since we saw it at the Boardman range launch last year, and now we have…
'What makes this bike so special?' we hear you ask. Well, it has the same unidirectional carbon frame as the bike bused by Nicole Cooke to do the double of winning the Olympic gold and the Road World Championships last year: that bike with SRAM Red and Zipp 404s will set you back £3299 which is pretty phenomenal in its own right, but this bike is less than half that at £1499.99.
Your money buys you a 16.2lb bike with plenty of options for further lighening in the future – we weighed the more expensive RP version at the launch and it came in at 14.8lb, it has to have weight added to make it UCI legal at the worlds and Olympics – that gives you some idea of just how light the frame is.
The Carbon Pro's frame is a monocoque construction (as is the fork) made from unidirectional T800 intermediate modulus carbon fibre – good stuff, originally developed for the aircraft industry. This is a shrewd choice of material for delivering a combination of high performance at a reasonable price. It's not the most cutting edge, highest modulus carbon fibre on offer which is no doubt reflected in the price, but is it more than capable for this particular application.
T800 combines high tensile strength with low weight and being unidirectional that strength can be added to the frame where it is needed most such as around the bottom bracket – the Pro's bottom bracket is an elegant looking affair -not chunky but with a deep junction between that broad down tube and the round seat tube and flatter boxier sectioned chainstays building plenty of torsional rigidity. This is a bike that Boardman has designed to allow you to get your power down quickly.
Frame details include the rear brake cable being internally routed through the top tube and the cabling for the front and rear mechs passing through the headtube and then taking a more standard external route along the bottom of the down tube.
Other manufactures will tell you that the reason Boardman bikes are such good value is that they don't have an R&D department, they simply follow the latest developments from those that do. That may be so but Boardman certainly wouldn't be alone in that. R&D department or not no doubt Chris Boardman has access to British Cycling's equivalent of Area 51. It's also the case that if you can combine a good knowledge of bike design and performance with the fact that the big bike factories essentially keep pattern books for building every bit of a frame allowing you to have a bit of 'this' and a smattering of 'that' you can build a bike that will deliver cutting edge levels of performance at a very competitive price indeed.
As it happens our Pro Carbon is parked up next to a Cervelo S3 and there are some interesting similarities: yes, the Cervelo's down tube is even deeper than the Boardman's and its seat tube more elliptical but where they all come together around the bottom bracket area is jolly similar on both bikes… the Cerverlo too has external cable routing through the top tube – the cabe enters at the bottom of the tube and exits at the top, the reverse of the Boardman, but then so is the profile of the top tube.
We'll talk more about the ride qualities in the full test, but for now let's have a quick look at the rest of the spec – that after all the main reason Boardman are able to offer a bike with a frame of this pedigree for such a relatively small amount of money.
Drivetrain is courtesy of SRAM using their Force 10spd front and rear mechs plus shifters, pulling a SRAM S900 53-39 carbon chainset, the bottom bracket is SRAM's too the 12-25 rear cassette and chain are Shimano and stopping is taken care of by Tektro's Ultralight R740 brakes.
The headset is by FSA and comes with a generous stack of carbon spacers. The fork is Boardman's own brand and as mentioned earlier is a monocoque affair made from the same unidirectional carbon fibre as the frame. It's a fairly deep bladed affair which looks like it should ride plenty stiff and track over pretty much anything the road can throw at it.
Wheels are Ritchey WCS semi-deep rims, 16 hole at the front and 24 at the back, on Ritchey hubs laced up with double butted stainless steeel spokes – we had issues with our front wheel straight from the box with a couple of spokes being looser than we'd have liked. Tyres are Continental Ultra Race with a wire bead, more from the budget end of the Conti range, but certainly not budget tyres and okay for a bike at this price point. That said if you wanted to drop weight from the Carbon Pro the wheels would be the obvious first place to look to do it.
The rest of the finishing kit, is all by Ritchey: Ritchey Pro handlebars and WCS stem and seatpost, the saddle is an Arionesque own brand affair.
Look out for a full test soon.
Tony has been editing cycling magazines and websites since 1997 starting out as production editor and then deputy editor of Total Bike, acting editor of Total Mountain Bike and then seven years as editor of Cycling Plus. He launched his first cycling website - the Cycling Plus Forum at the turn of the century. In 2006 he left C+ to head up the launch team for Bike Radar which he edited until 2008, when he co-launched the multi-award winning road.cc - which he continues to edit today. His favourite ride is his ‘commute’ - which he does most days inc weekends and he’s been cycle-commuting since 1994. His favourite bikes are titanium and have disc brakes.