If you want to put that race licence to good use, smash those Strava KOMs or just want a fast, comfortable, easy-to-ride road bike, then the Boardman Road Pro Carbon SLR needs to be on your shortlist. With a full-carbon frameset, SRAM Force groupset, Mavic Ksyrium wheels and weighing in at just 7kg (15.5lb), the SLR is a real contender even before you take the price into account – and that challenges even the direct-to-consumer specialists.
The Road Pro is a stunning bike to look at. That mirror effect silver paintjob makes it stand out, especially in the sunshine; you're going to get noticed for sure.
That beauty isn't just skin deep, though. In a cycling world where bikes are starting to cross as many disciplines as possible, the Boardman knows exactly what it is: a proper race bike that just begs to be ridden hard. It likes being on the tarmac, getting chucked downhill on the ragged edge of the tyre's grip, or being sprinted hard up that 20 per cent climb without the slightest hint of flex from the frame.
It's a chunky frame, which makes the first time you pick it up a bit of a shock – you just don't expect it to be so light – but it's also extremely balanced. Admittedly, SLR stands for Super Light Road, but I didn't know that at the time!
This obviously has a huge effect on sprinting, climbing and acceleration. Its box profile down tube, massive rectangular chainstays and oversized bottom bracket junction keep the frame from twisting under load, making for hugely efficient power transfer. The Boardman responds instantly and gets that effort down on the road. Even sprinting out of the saddle while in the drops, which often transfers a lot of weight to the front of the bike, doesn't see the rear tyre skipping about.
Boardman's designers have played a blinder when it comes to the handling and geometry. The head tube and seat tube angles mirror each other at 73 degrees, and with a top tube length of 55.5cm and head tube at 14cm, the riding position is long and low and pretty aggressive. The facts and figures pretty much mimic that of the Bianchi Specialissima, a pro peloton-ready speed machine, so the SLR certainly isn't going to disappoint you in the bunch.
In the twisty bits, whether on the flat or descending, the Boardman remains a very easy bike to ride fast. The majority of bikes we ride these days have a tapered head tube. The larger diameter at the bottom means a larger surface area and more material, equating to increased stiffness. The SLR uses a 1 1/8in top bearing with a 1 1/2in lower.
This comes into play when the turns are tight, with a direct, solid feel through the steering. It's never flustered by rough surfaces or even heavy braking, something that the SRAM Force brake callipers are very capable of.
The whole bike feels great at speed. The smooth ride quality of the frame gives you confidence to push the SLR hard into bends and back out the other side. There is a lot of feedback going on all the time; even though the frame seems to reduce a lot of the road buzz, it doesn't mute the actual feeling of what the tyres are doing on the road.
You can make quick corrections without upsetting the handling and even if you lose grip on a wet drain cover or painted road marking, the slide is controllable until traction returns. The Boardman won't 'snap' back either.
The Road Pro is a bike that everyone is going to find easy to ride yet exciting, whether you are a seasoned racer or novice newbie.
Don't go thinking it's all about out and out speed, though. The Boardman is happy to cruise for hours on end – cruise quickly mind, thanks to its minimal weight – but you don't need to be on the rivet to make it perform.
Century rides are well within its remit thanks to its overall comfort levels, and you could even upgrade the 25m standard tyres to some squidgy 28s to soften the blow a little more. The SLR certainly makes a rapid sportive machine.
At the heart of the Boardman is a C8 frame. Manufactured using Toray T800 grade carbon fibre, it has increased tensile strength and modulus over Boardman's entry-level carbon frame, the C7. Using a stronger and more resistant carbon fibre means Boardman can use less material – so, lighter without sacrificing stiffness.
The fork is full carbon too – well, minus the dropouts – and comes with a tapered steerer to match the head tube. The oversized crown diameter means the fork legs can be on the large side and they are certainly stiff. The SLR doesn't suffer from any noticeable flex under cornering or braking loads.
Boardman has gone for full internal cable routing, and that keeps the entire frame looking clean thanks to well-positioned entry and exit points.
The chainstays are massive, so big that there's no need for a chainstay bridge, and at the dropout end they're scalloped out to leave enough room for the cassette. You can see why power transfer through the rear wheel is so impressive.
When it comes to equipment, as mentioned above Boardman has gone for a full SRAM Force 22 groupset, which is impressive to see at this price point as it's a large chunk of the budget.
If you haven't ridden SRAM before, its gear shifters use what it calls DoubleTap. You push the paddle behind the brake lever a short swing for a shift in one direction, and a longer swing for the other direction. If you're a long time user of Shimano or Campagnolo it can take some getting used to, but soon becomes second nature.
