Boardman has successfully bridged the gap between the needs of cyclocross/off road riding and all-round commuting/on road use with the CX Comp. For a budget ride, its spec is sensible, giving you the option to ride mixed terrain or the ability to tackle poorly surfaced city roads. But if you’re looking to race cyclocross, you’ll likely soon tire of the CX Comp’s weight and want to look for something with lighter braking as well as less weight to ease your carrying.
A cost-effective entry to cyclocross or mixed terrain riding
Good all-rounder for rougher commutes
Guard and rack mounts
Heavy for race duties
External cables can get contaminated easily
Bar top levers make for heavy braking
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Boardman sells quite a few cyclocross bikes alongside the Boardman CX Comp. Its Elite CXR series, sold via independent cycle retailers, uses a carbon frameset with a range of different specifications.
In its Performance series, sold in Halfords, there are two different specs based on the same alloy frameset, with the Boardman CX Comp we’re testing being the entry level machine. The £1000 CX Team gets an upgrade to a SRAM Rival 1 groupset and a carbon fork.
The Boardman CX Comp’s frame is made of triple butted alloy. Welding is very neat, with little evidence of the welds between the head tube, tapered top tube and broad down tube.
Boardman’s cabling runs externally along the underside of the down tube and under the bottom bracket. It’s a set-up that allows easy maintenance and lubrication, although it is potentially subject to contamination if you use the bike on muddy surfaces. This could degrade shifting, although I didn’t find this an issue while testing.
There’s a square tapered cartridge bottom bracket from FSA and the seat tube takes a 31.6mm alloy seatpost.
The Boardman CX Comp has alloy fork blades, with a steel steerer – this doesn't really compliment the frame as a more typical carbon offering is much lighter. The bearings are a straight 1 1/8 inch top and bottom, again unusual, with the majority of machines now using a tapered fork, which gives a stiffer junction to the fork and improved tracking through corners.
Boardman also provides fittings for mudguards and mounts, hinting at the CX Comp’s other potential use as a rugged commuter, priced well within the Cycle to Work limit.
The groupset on the Boardman CX Comp is Shimano Sora nine speed, with an FSA Velo 50/34 compact chainset paired with an 11-30 cassette – again a more commuter-focussed spec. The shifters are the older style Sora with gear indicator windows built in and shifter cables running externally rather than under the bar tape.
Brakes are Tektro Lyra cable operated discs with 160mm rotors front and rear. As well as the Sora brake levers, there are a pair of bar top levers, giving you the option to brake from the bar tops as well as from the hoods or the drops and a useful, more upright position when riding in traffic as well as offering a bit more confidence for less experienced riders. But they do add more resistance into the braking system, so braking from the top of the hoods, in particular, significantly harder.
Boardman fits its own brand alloy bars, with the bar width increasing from 40cm on the size small, to 42cm on the medium and 44cm on the large and XL, all with the same shallow 12cm drop and 7.5cm reach.
Wheels use Mavic XM 319 MTB rims on unbranded quick release hubs. They are fitted with 37mm Schwalbe Tyrago tyres with a fishbone tread pattern. These roll well on the road and have good grip off road too, even on muddy surfaces.
Riding the Boardman CX Comp
The Boardman CX Comp provides a comfortable ride on road, with the wide tyres and well padded saddle soaking up a lot of imperfections. But the alloy fork isn’t as comfortable as carbon and the bike is slightly ponderous, particularly up hill, due to the high overall weight.
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There’s enough grip to ride damp and muddy terrain with confidence and the brakes are effective enough, although not up to the standard of the hydraulic systems which are now more normal on cyclocross and endurance machines. The bar top levers add a bit of resistance, meaning that you need extra hand pressure at the levers, which can get a bit tiring.
And you can feel the CX Comp’s weight when you have to dismount and carry over obstacles. Coupled to the rounded section to the bottom of its top tube, this quickly becomes uncomfortable.
The Boardman CX Comp offers good value for a mixed terrain machine at the entry level. It’s got a well thought out spec – if slightly old fashioned now – which should be robust enough for the rigours of off road riding and relatively cheap to replace when something wears out or breaks.
Fit mudguards and a rack and it’s a bike that will serve commuting duties well too, while the bar top brake levers make riding in stop/start traffic that much easier.
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