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2019 PlanetX XLA-SL Rival22 HRD

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Cyclocross and Gravelbiking (Recreational) This has to be the most physically intense sport ever invented. It's high speed bicycle racing on a short off road course or riding the off pavement rides on gravel like : "Unbound Gravel". We also have a dedicated Racing forum for the Cyclocross Hard Core Racers.

2019 PlanetX XLA-SL Rival22 HRD

Old 01-07-20, 12:59 PM
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Bulette
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2019 PlanetX XLA-SL Rival22 HRD

The Purchase:
Entering last winter, I was increasingly interested in replace an aging (but dependable) 2012 Specialized Crux Comp E5 Apex-Cantilever; the shifters were getting a bit sticky and sluggish for fast group rides, and before doing a complete overhaul, I really wanted a disc-brake frame.

Enter the PlanetX XLA-SL, which was undergoing clearance prices. On paper, there were several deliberate reasons for the choice. The first, of course, was disc brakes. The XLA-SL was available either with Apex 1x and mechanical discs, or Rival22 with hydraulics -- I chose the Rival with HRD.

The frame itself also met other criteria. One was external cable routing (after fussing enough with internal routing on the Crux, 'quick and easy' cable changes were much welcomed). The other, was 135/100mm QR hub spacing -- meaning wheel compatibility with an older disc-equipped touring bike and disc-brake mountain bike. I also preferred the threaded bottom bracket on the XLA, rather than press-fit on the old Crux (through multiple bottom brackets, I could never get the creaking to subside for much more than 500 miles).

The decision for Rival (over Apex 1) came down to available gearing and cost. In terms of gearing, the two groups had identical (1:1) low gears, but the rival had much higher ratios, and closer spacing in those ratios, thanks to the 50 tooth road chainring. The hydraulics are new to me, but an interesting experiment (my experience has been to rely on the Avid BB7). As for cost, I anticipate (possibly incorrectly, time will tell) that 11-32 cassettes will remain plentiful, while the 1x 11-42 cassettes often seem to bring a premium.




Initial Impressions:
The XLA-SL was a near direct exchange for the Crux in fit and feel (as it should be, according to the geometry specs). The aluminum frame and carbon fork, somewhat overbuilt for cross-racing, are stiff and make for firm feeling power-transfer (quite the opposite of the softer, longer framed touring bike); the XLA-SL is not a lightweight bike, but it's not excessively heavy either (except perhaps the wheels, which seem to be of the heavy-durable-cheap configuration).

The Rival22 (11-speed) is a modest improvement over the 2012 Apex (10-speed), though I don't particularly notice the extra cog. The biggest change is the road gearing, 50/34, rather than the old Apex cx gearing 36-46 -- since much of my riding is pavement, I find myself cruising much more often now in the big chainring and middle of the cassette (rather than on the cx gearing, where it seemed I was always fumbling between cross-chaining high on the little ring or spun out on the big ring).

The brakes, of course, are a major improvement. Stopping requires much less hand strength. Two episodes last year on the cantilever Crux sealed the deal here -- a ride with several short and steep climbs and descents that had fatigued my hands, and another, a rainstorm ride where the rim brakes turned to mush. I have much more confidence in the discs (despite any weight/aero penalties, squealing, or adjustments -- stopping is more important).

The tires were another noticeable change -- on the Crux I had resigned to using heavy touring tires (Conti Tour-Ride). The Panaracer Comet Hardpacks spec'ed on the XLA are much more supple, and provide much more traction than the Tour-rides -- it reminds me of an adage heard elsewhere: life's too short to ride poor tires. In the future, I'll leave the touring tires for touring, and keep some better road tires around for the more lively and spirited riding I intend for the XLA.

Overall:
I was happy with the Crux but after new bearings, cables, and brake pads last Fall, I knew it was time to part with it, while all the bearings and cables were still fresh -- a new rider got a fair deal on a great bike, (one of us, now)! Though I didn't need the new XLA, parting with the Crux and getting clearance prices made the choice quite affordable -- in the back of my mind, I knew I'd never be able to 'settle' until I had disc-brakes. Now I have a frame I hope to last at least five more years, if not ten or twenty.
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Old 01-07-20, 01:53 PM
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Thanks for the review, and I agree with wanting the features you mentioned.
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Old 06-19-20, 04:54 PM
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Mid-Term Update

Update:

The PlanetX XLA-SL now has 6,435 miles on the frame (and most of the components are still intact), and the ride is as good as ever. The first thing to wear out was the cross-oriented rear tire -- not at all surprising; still, the Panaracer Comet Hardpack survived over 3,000 miles. I traded out the front tire soon after, but there was still some tread left there (switched to Continental Tour Ride, bog-heavy and stiff as nails but indestructible).

