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Boardman CX COMP 2014

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Tested by Neil Watterson

Review

It's always tricky buying a new bike. What do you go for - a road, hybrid or mountain bike? Well, what about going for something with a hint of each?

Cyclocross bikes meld the different types together, giving you a robust base for tackling all terrains, so if you fancy sticking on the road, you'll be able to get your head down and fly into the wind; if you want to go off-road, the bike will take the abuse.

The CX Comp is the base model in Boardman's cyclocross range and aimed both at those wanting to start in cyclocross and also those looking for an all-round commuting hack. With Shimano Sora gears, Tektro disc brakes and aluminium frame and forks it's well equipped for the money. There are benefits for both in the frame design: the large clearance within the forks and seat stays allows plenty of mud clearance, even with the large 700x37C Schwalbe Tyrago tyres, but it also gives room to fit a set of mudguards - essential for year-round commuting.

The tyres have an all-road bias so you'll feel comfortable with jumping off the road and nipping along gravel towpaths and singletrack, but they're no mud tyres - and you'll soon be sliding if you hit soft mud. The Kevlarguard should help reduce downtime through punctures - always difficult to assess, but I've been forced to ride over quite a lot of glass recently and the tyres are still at full pressure.

I say full pressure but, at 65psi, it is quite low, more in line with a mountain bike tyre than a road one. At least most hand pumps will get to that pressure fairly easily, even though you have to accept they'll never be as fast rolling as road tyres.

But there's no reason why you couldn't fit full-on skinny road tyres to this bike. The strong Mavic XM319 rims will take them, instantly turning the bike into a training-mile muncher.

The gearing with its 50/34t FSA chainset and Shimano 11-32t cassette gives you a wide choice of 18 gears, though there's a big jump between the chainset ratios, so you'll normally stay in one or the other and use the wide spread on the rear cassette to get the appropriate speed.

Gear selection is easy, once you get used to it. If you're more used to mountain or hybrid bikes with their flat bars and thumb/grip shifts, it'll take a little while get used to changing gear with the combined gear/brake Shimano Sora shifters. Click the inner lever in to select a smaller gear on the rear mech, and push the brake lever towards the wheel to choose a larger one. It's the same on the front mech, but feels wrong purely because you're using the brake lever to select a faster speed.

That confusion over, the gear selection is good. The left hand shifter gives you the freedom to fine-tune the mech's position, so you don't end up with the chain clattering along it, while the rear change is accurate.

The aluminium forks and frame are disc-specific with the rear brake mounted within the rear seat stay triangle, keeping it out of harm's way. It's fitted with Tetro Lyra mechanical disc brakes - with twin levers to operate them.

The main brake levers are the standard Sora gear/brake levers on the curve of the handlebars, but they've got a pair of secondary levers on the bar flats letting you ride more upright and still get to the brakes - handy for commuting. You'll still need to reach out to the front to change gear, but at least you're able to slow yourself down.

The rest of the components - stem, bars, seatpost and seat - are Boardman's E4P products and match the black/white/blue colour scheme of the frame.

The frame itself has a cyclocross geometry which, in numbers, shows the bottom bracket is slightly higher than a road bike and the chainstays are longer for extra tyre clearance. The head tube is 20mm shorter than its comparable road brother to make up for the taller fork.

But it still makes a good rigid frame. It's relatively smooth along gravel tracks, the curved seat stays removing some of the harshness from the ride, but the box-section chainstays still help you transfer the power to the back wheel, so you're not wasting energy. Plus, with its smooth, clean finish of the welds, it looks good too.

On-road the multiple the hand position options let you get comfortable, though riding on the hoods of the changers seems most natural and, if you aren't already, you'll soon have mastered fingertip gear changing and braking.

At 11.5kg, the CX Comp isn't the lightest bike around - its comparable road brother is 1.5kg lighter - but if you're looking at it as a general ride, rather than a competitive cyclocross bike, it shouldn't be too much of an issue - you probably find your own weight fluctuates by as much as that much every couple of weeks.

What you do get, though, is a good strong frame that you can upgrade to, should you wish. And, as the frame allows room for mudguards and studded tyres, you can keep riding through the year, even in snow and ice. Buy a set of skinny tyres for the summer and enjoy the deeper profile tyres for the winter.

Road bikes may be lighter, but hybrid and mountain bikes are heavier - the CX Comp has aspects of all of them and sits neatly in the middle, making it a bike for all seasons.

At a glance

Verdict A good all-rounder for commuting and all year riding. Buy a spare set of tyres and you’ve got a good training bike to boot.
Value
Performance

Do you own this bike?

by M D Stewart  on 10 Feb 2015
Not many bikes at this price point come so well designed and look so good with excellent paint and graphics and the very best smooth weld joints.
In addition this bike covers all the cross over disciplines and at £600 all the bike most people will ever need.
A true SUV of Bikes.
by M D Stewart  on 10 Feb 2015
Not many bikes at this price point come so well designed and look so good with excellent paint and graphics and the very best smooth weld joints.
In addition this bike covers all the cross over disciplines and at £600 all the bike most people will ever need.
A true SUV of Bikes.

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