Boardman's original CX Pro was a cantilever-braked cyclo-cross machine that garnered great reviews for its practicality and exceptional value package. With the switch to disc brakes and an all-new frame, can the new version continue the pedigree?
As one of Boardman's new 'international' models, it's not available in the brand's British homeland – but a higher spec bike for the UK is reportedly in the pipeline, with a spring 2012 ETA. For now, UK buyers will have to make do with the cheaper CX Team.
Ride & handling: Impressive all-rounder with a good turn of speed
Let's be clear: this isn't an out-and-out World Cup racer and nor is it supposed to be. It can more than hold its own on the race course, with a racy spec and impressive weight for the money (9.8kg/21lb 11oz, 55.5cm size, without pedals). But it's equally at home as a commuter, fast tourer, winter trainer or recreational off-road mile muncher. And it does all these things without feeling as though major concessions have been made in any one quarter, and at a price that almost defies belief.
Wherever you take the CX Pro it's a bundle of fun thanks to its confident handling, but no more so than on the dirt. It comes alive – as all good 'cross bikes do – on undulating, fast singletrack where it gallops enthusiastically and rewards in equal measure. It's insatiable on the drops and we found ourselves riding there virtually exclusively when off-road.
This was partly for control reasons – braking on rough descents on the hoods reveals nervy handing and vague hand security; going onto the drops is transformative for the better – but also because it was remarkably comfortable, even for extended durations. The full-carbon fork (including steerer) damps down the worst of the trail clatter and never suffered from brake flutter even when braking hard from speed or on steeps.
Winding the Pro up to speed is direct and efficient, with the box section chainstays ensuring there's minimal flex to disrupt power output. To prevent this stiffness becoming a literal pain in the arse, Boardman have put the disc mount on the non-drive side chainstay rather than seatstay. This removes the need to stiffen or reinforce the wishbone seatstays to withstand braking forces, meaning they can be built in an hourglass shape that again helps absorb trail clatter.
Comfort is further enhanced by the CX Pro's carbon seatpost, 35c tyres and Fizik Arione saddle. The flattened profile of the top tube towards the seat tube junction ensures that shouldering the bike isn't a pain. Shod with slicks and out on the road, the Boardman is comfortable and happily speedy, with confident yet stable handling. Braking is predictable and never felt over-powerful.
Frame: Very well thought out, with plenty of great touches
The most obvious frame detail is the distinctive, Klein-esque smooth welded tubing. Boardman claim that smoothing the welds reduces stress risers, prolonging the life of the frame. It also results in a striking finish that can, at first glance, be mistaken for being made from the black stuff (carbon fibre) rather than triple-butted X9 alloy – an aesthetic boon that does the CX Pro no harm.
Dig deeper and it's clear that a great deal of thought and attention to detail has been lavished on the frame. The head tube and matching full-carbon fork are tapered to aid stiffness and steering precision, asymmetrical box section chainstays maximise power delivery, curved wishbone seatstays add comfort, and the press-fit BB30 bottom bracket and cranks are both stiff and light.
The chainstay mounted rear brake means a rack or mudguard can be fitted, boosting practicality, and the CX Pro has two sets of bottle bosses in the traditional seat tube and down tube positions. Full-length brake cable runs mean hydraulic disc brakes can be added to the Boardman should you wish, using a cable-to-hydraulic converter like Tektro's Parabox or Hope's V-Twin. This is a workhorse 'cross bike that will still fly but one that's also bang-on with current trends and forward thinking in its own right.
Equipment: Impeccable value and performance in a near-faultless package
The Boardman represents exceptional value, and for a rider looking for a fleet-of-foot Jack-of-all-trades that isn't far off from being a master of many, it won't disappoint. The spec shows both impressive value for money and attention to detail. Avid BB7 cable disc brakes (with 160mm rotors) yield great modulation and useable power in all conditions, and are easily adjusted for pad contact at the turn of a dial. Full cable runs from the levers to the callipers keep the worst ingress of crud at bay.
SRAM's Force groupset handles shifting duties with its DoubleTap shifters and mechs, combined with FSA's Energy Compact BB30 crankset (50/34-tooth) and a 12-27T Shimano cassette. Shifting is precise and direct, although not as mercurially smooth in feel as Shimano, and chain clatter is minimal. The DoubleTap system only takes a few rides to get used to if you're new to it. After a month of near daily 'cross and road riding the bottom bracket developed a creak; a strip-down identified the cause as a lack of grease, which was swiftly solved by a liberal application.
The Ritchey Pro OCR Disc wheels may not be the lightest (3.78kg/8lb 3oz, including tyres, tubes, cassette, disc rotors and quick-release skewers) but they performed without issue throughout the test period, with no hint of run-out, broken spokes or eyelet cracking. However, lighter wheels would make an immediate improvement to the ride and would be chief on our upgrades list. The collar-and-cuffs white bar tape and saddle began to show the dirt and grime after a few rides.
Considering the price, the rest of the spec is near faultless. The Ritchey Excavader 35c tyres surprised with good rolling resistance and bite boosting confidence in the corners, only coming unstuck on slippery power climbs. They add noticeable comfort but if you need more, the frame will accept up to 40c tyres.
The majority of the finishing kit is Boardman's own Cboardman gear, with a layback carbon post, 120mm stem and drop handlebar. This equipment punches above own-brand perceptions, with the bar in particular offering a good combination of width (46cm) and drop (130mm). Size-specific stem lengths (shorter on the smaller model sizes, longer on the larger) aid fit, though it's worth noting that all frame sizes share the same length chainstays.
Credit: BikeRadar.com Road Bikes & Gear