Lapierre recently announced it was staking claim to the North American mountain bike market with a full model range and a Seattle-based distribution network. Last week in Chatel, France, Lapierre debuted its 2014 Zesty AM/trail and Spicy enduro bikes - arguably the most relevant models that it will offer to North American riders and to its global customers as well. The launch began with the news that Lapierre had completely redesigned its flagship models around 27.5 inch wheels - and that the French bike brand will no longer be making 26-inch wheel mountain bikes in its elite and enthusiast ranges. Three days later, Nico Vouilloz, the man who was instrumental in designing the new chassis, raced the 2014 Spicy Team to victory in the Val D’Allos Enduro against a stacked field.
|The new Spicy is a bike you can go to war with - a true all-mountain bike. The longer cockpit and short stem is noticeably better than last year's Spicy and the geometry feels spot on. The front is super stable - due as much to the new frame numbers as it is to the outstanding performance of the 35-millimeter-stanchion RockShox Pike fork. Landings were butter soft. Step-downs went unnoticed, roots and chatter passed under the wheels without a raised eyebrow, and all the while, the e:i shock kept the bike coiled, ready to accelerate or climb with the agility of a 120-millimeter XC bike. I ran the e:i system in 'Auto-One' - the mildest setting - and didn't need additional pedaling firmness. The Spicy felt lightweight, but not so much that it got sketchy at high speed when the rocks and roots were crazy bad. The Spicy aced trails that I was flailing down a day earlier.|
Chatel's bike park and surrounding trails are a trial-by-fire for both riders and equipment, offering up some of the steepest descents in the French Alps, replete with slippery, anaconda-sized roots and rocks-a-plenty. This is the Alpine setting where Nico and the Lapierre engineering staff do much of their testing. For us, Chatel's mountains and rapidly changing weather provided a substantial, sometimes intimidating, palette of technical conditions that left few gray areas when the time came to form our opinions about the new Lapierres. As I am out with a broken wrist, PB photographer and good friend Colin Meagher stepped up to the plate to furnish the riding impressions for this feature.
The story here was far more than big wheels, however. Lapierre's new OST+ chassis is longer, lower and its suspension is re-curved to be more responsive across its 150-millimeter range of travel. The Spicy's sexy looking carbon frame uses a four-bar Horst-Link type suspension, and tests stronger and stiffer in all aspects compared to its predecessor. The carbon frame is also duplicated in a French-made, high-strength 6000-series aluminum alloy called 'Supreme 6' to provide a more affordable version of the Champ's favorite ride. Dropper posts and one-by drivetrains are featured deep into the Spicy and Zesty ranges, and Lapierre selected their components from some of the most respected players in the Enduro and All-mountain arena. Note: North American MSRPs were not available. We will post them when they arrive. Spicy OST+ Frame Construction
There is a lot going on with the new Spicy chassis. The top tube has been lengthened ten to 15 millimeters, depending upon frame-size, to compensate for short stems in the range of 40 to 70 millimeters, and the bottom bracket has been lowered slightly to improve the bike's cornering and its performance over rough terrain. The shock mount and location has been adjusted to make room for reservoir-type shocks, which was a complaint with previous models among the enduro crowd.
Lapierre included both internal and external routing for the brake hoses and dropper seatpost to expand the options for servicing and upgrading those items. Entry ports for internal cable routing are included on both sides of the head tube area, and exit points are sealed with rubber liners. Bottom brackets now use press-fit bearings and feature ISCG chainguide bosses throughout the range. Another plus is that, while top Zesty and Spicy models have single chainring cranks, a pivoting front derailleur mount is integrated into the swingarm pivot to keep the changer aligned with the chain as the suspension cycles. All models that feature dropper posts use internal cable routing like the RockShox Reverb Stealth.OST+ Suspension
Expiring patents regarding Horst-Link-type rear suspension has freed Lapierre to sell its OST+ design in North American markets. Carbon lends itself to large shapes, and one would be hard pressed to find a burlier seatstay than those on the new Spicy chassis. Oversized rectangular-profile seat stays terminate at huge clevis-type pivots that rock on a pair of sealed ball bearings. The chanstay/swingarm is of similar proportions, but it is made from aluminum in all frame offerings for better durability. Man-sized seat stays are not a fashion statement - they are necessary to maintain stiffness, as there is no reinforcing bridge anywhere along their length. The shock is driven through a forged aluminum rocker-link that will be replaced by a carbon fiber one when the -9 and -7 carbon models reach the dealer's floors. A-la specialized, Lapierre uses a V-strut to connect the link to the shock's rear eyelet. Previously this piece was a rather crusty-looking steel item. The new V-strut is a good looking, forged-aluminum part. Lapierre moved the bearing locations and reconfigured the pivot axles to make replacing and servicing the bearings a much simpler process than before.