Around the time the tires went out, I decided to start digging in to other parts -- namely the hydraulic brakes (which I had no prior experience with, except for motorcycle systems). I splurged on the SRAM Pro Bleed kit, and was impressed with the syringes and fittings, which made for a mess-less procedure. After the bleed, the brake levers were more symmetric in their feeling, and just a bit firmer than from the factory. The front brake pad was changed too, but the rear still had some life left in it (it's starting to squeal just a bit, now -- it's on the list for the next major maintenance day).

I am surprised by the chain, which has yet to reach the 0.75 mark on my chain-check tool. Either my check-tool is bad, or the chain lasted far longer than I'd expect. I'm not a big sprinter, and I've been meticulous in my lubrication (especially after gravel rides). In any case, a fresh chain is waiting on the shelf (and a new cassette, just in case).

There's been very little adjustment otherwise, perhaps a few twists of the derailleur barrel adjusters that I've lost count of along the way. There's a few new creaks here and there, possibly the bottom bracket, or just dirt working itself past the seat post collar. The whole bike is due for a deep cleaning.

I've customized it a bit to make it more comfortable. The factory Selcof seat had sharp edges for my thighs; a cheap Charge Spoon was an easy enough replacement, and good enough for century riding. I've added some more capacity than most (partly to avoid resupply stops amid a global pandemic); a Carradice perched on a Bagman has been enough to add 1-2 liters of water, and enough food for a full day out.

All in all, the bike was a great investment, though, as an "enthusiast", of course, I'm still scoping out a few things -- carbon wheels, perhaps, flared drop bars, a 'feedbag' for the cockpit -- but none of that is essential. A real shame the aluminum version is no longer available, but for any interested readers, the XLS Evo Carbon looks to be much the same bike.

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Old 06-23-20, 02:22 AM
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That bike has a really pleasing silhouette.
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Old 06-23-20, 08:02 AM
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Cool that the saddle has a similar vibe to the frame colors.

As for a feedbag, there are plenty of options in the $35-55 arena, but this for $27 is well designed and well made. https://www.amazon.com/Moosetreks-Ha.../dp/B076MPQSZD
https://moosetreksbikepacking.com/pr...ebar-stem-bag/

The securing system is quality and allows for lots of mounting angles to fit different bike setups. The 1 hand drawstring is easy to open and close while riding, and the outside mesh pockets are great for food/small storage.
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Old 06-23-20, 09:56 AM
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Very nice. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 06-23-20, 10:28 AM
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The color is awesome, I'm impressed by the chain life! Have you thought of a shallow frame pack? I love mine and my bottles still clear.




This is the bontrager pick I have, just the stock photo from Trek's site
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Old 06-24-20, 08:26 AM
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Originally Posted by Hmmm View Post
That bike has a really pleasing silhouette.
I liked the slight arc to the front fork, the low-slung seat-stays, and the straight top tube -- whether those do anything for rigidity or compliance, I have no idea.

Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
Cool that the saddle has a similar vibe to the frame colors.

As for a feedbag...
It took some searching to find a retailer of that pattern Charge Spoon, but I didn't have to pay any more than retail, just a small wait. As for the feedbag, well, ... I've been looking at a MooseTreks Frame Bag for the mountain bike -- so your recommendation is right in line with my typical budgetary outlooks, thanks!

Originally Posted by GrainBrain View Post
The color is awesome, I'm impressed by the chain life! Have you thought of a shallow frame pack?
I've yet to fill the Carradice, and have used the Bagman support by itself to strap down a tool roll -- a framebag probably offers a lighter weight alternative. Would definitely work well with the straight top tube (a consideration that many new bike purchasers might overlook, especially with the trend for sloping top tubes for 'clearance').


Thanks for the feedback, folks.
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Old 11-16-21, 01:55 PM
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The XLA-SL is just about two years old now; it has seen about 11,802 miles, and suffered quite a bit of wear and tear. The photo above is from the most recent Das Hugel, a 100 mile ride through Austin's worst hills -- the Carradice saddlebag is still around, but was just temporarily on the shelf for the hilly ride.

