Lapierre Launch in Les Gets: First Ride on the X-Flow

Jul 7, 2011
by Richard Cunningham  
Lapierre, the innovative French Bicycle maker debuted three new trailbikes in the storied Alpine town of Les Gets. Located high in the French Alps near the Swiss border, the steep slopes, groomed trails and dense woods surrounding Les Gets (ley Jay) form a stunning backdrop for World Cup and World Championship events, and the annual Pass'Portes du Soleil - a 50-mile lift-access Super D circuit that links six ski villages in two countries. Pinkbike was invited here to experience Lapierre's 2012 lineup, and ride the Pass' Portes du Soleil.

X-flow 912
Lapiere's carbon fiber X-Flow 712 is a completely new model for 2012. We rode the 512 aluminum-framed version. Emmanuel Molle photo
Good weather (although it rained for three days) spectacular vistas and miles of choose-your difficulty trails make the tiny village of Les Gets a world-wide MTB destination.

If you don't know Lapierre bikes, you should know Nicolas Vouilloz; arguably the best DH racer ever and now a full-time designer/consultant for Lapierre. Nico's input has reshaped the performance of Lapierre's medium-travel trailbikes into forces of nature, with aggressive geometry, supple suspension and top-of-the-class pedaling efficiency. The trio that Lapierre showcased at Lest Gets were the X-Flow and Zesty trailbikes, and the all-mountain Spicy.

Those who wished to push their Lapierres to the limits down Les Gets' rooted uber-techy forest descents quickly discovered that this man would graciously guide them well beyond the edge of sanity. Welcome to Nico's world.

Carbon fiber is the buzzword for Lapierre 2012, and the top three X-flow And Zesty models get carbon frames as well as one for the Spicy. Key features for all models are tapered head tubes, internal cable and hose routing, angled seat tubes for mud and tire clearance, ample stand-over height and direct-mount front derailleurs. Lapierre designed aluminum frames for each lineup that closely resemble their molded composite siblings. Whether for strength or pure styling the curving tubes and tapering, ridged profiles make for a sweet looking chassis.

Zesty over the roots
An equal measure of groomed DH trails and dimly lit routes down through the roots and rocks make Les Gets a Pinkbike paradise. -Emmanuel Molle photo

Meet the X-Flow: The 120-millimeter-travel X-Flow features the innovative Pendbox suspension linkage - a single-pivot swingarm linked to a floating bottom bracket that work together to minimize pedaling bob while freeing up the suspension to react to supple hits. Pendbox suspension was originally developed by Lapierre for DH, and adapted for trail riding over a two-year period. We spent most of our riding time on the X-flow, which delivers as promised, an energetic feel under power both in and out of the saddle, while eating up an extrordinary helping of nasty bumps.

X-flow 2012 montage
X-Flow 512 details

clockwise from top left
- An offset seat tube makes room for the Pendbox suspension linkage
- The rocker has a graphic that lines up with a stripe on the seat tube to ascertain the correct suspension sag.
- Formula RX brakes are awesome stoppers
- All Lapierre off road bikes get tapered head tubes and steerers
- A view of the lower Pendbox linkage shows where the internal cable routing exits
- While the Pendbox linkage seems like a novel suspension, the X-flow is a basic single-pivot design.

Pendbox Suspension Basics: Pendbox suspension requires a defined amount of sag, so there are indicators on the upper rocker link that line up with a mark on the seat tube to ensure that riders get the set up right before hitting the trail. The bottom bracket shell is on a short linkage, separate from the frame (like GT i-Drive). Chain tension generated by pedaling pressure pulls the bottom bracket rocker towards the rear axle, which exerts a force on the swingarm to pull it into the neutral, sagged position to counter pedal bobbing. Once in the neutral position, the Pendbox linkage points are lined up - so when the suspension is compressed, even over the smallest bump, it can easily overcome the force generated by the BB rocker. This means that chain tension keeps pedaling action feeling firm while the suspension is unloaded, but as the suspension is compressed, the Pendbox linkage ensures that bump force trumps chain tension so it can respond to the terrain. As the suspension compresses, however, it naturally firms up the feeling at the pedals, so in theory, the sensation is seamless, efficient pedaling action in all suspension modes.

Pendbox det 1
One has to wonder if the rider can feel the bottom bracket rocking back and forth as the Pendbox suspension is activated, but there is no sensation that this occurs. The total BB movement is 5 millimeters at 90 degrees to the seat tube, so there is no change in effective saddle height.

X-Flow 512 First-Ride: Outfitted with a 2012 Deore XT/XTR drivetrain, Fox 32 Float RLC 120-millimeter fork and RP2 shock, and hard-stopping Formula RX brakes, the top-drawer aluminum-framed X-Flow feels well armed on the trail. Its head angle feels around 69 degrees with the shock sagged into the "free ride" zone on the indicator, and while there is a lever on the RP2 shock to add ProPedal to firm up the chassis for climbing, the Pendbox system ensures that there is no need to use it. The X-Flow gets uphill smoothly, without fanfare with the suspension set fully active and that's a good thing.