The virtual pivot point of the OST+ suspension lines up with the chain in the middle cassette cog. This reportedly uncouples
pedaling from the suspension in the sagged position, and helps return the suspension to the neutral position after an event.
OST explained: OST+ refers to a relationship built into the suspension linkage that presents a virtual pivot point that is well ahead of the bottom bracket and which forms an imaginary line along the chain, from the middle cog on the cassette, through the top of the chainring at the crankset. This configuration reportedly helps to eliminate almost all pedal feedback and also works to return the rear suspension to its proper ride height after an event. OST's seatstay-mounted caliper uncouples braking forces from the suspension as well.
Lapierre co-developed e:i (electronic Intelligence)
electronics with the assistance of one of France's top technical universities, and then partnered with RockShox to develop the Monarch e:i RT3 shock. The E:I system uses a electric servo-motor to drive the Monarch shock's modified low-speed compression adjustment - which in normal situations, is manually operated to switch the pedaling platform on or off.
|E:i in action is seamless - I couldn't feel it turn the shock on or off - ever. At sensitivity levels higher than Auto One, though, I could sense a slightly rougher ride over small bumps and chatter.|
The brain of e:i, mounted inside the fork's steerer tube, records the speed that the bike is travelling and also, the severity of every bump that the the fork contacts and then it orders the shock to remain locked out; open up completely; or to open partially, depending upon the magnitude of the impact. A magnet fitted inside any standard bottom bracket axle tells the computer if the rider is pedaling, which signals the shock to firm up. The result is a dual-suspension bike that sucks up the terrain and manages to pedal like a hardtail - without asking its rider to flip levers or make decisions along the way.
The speed of the e:i system makes all that happen in one hundredth of a second - which means that the shock will be ready for the bump before it hits it at speeds at or below 36 kph (22mph).
A down tube-mounted rechargeable battery powers the system, which defaults to wide open if it should exhaust the battery or fail for any reason. Four sensitivity levels of bump control are available, from near lockout to full open, at the touch of a handlebar-remote button. the Monarch e:i RT3 shock retains its manual rebound adjustment and there is a three-millimeter hex below the electronics that allows users to adjust the pedaling platform with an Allen key should the system become inoperable as well. The LCD display reminds the rider which mode the shock is in and it provides all the important modes of speed, time, and distance information.
Zesty: 12 Different Models
Zestys are broken into two groups: Zesty AM in 27.5 and Zesty TR 29ers - which gets a little confusing, because, outside of the fact that the (elite models)
Zesty AMs have mid-sized wheels and a one-by-eleven drivetrian and the Zesty TR models have big wheels and a two-by-ten, the Trail and All-Mountain Zestys are equipped to do exactly the same tasks. In effect, Lapierre has six versions of the Zesty am with 27.5-inch wheels, each with 150-millimeter suspension and 32-millimeter-stanchion forks and six similar Zestys in a 120-milimeter 29er version. Presumably, Lapierre produces the various Zesty models to satisfy niche markets among its global customers, otherwise, explaining the strategy would require most of the text in this feature. The bright side of the proliferation of Zestys, is that there are female-specific versions in every category. During Lapierre Camp, we had the chance to ride the Zesty AM 527 - which sits two steps below the full-carbon 927 AM model. The Zesty 527 AM features identical geometry and the same carbon front section, but has an all-aluminum rear suspension. We also rode the Zesty TR 959 - the top-level 29er.Zesty AM 527 Impressions
Supreme-6 Aluminum Chassis