My colorful saddle is much less so today, which is a bit of a disappointment; then again, I'm glad to say it is now "well-used".

The bike is now on its third chain, but still with the original cassette -- with more hill rides this last year came more watts and more torque, likely stretching my chains a bit quicker (that or my replacements were a lesser quality than the stock, or it could also be that I acquired a new chain measuring tool that shows 0.5% stretch). Although I have a spare cassette ready to go, the replacement only has a maximum 32 tooth cog, while the original has a 34 tooth; I have been hesitant to sacrifice the low gear, so long as the chain doesn't skip. (The 11-34 has been either unavailable or exorbitantly marked; reports say the Rival 22 derailleur will not clear a 36 without some trouble).

The Vision 30 Team hubs became problematic a few thousand miles ago. After a bearing replacement, the freehub would intermittently seize while coasting, pulling the chain and tugging hard on the derailleur. Cleaning and lightly oiling the pawls didn't seem to solve the problems, so aiming to preserve the drivetrain, I tried a set of budget disc wheels from BicycleWheelWarehouse's Pure line (with 32 spokes). Aside from 1 broken spoke (rear drive side), those wheels still roll smooth; I also acquired a second rear wheel with a Bitex hub and Kinlin rim; it has been a good wheel, too, and has survived the Hugel. The three various replacements wheels are all significantly lighter than the stock vision wheels too, which was immediately noticeable.

One of the branded PlanetX bottle cages cracked awhile back, so I have replaced both with a no-name set of heavier plastic cages; I only needed to replace one, but I had the matching spares laying around, so why not? The replacements seem to be holding up well, though they have developed a little extra slop, presumably just from some mild plastic stretch and deformation.

The stock bar-tape was very soft (and very grippy), but had developed some tears. The real reason for replacement though, was when the tape began interfering with the shifting: the tape had seemed to tighten up on the cable run and unwrapping the bar solved the shifting issues. I had fresh tape on hand to rewrap with (a similar black, but with a sparkle of color that's hard to see in the picture), and this tape still looks practically new today. Not long after, the rear derailleur cable had finally splayed at the cable stop below the seat (possibly from my 'sitting' on the top tube), but it was easy enough to replace, and thankfully didn't require removing the bar tape.

I replaced the bottom bracket just last month, which alleviated some clicking under heavy torque -- this was partly in anticipation for Das Hugel. The clicking started somewhere between 8,000 and 9,000 miles, but didn't become too severe until recently, when it was obvious on even casual rides.

The brakes have only been bled once, but the brake pads have been replaced a few times. Hill training and hill rides accelerate that wear (of course), and the Hugel destroyed what was left in the current pads (I'll be replacing those soon). I was initially wary about hydraulics (having sworn by BB7s in the past), but my initial experiences suggest they are much less maintenance than cable discs; I might even brave a remote tour with hydraulics in the future.

The aluminum frame and carbon fork are still in great shape. I'm still very happy with the purchase (at just about $0.15/mile inclusive of maintenance, it is hard to complain). The original impetus for the upgrade -- the switch from cantilevers to disc brakes -- has been thoroughly justified in the Hill Country (at least, in my opinion).
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Old 11-17-21, 02:25 AM
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A very cool bike! If I need frame replacement for my CX bike I would for sure look into Planet X. Thanks for the reviews!
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Old 01-22-23, 09:40 AM
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Approaching 20k miles on the Planet-X now. Aside from brake pads and tires, most of the components are rolling along just fine; the right (rear) shifter, however, decided it was done...


Turns out, the 11 speed hydraulic levers are not as popular as some other configurations, and sourcing the replacement took a few (disappointing) weeks. That gave me time to collect pieces for a few other swaps that I had put off: a nicer seat and a flared bar. While I appreciated the colorful aesthetic of the Charge Spoon saddle, as the fabric wore and faded, the stitching along the saddle became more pronounced and was abrasive to my bib shorts -- so I finally found myself a Cambium (in a nice blue colorway, too). The flared bars -- Marin OEM overstock -- are the same width at the hoods, but with the flare in the drops; the change has made the drops more accessible and more comfortable for longer (meaning I use them more and am therefore, more aero more of the time).