X-Flow 512
On the trail, Lapierre's Pendbox-equipped X-Flow 512 climbs quite well and still manages to rock the downhills. Lapierre bills the X-Flow as a Marathon XC bike. -Emmanuel Molle photo

With Euro-width, 660-millimeter handlebars, one would think that the X-Flow would be a handful in Les Gets signature roots, but the chassis remains quite calm, even when banging between the trees to the extent that both vision and better judgment are blurred. Three cheers for the tubeless UST tires and sturdy Easton EA70 wheels which brought the X-flow back to the chair lifts for a week of runs too numerous to count. Riding hard with only 120-millimeters of suspension travel, however, is asking for trouble and we did get one slow leak chasing big bikes through the rocks, although we left a few lads behind with punctures.

Pendbox collects mud
All that linkage is poised to pack on the mud. Thankfully, the X-Flow's Pendbox suspension operates well while caked with the gooey stuff.

The X-Flow is capably outfitted, with the exception of its tires, which could have been wider and more aggressive. The Continental Mountain King 2.2 inch tire up front was almost aggressive enough to survive sloppy mud and sketchy gravel, but the nearly bald Trail X on the rear was a work in progress whenever traction was difficult to find. The narrow rubber further showcased the X-flow's excellent handling, as we soon discovered that the chassis would drift quite controllably around corners when we overcooked an entry or slipped around in the goo. Straight-line braking was impressive as the Conti's sticky rubber front tire could find enough grip to match the awesome stopping power of Formula's RX brakes

Waterfall on Portes du Soleil route
Enjoying life, riding the X-Flow 512 in the French Alps. Life could be a lot worse and still be wonderful.

X-Flow first impressions: Overall, it would be hard to fault the X-Flow. Lapierre's 120-millimeter travel marathon chassis is a good choice for any shredder who wants to add a lightweight trailbike to his arsenal that is unashamedly capable of hammering through technical sections. After 100 miles of riding mud, singletrack, DH runs and park stunts, Lapierre's newest trail-specific suspension platform passed all of our tests with top grades. It feels balanced in the corners, jumps smoothly, climbs well and rolls fast - and that's what trailbikes are all about.

Spicy air
Putting the Spicy to task in Les Gets. There is a lot of Nico built into the Spicy and that pretty much spells confidence. -Emmanuel Molle photo

OST + Suspension for the longer-travel Zesty and Spicy: Nico races the 160-millimeter-travel Spicy on the European Enduro and Megavalache circuits, so it is safe to say that this would be the weapon of choice for Lapierre’s all-mountain customers. The Zesty is basically a 140-millimeter-travel version of the Spicy with a corresponding lighter weight component spec. There is some speculation whether the two models will make it to the North American market because the OST + four-bar suspension closely resembles a patented system used by a very well known US brand. Lapierre states that they are exploring their options for OST + in the US and Canada, and are quite optimistic. Should Lapierre get the green light to export OST bikes to North America, then you should know a little about them. OST + suspension refers to a true four-bar linkage, made possible by moving the rear swingarm pivot below and forward of the rear dropout. Large cross-section seat and chainstays combined with a small rocker link at the top tube/seat tube junction and a 12/142-millimeter through-axle keep lateral flex at bay, while a newly recurved suspension rate profile, combined with a custom-tuned Fox RP2 XV2 boost-valve shock strike a balance between efficient pedaling and hit-anything suspension action.

[PI=6810938 size=l align=c]The addition of a carbon frame shaves 400 grams off the Spicy 916. The Spicy simply shreds DH runs although it was made to race marathon downhill events like the Megavalanche. -Emmanuel Molle photo/PI]

Spicy: Nico’s Favorite Ride: With its classic double-diamond frame design, Lapierre’s 160-millimeter-travel all-mountain Spicy cuts a very modest profile for a bike that is capable of handling everything from marathon downhill races to road gaps. The carbon fiber 916 shares the tapered head tube of the all Lapiere’s enthusiast-level frames, and the radically tapered top and down tubes expand to take maximum advantage of the larger head tube profile. A triangulated seat tube brace enables a lower stand-over height and internal cable routing keeps the carbon models looking clean. Spicy frames use direct-mount front derailleurs and sport an ISCG-5 chain-guide mount. Top-level Spicy models come stock with dropper seatposts, and all frames have dedicated cable routing for such.

No weights were quoted, but our calibrated Pinkbike arms say the aluminum 516 weighs 31 pounds. The carbon frame is stated to shave a claimed 400 grams from the aluminum version. In case you were wondering about Spicy geometry; the head angle is 66 to 67 degrees depending on frame size, the effective seat angle 72 degrees, the chainstays are 42.5 centimeters (16.75”), the top tube of the medium-sized frame is 59.5 centimeters (23.5”) and frame sizes are small, medium and large. One carbon and two aluminum-framed versions are available.

