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Lapierre camp began under rainy skies, which afforded us a complete palette of trail conditions with which to test ride the 2013 bikes. Lots of carbon was the theme. Nico Vouilloz launches the new Spicy. Gilles Lapierre poses beside the new team truck. RC rides the Zesty near the snow line above Chatel. RockShox's Jeremiah Boobar explains the servo mech in the e.i. Monarch shock.Lapierre surprised the industry with its e.i. electronic rear suspension at its 2013 product launch in Morzine, France, where the announcement's wow factor nearly overshadowed the French brand's stellar mountain bike lineup. For the upcoming season, Lapierre boldly redesigned its performance off road bikes with a lot of input and testing by one of the most decorated downhill racers of all time. Nicolas Vouilloz is famous for his meticulous preparation and his scientific approach to all aspects of racing, so it should come as no surprise that Nico applied the same ethos to his position as Lapierre’s technical consultant. The message was: name-brand components, through-axles on every frame, dropper seat posts, shorter stems, wider handlebars, lower bottom brackets, slacker geometry and more aggressive tires across the board. In short, Lapierre’s design team listened to Nico and turned the volume up to eleven.Three Models With e.i Electronic Suspension
Lapierre offers an extensive lineup that is sharply focused on performance, with carbon-framed pro-level models for Cross-Country, Marathon, and Enduro competition, and a new Downhill chassis that has been doing well on the World Cup circuit this year. Lapierre offers its e.i electronic rear suspension system on its cross-country XR 29er, the Zesty marathon/trailbike and its Spicy Enduro racer. The plan for 2013 is to offer e.i. at three price points for each model and also sell non-electric versions in each category as well. While that may seem like a lot of overlapping models, Lapierre deserves credit for not muscling its new electronics onto potential customers. For those of us who have not yet hit the Lottery, Lapierre offers aluminum-framed versions of all its elite-level carbon bikes, except the XR 29er, because its pivotless, 100-millimeter rear suspension requires the engineered flexibility that is made possible by carbon fiber construction techniques. Lapierre was vague about exact prices at the launch, which will be finalized by the Eurobike Exposition in August.
Lapierre’s annual launch is timed to coincide with the Passportes du Soleil. So, with five of Europe’s best bike parks linked by uplifts and a downhill trail network that spans the gamut from mild to wild, we had nothing to do but ride, ride and ride. So that’s what we did – in the rain and mud and afterwards, when the sun came out with a vengeance, we witnessed a rarity for the French Alps; hard-pack, dust and sand. The result was a half-dozen crashes two punctures and the following series of first-ride impressions.
Lapierre completely redesigned its DH V2, with a slacker, 63-degree head angle for steep courses, an ultra-rigid carbon swingarm, and new pivot geometry for its Pendbox suspension that provides better pedaling and smoother suspension action. Travel has been boosted to 220 millimeters. Claimed weight is 17kg/37.4 pounds, with the Team version at 16.4kg/36.08 pounds.
Lapierre offers two downhill models based upon the all-new DH V2 chassis, which has been impressive this season on the World Cup DH circuit: the Team DH (Nico had the only one at Lapierre Camp) and the more affordable DH 722 that we had a chance to ride. The DH V2 frame is beefed up in the swingarm area with new rear dropouts and rectangular carbon fiber stays, bonded to forged aluminum junctions. The suspension is Lapierre’s Pendbox multil-link design which pedals quite well for a big bike and keeps the mass of the frame centered and low for quicker handling response.
Revised pivot locations keep the chassis balanced and level in the big stuff, and the rear-wheel travel has been boosted from 195 millimeters to 220 millimeters. A second set of rocker links drives the Fox shock, which nests inside a forged-aluminum pocket in the down tube of the frame. Lapierre abandoned the Angleset headset it installed in last year’s frame in favor of a fixed, 63-degree head angle (the 1.5-inch head tube can accept an adjustable headset if you so choose). Nico pointed out that Lapierre widened the bottom bracket to a DH-width 107-millimeter PressFit type to offer a better chain-line, and to give the rider a wider stance on the pedals for better balance. Lapierre will offer a frame and shock only as well as the Team DH and DH 722 models in small, medium and large frame sizes. MSRP TBDRiding the DH 722
Lapierre’s DH 722 has a personality much like Nicolas Vouilloz, quiet and unassuming, it can cruise down the mountain without breaking a sweat, and it gets up and over small rollers with a few easy pedal strokes. But don’t let the DH V2 chassis’ easy going manners fool you into thinking that it lacks a serious side. In fact, the only way to discover the bike’s full potential is to push it hard – and then it shifts up ten gears and really starts to move. Commit to the steeps and the suspension eats up Anaconda-sized roots. Compress the suspension into a berm and the bike leaps out of the corner. Stay light on the pedals and the suspension will stick close to the ground over all but the largest jumps, and a bit of compression on the ramp is all it takes to launch the bike.