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Old 01-30-23, 07:11 AM
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Originally Posted by Bulette View Post
Approaching 20k miles on the Planet-X now. Aside from brake pads and tires, most of the components are rolling along just fine; the right (rear) shifter, however, decided it was done...
Ack! Bummer that your shifter but the dust. I wonder if my Apex shifter is getting there, itís not returning all the way when I hit the brakes. Did yours do this before it failed?


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Old 01-30-23, 09:26 AM
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Originally Posted by Phatman View Post
Ack! Bummer that your shifter but the dust. I wonder if my Apex shifter is getting there, it’s not returning all the way when I hit the brakes. Did yours do this before it failed?


The shifter paddle has a reach adjust. It simply seems that you have it badly adjusted. It's on the inside of the lever (left side of it when looking from the top, parallel to the bars) and you can turn it with an allen key. It has 4 different reach positions that you'll feel with a "click" when turning the bolt.

If the problem is not that, probably the return spring is broken or there's grease or something gummed up in there.

In any case, the forwards / backwards movement of the shift lever is only there so the lever can move out of the way when you brake, but it has nothing to do with the shifting mechanism. What happened to the OP is somewhat usual on SRAM brifters, as the lever attaches to a relatively weak piece that sometimes breaks. More recent brifters have a better designed attachment, but it's still not perfect. It tends to happen, especially, if when downshifting to the biggest cog, you tend to press the lever hard when the RD hits the limit screw. That ends up causing metal fatigue to the piece where the lever attaches until it finally breaks.
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Old 02-03-23, 11:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Amt0571 View Post
What happened to the OP is somewhat usual on SRAM brifters, as the lever attaches to a relatively weak piece that sometimes breaks. More recent brifters have a better designed attachment, but it's still not perfect. It tends to happen, especially, if when downshifting to the biggest cog, you tend to press the lever hard when the RD hits the limit screw. That ends up causing metal fatigue to the piece where the lever attaches until it finally breaks.
Maybe it's because it's Apex but mine has sort of a cheap plastic feel on that final downshift. Can you speak to the reliability of the little ratchet teeth under the hoods? Seems like a lot of stress on such tiny parts.

I notice a Benotto 850 on your bio, do you still have it?
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Old 02-04-23, 01:32 AM
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Originally Posted by trestle View Post
Maybe it's because it's Apex but mine has sort of a cheap plastic feel on that final downshift. Can you speak to the reliability of the little ratchet teeth under the hoods? Seems like a lot of stress on such tiny parts.

I notice a Benotto 850 on your bio, do you still have it?
I have a bike with mechanical Apex and another with hydraulic Rival. They both feel the same when shifting, but I don't notice a plastic feel in them TBH, although that is something subjective probably.

The Rival is the oldest, at 4 years old, and except a broken cable, has had no issues with the shifting mechanism.

I'm not as happy with the hydraulic brakes though. They're always having lever travel and sticky pistons issues and are a PITA. Curiously, my mechanical Apex combined with TRP Hy/Rd calipers requires less lever force, has comparable feel, and just works.

I still have the Benotto. I want to restore it and currently it's mostly disassembled. It has quite a bit of rust and has to be repainted. The big problem is it has a stuck seatpost that I've been unable to remove, and I would like to avoid destroying it as its a very nice Campagnolo.

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Old 02-04-23, 04:23 PM
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The cable does take some crazy turns. The Apex hydraulic brakes seem acceptable at best and there's hard to see any difference between any of their hydro calipers.

Benottos were my first two road bikes and I wish I still had the last one. I have a set of unused mid-80's house wheels with a 6-speed cassette that I always kept as a spare set but now I have no bike for them to fit. Hahaha.

Good luck with the seatpost.
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Old 02-06-23, 07:57 AM
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Originally Posted by trestle View Post
Good luck with the seatpost.
I've had the Benotto since the end of lockdown (I found it thrown on the street, with bent wheels and really rusty), and so far I've had zero luck with it... but I'm determined to avoid destroying it at all costs. Unfortunately, it also has a cracked stem, altough that's easy to replace.

Someone in this forum told me that Benottos made in Mexico were unsafe to ride as some welds were prone to crack. So far I've been unable to determine if mine was made in Mexico or in Italy. I live way closer to Italy than Mexico, but not sure if that matters.

In any case, I just want to hang the bike from my home office wall, as it's not my size anyway... considering I'm not really going to ride it, it's possible that I finally decide to repaint the frame with the seatpost in place, and I'll probably keep the cracked stem as it's also a nice one.
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