Planet-X Compo £499
Bike as tested:
Frame: Planet-X Compo Easton Rad
Fork: Rock Shox 2002 Psylo SL
Wheels: On-One Reet’ard rims on Planet X hubs (Although we used a X317 on Hope front wheel too)
Tyres: Continental Survival pro rear, Panaracer Megablaster 26 x 2.50 Brakes: Hayes Comp discs
Drivetrain: Truvativ Stylo Team chainset, SRAM ESP 9.0 gears
Other bits: Planet X Tickety Boo Grips, Saddle, seatpost, bar + stem
Weight: 29lb (wet, with pedals and a bit of mud on)
First we rode all the normal singletrack test trails. Then we rode the ones
that we never ride on our own because it’ll be days before a dog walker
finds us if we screw up. Then we rode the ones that we only ride when Mike
comes back from college and goads us into it. Then we rode some sections
that were so frightening we actually made ourselves feel physically sick.
The Compo has been designed by Brant Richards of MBUK, MBR, Maximum,
BIKEmagic and now On-One fame, specifically for the super steep technical
trails around his native Calderdale. This “built for getting up to no good
in the Pennines” concept is also where the ‘Compo’ (think ‘Last of the
Summer Wine’) name comes from. So now you know.
There are plenty of square-headed ‘hardcore’ hardtail bikes out there at the
moment but the Compo is definitely not just another “me too” option. For a
start those square to round maintubes are genuine Easton Rad tubing,
designed for light but massively strong support of long travel forks by the
world’s leading aluminium producer for bikes (and baseball bats). Holding the forks
themselves is a headtube with the largest external reinforcing rings we’ve
The Compo gets a dropped top tube with reinforcing gusset, a cast ‘Brunel
bridge’ chainstay for tyre clearance on 2.7″ treads and big cast dropouts.
The rectangular section chainstays are heavily kinked for pedal clearance
and vertically deep for maximum drive stiffness, while the seatstays are
laid flat for maximum lateral stiffness but vertical compliance.
However, the key to Compo’s ride is in the steeply angled seat tube and high
bottom bracket. This pushes the rider up and forward, placing more weight
through the front forks and tyre, as well as leaving more ground clearance
over boulders and knife edges.Anyway, you can read all about this and look at the nice pictures on www.planet-x-bikes.com what really sets this bike apart is the ride.
As soon as you’re aboard it feels different – well to be honest it feels
wrong – almost like you’re already halfway through that dreaded forward
weight shift that will you end up the far side of the bars in a crumpled
Whipping off round the back of the butcher’s there’s no hint of sluggishness or the really cramped stance of a jump bike, in fact considering the tyres, the Compo flies. With the permanent forward weight shift you can really push the front end hard through corners, while the rock solid frame will carve through behind unless you kick the back end out with the rear brake. Going down? Just stand and let the forks take the hammer, as the saddle thrashes about underneath you. You’ll soon get so used to the postion with it’s beguiling confidence in the face of the stupid slopes and wet, rocky, rooty sucide drops it will plummet down, that its only after you get the bottom you realise that it was the saddle that was hitting you in the stomach.
The handling never ceased to amaze us with what it could do in the most evil conditions, slick mud at high speed, front tyre skipping across off camber roots, picking your way down rocky lines with the back wheel barely staying on the ground.
Going up the story is pretty much the same. Once you’re used to the position it’s only you that’s likely to balls things up on technical stuff and leave you feeling foolish trudging back down to have another go. Suffice to say we waltzed up stuff that leave most hardtails
stranded and spinning.
Don’t expect some kind of hideous attention-seeking character on the gentle sections though. Compo just rolls along like butter wouldn’t melt, placing the front wheel exactly where you want and merrily rolling up and over boulders where lower bellied bikes have left chainring scars. The only thing we’d say is that you’ll occasionally meet the saddle coming up as you’re going down which can be a sizeable jolt. We’re tempted to fit a suspension seatpost to soften our seating.
The Psylo forks gave us the option of travel tweaking and we eventually ended up sat around 110mm to keep the nose down on steep climbs, and the steering sharp enough to keep us out of the holly bushes. Don’t go skimping on fork quality though as the Compo really makes them work. Marzocchi or Fox would seem an obvious choice if you can do without the adjustable lockout on the slightly flexier Psylo’s.
You’ll also need a very aggressive set of tyres – or at least front tyre. The Conti on the rear bit fine but the bulbous Panaracer was slightly sketchy through slippery corners (though it’s great in straight-line big hit sections). Just be ready to take a lot of shrubbery to the head on tight singletrack from the lean angles a grippy set of tyres encourage.
The rest of the kit is a mixture of proven Planet-X classics and what we had lying around. You can obviously build it up with whatever, but we’ll happily vouch for the effectiveness of the Hayes Comp brakes.
It takes a few rides to get used to just how far you can push the Compo, and now it’s as much about our personal terror threshold as the bike’s handling. This morning’s ride was the first time I’ve actually scared myself sick for years, but the bike never even hinted that it was unsettled. It was lobbing me into stuff that’s just doable on perfect dry summer days with a rescue crew on standby, but this was in wet leafy rooty greasy trail conditions that you’d
normally be worried about walking in. I’m actual worried about what it’ll goad me into doing on future rides. Best of all if I survive, Planet-X’s warranty policy won’t even question what I was doing to the frame.
If you take pride in riding the sick lines that other people shake their heads at, or want a bike that’ll cheerfully take you far beyond your previous limits, then get a Compo on your Christmas list now. In fact Brant got so excited that he’s properly scared me he’s putting together a special BIKEmagic deal www.on-one.co.uk/order/bikemagicoffer.html, where you get bars, stem, seatpost and seatclamp free.
If you want to know more then ask away, and I wouldn’t be at all suprised if Brant himself doesn’t arise and answer the detailed design stuff.