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Tipping the scales at 15.9lbs, equipped with a SRAM Force groupset and finished off with Ritchey's WCS range the Boardman PRO Carbon is a race bike to be reckoned with, regardless of price. This bike uses the same frame that Nicole Cooke raced on to win a gold medal in the Olympic road race and a road world championship.
I think it’s best if I come clean now – I like Halfords and I am proud to have my 5 year service badge. I think it’s wrong to boycott Boardman bikes just because they are only available from Halfords. It’s surprisingly little known that Halfords do not actually own Boardman bikes, just the retail rights. Boardman have their own R&D department and this bike is not the “off the shelf” job from Taiwan that most people think.
The PRO Carbon's frame is a unidirectional T800 carbon monocoque with some great features. Stylistically it is clean with sharp lines blended in nicely into overbuilt sections around the headset and bottom bracket. The frame features a neat approach to cable routing at the headset. Made possible by having a 1.5” lower bearing in the headset, the gear cable feeds through the headtube - an approach also used by Cervelo. This not only keeps the front end neat but eliminates cable rub. The rear brake cable is also internally routed.
The groupset and finishing kit have all the top brand hallmarks of a much more expensive machine. The SRAM Force drivetrain behaved impeccably, shifting is clean with a reassuringly positive feel through the shifters. The bike tested was actually a 2009. For 2010 there are only two notable changes. The bottom bracket gets revamped with a BB30 reducing the Q factor to a slim 143mm and can only improve the already excellent power transfer by further stiffening the business end of the bike.
It’s also out with the Tektro R740 brakes and in with SRAM Force dual pivots. This is a great move as the Tektro offerings have little to no power in the wet as I found out when descending Cheddar Gorge - luckily I had a grass verge run off which was soft enough to break my fall. The fault is more likely to be with the pad compound than the brakes themselves, even so this year's upgrade to SRAM brakes is a welcome one given their reputation as powerful stoppers. The 1.5” lower headset bearing gives a remarkably stiff front end, grab a fistful of front brake and the forks barely deflect. This is reassuring and shows the quality of the E2 design concept which has been well adopted by the Pro Carbon.
Ride quality is excellent. Vibration damping through the back end is good thanks to well designed seat stays and very comfortable Airone copy saddle by Velo. The geometry is definitely race orientated with a 555mm effective top tube length and a 110mm stem this may be a little aggressive for the long audax rider. At 5’10” the 54cm was a great fit and was comfortable for rides over 4 hours. Ritchey WCS seatpost and stem are excellent components, giving no problems throughout testing. Matched with a Ritchey Pro short reach bar, offering several comfortable hand positions, the finishing kit is again one associated with a more expensive bike. The bike tart in me would like to see a matching WCS bar but at this price I am not going to complain.
The down tubes surface area combined with the weight of the bike does mean it has a tendency to be blown about in strong winds. I think of this as a pleasant reminder of how light your bike is rather than an annoyance, but I'm one of those glass half full types and I was testing the bike during a very stormy couple of months.
At speed the handling is great. A large rake on the forks makes the bike most stable in a straight line, this makes cornering at speed with the bike leant over as far as you dare great fun. It really rewards being ridden hard like any race bike should. At slow speeds the handling is a little unresponsive, that larger rake and trail (larger by 5mm and 7mm than a Trek Madone) takes more turning through the bars at slower speeds around town, however the Boardman Pro is not designed as a shopper so it only lets itself down when fighting your way out of town. It goes without saying that at 16lbs this bike loves to climb, rest assured it will only be your lungs holding you back.
The wheelset comprises a Ritchey WCS rim built on to unbranded sealed bearing hubs. The spoke tension slipped pretty quickly resulting in a lost spoke on a ride. I don’t think they are really race ready wheels but good runners none the less, once re tensioned have run straight and true through the nastiest of winter roads. Over 600 miles I have only had the misfortune of one puncture, the Continental Ultra Sport tyres are a great all rounder.
It is worth mentioning that on the wettest of rides the bike floods. I would estimate about 300-500ml of water collects in the BB area. Without a drain hole this leaves the water sloshing around until the next ride where it seems to works its way out somehow. This could have been sorted for 2010 but may see you replacing BB bearings more regularly if you regularly ride in the rain.