The DH 722 holds its line around each corner and if you do manage to overcook your entry, it tends to burn off speed with an easy two-wheel drift rather than with a fancy looking (and time-wasting) rear-wheel slide. Under braking, the DH V2 chassis won’t dive noticeably, which makes it possible to brake late and enter a turn without upsetting the bike. This was helpful, because the downhill tracks at Les Gets are rife with wheel-sized braking bumps. I used a lot of front brake to check my speed just before entering corners, which released the suspension to eat up the 10 meters of chatter that preceded each berm. That said; when I did have to drag the rear brake, the DH 722 made the best of it. I found that DH 722’s rear suspension remained surprisingly supple under braking when fear overcame better judgement down heavily rooted steeps.Standout Components
Lapierre’s more affordable DH racer is well appointed. Its Formula ‘The One’ brakes are powerful stoppers with World Cup credibility. Suspension is handled by up front, by a 200-millimeter RockShox Boxxer Coil fork and in the rear, a Fox DHX RC2 Factory shock. The drivetrain is equally capable, with a Race face Chester crankset matched to an e*thirteen LG1 chain guide that power a SRAM 11 x 28 cassette and an X.9 short-cage derailleur. The business end of the DH 722 is sweet, with a perfect feeling 750-millimeter Easton Havoc handlebar (31.8 mm center section) and a matching Havoc direct-mount stem clamp. Tire choice for both the Team and DH 722 are Schwalbe Muddy Marys, which seem impossibly large for their stated, 2.35-inch casings. If you haven’t got the message by now, the DH 722 is the real deal – race worthy in stock condition. Pinkbike’s First Impressions
Lapierre’s design team intended the DH V2 chassis to be race specific and it is exactly that. I had most of the day to acclimate to the DH 722 in conditions that ranged from slippery mud to concrete hardpack. Under an amateur rider, the DH 722 is generously forgiving, but its suspension feels a bit stiff and the front end must be steered into the corners. To get a feel for its full potential, I pointed the Lapierre down two tracks at the Les Gets bike park that I am very familiar with, at a pace that was well beyond my comfort zone. At a speed and intensity nearer to the realm of a Pro DH rider, the DH 722’s handling feels quicker and more intuitive. Its steering feels lighter and the bike tracks around corners as if it is on auto-pilot. On course, as the energy of the impacts increases, the suspension settles into a specific ride height and maintains it, so the chassis feels more stable and always at the ready to change direction. I was descending at the top of my game and I was just warming it up. Under an accomplished bike-handler like Nico, the DH 722 would be an awesome ride. – RC
Those who ride long and hard and subscribe to the nimbleness of the 26-inch-wheel format will fall in love with the Zesty. It truly is a do-it-all bike. This year, Lapierre slackened the head angle to 66.5 degrees and boosted the travel to 140mm rear and 150mm up front. A tad longer chainstay and a slightly steeper seat tube angle keep the rider confidently centered between the wheels for better technical handling. And it pedals easily with and without the advantages of Lapierre's e.i shock system.
My First experience with the e.i. Shock on a Lapierre was aboard the Zesty 914, a 140-millimeter-travel carbon fiber beauty that sports Lapierre’s four-bar OST suspension system. The Zesty is billed as a technical marathon or Enduro racer. It is not afraid of speed and can take a serious beating in the rough stuff, but a far better description would be Lapierre’s ultimate trailbike. The reconfigured Zesty's weight is claimed to be 11.1kg/24.4pounds and it features a lightweight carbon chassis, a low-geared two-by-ten drivetrain, a dropper seat post and has cockpit ergonomics that blend a steep, pedal-friendly seat angle with a short stem and a wide handlebar. MSRP TBD
Its descending performance its boosted by a 66.5-degree head angle, a 150-millimeter-stroke Fox 32 Float CTD fork, and 140-millimeters of electronically controlled rear suspension that allows the ride height in the rear to be set soft and low without compromising pedaling or climbing efficiency. In short, the Zesty pedals with cross-country efficiency and it descends with the surety of many dedicated all-mountain bikes. Lapierre offers the Zesty in small, medium, large and X-large sizes and at six price points. The Zesty 914 and 714 are full-carbon frames, the 514 and 414 with carbon front and aluminum rear sections, and the all-aluminum, 314 and 214 models. Riding the Zesty
I spent a considerable duration of my time in the French Alps aboard the Zesty, as it became clear in the first hour, that this was Lapierre’s most versatile trailbike. With its electronics set at ‘Auto 1’ (the lowest of five sensitivity options), I could jump out of the saddle and push hard, or stay seated and the Zesty would pedal like a dedicated cross-country bike. The suspension, however, was always at the ready – smooth and responsive - all the time.
