The Bike List

Planet X XLS Shimano 105 2014

Tested by Steve Maile

Review

I'd like to think that I appreciate the value of top-end, luxury cycling brands like Castelli and Cervelo but when it comes to bang for my buck I am a huge fan of the very affordable Planet X. I've two Planet X bikes - an N2a road bike and an Excocet 2 triathlon bike and I wouldn't change them for the world. However, running my best road bike through winter last year ruined my SRAM Red components, and I struggled to stay upright on icy roads, so this year I decided to keep training throughout the off-season and commute on a cyclocross bike.

Planet X sent me one of their XLS Shimano 105, and their sister brand On One's cyclocross bike, the Dirty Disco. Despite all my previous miles being on slick tyres, I fell instantly in love with these cross bikes and the extra freedom they give. Trails between my house and office are now a pleasure rather than an obstacle. And there is certainly a rush brushing past tree trunks at 20mph and discovering unknown off-road Strava segments…

The XLS is described by Planet X as the racer's choice. It certainly feels very close to a road bike on the tarmac, the geometry and carbon frame with its internal cables look very close to the popular Planet X Pro Carbon. Off-road, the XLS feels punchy and agile; however, the medium frame felt a little small for me. Even with a 110mm stem (I'm 5ft 10in) the top tube felt short. On a few occasions there was a bit of toe overlap where my front wheel hit my front foot as the crank arm was horizontal. Whilst using the bike to corner slower tighter corners this was less than ideal.

The 105 shifting was crisp and the derailleurs feels robust and decisive, shifting the chain whatever vibrations the terrain under me caused. The Avid BB7 disc brakes are solid and always answered the door when called upon. This was my first experience of using disc brakes in different conditions and I could really feel the difference, inspiring so much more confidence downhill and through tight trails, even in the wet. Shimano's cross specific 46/36T FC-CX50 chainset (11-28T) makes any steep, muddy climb surmountable and gives lots of range off-road however, on tarmac, there was the rare occasion when a bigger gear would have helped.

The XLS comes with Shimano WH-RX-05 wheels wrapped in Continental CycloX-King tyres that are designed specifically for cyclocross racing. As I'm used to pushing the needle past 120psi it took me a few attempts to get the tyre pressure about right. 80psi is great for the commute to work, mainly on roads and the occasional gravel path. When it comes to riding on wet grass and climbing in the mud, 20-35psi gives the grip needed to stop the rear wheel spinning up muddy banks. As with the brakes, the tyres really earn their money in the wet, giving confidence to take wet, slip-pery, muddy corners at a decent speed.

With two colours available - a stealthy black or a traditional cyclocross Flanders red, yellow and white decals on a black frame - this bike looks really slick. With its aggressive geometry and lines it took over an hour for my fellow cycling club members to realise I wasn't on a road bike during a weekend coffee run. To supplement the great looks the XLS also has internal cabling, which makes the bike easy to pick up and carry over obstacles and clean when covered in mud.

For aggressive handling and responsiveness, this bike rules; if a more comfortable steed is what you desire, take a look at the On One Dirty Disco.

Weight: 9.69kg without pedals - size Med

On One Dirty Disco Sram Rival 22 Cyclocross Bike Review £1,200

At a glance

Verdict Punchy ride and unrivalled value for money but the wheel being so close to the pedals (toe overlap) was detrimental to my confidence, otherwise a definite 4 for performance.
Value
Performance

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