Can this short-course specialist impress us with its speed and mettle?
Planet-X Exocet 2 Ultegra £1,999.99 planetx.co.uk
Planet-X has been hacking prices down to the bare minimum on everything from complete bikes to clothing bundles for several decades. They’ve always sponsored – and regularly employed – some of the UK’s best triathletes and time trialists.
So, instead of our sample bike being built up by the Saturday boy at a local shop, it was built by top road racer Mark Lovatt. If it was your bike he was building he could talk you through the options with the benefit of having over a decade of top level experience.
Frame and Forks
The second-generation Exocet is a classic low front end, oval tube-based, wind cheating frame. Two different seat clamp positions give more relaxed time trial or forward set triathlon seat angles. It’s also compatible with either conventional shift cables or Di2 electric gears.
The rear brake gets a particularly neat horizontal entry into the nape of the frame behind the stem for very clean and precise rear brake feel.
While conventional brakes aren’t the most aero solution, the deep-down tube syncs with the fork crown, while the seat-tube wraps round the horizontal dropout adjustable rear wheel to keep overall airflow smooth.
Planet-X has always had an incredible reputation for kit value, and the Exocet 2 is no exception with the addition of a £600 FSA K-Force Light BB30 crankset to the Ultegra gears overshadowing the downgraded SRAM chain and cassette.
The Hutchinson tyres are adequate rather than amazing, but Planet-X’s own wheels are proven all-weather aero contenders. All Planet-X bikes are built to order, therefore it’s not a fixed spec, and the ability to change components is definitely an advantage. No-one in our test team got on well with the narrow pad, wide extension Planet-X Carbon Stealth set up that was supplied.
While the bars may have been an initial stumbling block we had no other issues with the fit or feel of the Planet-X. We’re not surprised the Exocet 2 frame has been crafted by the same designer as the ferociously stiff and focused Planet-X N2A aero road frame. The T800 fibres are obviously laid up to get your power straight through that big BB30 bottom bracket to the rear wheel and it never struggled to get on top of an optimistic gear choice.
The FSA carbon crank doesn’t flinch in delivering as much torque as possible to it’s big alloy axle and then on through the frame. If you’re braced against the bars on a shallow rise there’s no dilution of full body power delivery if you want it.
While it’s stiffer and harsher over rough roads than the Dolan, it’s not so stiff it shakes you apart or knocks you off rhythm over rough sections.
While it’s hard to quantify aerodynamics on the road, the Exocet 2 certainly doesn’t have excess drag in headwind situations, and sustains speed happily in light crosswinds too. It doesn’t seem to suck you forwards like the most advanced bikes do, but it doesn’t get blown backwards either.
It’s stiff and stable enough to stay in a tuck despite occasionally gusty conventional deep section wheels. The razor blade brake levers aren’t exactly comfortable, but conventional brakes and alloy braking surfaces combine with the precise handling for confident descending or twisty back road belligerence.
Add the prompt power delivery and it’s easy to see why the Planet-X is popular for shorter course triathlon and time trial use. It’s also an absolute killer when it comes to value for money.
Powerful frame with extensively evolved, highly efficient aero frameset.
Outstanding value complete spec with custom component options.
None of our testers got on with the Planet-X Stealth cockpit.
Firm rather than forgiving ride can become tiring over time.
Performance Value Overall
Powerful, purposeful yet lightweight carbon frame with great basic rider position and handling behaviour. Plus killer value for money.