Planet X Pro Carbon Ultegra
Sheffield’s finest once again brings unbeatable value in the form of the 2021 Planet X Pro Carbon: an all-new frame design with dropped stays and plenty of tyre clearance all made using high-grade Japanese Toray carbon fibres and built up with Shimano’s brilliant Ultegra groupset.
Add in name-brand wheels and quality components for just £2,599.99 / €3,289.99 / $4,037.99 and this could well be 2021’s biggest race bike bargain.
Planet X Pro Carbon Ultegra frame
At the heart of the Planet X Pro Carbon Ultegra is that new frameset built using Toray carbon. With a claimed weight of 1,100g for a medium frame and 400g for the fork, it’s a reasonably light chassis, particularly at this price.
The smooth-profiled head tube flows into a bow-legged, aero-bladed fork that’s reminiscent of Pinarello’s forks. The idea behind this wide stance is that air passes more smoothly between spinning wheel and fork leg, reducing drag.
The sturdy down tube morphs from wide and flat at the head tube into a box section at the bottom bracket, while the seat tube has a D-shaped profile with a flat back to allow for a little flex. Super-skinny dropped stays also offer some flex, while square chainstays provide stiffness.
Planet X Pro Carbon Ultegra kit
Planet X has a reputation for value to maintain and it comes out fighting here. Just look at the loaded specification of this £2.5k bike: full Shimano Ultegra with no omissions and top-grade Ice Tech brake rotors, a quality Selle Italia saddle and Controltech bar and stem.
So far, so good, but then comes the icing on the cake – rarely seen Fulcrum Airbeat 400 carbon tubeless disc wheels (an £800 upgrade over the standard bike’s £1,799 price tag).
The Airbeats are an OE (original equipment supplied direct to manufacturers) version of the Italian brand’s excellent Wind DB wheels, which retail at £1,100. The tubeless-ready Airbeats use a 40mm-deep carbon rim with a broad 21mm internal width, perfect for the 30mm tyres.
They’re built with straight-pull spokes onto alloy hubs using Fulcrum’s ultra-smooth DRP bearings, and have a claimed weight of 1,640g a pair – a significant step up from the bike’s standard alloy Fulcrum Racing 800s at over 300g lighter.
Planet X Pro Carbon Ultegra geometry
On the road the Pro Carbon certainly lives up to its name because its geometry is racy, with a steep 73.5-degree head angle paired with a 72.75-degree seat.
The reach is long at 401mm and the stack is low for a 59cm bike at 592mm. The wheelbase is short at 1,014mm and the trail too at around 55mm.
These numbers mean the Planet X is rapid – the handling is keep-your-wits-about-you quick. A shift in your shoulders or a flick of the wrist will send the Pro Carbon exactly where you want it, making it an exciting place to spend a few hours.
Planet X Pro Carbon Ultegra ride impressions
The bike is very stiff, which could make for some hard riding. The frame is rigid, which is great for sprinting or standing up and attacking a climb.
However, the spec comes into play with a comfortable seat in the form of the latest update of the legendary Selle Italia Flite. It’s the same swoopy shape that’s bolstered by a well-shaped pressure-relief channel.
Up front, the slender handlebar is pretty stiff, but Planet X’s bar tape is thick enough to counter most road buzz and the wide tyres add masses of compliance.
It’s the tyres that make a big comfort, big volume difference here. I’ve not come across the Jack Brown Mile Munchers before with their unique checkerboard tread and a casing that blows up wider than their nominal 30mm width on the carbon rims.
This broad tyre works two-fold, by providing plenty of cushioning, isolating you from rough surfaces and, secondly, adding grip that inspired confidence when cornering during wet winter testing.
Big tyres may be at odds with the Pro Carbon’s nimble handling, but the plushness of this rubber really helps balance out the ride.
The all-Shimano drivetrain with endurance-friendly 50/34, 11-32 gearing is exactly what I’d choose for everyday riding.
The Airbeat wheels are light enough to be a boon when climbing, yet taut and stiff enough for fast descending. Their aero profile helps maintain momentum while still being shallow enough not to be affected by crosswinds. The Ultegra brakes with their optimum Ice Tech rotors are a joy, too.
If you’re looking for a racy machine that’s rideable on the UK’s most dubious road surfaces, then the Pro Carbon in this spec absolutely fits the bill (with a better/carbon bar and seatpost it’d feel even smoother).
This value-for-money offering left me gobsmacked and the ride experience did little to dampen my enthusiasm.
How we tested
When it comes to performance road bikes, it’s very easy to be blinded into thinking you need to buy a pro-peloton bike with glamorous cutting-edge design and top-of-the-line components.
For most of us, bikes like that are simply out of reach and, in reality, you really don’t need to spend huge amounts to get a great performing bike straight out of the box – one that you’ll cherish and even want to upgrade further down the line.
So we’ve selected four bikes costing between £1,999 and £2,600, a far more achievable budget for many of us, and put them to the test on our local roads.