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Planet X

Planet X Article When I decided a year ago to take the plunge into the world of road bikes (having previously only favoured the off-road variety) I was keen to buy a bike that would be of a spec that was as good as it was possible to be without breaking the bank. After trawling the web and talking to friends who knew about these things I had set my mind on a few essential points:
  1. Must be cheaper than £1000. Preferable a lot cheaper.
  2. It should have a decent gear set - Shimano 105 or equivolent.
  3. It should fit me.
  4. Lightweight aluminium or carbon frame
  5. The colour should be black (all my bikes/cars/motorbikes/guitars etc are always black)
It seems I had set myself a difficult task. For most brands the cheapest I could get was about £1.5k which I wasn't prepared to spend on a bike that was going to be secondary to my mountain bike. I could find two exceptions. Ribble and Planet X, both of which met my criterea at an affordable price.
 

Ribble 7005 Audax/Winter Training 105 5800

Ribble Audax 105 Ribble's offer was the 7005 Audax/Winter Training 105 5800 (currently priced at £623.94). It has Shimano 105s and an alumnium frame with carbon forks. This is a seriously tempting bike, but I wasn't convinced I wanted a 'winter' bike. Also the blue frame/styling wasn't really doing it for me. For about £100 more Ribble have the Gran Fondo which has a carbon frame, but only Sora gears. These can be upgraded to 105s for an extra £142 which is still within budget. However I had found a way to get everything I wanted for a lot less...
 

Planet X Pro Carbon

Planet X Pro CarbonThe Planet X Pro Carbon (prices currently start from £799.99) is a bike that popped up often when talking about bargain bikes. And what you can get for your money from the Sheffiled company is impressive. The exact spec of the bikes they have for sale changes regulary. Currently  you can get a carbon frame and Shimano Ultegra 6800 gears for only £999.99. At the time I was ready to buy the Ultegras weren't available at this price, but for £799.99 the 105s were. I also had found a discount code for 20% off (we don't have any for Planet X right now, but always check for discount codes) which meant for £640 I got everything on my list.
  My only concern was that I hadn't sat on one so wasn't sure of the fit. And as they only sell online there was nowhere I could try one out. In the end I did some measuring and bike fitting calculation and decided that as I was pretty much an average build (I have no extraordinary dimensions) that I would probably be OK. That worry was soon put to bed once the bike arrived. This bike is so light the delivery driver joked that the box seemed to be empty. Once out of the box all I had to do was straighten the handle bars and fit the pedals and I was ready to go. The bike has been super comfortable from the first and I haven't once regretted not going for the Ultegra gears - the 105s do a sterling job. Usually at this point in an article I would point out some little flaws, but I genuinely can't think of anything that I would change. A year and 1,700 miles later the bike is still going strong and mechanically I haven't done anything more than pump up the tyres occaisionly, oil the chain every now and then and adjust the brakes. Check the range of Planet X Bikes available on Cheeky Cycles.
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So Good: Five-Ten Freeriders

Five-Ten Freerider cycle shoes
Bought for style - loved for comfort and performance
Five-Ten Freeriders The decision to buy Five-tens was definitely one of style. I own a pair of clipless shoes, but prefer to be able to fall away from my bike when I come off so I mostly rode in old skate style trainers anyway. The trouble is that the have flimsey soles - especially the worn out ones I wore. The Five-Ten Freeriders offered me the style I liked with the performance of a proper cycle shoe. The sole is very firm so no power is lost in flexing it, and also very grippy - reducing those awkward foot-slipping-off-pedal moments often encounter with platform pedals. And they are super comfortable. The price is a bit steep though - even with a discount. Still, I have ridden them awful conditions and hosed them down afterwards and they still look fresh so in the long run they may well prove to be good value. Five-Ten shoes are available from Evans and Chain Reaction Cycles.
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So Good: Urge Endur-O-Matic

Urge Endur-O-Matic Helmet
I found the urge to buy this helmet irresistible
Urge Endur-O-Matic I've always looked odd in cycle helmets. I think I have a funny shaped head or something. I was hoping the Urge Endur-O-Matic (which sounds like something invented by Wallace and Gromit) would look as cool on me as it does off. My first issue was that I couldn't find a local shop that stocked one so couldn't try one on before buying (Chain Reaction stock them). Secondly it only comes in two sizes: Small and Large. I measured my head to find I was exactly between the sizes. I went for the smaller reasoning that it is better to have a close fit than a loose one. I'm not sure I made the right choice... It does fit, but feels a bit high on my head. However it is comfy. The real question though is does it look good on me? The answer. No. Not really. It doesn't look any worse that any other helmet I've tried, and it is a pretty thing on it's own - it just doesn't look great on my misshapen noggin. Urge Helmets are available from Chain Reaction Cycles.
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So Good: Lapierre Zesty

 
Lapierre Zesty 514
No limits bike for most riders an excellent buy (if you can afford it)
Lapierre Zesty I bought my 5 series Lapierre Zesty a couple of years ago when I was becoming painfully clear that my old Specialized Hardrock just wasn't cutting the mustard for the sort of riding I was doing. This bike was getting rave reviews in the press and looked awesome so when I saw a heavily discounted bike at the end on the season on 0% finance I did some maths and realised that for slightly less a month than I had been shelling out for my 'just-paid-off' student loan I could riding around on a carbon framed, full suspension mountain muncher I was convinced. Once my wife was too the bike was mine. And I couldn't be happier, it is an awesome bike. I think it will always be more capable that I am so I have no fears about out-growing it. Although getting it set up right was a bit of a learning curve... The Lapierre range has changed a bit since then, but they still have an excellent selection of full-suspension mountain bikes (some even have electrical gizmos) that are just as good as ever. Lapierre Bikes are available from Evans and some models are also stocked at Chain Reaction Cycles.
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So Good, I Bought Them

  • Urge Endur-O-Matic Helmet
    I found the urge to buy this helmet irresistible
Am I a slave to fashion, easily convinced by a bit of slick publicity, or am I a savvy purchaser of quality goods. I'd like to think the latter. I have always believed that the benefit of expensive kit is proportionally less that the price. A bike that costs five times your current one won't make you five times faster. Indeed, my first mountain bike event was completed on a Raleigh Attitude in an old t-shirt and trousers and in such a gentlemanly attitude compared to the lycra'd folk about me that my friend joked I would only have looked more relaxed smoking a pipe. I managed to post a respectable time with kit that only cost a tiny fraction of that which I now have. So have I been spending all this money just for a marginal improvement in performance or comfort? Or did I spend it just to look cool? I will be posting about some of the kit that I have bought (and that you can buy on this site) over the next few weeks.