|Lapierre's Zesty AM 527 changes directions in a heartbeat. It feels super 'flickable' with a front end that can be easily snapped of the ground and with remarkable pedaling response. Those are its strong points - and if you ride fast, flowy trails, where climbing is a fact of life, the combination of 27.5 wheels under a rigid, responsive carbon chassis like the AM 527's will be tough, if not impossible to match. That said, the Zesty AM feels like a 150-millimeter trailbike - not the sturdy all-mountain candidate that it is billed to be. Its 32-millimeter-stanchion Fox CTD fork cannot hang with the AM crowd any more, and its Schwalbe 2.5-inch Nobby Nic tires are equally short on toughness. The Zesty AM is wonderfully easy to ride. It feels sure in the air and sticks to the turns like a monkey holds onto a football, but when the pace and intensity of the ride reaches the point that we consider 'all-mountain,' the Zesty is out of its comfort zone. Most of the pieces are there to fulfill its intended role: a two-by drivetrain, a dropper post, powerful brakes, wide handlebars, and a capable 150-millimeter-travel chassis - all it needs to grow into an AM bike is a burlier fork and some enduro-strength tires - but that would make it into a Spicy ...almost. Lapiere's Zesty AM would be hard pressed in a Squamish-type environment, but it would be the perfect bike for an aggressive rider on fast-paced, flowy trails like those found in Park City or Sun Valley - even Sedona.|
Lapierre managed to render the all-aluminum version of its OST+ chassis in nearly identical proportions to the carbon model. The use of double-pass welding to smooth the transitions between tubes and the forged pivot junctions makes it tough to tell the carbon from aluminum. Weights were not given to compare the two frames, but the enhineers hinted that it was roughly a pound in the medium sizes, with similar stiffness.
Lapierre's Killer 29er
Lapierre's commitment to mid-sized wheels hints that it may have bypassed the 29er, but such is not the case. As we were to discover, the Zesty 929 TR 29er may be one of Lapierre's stand-out trailbikes. Lapierre's written breakdown of wheel-diameters and suspension travel places the Zesty 929 in the XC/trail category. With a reduction in suspension travel from 150 to 120-millimeters at both ends of the bike, that seems fair enough, but the combination of big wheels, Lapierre's precise handling OST+ chassis and its contemporary frame numbers boost the 929 TR's performance to match or exceed any of Lapierre's Zesty 27.5 models. Zesty 929 and 729 share carbon frames, e:i rear suspension, and SRAM one-by-eleven drivetrains. The elite-level pair are followed by two more models: the carbon/aluminum framed 529 and two Supreme-6 aluminum-framed versions. Sadly, as capable as the 929 is, none of Lapierre's 29ers are spec'd with dropper posts, although the cable routing for such is in place.Zesty TR 929 Impressions
|We rode Lapierre's 29-inch wheel Zesty trailbike last and discovered by the end of the day, that the Zesty TR 929 was the must-ride bike of the entire 18-model Zesty lineup. Yeah, it only has 120-millimeters of suspension. Yeah, it has the same skinny Nobby Nic tires, but when you get on the gas and push it hard down a rolling track, weaving through Chatel's anacondas, the TR 929 feels confident and in control. Granted, we rode the most elite 29er in the Lapierre lineup - a full carbon frame hung with SRAM XX, and sprung with an electronically-controlled shock should kick butt both up and down the mountain. Perhaps the combination of a truly rigid and lightweight frame, the pedaling response of e:i suspension and the roll-over of the 29-inch wheel conjures up some sort of black magic, but only the Spicy could out-perform the TR 929 in Chatel. Underway, the 929 only whispers that it has big wheels, its geometry somehow sharpens up the steering response and there is little if any sense that its wheelbase is any longer than a small-wheel bike. Could the Zesty TR 969 be classed as a true all-mountain bike? Not really. We overran the tires and the suspension often enough, but it comes close - wonderfully close. |
XR 929: XC-Racing 29er
Much the same as last year, Lapierre's 100-millimeter-travel, full-carbon-framed XR 929 and 979 are a little left of the radar for the Pinkbike community, but the bikes are so beautiful and lightweight that they beg a mention here. XR frames use an asymmetric swingarm with a pivotless dropout arrangement that relies on an engineered amount of vertical flex to keep the seatstays tracking its rocker link-driven shock.
XR 929 models uses the e:i system, while the XR729 is equipped with a Fox Kashima Float CTD shock. We have ridden the XR 929 with the E:I system and can report that it handles like a good XC trailbike, and under power, it accelerates and climbs like a carbon racing hardtail. If you are XC curious and don't want to show up at the trailhead looking like you are riding for Team Big Brand, consider the Lapierre XR.Lapierre Bikes