Riding a path to expansion and success

Good gear: Elite Bike Technician Adam Carr in the workshop at Planet X Bikes in Rotherham.                                                                                           PICTUREs Dean Atkins.
Good gear: Elite Bike Technician Adam Carr in the workshop at Planet X Bikes in Rotherham. PICTUREs Dean Atkins.
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They are reckoned to be the second biggest bicycle manufacturer in the UK – and they are aiming to get a whole lot bigger.

The ‘second biggest’ accolade came as a big surprise to the team at Rotherham- based Planet X, when it emerged during talks with world leading cycle components manufacturer and key supplier Shimano – and they should know.

Planet X’s success is all the more marked when you consider the biggest UK manufacturer makes nothing but folding bikes, while its range spans road and mountain, time trial, triathlon and cyclocross models.

These days, the big names from the past tend to import in bulk from abroad.

Templeborough-based Planet X’s success, however, rests on building bespoke bikes, to customers’ specifications, in its own workshop and its use of the Internet.

Planet X bikes are designed, developed and tested by the company itself, using a combination of components which the firm has also designed and had made using its own tooling and products made by global brand leaders.

“We will source any parts that we can have made competitively ourselves, which offer a performance advantage or a cost advantage,” explains Brant Richards an engineering graduate and former national cycling magazine editor who joined Planet X’s founder Dave Loughran in the early years.

That means frames, forks and wheels made to Planet X designs, for the bikes made under its Planet X, On-One and US-based Titus brand names.

More recently, the company worked with the Sports Engineering Research Group at Sheffield University to develop the first handlebars made entirely of carbon fibre.

Brakes, the drive train – or chainset – the gear change – or mech – and sometimes the wheels, meanwhile, are bought in.

“Most bike shops will fit you to a bike, but we will make a bike for you. There’s your name on it when it is built,” explains Brant Richards.

Individually building the bikes from components brings other advantages. Apart from the bikes in its showrooms at Templeborough, there is no stock of finished bikes taking up space and tying up cash.

Planet X reckons to be able to build a bespoke bike from component parts and dispatch it so that it arrives with the customer around a week or so later.

Brant Richards reckons the company can also introduce new models incorporating manufacturers’ new innovations far faster than the traditional market, which tends to introduce new models on an annual basis.

“One of the benefits of working with some of the best factories in the world is that you can have a design incorporating new products on the market in three to five months, which is so much faster than the traditional market,” he says.

Selling over the Internet gives Planet X greater control over the marketing message and, last, but not least, there’s the cost advantage.

“Planet X designs bikes, builds them, tests them and they sell like crazy because they are half the price of what they sell on the high street,” says former GO Outdoors chief financial officer David Hanney, who became Planet X’s chief executive six months ago to spearhead its expansion.