My fears that somehow the trail could outfox the e.i. electronics and send the Lapierre’s rear suspension into a limp-wristed miasma of indecision were unfounded. The e.i has an ‘open’ option that leaves the RockShox Monarch damper unhindered by its computer or its pedaling platform. I could not feel the difference while descending in the ‘Open’ or ‘Auto’ mode, which indicates that e.i. performs as promised. There is, however, a sensation that the bike rides firmer on the flats in Auto mode when the sensitivity is turned up to level four or five. Increasing the e.i. sensitivity causes the electronics to keep the shock’s three-position platform damping in the middle position for a greater percentage of the time, so pedaling feels more firm at the expense of some roughness over the chatter. Sensitivity is adjusted by a handlebar-remote button and displayed on the stem-mounted computer, so the rider can right any wrongs in a split second. Once again, the trick is to set it on Auto 1 and then forget e.i. for the rest of the ride.
Technically speaking, the Zesty feels well balanced, so the rider’s position on the bike remains relatively centered over the cockpit while braking, cornering and descending. This makes for easy judgment calls, because the rider is always in position to handle unforeseen changes in the trail ahead. All it takes is a little tug to get the front end over a gap and the bike eases over mid-sized jumps without the little kick in the rear end that most XC/trailbikes have (a tribute to Nico, no doubt). If a wall of a climb appears suddenly, a quick downshift and a touch of the Reverb remote button will have you half way up before you realize how effectively the rear suspension works to keep the Schwalbe rear tire hooked up. Lack of lungs or leg power will be your only excuse for technical climbing fails.
Lapierre chose Schwalbe Nobby Nic (F) and Rocket Ron (R) 2.25 inch tires for the Zesty, which corner and brake well in Alpine conditions that range from slick roots and deep forest loam, to the ugliest rock infested hardpack I have ridden since the last time I was in the Alps. When leaned over in a turn, the Zesty will drift the rear tire just a little bit, with the front tire remaining composed the lion’s share of the time. The Schwalbe’s good grip under braking was useful, as Lapierre specs powerful-stopping Formula RX brakes with 180-millimeter rotors on the Zesty. The steep tracks in the Morzine area gave us ample opportunity to get the calipers and rotors barbeque hot. The report is that the Formula stoppers remained consistent and in combination with the bike’s predictable handling, the Zesty could be trusted to keep the rubber side down, while descending at speed. While I can’t be sure that the Zesty’s e.i computer was calibrated for perfect tire diameter, it recorded maximum speeds above 90km. Zesty Component Report
I had the chance to ride both the SRAM X.0 equipped Zesty 914 and the Zesty 714 outfitted with Shimano XTR/XT. Both were set up with e.i./RockShox rear suspension. Both models ride with a Fox 32 Float 150 CTD Fit fork, although only the 914 gets the Kashima treatment. Not a fault of the bike, but the fork needed more air pressure to keep it up under braking, which is typical of the new CTD’s lighter compression damping setup. Where previous Fox 32 forks would run well at 25 percent sag, the CTD versions are about right at 20 percent. Big points for the internal-hose RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper seat post. It is presently the best made and it showcases the Zesty’s superior pedaling action in addition to boosting the fun factor on the downhill sections. We already shouted out the Schwalbe tires and Formula brakes, but we need to add that the Mavic wheels (Crossmax ST for the 914 and Crosstrail for the 714) were set up tubeless. All of Lapierre’s performance lineup is spec’ed with tubeless ready wheels and tires. Some riders may complain that the Zesty’s Easton Haven handlebar is too narrow at 711millimeters, but it was sufficiently wide for anything we ran into in the French Alps and the bar feels balanced with the bike’s front end, so we’ll leave that judgment to personal preference.Pinkbike First Impressions
After about 90 miles in the Alps, Lapierre’s carbon fiber Zesty proved to be a dream of a trailbike. It strikes a near perfect balance between a speedy, lightweight climber and a tactical descender. The Zesty can rip challenging downhills. On the flats and uphill, it feels lightweight and energetic. Add the fact that the Zesty was quite at home playing on the jumps and tracks at the bike park, and it rises to the top of its class in the AM/trailbike ranks. But there is two stories to the Zesty. The first is about a trailbike redesigned by a multi-time World Champion who understands that a mountain bike must be equally efficient under human power as it is when gravity takes over. The second story is about is e.i/RockShox rear suspension.