Regardless of little niggles with wheels and flooding I have certainly had a great experience riding the Boardman Pro C. It doesn't ride like a £5000 superbike but at £1600 offers unrivaled affordable race winning performance. Put a set of racing wheels on and you will have a real contender against any bike. You could even pay for the wheels from your first year’s race winnings.
This is not to be confused with a super bike and it does have its fair share of niggles, however if you are racing on a budget then look no further. This is a super light exceedingly well designed race bike delivered at £1600 with a frame that's already got an illustrious racing pedigree
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Make and model: Boardman Pro C
Size tested: 54cm
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
unidirectional T800 carbon monocoque frame and fork
Full Sram Force groupset
Tektro R740 brakes (Sram for 2010)
Ritchey WCS rims on unbranded sealed bearing hubs
Continental 23C Ultra Race tyres
Ritchey WCS Seatpost and Stem
Ritchey Pro short reach bar
CBoardman Saddle - airone shape made by Velo
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
This is aimed at racers. This is the same frameset as used by Nicole Cooke in her famous Olympic victory in the rain… wonder if her bike was carrying extra water at the end of the race?
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
A fresh approach to cable routing at the headset and internal routing for the rear brake are some of the features which punch well above the price tag of this bike
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Excellent quality unidirectional T800 carbon monocoque frame and fork giving a combined weight of 3.3lbs
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Has a racey back end with a relativley short 405mm chainstay.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
This was the 54cm. With a 560mm effective top tube length and 700mm overall reach the bike is set up for racing.
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
The bikes geometry is perfect for me which is the most important factor in comfort. This coupled with a well designed seatstay and the result is real pleasure to ride
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Thanks to a well thought out and over built BB area ga
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Thanks to a well thought out and over built BB area the power transfer is excellent
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Neutral
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
Steering which is most happy at speed thanks to the large rake on the fork keeping it stable once the wheels are up to speed
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
Bar tape is uber thin. A bit more cushioning would be nice
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
1.5" lower headset bearing gives and outrageously stiff front end under braking. 2010's introduction of BB30 is a great addition.
Really solid feel in all the right places
This bike is super light
Frame and crank combo give effective transfer but wheels let the sprinting down. Best done on the drops as handling is much better for sprinting down low
This bike loves to fly
At lower speeds feels great riding on the tops
Handling is slow at low speed. Clearly the handling is not based around popping to the shops on
Most happy at speed
Can really point this where you want it going down.
At 16.2lbs the only thing stopping you is your lungs
Still running great after loads of abuse
over £700 worth of running gear
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
I personally find Sram systems a little slow shifting down from the big ring. 2010 improvements to BB30 is an excellent move
These are no race day wheels in my eyes and watch out for spoke tension as it slipped out pretty quick
Sealed bearings are still running smooth as ever and I have really battered the tyres with only 1 puncture : )
Good weight but purists may want something better for racing
Tell us some more about the wheels and tyres.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels or tyres? If so, what for?
Would only change for racing. Fine wheels for riding and training but do watch for the spokes
Great looking and performing part selection. Had no slippage from the seatpost or stem.
Can't really argue with the weight of any WCS part
A carbon post would be an obvious comfort upgrade. The bar is great shape offering several comfortable positions
Dont expect to see this mix of Ritchey at this price tag
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
Would be nice to see a WCS bar to match the seatpost and stem but at this price I'm not complaining. Saddle was great shape for me but is not quite as nice as an Airone
Anything else you want to say about the componentry? Comment on any other components (good or bad)
Extra barrel role adjusters on the cables are unnecessary weight and faff. Bike would look cleaner without.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Loved it
Would you consider buying the bike? I want this one!
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? All of my friends
Anything further to say about the bike in conclusion?
Regardless of your opinion of Halfords you can't argue with the quality and value of this bike. One of the best bikes I have ever ridden regardless of price. A real race thoroughbred that rewards when ridden hard
Age: 22 Height: 5\'10\" Weight: 78kg
I usually ride: Carrera My best bike is: Rotwild RCC 1.3 Topeak Ergon team
I've been riding for: 5-10 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, mtb,