Boardman CXR 9.0 Cyclo Cross bike - £1,599 A serious contender for the do-it-all crown
Chris Boardman seems to have the bike-building business under control at the moment.
We rarely see a duff bike from the brand, and if you understand a little about Boardman’s approach, you’ll see why.
Famed for his attention to detail, Chris Boardman is one of the best technical minds in cycling; he more or less invented the notion of marginal gains, a philosophy wherein every small detail is considered, taken care of, and pushed to its full potential.
Boardman uses one of his own cyclo cross bikes as his personal run-around. Versatile, comfortable and pretty good-looking, it must be a fairly good bike, considering the other options available in the Boardman range.
Boardman’s aluminium framesets are famed for their smooth welds. They always look fantastic, and the matt finish of this particular model is certainly no exception. From the chunky head tube to the curvy stays, everything is in proportion and looks just so. The fork is 100 per cent carbon, with a tapered steerer.
The tapering offers an increased level of stiffness, a great way to ensure a sharp-handling front end. Elsewhere on the frame, Boardman has specced pretty much everything you’d need to make the CXR a real do-it-all machine. Mudguard eyelets, bottle bosses and pannier rack points: tick, tick and tick.
The headline act here is the addition of SRAM’s 11-speed Force 22 groupset (22 being the total number of gears available, of course). It’s smooth to use, and suits the bike just right, aesthetically. Its biggest asset is the front derailleur, which SRAM has more or less reinvented.
They call it Yaw technology, and as you push the chain from the small to the big ring, the derailleur adjusts its angle of yaw to accommodate the chain’s new position. The result: no more chain rub. It’s simple and clever, and although you should still stay away from crossing the chain, which is less efficient and a longevity killer, it’s nice to lose what has been an annoying noise for everyone over the last 50 years.
A 29in mountain bike rim is laced to Formula hubs, with excellent Avid BB7R disc brakes attached. The wheels aren’t anything special; too heavy for serious summer road riding, but dependable for the rest of the year.
The specced tyres are Continental’s X-King, a great all-round choice; certainly all you’d need for 95 per cent of off-road riding, except perhaps for the wettest of winters, where slippery mud kills any sensible levels of grip.
At its heart, the CXR9.0 is an off-road machine, and that’s where it truly excels. We raced it, we toured it (off-road, of course) and we commuted on it, and it was excellent from every angle.
The ride is stable but rewarding thanks to its stiffness, and it’s exciting if you’re willing to push it. On the road, things become a little more sedate. It’s a fraction heavier than an equivalent road bike at this price, but not enough to cause concern.
The ride is dependable, though swapping the wheelset for something lighter had a great impact on the road, so for long-term ownership this shouldn’t be a real concern.
I’m struggling to think of a better bike for every occasion. Chris Boardman has taken care of the details, so you know the design is spot-on. The ride matches up, and offers the best compromise of all-round performance, while sticking to the right side of ‘exciting’ where it matters. If I’m being very picky, it’s not totally ludicrous to suggest that the gearing (46×36 at the front) isn’t ideal for everybody. It’s aimed at off-road racing more than anything else, so it’ll make hills tough, and it limits top speed too when you’re coming down the other side. The only time I found that a real concern was with a pannier rack and hefty bags attached, climbing a seriously ugly piece of hill in the biggest, 32t cog. On that occasion, I was happy to walk, content in the knowledge that, in every other area, the CXR.90 is a wonderful little machine.