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This Is How We Do It

This Is How We Do It

Working at Planet X and our Direct to Customer Business Model.

It’s been well over a year since I started to work at Planet X and during this time, it’s been a privilege to be involved with the development and launch of some of our best bikes, ever.

I am still super excited about the Viner Super Prestige Cyclocross bike and the New Planet X Cyclocross bike I have been race-testing for the last 2 months. I raced the new Viner Super Prestige pretty hard at the beginning of the season and loved every muddy minute, the bike is quick and nimble, it has a high bottom bracket, plenty of clearance, internal cable routing and a racy geometry. It does exactly what I need it to and has helped me to some pretty good results this year.

But… As the road season draws closer my enthusiasm is also peeked, with the arrival of the new aero road bike we are launching at Planet – The EC130E.

The EC130E’s name is appended with the term “Rivet Rider”, a term derived from the early days of cycling. Back then saddles had a single rivet on the front as part of their construction, riders would (and still do) sit forward “on the rivet” when pushing themselves to the limit in a bid for victory. Hence the term.

This pretty much encompasses the bikes ethos for me, the only way I wanted to ride it during testing was sat forward in the saddle, with my hands on the drops crunching out 320 watts until my legs were burning. The bike just begged to be ridden hard.

It really is a joy to ride and I am excited to see how it is received.

Anyway enough about my obsession with our bikes – I want to break away and answer the two questions I always get asked when I tell other cyclists I work at Planet X;

Q1: Why are your bikes such good value / Why are your bikes so cheap?

The truth is, we are not cheap in the traditional sense of the term “cheap” and the most important part of answering this question is to rephrase it too;

Q: Why are your bikes such good value / Why are your bikes so inexpensive compared to other bike brands?

A: The traditional model of taking bikes to market is broken. It is too time-consuming, operationally and logistically heavy and most of all, too expensive to be sustainable from a small holding in Rotherham. It's not just bikes you pay through the nose in the same way for any product that reaches retail through a network of dealers, distributors and importers- it's wasteful and expensive.

  1. Traditional bike manufacturers source frames and components from all over the world, frames from China, saddles from Italy, and tyres from Germany etc. These components are then shipped to bike build factories where they are assembled into bikes. The built bikes are then moved, either to an importers or to the distributors or to large storage facilities where they sit waiting to be shipped to the distributors. When the bike is being launched, they are shipped to the distributors where they are added to storage again until an order is placed at a bike shop. The bike is then shipped to the bike shops / online retailers. Finally, the bike is collected or shipped to the customer’s home.

To be successful Planet X had to adapt and remove steps, ultimately there were too many parties involved, all of which demand a fee for their services. We cut out the middlemen and managed all the process stages ourselves.

  1. We source frames and components from all over the world, frames from China, saddles from Italy, and tyres from Germany etc. These components are then shipped to Planet X in Yorkshire, England where they are assembled into bikes. The bikes remain with us until an order comes through on our website and the bike is shipped directly to our customers. So there you go, now it should be easy to see how we have produced our bikes at such great value.

We have no distributors or retailers, no storage, less shipping and lower freight costs and importantly - We don’t take our supply chain and manufacturing savings to the bank, we pass it on to our customers.

And don’t get me started on the comparisons of overhead costs associated with each type of business.

So answering the question, “why are we so cheap” is easy?

We are not cheap, we are inexpensive and efficient, it's other brands that are expensive. Don't be fooled by flashy expensive adverts and team photo shoots into thinking you are paying for quality, you're just paying more for their inefficiency. 

Q2. Why do you buy your frames from the Far East?

The efficient production of high-quality carbon frames in large numbers has been pushed to the Far East by the 3 or 4 largest cycling brands (not by a small family owned business in Yorkshire). We still make small numbers of frames by hand in Italy for Viner. Their huge depth of artisanal skill is perfect for making custom and one-off frame designs for the most discerning cyclists.

It’s simply a fact that very few brands produce their own carbon frames anymore, large factories in Taiwan and China contract the production of frames from the major specialist frame manufacturers. In order to provide a product that is technically excellent, to a consistently high quality at a competitive price we have chosen to develop our frames with these same factories.

It seems strange to me as a “youngen” for consumers to adopt a more traditional stance on the production of contemporary goods. What I mean by this is a steel frame that has been hand built in Sheffield makes sense but, carbon is a dynamic, modern material that is always improving and adapting. Would you be more encouraged if your new SMART TV or whippet had been “hand built in Yorkshire”? It’s unlikely.

The consistent quality in the volumes we need to satisfy demand is imperative to us and this has informed our decision to acquire the majority of our frames this way.

The bottom line is – we are successful. Like any business, we have small issues that need our attention and we learn from them but if we weren’t keeping customers happy with quality products then we wouldn’t continue to grow.


11 December 2015


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