The phrase ‘keep it simple, stupid’ has become a cliché for good reason: there’s a lot to be said for stripping things down to the basics, and that’s just what Planet X has done with its London Road.
Yorkshire’s king of the well-priced road bike has put together a straightforward triple-butted aluminium commuter-plus bike based around a SRAM Apex single-ring setup, thru-axles and mechanical disc brakes – in the form of the rarely seen dual-piston Rever Havits.
While a good set of Fulcrum wheels, tough and 32mm wide Panaracer tyres and a full-carbon fork round out an attractive package.
It describes it as “the do-it-all super bike” that’s “just as capable on the cyclocross circuit, on gravel road and on canal paths as it is on the road”.
Planet X London Road kit
The London Road stands out from its competition, not for the monochrome frame that seems to be a bit of a theme for 2021 – though it’s also available in a bright Zesty Lime – but by eschewing the usual Shimano double for SRAM’s 1x chainset.
Having just one chainring majors on simplicity but the trade-off – and there has to be one – is a compromise in the gear range.
The London Road’s SRAM Apex 1x drivetrain pairs a 42t wide/narrow chainring with a wide 11-42 cassette, which limits the top end. Yet it still allowed me to tackle even my steeper local hills comfortably, staying seated until the most extreme sections.
However, the Planet X’s 42×11 top gear is much lower than the 50×11 offered by a compact setup: 103in compared with 123in of a 50×11 top.
If you regularly crank a big gear, then the London Road 1x is probably not the bike for you, and you’ll likely spin out if you crank it down steep descents. If, like me, you prefer to spin along at a high cadence, you’ll be right at home. And yes, having 11 gears on an 11-42 cassette does mean some big jumps but the chain behaved itself without the need for a chain-catcher.
Planet X London Road ride impressions
Once you get used to the gearing, Planet X’s London Road is great fun to ride, whether on bike paths or blasting through city streets. And of all the bikes I’ve tested this year, this is the one that surprised me the most.
I thought it might be overly stiff and unyielding, especially because the aluminium frame is accompanied by a 31.6mm diameter seatpost (which I thought were extinct, but this and Boardman’s ADV 8.9 have them), but I found this comfortable enough for extended trips as well as short, sharp commutes.
The geometry is a little unusual but works well. The head-tube angle is slightly shallow and the wheelbase on the long side, over a metre on all four frame sizes – both of which add stability. But a shortish head tube and longish top tube add a racier feel, which allows you to get down low in the drops if you want to, though that small top gear may well be a limiting factor for some.
The Planet X isn’t that light, but low gears and a stiff frame make it a competent if not an exciting climber and it’s a very, very decent descender.
There’s good grip from the tyres too and fine front-end control from the carbon fork with its tapered head tube, plus good braking.
I’ve had little experience of Rever’s Havit mechanical disc brakes, but these are much better than the Genesis CDA 30’s or Ribble 725 Endurance Disc – Base’s. They’re a dual-piston design, like TRP’s Spyres, and offer very good control.
The London Road’s triple-butted frame has bags of practicality for commuting, with rear rack mounts and fittings on the frame and fork for mudguards. And even with the 32mm tyres it came with there was room for mudguards.
The Panaracer Tour Guard tyres aren’t the lightest and, if you want to maximise speed, you could swap them for skinnier rubber, but they have a reflective strip for night riding and major on durability – crucial for day-to-day commuting. Their tread means they grip well on towpath and light off-road surfaces, adding versatility to the London Road’s ride.
The Panaracers are paired with Fulcrum’s handbuilt 900 Disc wheels, which are a cut or two above the wheels on most bikes at this price.
Planet X London Road bottom line
Planet X’s London Road was a real revelation and, if you’re looking for a dedicated commuter bike on a budget, this hits the spot very nicely – and those wide touring tyres mean it’s not restricted to short rides on city streets.
The limited top gear does, however, truncate the London Road’s training bike credentials unless you can spin the cranks like a cartoon figure, but that’s the London Road’s biggest limiting factor. Otherwise, this is a practical and versatile bike, it has good kit as well as a nice balance of performance and comfort.
How we tested
The £1k price bracket is a competitive one for road bikes and you can buy a lot of bike these days for that.
So I put nine of the most competitive to the test to see which perform best for your hard-earned dosh – hopefully proving you don’t need to spend a fortune to have a grand day out.
Testing took place on my local roads and tracks, with the bikes covering a range of intentions for the road and beyond, and prices range from £800 to £1,300.