I rode the Zesty extensively, with and without the RockShox Monarch’s e.i. electronics switched on, and was pleasantly surprised to report that the chassis pedals quite well with the suspension in the active mode. That bodes well for prospective Zesty customers who are leery of batteries on bicycles. Non e.i. Zestys are suspended by Fox Float CTD shocks, which lets the rider manually emulate the three positions controlled by the e.i./RockShox system. My vote is for e.i, because it is the set-and-forget option for optimum pedaling and suspension performance in all trail situations. Choose either option - the Zesty is going to be a killer trailbike. - RC
With its tapered and sculpted carbon tubes, Lapierre's 160-millimeter-travel Spicy seems almost fragile when compared to the bulky profiles of other Enduro racers, but that assumption would be a mistake. The Spicy feels solid when pressed hard and can hold its own with the big bikes in all but the wildest situations. Longer chainstays and a slacker head angle boost its downhill performance, while the addition of electronic suspension management gives the Spicy the advantage in any pedaling section. Emmanuel Molle photo
Nico Vouilloz races a Lapierre Spicy 916 on the Pro Enduro circuit, so one can imagine that he focused a lot of his attention to its design and component specifications. Spicy is a 160-millimeter-travel carbon fiber chassis that looks exactly like the 140mm Zesty. The OST-plus frame geometry features a slightly longer chainstay (430mm, from 425mm), paired with a 74-degree seat angle that is one degree steeper than before to center the rider over the bike, and it is topped by a RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper post. Out back, Spicys have a 142/12-millimeter through axle and beefed up stays for lateral rigidity. The head angle is 66.5 degrees, with a tapered steerer, fitted to the new 34-millimeter stanchion Fox 34 Float 160 TALAS CTD Kashima fork. The magic of the carbon-framed 160-millimeter-travel Spicy is that it is a gravity loving monster that weighs only a click away from 26 pounds (25.96/11.8kg stated). MSRP TBD
Last year’s Spicy used the larger-stanchion Fox 36. Depending upon your choice of electronic or conventional suspension, the Spicy comes with a Fox CTD Kashima shock or the new e.i/RockShox Monarch system. The drivetrain is SRAM X.0/X.9 with the medium-cage type 2 rear derailleur (roller clutch chain control) and a sweet bash-ring-equipped 2 x 10 carbon crankset. Cockpit and wheels are Easton Haven items, with a 50mm stem and 711mm-width carbon handlebars. Brakes are Formula The One with 203mm front and 180mm rear rotors. The Spicy 916 rolls on Continental Rubber Queen UST tires. Spicy’s are available in small, medium, large and X-large and at three price points: the carbon fiber 916 Nico replica, and two aluminum models, the 516 and 316.Spicy 916 Riding Impression
With its short stem, taller stance at the handlebar and longer-legged suspension, the Spicy feels more like a purposeful descender than a cross-country oriented chassis. With the assistance of Lapierre’s e.i. shock control, however, the Spicy is able to accelerate and climb with similar energy as the lighter, more XC friendly Zesty. Nico set the bike up for competition, and climbs are not normally timed in Enduro racing, so the Spicy’s gearing is a bit lower, with a 22 x 36 two-by crankset and a now-standard, 11 x 36 ten-speed cassette out back. Aided by the exceptional grip of Continental’s Rubber Queen tires, the stump-puller low gear makes the steepest climbs possible – which will no doubt encourage Spicy riders to venture beyond uplifts to explore big-mountain trails.