The shifting itself is snappy, with a solid click at the lever as each gear change is made, but to my mind it doesn't feel as refined as Shimano Ultegra; the Force is a little clunkier.
The SLR is equipped with 52/36t chainrings, a range that has become known as semi-compact, sitting between the usual 50/34t compact or 53/39t traditional setup. Paired with an 11-28t 11-speed cassette, the gear ratios suit the Boardman's racing style with plenty of top end gears, with that 28-tooth sprocket offering something a bit spinnier for the hills.
That chainset includes carbon fibre cranks and it's certainly stiff; Shimano Dura-Ace is often touted as being one of the stiffest cranks out there, but I'd say the Force doesn't give much away.
As standard you get a SRAM chain catcher attached to the front mech to stop any damage to the carbon frame, which is good to see. There's also a replaceable gear hanger at the rear dropouts should you crash – the gear hanger will take the whack rather than writing off the entire frame.
The Force brake callipers are some of the most powerful dual pivots I've used, really slowing the bike quickly without any drama. You can leave braking right until the last minute, which means you can maintain a higher average speed through the bends, roundabouts and junctions as you only have to slow if you really need to rather than in preparation of something. Wet weather performance was pretty good too, thanks to the SRAM/Swiss Stop pads and they don't seem to be wearing too badly with all the wet gritty riding during testing.
Speaking of wet rides, one thing that has really impressed is that I haven't heard any squeaks or creaks come from the Press Fit 30 bearing cups; usually the rain can be their Achilles heel.
Wheel-wise, you get a set of Mavic's long serving Ksyrium Equipes. A hardwearing performance set of wheels, they are ideal for fast training and entry-level racing. They come as a wheel/tyre package like the majority of Mavics these days, and give an all-up weight of 2.3kg, not super-light but not a drag either. They are certainly robust and will give years of service.
I've ridden the Yksion tyres many times on various bikes and they aren't exactly my favourites, with sketchy grip levels in the wet and dry. I find they can break away quite easily, and although the Boardman made it very easy to correct, they aren't tyres I have complete trust in. For the high speed handling tests I swapped them out with some Michelin Pro 4s, which improved grip and confidence.
Other than the Prologo Nago Evo saddle (which is actually rather splendid, marrying that blend of minimal padding with comfort), the rest of the finishing kit is from Boardman.
A carbon fibre seatpost keeps weight down and is surprisingly comfortable considering its 31.6mm diameter. Manufacturers often spec a 27.2mm to promote flex, so it's a sign that the Boardman designers were happy with frame compliance.
The handlebar and stem are pretty basic aluminium affairs, but with subtle branding complete the overall package look of the SLR. The bar itself has a very compact drop, making it easy for most riders to use, even those with limited flexibility. It's easy to reach the shifters from the drops too.
The SLR comes in six sizes, from XS to XL, offering top tube lengths from 52.5cm up to 58.5cm, with things like crank length, bar width and stem length varying between them. The 42cm bar, for instance, on our medium frame was narrow enough to complement the quick steering.
Value. Okay, I've been banging on about it enough, so let's delve a little deeper.
The £1,500 to £2,000 price mark is a very competitive one, with many riders upgrading from an entry-level bike. They kind of know what they want, whether that be groupset, overall weight, frame material, that kind of thing. The SLR ticks pretty much all the boxes; we don't get many £1,800 bikes in that are as light, and Boardman hasn't scrimped on the rest of the finishing kit to provide such a great frameset.
The easiest way to put it into context is to look at the competition. Canyon, often renowned for its low price points, has the Ultimate CF SL 9.0, a bike intended for the same style of riding as the Boardman SLR. They match each other on weight, but while the Canyon may have the slightly more expensive Ksyrium Elite wheelset, it comes with a cheaper Shimano Ultegra groupset for its £1,849 or £1,896.98 if you include delivery to the UK.
Planet X also offers a Toray T800-manufactured racing frameset, the RT-80. Specced with an Ultegra group and upgrading the wheels to match the Ksyriums, it comes in a little cheaper at around £1,740.
The thing is, both of these companies offer a direct-to-consumer business model, which saves the customer money. Boardman doesn't, so it certainly highlights what good value the SLR is.
In conclusion, the Boardman Road Pro Carbon SLR is a great bike. It's there to be ridden fast, whether that's eyeballs-out fast or just a rapid average speed on a longer journey. It excites, and you certainly feel rewarded for any effort you put through the pedals.
With a great groupset, impressive finishing kit and that smooth-riding frame, for this money, it's very hard to find fault with the SLR. It's certainly become one of my favourites.
