Carrying the Olympic dreams
By Ben Atkins in Cittiglio, Italy
Massive but tidy welds
More tidy welding
Unlike the off the peg
The down tube is ovalised
The top tube is almost
round at the seat tube
The diamond profile
Carbon chain stays
The Boardman Pro fork
The Boardman Pro drivetrain
Nicole Cooke is arguably Great Britain's finest-ever woman cyclist
and British Cycling has hatched a grand plan leading up to this August's
Beijing Olympics in hopes that she will bring home a gold medal. A major
component of the plan has been the creation of a team built specifically
around her so that she can concentrate solely on the event - and not
worry about any pressure for results in the intervening period. To help
finance this new "Pro-Nat" team, Halfords Bikehut was recruited as the
As part of the deal, though, the major UK retailer wanted Cooke to
ride a bike that was actually available in their stores to consumers.
As luck would have it, Halfords Bikehut recently started stocking a
new range of bikes designed by former World and Olympic pursuit and
World time trial champion Chris Boardman. Cooke and the rest of the
team are therefore equipped with his top of the range offering: the
The Boardman Pro bike currently retails in Halfords Bikehut stores
for just £1399.99 (US$2738.78/€1776.18). Given that surprisingly modest
sum, the obvious question is, What is Great Britain's top hope for Olympic
glory on the road doing on a bike that costs around half that of the
frames ridden by her rivals? Can a bike of that price compete with the
more expensive machines out there?
Cooke, her team-mates, British Cycling and Halfords Bikehut certainly
Chris Boardman was certainly enamoured with the benefits of technology
during his career yet he was never a fan of pointless fripperies on
a frame; for him, any deviation from the norm has to be there for a
very good reason. As a result, Cooke's frame may not be very expensive
but it's decidedly purposeful.
The frame itself uses a straightforward triple-butted 7005 aluminium
front triangle with carbon fibre seat- and chain stays to provide a
good balance of stiffness and comfort. The down tube is bi-ovalised
while the top tube is mostly diamond-profiled through most of its length
before turning round at the seat tube. Both sets of stays adopt a familiar
inwards arc and the matching full-carbon fork is fitted with a beefy-looking
legs for solid handling.
As intended, the general layout, materials and semi-compact geometry
of Cooke's frame closely match the off-the-peg offerings in the shops
but with one major departure: team edition bikes use 35mm-shorter head
tubes to provide a more aggressive position for racing.
Cooke's team bike spec is otherwise fairly similar to production versions
including an almost complete Shimano Dura-Ace groupset and Truvativ
Rouleur carbon chainset with standard 53/39T chainrings. Minor changes
include an Ultegra chain instead of the stock bike's 105 unit and an
Ultegra brake calliper in place of the carbon fibre Tektro R750 stoppers,
although curiously just at the rear.
The finishing kit is almost entirely from Ritchey, consisting of a
WCS 4Axis stem, oversized Logic WCS anatomic bars and an aluminium WCS
seat post topped by a titanium railed Selle Italia SLR saddle - different
from the retail-spec, but obviously Nicole's choice. Interestingly,
of all the women's bikes seen by this correspondent none have been fitted
with what one would call a "women's" saddle.
The Ritchey WCS badge would normally also be found on the wheels but
Cooke's bike was spotted with a pair of older Bontrager Race X Lite
Aero deep-section carbon wheels fitted with the ever-popular 22mm-wide
Continental Competition tubulars.
Completing the bike is a pair of Boardman's own branded carbon bottle
cages and Cooke's pedal of choice for many years: the Speedplay Zero
in red "CSC" livery with titanium spindles. These are popular with a
lot of women as they require little force to unclip - often an issue
for those with small feet.
Reasonable retail cost notwithstanding, the bike's build is comparable
to most other Shimano-equipped bikes in the elite peloton - and the
Ultegra is not unusual amongst the women where budgets are much lower
than the men's peloton. The question as to whether it is worthy of a
rider such as Nicole Cooke in her bid for glory is a difficult one to
answer, though. Certainly as far as value for money is concerned, the
Boardman Pro - and its lesser stable mates - is picking up accolades
wherever it goes, but at this level that is rarely a consideration.
The question would usually be answered by its performance in the hands
of its rider and thus far, the bike seems to be holding its own against
its more glamorous and expensive rivals. She finished 20th in the Trofeo
Alfredo Binda in Cittiglio, Italy, just over a minute behind compatriot
Emma Pooley, 16th at the Ronde Van Vlaanderen less than two weeks later
and once again in the group of big favourites, and eighth at La Flèche
Wallonne just over two weeks after that. Her first win of the season
came recently in stage one of the Tour de l'Aude in France.
All of these results are far less than Cooke would normally expect,
but considering her tapering condition - and that in all of these races
she put in late attacks - it's difficult to fault the bike in any of
According to Halfords Bikehut team manager Julian Winn - a former British
champion himself - there is a full carbon frame on its way into the
Boardman range, which Cooke should be riding at the beginning of the
summer. Until then, she will be building towards that August 10th rendezvous
on this very capable machine.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here