Direct-sell specialists Planet X have been selling their Stealth pro time trial/triathlon frame for years. Up-to-date speccing and an unbelievable wheelset for the price make this lively lightweight the go-to affordable aerobike in 2012.
Ride & handling: Evergreen aero ride still offers astonishing value and velocity on a proven lightweight platform
We’ve been test riding the Stealth for years, so there was little to surprise us. Despite its relatively light weight, it’s no noodle when it comes to putting the power down. That means a lively and responsive ride on rolling hilly roads or any course with a lot of pace change, adding versatility to the obvious value appeal. Steering is quick and responsive too, which is great for short-course races, if occasionally unsettling at speed with the deep wheels.
The overall ride of the Stealth is smooth enough to allow relatively long stints in the saddle. You still need to avoid big potholes and maybe lift off the saddle slightly on rough sections but you’ll rarely be rattled out of your rhythm when you’re tucked and pedaling hard, which is the crucial thing for maximum aero efﬁciency. Pushing the saddle right forward is enough to increase the middling seat angle if you’re a forward position fan.
It’s the own-brand wheels that really lift the Stealth head and shoulders above the opposition at this price. We’re not normally fans of deep-section wheels – particularly on bikes for beginners – and there were deﬁnitely some nervous, gusty moments from the simple slab-sided rims in windy or trafﬁc-heavy situations. They’re not the stiffest tracking hoops either, which combined with the fast handling to create some anxious moments when cornering hard.
In terms of straight-line speed though, the advantage the Planet X wheels and Crono tubs provide is just astonishing. The Stealth isn’t normally the fastest or most conﬁdent aero bike, but these wheels open up a performance chasm compared to its price rivals. The standalone price of £599 is a bargain.
Frame: Lightweight, reasonably smooth and responsive aero chassis
The Planet-X Stealth might not be new, but the fundamental fuselage details haven’t dated either. The proﬁled head tube smooths out the minimal frontal section while blended main tube, seat tube and rear stay junctions, plus a full width bulged bottom bracket, mean it’s still as wind slippery as most frames. The horizontal dropouts with wheel adjuster screws mean you can tuck the wheel right into the wheelhugger cutout.
There’s plenty of internal space which means you don’t have to cut the seatpost if you’ve got short legs. Only external rather than internal cable routing is an obvious budget feature compared to newer/more expensive frames. Frame and, particularly, fork are competitively light weight for any aero bike, let alone a frame which sells for £499 on its own.
Equipment: Great value complete bike kit with quality tubs on aero wheels
This pricing is possible because Planet X direct-sell from their warehouse. While this model is billed as the SRAM Force version, it’s actually a Force/FSA and SRAM Apex kit mix. The Planet X semi-carbon cockpit is no lighter than an alloy equivalent and the base bar grip shape and sharp elbow pad edges caused several problems for our testers.
The direct-sell situation means you can effectively custom spec your bike from an extensive range of alternatives, though. Even better, the bike builders at Planet X are nearly all massively experienced riders – including several legendary Yorkshire time trial and road race champions – who are happy to pass on their in-depth experience if you ring up after some advice.
Any quibbling about groupset family feuds and bar grumbles pale into insigniﬁcance when you see what wheels this spec option is rolling on. The carbon ﬁbre 82mm front, 101mm rear tubular speciﬁc Planet X wheels are impressive. The tyres glued onto them are top quality handmade tubs that normally cost £50 each and the difference they make puts the PX into a totally different class to other bikes at this price.