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Boardman Pro Carbon review

20 Oct 2015
Verdict:

Can the Boardman Pro Carbon justify the extra £300 over the excellent Team Carbon?

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£1,300
For 
Great wheels, fun geometry
Against 
Long stem, odd gearing

When Boardman bikes launched in 2007, its range of great-value, well-specced road bikes, available exclusively through Halfords, immediately struck a chord with the public. With a competitive £1,000 price point and a distribution network that happened to be one of the biggest cycle-to-work scheme providers, it didn’t take long for Boardman bikes to become a regular feature on British roads. The Pro Carbon is the second priciest model in the Performance range (below the top-end Elite range), so we had high hopes for this ride. 

Frame 

Boardman Pro Carbon frame

Chris Boardman was something of a pioneer as a rider, being an early proponent of carbon fibre (who can forget his Lotus superbike from the 1992 Olympics?) so it’s no surprise to see the black stuff on the range of bikes that bears his name. The frame is a full carbon monocoque. It appears to come from the same mould as the cheaper Team Carbon, using the same branded T700 unidirectional carbon fibre from Japanese giant Toray – the only visible difference is that the gear cables on the Pro run internally. Boardman describes the Pro Carbon as having ‘sportive geometry’, which means it has a tall head tube for its size, offering a fairly upright position for long rides.

It was certainly easy to find a comfortable set-up; no lengthy sessions sliding the saddle fore/aft or mucking about with headset spacers – we just slammed the bars to their lowest setting, set the saddle height and off we went. The seatstays are bowed and flattened midway for vertical flex to the back end without resorting to rubber bumpers or bearing-based decouplers. The frame does a good job of dampening road vibrations and is impressively light. It doesn’t leap out as being especially stiff, but neither is it overly flexible. In keeping with its Pro name, this bike doesn’t have mudguard bosses on the frame or fork. 

Components

Boardman Pro Carbon groupset

Shimano 105 is a great groupset. We see a lot of it here at Cyclist as it seems to be the go-to for most models between around £900 and £2,000. It features the same number of gears (22) as its more expensive siblings, Ultegra and Dura-Ace, with the main differences being the weight and quality of the materials. The gear shifting on 105 is remarkably light, especially at the front where previous generations of groupsets would grind and skip. The Pro Carbon’s gear spread is a bit odd though – a 12-25 cassette is a narrow spread, the kind usually reserved for racing, while the 50/34 compact chainset is all about the sportives. We’d expect to see a wider-range cassette on a bike like this, with bigger and smaller gears at the top and bottom – something like 11-28. If we were to use this bike in the mountains or for sportives, it would probably be an early upgrade.

Wheels

Boardman Pro Carbon fork

Mavic’s Aksium wheels are great. They’re stiff, robust and not too heavy – on a bike of this price they’re a good pair of hoops that will see you through training, racing, sportives and overseas trips. The only downside is that Mavic now supplies its own tyre with them, the Aksion, which fails to match other tyres. Advertised as 23mm, the ones we rode actually measured 22mm using a vernier calliper. Less volume means greater risk of pinch flats, higher rolling resistance (because of how the tyre deforms in contact with the ground) and less braking and cornering traction. We’d have preferred the 25mm Continental Grand Sports that came on the cheaper Team Carbon.

The ride

Boardman Pro Carbon review

The Pro Carbon is a real sportive contender – its long wheelbase keeps it stable when the speed goes up on long descents and the low weight helps you get up the hills with some dash too. The bottom bracket area is stiff and the bike as a whole responds well to surges of acceleration. It’s a matter of preference, but we weren’t keen on the way the brake levers were set very high on the bars, making hand position a little uncomfortable. It’s not a hard problem to solve, but it would involve re-taping the bars; you’d be entirely within your rights to get this done at the time of purchase – don’t be afraid to demand a proper set-up. The Pro Carbon comes with a 125mm stem, which is a pretty mammoth extension – it’s unusual to find stems longer than 110mm on off-the-shelf sportive bikes.

The narrow range of the rear cassette also confuses the sportive bike message. A 25-tooth biggest sprocket is fine for racers or routes without too many hills, but for anyone facing a tough ascent and doesn’t want to excavate their own pain cave, a 28-tooth would be preferable. We would also swap the tyres to something with more volume. We suspect that the Pro Carbon has the potential to be a really comfortable ride but with narrow, low-profile tyres the ride isn’t what it could be. Get some 25mm tyres in there, pump them up to 90-95psi and the Pro Carbon will be transformed. All in all, a great bike, bar a couple of spec oddities that knock the score down, especially compared with the competition.

Geometry

Geometry chart
Claimed Measured
Top Tube (TT) 570mm 565mm
Seat Tube (ST) 555mm 560mm
Down Tube (DT) 608mm
Fork Length (FL) 368mm
Head Tube (HT) 180mm 180mm
Head Angle (HA) 73 73.1
Seat Angle (SA) 73 73.3
Wheelbase (WB) 998mm
BB drop (BB) 68mm 70mm

Spec

Boardman Pro Carbon
Frame T700 super light full UD carbon, full carbon fork
Groupset Shimano 105
Brakes Shimano 105
Chainset FSA Gossamer Pro, 50/34
Cassette Shimano 105, 12-25
Bars Boardman E4P
Stem Boardman E4P
Seatpost Boardman E4P
Wheels Mavic Aksium
Tyres Mavic Aksion, 23c
Saddle Fizik Ardea
Contact halfords.com

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