A cyclo-cross bike? With concealed cables? Personally, I don’t see why not, but then I don’t ride ‘cross. When the Boardman CX Pro test bike arrived last winter it looked so convincing I came perilously close to taking the plunge and entering a race until I happened to discuss my plan with author William Fotheringham, who sensibly advised me not to spoil a lifetime’s “clean sheet”.
Instead, I fitted a pair of mudguards, a pair of Continental Top Contact touring tyres, deeper drop handlebars and a longer stem and removed the little auxiliary brake levers and then stuck mostly to the blacktop. That’s not to say it hasn’t seen some dirt action, with excursions along the odd bridleway or bike path part of its current CV.
In such conditions and used for a few rides on icy roads during last winter’s big freeze, the CX Pro showed that, for off-roading, it has (a) suitable geometry and (b) a suitably sturdy build. The front end is almost over-built, with a fat-bladed all-carbon fork sitting in a meaty head tube with 1.5″ lower headset bearing. Yet, despite the reassuringly heavy-duty look of the thing, it is actually pretty light. It also rides over rough terrain with easy assurance, the steering geometry dealing happily with soft ground, ruts and bumps.
So, it happily goes off road. Race it and I suspect the routing of the rear brake and gear cables would prove, if less than ideal, no real obstacle to success except in the most extreme conditions. Gearing is correct, with 46 and 36 tooth ‘rings and an 11-27 cassette. The standard Ritchey Excavador Cross Pro knobblies are, I am told, perfectly satisfactory entry-level ‘cross fare and the Tektro CR270 Cyclocross cantilever brakes are exceptional.
Importantly, the CX Pro makes a superb ‘crosser-based all-rounder commuting and touring bike. This might be a bit of a niche market segment but it is one that neatly answers the requirements of many road cyclists. Ally the big clearances, geometry and build needed for the dirt with the Boardman’s excellent specification and finish, to say nothing of those concealed cables, and here is one of the most convincing entrants in the category.
That said, the complaints originally raised against it still stand: the rear brake cable route would be better were the tube, complete with formed cable housing entries, rotated by around 45degrees to put the cable exit hole at the top and the entry hole on the underside, while placing the downtube gear cable stops outwards would allow the cables to clear the headtube without rubbing.
Otherwise, there is little about the CX Pro that is not pleasingly well-executed. And returning it to potential cyclo-cross race winner would be the work of perhaps 10 minutes, leaving the soiling of that clean sheet a distinct possibility.
Boardman Pro CX £999.99 sizes S, M, L, XL