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James Vickers' Seasonal Musings

James Vickers shares his thoughts on Cyclocross Racing, the all-new EC130E aero road bike and the Planet X direct-to-customer business model.

It's been over a year since I started 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 EVER bikes.

I’m still super excited about the Viner Super Prestige Cyclocross bike, as well as the new Planet X prototype CX bike I’ve been testing for the last couple of months. What a bike.

Around the beginning of the CX season I raced the new Viner Super Prestige pretty hard. It’s quick and nimble, has a nice high bottom bracket for plenty of clearance, internal cable routing and a racey geometry. It’s a superb CX race bike and has helped me to some pretty good results so far.

Now, as the road season draws closer, I’m getting excited about the all-new Planet X aero road bike – the EC130E Rivet Rider.

The ‘EC130E’ name is derived from the early days of cycling. Back then, saddles wore 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. This pretty much encompasses the EC130E’s ethos.

Sat forward on the saddle, hands on the drops, cranking out the wattage, that was how I rode the Rivet Rider during testing. It really flew and begged to be ridden harder. We’re all excited for the EC130E’s launch and to see how well it’ll be received. We all love this bike and you will, too.

Anyway, on a different note, I thought I’d take this opportunity to answer a couple of questions I’m always asked by fellow cyclists when I tell them I work at Planet X:

Q1. Why are your bikes such good value / so cheap, compared to other big bike brands?

A1. Well, the truth is, we’re not ‘cheap’ in the traditional sense. We’re just cheaper than the ‘over-inflated’ prices of other brands because we have our own unique business model.  Other brands bring their bikes to market via a time-consuming, operationally and logistically resource heavy process which is expensive, meaning they struggle to offer the same value for money as Planet X.

  • The big-name ‘traditional’ bike manufacturers source their frames and other components from all over the world – from China, Italy and Germany and so on.
  • These components are then shipped to bike-build factories where they are assembled into bikes.
  • These built bikes are then moved, either direct to distributors or to large storage facilities where they sit waiting to be shipped to distributors.
  • When they launch a new bike, they’re shipped to the distributors where they’re added to storage again until an order is placed at a bike shop.
  • Their bike is then shipped to the bike shops / online retailers.
  • Finally, the bike is shipped to the customer's home.

There’s so many shipping, handling and storage costs involved in that process Planet X sought to do things differently. To be successful Planet X worked long and hard to adapt our processes, to remove any unnecessary middle-men and to cut overall costs.  In short, the savings we make we pass on to our customers. Our products are exactly the same (or better!) as those ‘other’ big brand names, but we choose to pass on our savings to you.

  • At Planet X we source our frames and components from all over the world - China, Italy and Germany and so on, just the same as all the other big players in the industry.
  • These components are then shipped to Planet X in Yorkshire, England, where they’re assembled by skilled technicians.
  • Built bikes remain with us until we receive a direct customer order – no distributors or middle-men involved. We then ship direct to our customers. Simple.

It’s easy to see how we can offer such low prices. Planet X isn’t cheap, we’re just good value for money.

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

Efficient production of high quality carbon frames in large numbers is most establish in the Far East. Three or four ‘other’ large cycling brands also source their products from the exact same places.  It’s simply a fact that very few brands produce their own carbon frames in-house anymore. Large factories in Taiwan and China are contracted to produce frames on behalf of major frame manufacturers.  In order to provide a product that is technically excellent, to a consistently high quality and at a competitive price, we’ve chosen to develop our frames with these same factories.

It’s just the advancement of manufacture.  Carbon fiber design and production is dynamic and always improving.  The Far East is home to some of the finest carbon craftsmen in the world, so we utilize their expertise.  Their consistent product quality across the volumes we need to satisfy demand make it an obvious choice.

The bottom line is, our products are first class and our prices are as low as possible.  Like any business, there are always small teething issues that might need our attention, but we learn from those. Ultimately, we understand that it’s important to keep our customers happy by providing high quality products without charging the earth. We’re all customers, too, remember, so we know what it’s like to be on both sides of the counter.

Catch up with James at local Lincolnshire Cyclocross racing league events.

Article Editor: Peter Morris

10 December 2015