Friday 20 September 2013

Planet X Pro Carbon XLS - team bikes 2013

I'm fortunate to be riding two new Planet X bikes this season, both Pro Carbon XLS disc bikes.

I rode the sample XLS last season and found it superb for flat-out racing - click here for my initial review. This year's builds are Ultegra based with some dedicated Shimano 'cross equipment in the form of top-pull front mechs and 'cross specific chainsets.

The frame at the heart of my XLS is a full carbon monocoque, hand-laid up to optimise strength and stiffness in the areas that count. It has a tapered headtube, wider at the bottom than the top, that makes a big difference to the handling in bumpy or technical sections, allowing you to ‘point and steer’ much more than with a conventional ‘straight’ headtubed bike, which can allow you to be knocked off line more easily.

The bottom bracket area is beefed up with extra carbon and also in size, and you can really feel this stiffness when putting pressure on the pedals and in technical riding. Whilst coloured paint finishes look great, the glossy black 12k weave finish on the XLS helps hide the inevitable scratches and scrapes that a season of muddy cross races brings. One of my favourite aspects to the XLS frame is its top tube. Flat on the top and bottom, it makes for really easy grabbing and very comfortable shouldering during the running sections of a race. Additionally, the cables are internally routed through the top tube – less maintenance as they are protected better from water and grit and contribute to less scratching of the frame in that area.

 As with many new generation ‘cross frames, the XLS has disc mounts to allow full disc braking throughout. The debate on whether discs are better than cantilever brakes for ‘cross still rages. Certainly they are more powerful, but do you need the power? Some say yes, some no, citing a little extra weight for disc systems as a negative. For me the debate is less about the braking power, weight, or feel, but about two main advantages over cantis. Disc brakes mean no rim braking, and in ‘cross where rim and brakepad are covered in a fine coating of grit or mud on a constant basis, this means no rim wear. Which means your nice (expensive) wheels don’t get trashed every time there is a muddy race and don’t need replacing so frequently – a big advantage to the cost conscious ‘crosser. Furthermore, discs give clean lines around the fork and seatstays where on other traditional bikes, the cantilevers are sited that cause a big build up of mud and vegetation. In certain conditions, I have ridden disc bikes that kept working for longer than their cantilever rivals due to the reduction in build up of clag in those places. For someone with one bike only, or a lack of willing pit crew, a disc bike can be crucial in getting to the end of the race without grinding to a muddy halt. Whilst there are newer and pricier part- or full-hydraulic systems on the market, the mechanical Avid BB7 brakes make for super easy maintenance, predictable modulation and if used with harder sintered pads, great wear even in the worst of conditions. For 1 hour ‘crosses, I personally don’t feel the need for anything more complicated.

With crisp white graphics against the laquered carbon weave of the tubing, my 'crossjunkie' edition bikes should look fairly smart. For a lap or two, at least.


Anonymous said...

Nice did you paint the wall to match your tubs ?

crossjunkie said...

Pink tubs, red wall, rubbish photo.

John Lee said...

What size are you riding Alan?

John Lee said...

Also Alan, any idea when the frame set might be available? Thanks

crossjunkie said...

I'm riding an XL 59cm though the head tube is relatively short for a frame that size.

Not sure when available but will find out as others are asking.

John Lee said...

Sorry to hog the blog but after I asked the question about framset availability earlier I found the frameset on Planet X's website and i think it's been available for a while. So is this a new version Alan?

crossjunkie said...

Ahh, the site has been updated since I last looked as I knew the L and XL were out of stock. It's the same XLS as before though there is a new Flanders graphic version coming at some point

David Oliver said...

Have you had any discussion with PX over the difference in weight over the disco and XLS forks? have you/can you swap the forks out to save the 300-400g or is the rigidity and tracking better on the xls fork?

crossjunkie said...

Disco has an all carbon fork, XLS an alloy steerer. That explains any weight difference though I'm not sure where the 300/400g figure comes from. Different build specs?

XLS builds up pretty light with stock Ultegra, a reasonably heavy chainset and the disc Pro Carbon wheels. The frame itself is lighter than a Disco and forks can be swapped around as it features a standard 1.5 inch bearing race.

Ryan8538 said...

Sizing question: You mentioned you're riding a 59, but how tall are you and what's your inseam?


crossjunkie said...

I'm 6' 5" and my bb to top of saddle measurement is 81cm on that bike (with 175mm cranks). Inseam I think is 36" if I remember rightly.

jamie said...


Another sizing and usage Q.

I'm 6ft and got sized up on a Boardman cx team @ 55.5 seemed to be perfect,will this carry across to the xls?

Wanting to purchase the xls to commute daily and light xc ie pennine bridal way of a weekend,is the bike suited to this?

many thanks J

crossjunkie said...

Hi Jamie,

I'm not familiar with Boardman sizing so wouldn't want to push you onto a particular size frame. But, at 6'5 I fit great on an XL/59 frame and even managed okish on a L/57 test frame. The XLS is quite small in the headtube though, so perhaps sizes up reasonably small. Compare the geometry figures if you can - at 6ft I would have though a L/57 would work.

In terms of usage, I've been everywhere on my XLS - Pennine Bridleway, 3 Peaks training, fast road training. It does them all. It would make a superb commuter with disc brakes giving you a lack of rim wear and performance in the wet. If you go for one, I hope you enjoy riding one as much as me. I'm off the bike at the moment after an accident but the XLS is the bike I most want to get back on at the moment :-)

jamie said...

Great stuff..currently ride a full sus,change from hardtail i always rode but more an impulse riding daily but the full sus is a heavy bike for a commuter but fun all the nice to see how much time i can knock of time to gisburn trig point training route B-)

As for cx bikes in general,having sat on one the seating position was strange to me,not sure on the position my body should be in when one the bike,very different to my current ride.

Ps hope your injury doesn't keep you off the saddle long.

many thanks for speedy reply J

crossjunkie said...

Position will feel a bit wild at first compared to an MTB but persevere and it'll become 2nd nature quick enough. Follow guidelines for a normal road position, perhaps leaning toward sportive comfort, rather than racing sleekness. Enjoy.