I like Planet X. Mostly. They sell good value no nonsense kit. My XLS has served me well in cyclocross. It’s not the last word in performance or comfort but it does the job at a price that others find hard to complete. I have some jerseys knocking around as well. I think they were a tenner or so. Again, not the last word in comfort or feel, but they do. Move up the range and there’s some great stuff knocking around at some pretty great prices.
But, sometimes, it’s hard to escape the feeling that they are the Sports Direct of the cycling world. Though, slowly, Sports Direct are trying to make themselves the Sports Direct of the cycling world. It’s just that they always seem to be having a sale. That’s fine. Better prices for us, better value. Or it would be if the sale price was a) lower than that product had been sold before and b) the product had actually ever appeared at the rrp. But there we are. Unlike some on the ‘net I’m not frustrated by Planet X’s sales technique but you do need to buy at the right time.
And the 365 road shoes, their entry level, are a case in point. I would introduce this review by saying that they represented superb value at a reduced price of £49.99 against an RRP of £99. Thing is, as I write this, they’re now a rather better £40 against a RRP of £79.99. I can’t be certain that they were £99 RRP before, but I think they were, I could be wrong. But value is best dealt with in relation to price paid versus performance rather than absolute savings. So let’s go with that.
First things first, they’re pretty great looking. You can choose black and red or white and red. For a £40 shoe the one thing that they don’t look is cheap. Indeed they are actually an attractive pair of shoes whatever the price. They’re a man made fibre rather than leather and whilst not as advanced as the micro fibre effect in something like a Fizik but they are both flexible and durable. The black are clearly a good choice for keeping clean but both colours are easily wipe clean. Indeed the only thing that’s likely to ever get grubby is the white velcro on the white version. It’s good to see the liner being red as that’s easier to keep clean in my experience as well.
Although the sole is merely a composite, rather than advanced carbon or carbon composite, they’re far from heavy. So this UK 44 comes in at 294g. Sidi wire (carbon) are roughly 600g (the pair) for a similar size so sub 600g the pair is actually very good.
Planet X have opted for a branded Atop reel link system which pulls in the top two sections of the shoe. It’s simple enough, one way for tighten, the other to loosen. It works very well and is found on shoes of much higher prices. It lacks the fancy release system of BOA or that found on Sidi but works equally well in my view.
The toe section is fastened by traditional velcro. The entire set up is the same as you’d find on something like the Specialized Expert Road. In fact there’s an addition here in that small guiding triangle in the mid tongue which is absent on similarly setup shoes.
The tongue is perforated mesh at the bottom section which, combined with the perforated outsole, means that these are very breathable. It does mean that they will leak water like a sieve but there we are, you can’t have everything. They’re a great pair of shoes for summer and should probably be avoided in winter!
The heel cups are a little industrial looking but work absolutely fine. In terms of support the rear section cradles the heel nicely with no discomfort.
So far, so good. But, it’s the soles of these which have a nice little party piece.
See? Twin SPD bolt compatible and great to see. So you can use the standard triangular cleat (SPD-SL) or opt instead for a MTB cleat (SPD). It’s good to have that variety of choice in a shoe and it does mean that you can choose the type of engagement that you want. Is there a point to this? That depends. Generally SPD is chosen by those who want to walk on their Cafe stop without falling on their arse. The absence of side tread here (as per a MTB shoe) means that walking is still fraught with danger and, perhaps, more so given how a SPD cleat grips (or rather doesn’t). So this is simply about engagement and pedal choice rather than a more practical effect. MTB cleats can be better for the beginner and tend to be dual sided so it’s a nice addition to have and means that should you “progress” to SPD-SL then you don’t need new shoes.
The insoles are surprisingly good quality as well and much better than standard Sidi fare. The interior is also vented along the spine of the shoe and the front making them even more breathable. Again, water can get in here but, crucially, it can also get out.
Size wise Planet X warn that these come up small. That’s probably true though I find them pretty similar to Shimano and Sidi.
In use? Well, pretty damn good actually. No apparent hot spots when riding, pretty decent support and a good amount of stiffness. Are they as stiff as my Shimano R171? Science says no, real world use says I can’t tell any great perceived difference. They certainly won’t be as stiff as a top line Sidi Wire or Shimano R321. There’s no fancy heat moulding and what you see is what you get. The atop dial means that adjusting on the fly is a piece of cake and arguably a bit easier than the Sidi Wire with their press release and do up again dial.
But they’re excellent actually, particularly for the price. They’d be excellent at that all elusive RRP as well.
I hope to be testing the Decathlon B’twin 700 road shoes soon. They add a second dial and a fancy carbon composite sole. It will be interesting to see how they compare.