More ultimate winter hackery

With work on RCUK’s ultimate winter hack bike on hold pending receipt of a pair of 6700 Ultegra STI levers from David “Shiny Boy” Arthur, thoughts turn to other machines in the stable that might perform the role. One with a strong claim to the title is the 2009 model Boardman CX Pro, which has spent the summer and autumn at the back of the bike rack.

Now, however, is its time;  foul, greasy roads with the prospect of worse to come demand reassuring handling while the absence of a need for speed means its one minor failing on the road is of little consequence. So last night I got it out, slapped on a pair of pedals and rode it home.

It rained. The roads were perilously slippery. And, rolling on cyclo-cross-inspired geometry and Continental Top Contact rubber, I wasn’t bothered at all. In fact, I had forgotten how good the CX Pro is as a road bike. The current version, which sits at  the bottom of the Boardman ‘cross range, is visually similar but for the fitment of disc brakes. It has a new version of the triple-butted aluminium frame and all-carbon fork with 1 1/2″ lower head bearing race and features Shimano Sora gearing.

Truth be told, I prefer the older model, with its SRAM Rival dual control levers and its Tektro cantilever brakes. The latter are lighter than discs and work as well as needed, on the road at least. But, personal preferences aside, either will do the winter hack job with equal facility. Their handling, dialled for loose surfaces, is one plus point; another is the exceptional stiffness of the frame and fork. Why, given that a supple ride is usually thought desirable for non-competitive road riding?

Because it goes some way to offsetting the weight of the tyres and rims. The tyres, which are not standard ftment but which match the bike nicely, roll well enough but weigh a hefty 550g each. Inflated to around 80 psi, they simply soak up rough surfacing and have so far proven immune to penetration. But getting them up to speed takes a fair old shove on the pedals, most of which makes its way straight to the back wheel by way of stiff stays. The monstrous down tube keeps the bottom bracket stable while the fat all-carbon fork tracks unerringly over anything in its path.

At night, in the badlands of west Clapham, with a steady chilly rain falling on crap-covered roads and the prospect of a puncture or slide something to dread, the effect is tremendously reassuring, as are strong brakes and grippy rubber. In these conditions, a more “ultimate” winter bike is hard to imagine.

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