Boardman is making some great bikes this year – both in terms of performance and value – and the Road Pro Carbon is no exception. If you're after a disc brake road bike that's engaging to ride, you should certainly take a look at this. If you're looking for a more versatile all-rounder, it's not such a good fit.
This is the third of Boardman's new range of bikes we've tested. The slippery Elite Air 9.2 and the privateer-racer-friendly Road Pro Carbon SLR both picked up 9/10 and they're both easy to recommend. This Road Pro Carbon is too: it's a great value package and it's a fast and capable road bike with the benefits you get from disc braking thrown into the mix.
The Road Pro Carbon is out of the same mould as Boardman's elite-range SLR Endurance Disc bikes, which top out at the money-no-object Signature model at a hefty £8,000. This bike isn't cut from the same cloth: those frames use Boardman's C10 carbon construction (predominantly Toray T800 fibres with some higher-modulus carbon in the mix) whereas this is a C7 (mostly lower-modulus Toray T700 carbon), which means it's a bit heavier to achieve the same stiffness. The fork is also different: it's a quick release dropout, rather than the thru-axle of the more expensive bikes.
It's certainly stiff. The big down tube uses the full width of the press-fit bottom bracket, and the chainstays are a deep box section that keep everything in check when you're putting down the power. There's plenty of stiffness in the new four-arm FSA Gossamer Pro chainset too; often, speccing a non-groupset chainset is seen as a downgrade, but there's no obvious downside to this FSA unit over the 105 chainset. Shifting and power transfer are both excellent.
At 8.78kg it's not the lightest bike you can find for this kind of money, and so snapping away from the lights or punching up short climbs isn't its strongest suit. A fair bit of the weight is in the Boardman branded wheels, which are about 2kg a set. I swapped those out for a set of Kinesis 700 Disc wheels that are about 400g lighter, and it certainly improved the bike's response overall, as you'd expect.
Certainly the frame and fork are a package that's worthy of some upgrades here: it's a very well-balanced bike that responds well to pretty much every kind of road riding. The steering is very predictable and never nervous, and I had no issues with any wobbles, vagueness or lift-off descending at speed. More often the limit was what I was prepared to ask of the 25mm Vittoria Rubino Pro tyres – they're decent enough, but not the grippiest.
Given that this bike comes from an endurance mould you might expect the ride to be more forgiving than it actually is. The Boardman doesn't have the surface-taming characteristics of something like a Cannondale Synapse or a Trek Domane, it's much more of a road bike feel. It's not uncomfortable, but it is firm. It's well balanced in that the front and the back give about the same level of feedback from the road. Again, swapping the wheels made a big difference here, mostly because I ran Schwalbe's fantastic 30mm S-One tyres, review here, on them, tubeless. Running a 30mm tyre at 70psi gives you instantly noticeable improvement in comfort and grip over a 25mm at 90psi, especially on rougher tarmac, with no obvious performance penalty. And the Road Pro Carbon frame can accommodate the 30mm rubber just fine. Just a switch to some good 28mm tyres would be enough to make a genuine difference.
If you fitted 28mm tyres you'd still have plenty of room for mudguards, so it's a shame you can't fit them. There are no mudguard mounts on the frame or the fork, and because the bike has discs there are no fork crown or seatstay bridge holes, meaning that solutions like SKS's Raceblade Longs or Crud's Roadracers aren't an option either. You're basically left with clip-on options, which puts a dent in this bike's all-round appeal. Not everyone wants to fit mudguards, but a bike like this should really give you the option; it's such an obvious contender for all-year fast riding duties.
We reviewed Shimano's 105-level hydraulic levers in early March. The highlight is the braking, with the shifting (and aesthetics) lagging behind a bit. Hydraulic disc brakes offer easily controlled, predictable braking in all conditions and the braking performance of the Road Pro Carbon was a highlight. It's easy to scrub off speed into corners or haul on the anchors if you need to, and the brakes are more or less unaffected by rain and road conditions. They're great.
There's enough stiffness in the fork that the braking forces are handled effectively with no juddering or twisting, and the same is true at the rear. It's possible to squeeze a bit of rotor rub out of the bike under heavy effort but it was pretty minimal.
