Our gear test guru Guy Kesteven had a go on the Boardman Road Pro Carbon 2011 (£1,799) for issue 26 of Triathlon Plus magazine and enjoyed its top-value aero ride.
Boardman’s high-performance, high-value bikes have made a massive impact on the UK market in a relatively short time, as well as putting bikes under world champions such as the Brownlee brothers and Hollie Avil. The new Air Pro frame adds a whole new aero string to the brand’s bow with a naturally fast, well-priced performance for powerful riders.
It’s immediately clear from the big, tapered head tube that Boardman has gone for the ‘smooth shapes’ aero approach rather than minimal cross sections on the new frame. Brake and gear cables sucked into blisters on the head tube face keep the front end clean. The deep down tube creates a deep airflow-smoothing and bike-stiffening web above the oversized BB30 bottom bracket.
A mid-size rounded top tube goes straight back to a big flat- sided seat area with forward- facing slot for the aero seatpost, so there’s no worry about wheel spray seeping down. The oval wishbone splits into the two semi-aero seatstays, ending at simple flat dropouts with a replaceable gear hanger. Chainstays are deep tapering rectangular sections, with the internally routed gear cable popping out ahead of the rear wheel. Forks are stout pieces too, with the chunky crown leading into big, deep legs.
Boardman has always delivered very well-specced bikes for the money, and you’re definitely getting a lot for your £1,800 on the Pro. For a start, you’re getting a Shimano Ultegra gear and brake set-up at a price where 105 is the norm, which helps towards a very respectable overall weight. The FSA BB30 crankset is also marginally lighter than the standard BB version, although we’re not convinced it’s as stiff when you put the hammer down. While the flat-faced Ksyrium wheels might not seem the obvious choice for an aero-optimised bike, they’re certainly a suitably sturdy set-up for the powerful, high-mileage riders this bike is likely to attract. Continental’s Ultra Race tyres are relatively tough-mile-friendly too. The Fi’zi:k Arione saddle on top of the carbon aero post is an Ironman-distance boost.
Boardman’s extensive pro race experience is immediately evident in the ride of the Air Pro. With your weight well forward and hands wide, you’re immediately put in a commanding, solid-feeling position that means serious business. The long stem also favours a direct approach to line-taking and pack-leading straightaway rather than any nip-and-tuck mucking about. What it lacks in responsive playfulness it replaces with a very committed attitude to cornering at speed once you’ve locked your eyes on the fastest line and leaned into it. The inherent stability means it didn’t shimmy or stress at all when we rode it for part of the test with deeper 60mm section wheels – an obvious upgrade for this category of bike.
The same solid feel characterises the Boardman’s behaviour when the ride tempo picks up and the power goes down. There’s less snap acceleration and spark than on the Cervélo or Felt, particularly on climbs, but the frame feels rock solid however much torque you’re putting through it. Keep shovelling the coal on too and you’ll key into a real surge as the speed builds and the aerodynamic bonuses add up. The long, wide cockpit means there’s no lung cramping or distracting torque steering either, and once you’re locked into a flat-backed charge, it’s a proper clock-crushing bulldozer of a bike. This was even more obvious with a set of clip-on tri bars attached and deeper wheels fitted, which the low complete bike price obviously makes a lot more affordable a prospect.
It’s certainly a bike worth upgrading too, as the overall ride quality is good, whatever distances you’re targeting. The big frame tubes and chunky forks clunk and jump around on rough roads at slower speeds, but the faster you can push the bike across rough sections the smoother it skims over the top. Add the rock-steady steering and, if you’re prepared to grab it by the scruff, this is a bike that’ll hold momentum, and murder following riders, whatever the weather or road conditions throw at it.
- Fully aero profiled frame creates noticeable high- speed efficiency
- Ultegra and Ksyrium kit is impressive for the cash even on this frame
- Frame size options are limited, disappointing XL or XS riders
- Steady handling and acceleration won’t suit snap attackers
Verdict: Boardman does a great job of making high-velocity carbon-fibre aero-performance affordable without compromising componentry or ride
Keep reading for a closer look at the Boardman Road Pro Carbon 2011…
The Boardman Road Pro Carbon is an affordable bike that’s well worth future kit upgrades.
Cables plug straight into the frame face for clean aerodynamics and a tidy front-end look
Shimano Ultergra kit is a bonus at this price but we’re not convinced by the ‘extra stiffness’ claims about the BB30 crank.
Keep reading for the spec of the Boardman Road Pro Carbon 2011…
FRAME AND FORK
Size tested L
Sizes available S, M, L
Weight as tested 7.83kg / 17.26lb
Frame weight 1,335g
Fork weight 460g
Frame Aero uni directional T800 carbon
Fork Tapered aero carbon
Chainset FSA Energy BB30 53/39T
Bottom bracket BB30
Cassette Shimano Ultegra 6700 11-26
Chain Shimano Ultegra 6700
Derailleurs Shimano Ultegra 6700
Shifters Shimano Ultegra 6700
Front Mavic Kysrium Equipe
Rear Mavic Kysrium Equipe
Tyres Continental Ultra Race 700x23c
Wheel weight 1,014g front /1,054g rear
Stem Boardman Pro 125mm
Bars Boardman Pro 440mm
Saddle Fizik Arione
Seatpost Boardman aero carbon
Brakes Shimano Ultegra 6700