Boardman Pro CX First Ride

Medium sized fun

Replacing the size large Boardman CX Pro originally supplied, our medium-sized example turns out to be spot on size-wise for this 182cm (5’11”) test rider. To replicate my regular riding position it needs a 13cm stem and 10mm of spacers underneath. ‘Cross riders apparently favour a slightly shorter reach; fitting a 12cm stem for that career ‘first’ cyclo-cross race should be quick and easy.

Ritchey Comp Road Logic ‘bars are a touch on the shallow side for my preference and, while going about swapping them, I ditched the mini auxiliary brake levers that sit on the bar tops. Plenty of potential buyers will be glad they are fitted, but they add weight and wind drag I can do without.

All this messing around requires the fitment of a new rear brake cable, which runs internally. Luckily, the ferrules that sit inside the top tube bulges are a snug fit and come out easily, making threading the inner wire a simple task. The cantilever straddle wire hangers are also much easier to adjust than they used to be in the heyday of cantilever brakes (about 40 years ago…).

The only other spec. change to the machine has been the fitment of slick 32mm Continental tyres in place of the ‘cross-orientated knobblies fitted as standard. The first aim with this bike was to assess its suitability for commuting and, later on, touring since, with road-style cable routing, mudguard eyes, rack mounts and double bottle bosses, it impresses more as a potential all rounder than as a pure-bred ‘cross machine.

And impress it does, albeit with a couple of caveats. These first: both the rear brake and gear cable outers are poorly routed, while the rear brake cable stop could be 5mm higher. If the latter sounds picky, it is; nevertheless, when the straddle wire hanger is placed high enough to clear a mudguard, it is so close to the stop that well-worn brake blocks could see it touch, in which case there would be no more rear braking available.

The way the gear cables run in to the stops on the down tube is more of an aesthetic consideration than practical. The width of the headtube, which must accommodate an oversized lower head bearing, spreads both cables as they leave the stops. These, on the other hand, sit tight under the down tube and aligned with the bike centre line, forcing the cables into an unsightly kink as they leave the adjusters.

Most annoying, however, is the angle at which the rear brake cable leaves the top tube en route to the seatstay stop. This it is forced to do by the angle of the ferrule in the tube bulge (see pic), which would not be a problem were the cable not placed precisely where the inside of the (my) thigh goes at the bottom of the pedal stroke. The rubbing sensation each pedal revolution is tolerable while wearing tights but would surely be less so were the cable to be covered in abrasive mud.

One solution, already done, is to pre-kink the casing just behind the ferrule to align it closely with the side of the tube. Much the same can be done with the gear cables, but better routing by the factory would be preferable.

Out on the road, such irritiations are largely forgotten for this bike is simply superb over broken urban road surfaces. Possessed of what feels like limitless stiffness, the frame and fork track directly over anything in their path, the fat tyres simply blasting over rough Tarmac that would require as careful an approach as wet pave. Potholes that would pinch-flat a 23mm tyre can be ignored, while greasy roundabouts instil none of the fear that can grip the rider of narrower, less forgiving rubber.

The immense stiffness of frame and fork, built to take the punishment of cyclo-cross, ensures excellent power transfer under hard effort along with precise steering response and the ability to brake hard over any surface.

Naturally there is a down side; the bike may be light enough at a claimed 19.9lbs, but those wide, heavy tyres hinder acceleration and catch the wind. Still, no top end and sluggish response may be considered a fair exchange for utter imperturbability and low rolling resistance over poor road surfaces. Besides, the CX Pro is a looker, especially with knobblies fitted.

More on RCUK soon.

Boardman Pro CX £999.99 sizes S, M, L, XL

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