Shifting on the hydraulic 105 levers is good, but it's not as good as the rim-brake levers. The shift action is nice and light but the indexing sometimes feels a bit vague, and the lever action isn't quite as nice. It's certainly not a deal-breaker and missed shifts were rare, like they always are with Shimano transmissions, but the hydraulic levers aren't quite up to the standard of the mechanical ones, which is a shame.
The finishing kit on the bike is all fairly standard and I had no issues with any of it. It's good to see a carbon seatpost at this price, and I found the Prologo saddle very comfortable. The stem and bar are both Boardman-branded alloy, and there's nothing wrong with either. The bar has a good shape and a shallow drop that encourages time in a lower position; even in the drops the geometry of the bike means you're not super-low, so it's a usable position for most people.
At £1,499.99 this bike represents really good value for money. You're getting a full carbon frame and fork, hydraulic discs and a quality transmission on a bike that lends itself to quick riding. It's not a bike you can fit full mudguards or a rack to, so that really limits its appeal to people looking for a fast bike with discs: it's certainly that, and the firm ride and surefooted handling make it an engaging bike to pilot. A wheel upgrade further down the line (and you don't need to spend that much) will drop some weight and unlock a bit more of the frame's potential. The option to fit wider tyres is welcome and also improves the bike's feel.
Very good road disc bike for sportive or faster riding, with an upgrade-friendly frame and quality transmission
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Boardman Road Pro Carbon
Size tested: XL
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame: C7 Full Carbon
Fork: Full Carbon with Tapered Steerer
Headset: FSA Orbit C-40 1-1/8" ACB Top, 1.5" Industrial Sealed Btm, Standard 15mm top cover
Bottom bracket: FSA BB-PF30
Chainset: FSA Gossamer Pro 52-36
Derailleurs: Shimano 105
Shifters: Shimano 105
Brake callipers: Shimano BRR-S505 Disc Brake w/ 160mm Rotor
Cassette: Shimano 105, 11-28T
Wheels: Boardman Aero Profile, 28/32 Hole
Tyres: Vittoria Zaffiro Pro 700x25c Folding
Saddle: Prologo New Nago Evo
Seatpost: Boardman UD Carbon, 31.6x350mm
Stem: Boardman Alloy, 31.8mm, +/- 7 degree rise (S=90mm, M=100mm, L=110mm, XL=120mm)
Bar: Boardman Alloy Drop Bar (S = 400mm, M= 420mm, L/XL= 440mm)
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
Boardman says: "The Road Pro Carbon sets a new bench mark for disc equipped road bikes. Built around our award winning SLR Endurance frame platform and using our C7 carbon throughout. It provides the perfect balance between stiffness and weight, whilst maximising handling, power transfer and ride quality. Add in its Shimano 105 5800 groupset and FSA's Gossamer Chainset with Shimano RS505 hydraulic disc brakes and you have an unbeatable package that allows you to push your limits time and again on any course profile, in any weather and at any time of year."
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Nicely made, finish is excellent.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
C7 carbon frame, full carbon fork.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Endurance geometry: 195mm head tube, 585mm effective top tube, 73°/73° head/seat tube angles.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Fitted me very well.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Given that it's touted as an endurance bike it's a firm ride, but not harsh.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
It's certainly plenty stiff.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Yes: lots of stiffness in the core of the bike, chainset is also good.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Neutral.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
It's pretty unflappable, with the bike tracking well in all situations.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
Changing the wheels and tyres made a noticeable difference to the ride.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
No real issues there.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
Wheels and tyres
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
Good performance, excellent value. Loses a point for lack of mudguard mounts which limits its versatility.
About the tester
I usually ride: whatever I'm testing... My best bike is: Kinesis Tripster ATR, Kinesis Aithein
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track
Dave is a founding father of road.cc and responsible for kicking the server when it breaks. In a previous life he was a graphic designer but he's also a three-time Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling world champion, and remains unbeaten through the bog. Dave rides all sorts of bikes but tends to prefer metal ones. He's getting old is why.