Impressive weight and value, and an exciting, rewarding ride – Boardman has nailed the race bike format
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Boardman Road Pro Carbon SLR
Size tested: MD
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
FRAMESET: C8 Full Carbon Monocoque
FORK: Full Carbon with Tapered Steerer
HEADSET: FSA Orbit C-40 ACB/Industrial 1-1/8" to 1-1/2" Tapered - Integrated
BB: Sram PF30
CHAINSET: Sram Force 22 52-36t
SHIFTERS: Sram Force22
FRONT MECH: Sram Force 22
REAR MECH: Sram Force 22
BRAKES: Sram Force 22 dual pivot
CASSETTE: Sram PG-1170, 11-28T
WHEELSET: Mavic Ksyrium Equipe
TYRES: Yksion Elite 25mm
SEATPOST: Prologo New Nago Evo
SEATPOST: Boardman UD Carbon, 31.6mm
STEM: Boardman Alloy, 31.8mm
HANDLEBARS: Boardman Alloy Drop Bar
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?
Boardman says: "Superlight, superfast; the Pro Carbon SLR would be competitive in any Elite road race or the most challenging of endurance events. At the heart of the Pro Carbon SLR is the superlight and stiff Boardman SLR Race geometry C8 carbon frameset with a specification featuring SRAM's superb Force 22 groupset and Mavic Ksyrium Equipe wheels to make this one of the lightest production bikes in the market at this price point."
The Pro SLR is an excellent package. The highlight is the lightweight, responsive frameset that is a proper racer's tool, yet is neither too harsh nor too aggressive to be used for longer rides like a sportive.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
The overall build quality looks and feels good. The frame feels solid and things like the internal cable routing entry points look well positioned and well thought out. I'm a big fan off the silver paintjob, though it does mark and scratch quite easily.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
The frame and fork are made from Toray T800 carbon fibre.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Race inspired - a 550mm top tube and 140mm head tube makes for a long and low, stretched out position.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
With a stack to reach ratio of 1.37 the Boardman is very much in the racing camp. It's virtually identical to the pro-level Bianchi Specialissima previously tested.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Yes, very much so. The frame seems to mute a lot of the road vibration before it gets through to you.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
The tapered head tube keeps the front end tight through the bends while the massive bottom bracket junction means there's no lack of stiffness here.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Excellently, the bottom half of the frame feels like it restricts any loss of power through flex.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
Yes a little for me, only noticeable when stationary though.
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Lively.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
The Boardman handles like a bike designed for racing - it's direct and sharp but the designers have managed to keep it controllable. It never feels nervous or twitchy and there is plenty of feedback.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
Boardman hasn't scrimped on the contact points. The well-padded bar tape and Prologo saddle keep you comfortable, although the frame offers such a smooth ride they are just the icing on the cake.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
The Mavic Ksyriums are a tight wheelset, which certainly helps when you need to get the most out of the bike, sprinting, climbing and so on.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
The powerful SRAM Force brake callipers mean you can leave braking very late, allowing you to carry more speed into the corners and improving overall average speeds.
More pricey than Shimano Ultegra, but you do get a carbon crankset in the mix.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
SRAM's Force 22 groupset is a solid performer and once you get used to the shifting style of the DoubleTap system, missed shifts are rare. I personally find the actual gear change a little on the clunky side compared to Shimano's, but the brakes are some of the best dual pivots out there.
Wheels and tyres
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?
Mavic's Ksyriums are dependable training and race-ready wheels with a tried and tested build. Using a lightweight set of spare wheels, for race day perhaps, pushes the Boardman to the next level, but the Mavics are good enough for nearly every eventuality. The Yksion tyres aren't my favourites, as I feel they lack grip in both the wet and dry.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
The seatpost, bar and stem are all Boardman branded, with the subtle branding suiting the rest of the bike. The handlebar has a compact drop, making it easy for anyone to get in the drops. It's good to see a carbon seatpost too.
Anything else you want to say about the componentry? Comment on any other components (good or bad)
Prologo saddles are appearing as standard equipment on a lot of bikes these days and that's a good thing. They are supportive and always seem to offer just the right amount of padding to be comfortable without being overly spongy.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Absolutely
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
The Boardman Road Pro Carbon SLR has an excellent frame, one that's responsive, smooth riding and very lightweight. Pair this with a decent set of wheels, sensible components and a top flight groupset for what is a relative bargain, and you're getting a quick bike for racing or just getting out there for a fast ride. You could upgrade the life out of it without overshadowing that frameset.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: Mason Definition
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!