Wednesday, November 6, 2013

REVIEW! The long term thoughts on the Planet X Stealth

As most of the parish knows, I've just recently moved on from my beloved Planet X Stealth. While she'll still be around (as a fixie) for coffee rides and trips to the beach, the race duty torch has been passed on to the Cervelo. So, as a last homage to the trusty steed that's seen me through everything from sprints to full 112mi splits, I thought I'd post up my long term thoughts. What I like, love and hate about the Stealth.

Built up for the races

The Review:

The Stealth is no spring chicken. Even before Planet X USA arrived and made the frame more readily available to us(a), the frame had already had a fairly full life in Europe. Nonetheless, the frame is still fairly popular years later, mainly due to it's hard to beat price point for a full carbon frame... and so I still consider it a relevant option for those looking for a tri / tt bike on a budget... but is it worth it at any price? Let's have a closer look.

The Good:

What is there to like about the Stealth? Plenty. (although the things I like and dislike may actually clash at certain points.)

First,  I think the bike usually gets mentioned when price is an issue. At $499 for a frame (minus fork for some reason :/ no bueno Planet X ) and $1699 for a complete (rival) bike, the Stealth pretty much stands alone at price point for a NEW full carbon tri rig. At $1700 you are comparing it to bikes like the Shiv (aluminum) and S32, both fine bikes as well... but let's be honest, some people (for whatever reason, misguided or not) love / want carbon... well this is about a cheap as you can go without falling into the land of Dengfu / Ebay Chinarello bikes.

The fit on the Planet X was what originally drew me towards it. You can get LOW on this bike.

Getting down
It's not terribly long like my P3 is, which in the end was possibly a bit more optimal for something like my Mantis position. Of course, finding the right size bike is always step one... but I think the stealth could fit a pretty wide variety of bodies with it's fairly lax seat tube angle (76°) if you sized properly. Having a bike that lets you get into a good aerodynamic position is also very important (more important the frame itself being aerodynamic in the grand scheme) and the Stealth should have no problem doing that.

The other thing I really liked about my Stealth is the ease of working on it. All the routing is external and all of the components are non-integrated. Not ideal for aerodynamics maybe, but when you're sitting in another state with minimal tools on hand and need to make adjustments there is something to be said about simplicity. Try working on a nose cone shiv with nothing but a frame bag multi tool. Also, both derailleur hangers (the braze for the FD) are replaceable, which isn't a big deal until you NEED to replace it. Also, the horizontal rear dropouts / screws are done correctly... the way other big companies should have been doing it all along. 

Weight of course isn't that big of a deal for a TT bike, but if you are a weenie you could certainly do a lot worse than the Stealth. Mine was almost always sub 20lbs even with some pretty hefty wheels. (H3/Powertap) Even though I didn't use it much, the Planet X fork is very light.

Ride is more of an n=1 thing than most people would probably like to admit, but I have to say, in my experience this is a hell of a predictable ride. You point it straight and it delivers you straight ahead.

And hey, the thing was good enough for Cadel at one time, although Ridley didn't have much to offer.

Evans on the re badged Stealth

The Bad:

So, on to the bad stuff.

First, the elephant in the room. For a Time Trial bike, the Stealth is not all that aerodynamic. External cable routing, non-integrated components, 1 1/8th head tube and possibly most damning... aero *looking* shapes instead of true aerodynamic shapes. It looks good sitting alone, but put a "true" aero bike beside it and even the untrained eye can pretty quickly make out that the Stealth isn't terribly slippery in the wind. Of course, like I said above, the big part of the equation when it comes to aerodynamics is getting your body in the right spot, but nonetheless... the frame can make a big difference when seconds count. It's pretty bad that when I took my trip to A2, one of the first things said to me was "you need a better bike." Yikes.

Another small gripe is that Planet X USA doesn't sell a full frameset at $499. While the Planet X fork is perfectly fine, I don't think it's a $150 option. Seems like for a frame like this, you'd get the full deal for $500. I guess that's asking for a lot, but the stealth frame sounds less like a deal at $650.

That's really all I can fault the Stealth for. It doesn't have the go fast goodies that you're going to find on most of the new high end (and even mid tier) bikes of the current age... but you can only expect so much for the age of the frame. (and $ spent)

The Verdict?

So whether the Stealth is right for you (once you take care of the obvious...does it fit) is a matter of what you are looking for.
I think there is better value (in this case speed to $ spent) in used bikes currently. In the $1700 price range you could likely be sitting on a P2c / B16 / Transition / etc, possibly with some change left over for other goodies. That said, a lot of people have issues with buying a pre-owned bike. All of those bikes are also going to be a bit less user friendly, and a lot of triathletes aren't the best at maintaining their bikes. We should also keep in mind that the Stealth is an entry level bike... it's a little unfair to compare it to mid-grade + bikes.
If you're looking for a predictable ride, carbon, plenty stiff, (really... what bike isn't though) well built (mine has taken a beating and keeps asking for more) and, lets be honest, quite handsome looking bike (especially the black ones :D ) then you could do a lot worse than the Stealth.
Here's a look at my Stealth currently... patiently waiting on me to finish rebuilding her.

Yes, I know my garage is a sh*tstorm of bike parts... Imagine when it was filled with car parts...

Thanks for reading, today is my last day in my 20's, so I thought I'd finish with a changing of the guard and farewell to my old war horse. On to being an old man!
- Christopher Morelock

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the review.......How is the "ride" of the P3 vs the stealth being the p3 is aluminum? I would think the P3 is faster but which would ou rather take on a IM?