Efficient and firm-feeling pedaling, however is not the main sell point for e.i. suspension on the Spicy. Lapierre’s automatic suspension option pays huge dividends when the trail rapidly switches from technical descents to rolling terrain. Here, the Spicy is always at the ready: supple over the bumps and then firm and sure on the pedals the moment the rider needs to accelerate, and the transition feels seamless. There is no need for the Spicy pilot to flip levers or fuss with handlebar remotes to tune the ride. Technical, smooth up or down, Lapierre’s electronics make sure that the suspension is doing the right thing - you just choose a line and go. The bikes that can duplicate that action can be counted on less than five fingers, and none have 160-millimeter-travel suspension.
Setting up the Spicy’s suspension requires a leap of faith. The shock works best when its sag is set with at least 30-percent sag which seems like it is way too soft. The Fox 34 CTD fork, however, will dive too much if it is set similarly soft. Ultimately, I used 20-percent sag on the fork, which seemed like too much spring pressure for normal riding. When I tried less pressure, the bike’s front end would ride too low down the steeps and I would struggle everywhere. Later, Nico discussed his setup and he pointed out that he sets his fork up so he rarely uses full travel for descending. I then discovered that with the fork set stiffer, the electrically monitored rear suspension kept the ride height stable, which made the Spicy an easy bike to handle in almost any downhill situation.
Once dialed in, the Spicy is brilliantly fun to ride. It rocks the tight berms and mid-sized jumps in the bike park and drops down steep rooted sections almost as well as a big bike. The Spicy feels balanced and light at the controls, and that feeling is translated through the powerful brakes, which require minimal pressure at the lever, and grippy tires with a defined feel at the edge of their cornering and braking grip. The sense is that the bike takes care of the details. Over jump and the bike can handle a pretty stiff flat landing. To fast in a corner and the tires scrub hard and burn off speed. If you get overconfident on a steep decent, the rear suspension stays active while you drag the brake. And the bike maintains a good pace too. Supercharged by its easy pedaling e.i. rear suspension, the Spicy squirts out of corners – and if you really need to get moving, you can give it a full sprint and it will respond like a motocross bike. Spicy Component Report
The Spicy 916 feels like a complete package, as if you borrowed Nico’s personal race bike for a day – and that’s probably holds true, as it was designed to be an Enduro racing bike by the man himself. Formula The One brakes, Continental tires, the lighter weight Fox 34-millimeter fork platform, Easton Haven components throughout – and the best dropper post money can buy - are all a reflection of Nico’s holistic approach to speed, Every part is chosen to do its job and work seamlessly with the rest of the bike. And on the race course, every line is chosen to flow into the next one. Because of Nico’s input on the components, the Spicy 916 feels like the real deal.Pinkbike’s First Impression
LaPierre’s showcase Enduro racer would probably be labeled as an All-mountain bike in North America and thrown in with the many high-cholesterol long-travel single-crown swine of that genre which are destined to spend most of their lives in the back of shuttle vehicles or hooked to an uplift chair. In Europe, however, where Enduro is rapidly evolving into a well recognized mainstream sport, the Spicy is poised to do battle. The Spicy’s lightweight carbon chassis and excellent pedaling performance will come in handy for the genre’s rolling singletrack descents, while its stable handling at speed and in technical situations will be a lifesaver in the big-mountain stages. Lapierre’s Spicy is the complete package from its Reverb dropper post, down to its tire selection - everything is poised and ready to win. As for the Spicy’s e.i. rear suspension option; I’d say that you’d be an idiot not to run it. Let e.i’s simple electronics and trail-proven RockShox Monarch shock manage the details and use every bit of your concentration to ride the terrain ahead. - RC
Just in Case You Are 29er Curious
Lapierre debuted its carbon fiber XR29 chassis mid season last year and this time around, the bike's travel grows to 100-millimeters, with complete bikes appearing at three price levels in both e.i. and conventional shock configurations. The rear triangle of the 1800-gram frame (with shock) has no dropout pivot and it drives a small carbon rocker link to a shock that is cupped into a reinforced pocket in the seat tube. Lapierre says the Team models are said to weigh in at only 10.4kg/22.88 pounds, and while the XR29 chassis is designated as a cross-country race bike, with its big wheels and four inches of suspension, it should be a peppy trailbike as well. The XR529 is the third model down the line - it weighs a claimed, 11.5kg/25.3 pounds and it looks so sweet that I thought I'd throw it in for PB's secret 29er fans. MSRP TBDSee all of the Lapierre 2013 bike lineup