Boardman chose a low-contrast January day in darkest Wales to launch their 2016 Performance bikes range. Established in 2007, although they’re synonymous with a certain mega-size bike retailer, not many people realise that Boardman were an independent brand for much of their life. Even after becoming part of Halfords in 2014, they still retain complete creative control – a phrase that, if they were a band, might indicate that a “difficult” album was on its way. But this being Boardman, rather than going off into the bike equivalent of a free jazz odyssey, they’ve kept things sensible, while still managing to squeeze in a few surprises.
The 2016 range features five mountain bikes, plus two cyclocross bikes. “I actually do around 70% of my riding off-road these days” Chris says. “With living on a peninsula, I just got sick of riding the same bits of road all the time”. He rates the range’s cross bikes and 29er hardtail as his personal favourites, but the bike they’re keenest to show off is the MTB Pro FS.
Coming in at a door-busting £1499, this features thoroughly modern geometry with a roomy top tube, short stem and 67.5 degree head angle. The showstopper of the spec is the 140mm travel Rock Shox Pike RC fork, but it also features an SRAM GX 1×11 drivetrain, Avid Guide brakes and a Mavic-rimmed 650b wheelset with front and rear thru-axles. Marketing manager Jamie told me he’d been smashing a destickered version round the trails at Laggan, where it not only performed well, but also attracted some completely inaccurate guesses at its true identity. With its highlighter-yellow flashes, it even looks ready to E*d*ro.
The launch featured a bit of riding, and not being a media big shot I ended up as the only one on a hardtail, an MTB Pro 29er. After taking the bikes out for a run round a steep and extremely muddy test loop though, I was impressed by its well-mannered handling, helped along by a plushty 120mm Rock Shox Reba fork: yet another “how do they do that for the money?” spec highlight.
Both the Pro FS and the Pro 29er are also available in more affordable incarnations, with a 650b hardtail rounding out the range at £649.
Aside from the mountain bikes, road bikes and hybrids, the range features the CX Team, a versatile ‘crosser offering 1×11 shifting, hydraulic road discs and a full carbon fork for £999. Or for £649 you get the CX Comp, which has an alloy fork, a 2×9 Shimano drivetrain and mechanical discs. Both come with rack and guard mounts for conversion into a supercommuter.
The new range is landing at a retail megapark near you from 29 January, and will also be available online.