Online retailers Planet X have a reputation for belligerently priced bargains, and their SL Pro Carbon Dura-Ace has been one of the most proliﬁc road and triathlon race winners in the UK. It's an absolute steal for smooth riders.
Ride & handling: Lightweight and comfortable, if somewhat flexy on high-speed descents
Considering the super-low cost you might expect some sort of compromise in ride quality but the Planet X's race results at the highest level and our test rides kick that idea into touch right away.
For a start, it’s a very light bike for its cost, translating whatever power and fitness you’re bringing into speed and giving bigger rewards than usual, particularly on long, steady climbs. Even when standing up out of the saddle, the Pro Dura-Ace produced an immediate throttle response.
The frame and forks are smooth and compliant. As a result, the SL Pro handled the rougher road sections on our local loop well – we never missed a chance to lash a smug grin at our riding buddies when things started to get rattly.
While it wasn’t quite as sharp carving on the corners as some rivals, the extra compliance means even more traction than usual from the sticky Schwalbe tyres.
Handling is as well-balanced, easy and vice-free as you would expect from designers and racers with the experience of Planet X’s squad too. This makes the SL Pro a very relaxing, stress-free long-haul ride and we never felt nervous ticking off the miles.
All these concessions to lightness and smoothness might lead you to expect a soft ride. And indeed, the softer frame feel does result in a noticeable shimmy on high-speed descents.
While it’s easy to get round this issue by pressing your knee against the top tube, we were never as confident when the road headed downwards as we were on stiffer alternatives.
There’s noticeably more mush in the frame and wheels when you brace the bars against the tarmac and go for broke too. We wouldn’t go so far as to describe it as noodley but it’s deinitely a bike suited to a smooth spinner who values comfort rather than a stomper and sprinter for whom rigidity means results.
With that in mind, we’d probably opt for a compact rather than conventional ring chainset and go for the kill on cadence rather than torque.
Chassis: Light, low and well balanced frame, and fork's a nice bit of kit too
Despite only costing £399, the naked carbon frame certainly looks the part (blue, white or pink colours are an extra £26) and it comes in at 1,124g. The four-size compact geometry range should encompass most riders.
The 145mm head tube enables you to get a usefully low position and main tubes and stays mix conventional round pipes with subtle ribbing and shaping to manipulate the mechanical feel.
Neat dropouts and a replaceable gear hanger link it all together and finishing – including particularly nice machined cable guides – is good throughout.
The matching Planet X Pro fork – £145 when bought separately – is a really nice piece of kit too, weighing just 389g thanks to a full-carbon top end.
Equipment: Top-end groupset plus quality own-brand kit, plus various parts options
Planet X have gone for the kill on equipment with a full suite of Shimano’s top line Dura-Ace stop-go gear. You can still pick various parts options as you work through Planet X’s online build-up list, to get the totally right size and ride style. It also means you can add upgrade tweaks such as the lightweight Vision clip-on bars (£60) included on our test model.
Planet X’s aero spoked Model-B wheels are understated but light and responsive, with Schwalbe tyres wrapping the rims in superlight, sticky style.
Planet X also provide the alloy stem, bars, seatpost and Arione-style saddle, none of which behave noticeably different to established brand-name gear.
Keeping it own-brand enables you to get the complete bike for an astonishingly low price. In other words, as unlikely a scenario as it seems, you don’t get what you pay for, you get much better than that.