The 916’s Component selection is race-oriented with a 160-millimeter Fox 36 Float RLC fork, a mixed Shimano 10-speed drivetrain with an XT 26/38 crankset, an XT front derailleur and an XTR shadow plus rear derailleur. The upgrade to the XTR rear changer is not your typical bling thing - the one-way clutch on the XTR pulley cage plays a huge role in keeping control of the chain through the bumps. Other component highlights include the previously mentioned dropper seatpost, Formula The One disc brakes (quite possibly the best stoppers available), and Easton Haven wheels with through-axles on both ends.

Above the treeline on the Portes du Soleil route
Taking a rest above the treeline on the border between France and Switzerland, riders prepare for a cloudy traverse to the Chatel descent on the Portes du Soleil route.
Zesty in action
With slightly less travel and a lighter build, the Zesty can almost hang with the Spicy in technical terrain, and make better time uphill. -Emmanuel Molle photo

Zesty: 140-Millimeter-Travel Trail Shredder: The Zesty is positioned between the X-Flow and Spicy, with a bit more emphasis on shredability. The Zesty’s frame geometry is a degree steeper than the Spicy, so it should handle a bit quicker and stay on point while climbing. The Zesty’s head angle is still pretty slack at 68-degrees, and its 140-mm-travel frame is identical in profile and features to the Spicy, but its component selection, based upon a 10-speed SRAM drivetrain with a triple crankset and lighter weight Easton EA 90 XC wheels wheels moves it from a true AM bike into the aggressive trail category. The carbon 914 Zesty sports a 140-millimeter Fox 32 Float RL fork and an RP 2 XV shock. Other parts of note are Formula RX1 brakes and Hutchinson tubeless Cobra and Cougar tires.

Lapierre offers the Zesty in four frame sizes, from a small (16.5-inch seat tube), to an XL ( 21.25-inch seat tube). Medium-sized frame geometry is stated as a 68-degree head angle, 73-degree seat angle (effective), 59.5 centimeter 23.5” top tube, and 42.5 centimeter 16.75” chainstays. Lapierre offers the Zesty in three carbon and three aluminum models

Zesty side shot
The Zesty has less suspension travel and a lighter weight component spec than the Spicy, so it climbs a lot better - yet it can almost keep the Spicy in sight on the most technical descents.

Geometry for Zesty X-Flow Spicy and Froggy
Lapierre sent Pinkbike its updated 2012 geometry chart, so we added it for your edification. The Froggy (not covered in this text) is Lapierre's answer to the ultimate park bike. More on this later - we plan to test one soon.

Climbing out of Morzine resting before stage three DH madness
Spectacular views from the lifts and a welcome rest between Super-D like descents up to 24 kilometers long were the hallmark of a week long ridefest culminating with the Pass Portes du Soleil.

Pinkbike’s Take on the 2012 Lapierre Launch: If you were to ask us last year about Lapierre’s MTB lineup, you would have elicited a long string of ums and ahhs. After a week of unlimited Super D runs on Lapierre’s top three trail machines, courtesy of Les Gets and Pass Portes du Soleil, the French bike maker is definitely on Pinkbike’s radar. Lapierre’s X-flow’s innovative suspension and geometry places it high on the must-ride list for aggressive XC trail riders, and the Nicolas Vouilloz-designed Spicy, in the hands of its creator is a marvel to behold. For those who can’t commit to a 160-millimeter Enduro bike – or feel like a 120-millimeter machine is too XC for their tastes, the Zesty is positioned right in the middle. At the launch, Lapierre was working out its North american pricing, so we'll update the MSRP intel when it arrives. We hope to see the Lapierre brand in bike shops across North America soon.

Gilles Lapierre
The man: Gilles Lapierre, the president and namesake of the company, rode a portion of the Portes du Soleil route after the presentation. Three generations of the Lapierre family work at the facility.

Those who wish to read more about Lapierre can visit their international website, and plan to ride the Pass Portes du Soleil - 3000 Brits can't be wrong.

Pinkbike would especially like to hear from anyone who has spent some quality time on a Zesty or Spicy.


  • + 13
 I have a serious problem with this article. Or more specifically, 1 line in it:

"Nicolas Vouilloz; arguably the best DH racer ever"

Arguably?!? With 10 World Champs titles in 11 years, there's no debate, Nico is the greatest ever, without equal.
  • + 20
 I would say than he dominated the World Cup all the time he was racing.

I must say that I liked his riding style.
But this was in an other "era" of dh racing, in all respect. The sport was still young.
I don't think he would be as dominating these days.

Peat was always hot, we had Nathan Rennie, Cedric, Atherton's, then came Sam who stepped everything up, now we have Gwin, and look out for Steve Smith ! : )

It's funnier (to me) not knowing who's gonna win the race...
Let's raise our glass to all those great riders !
  • + 6
 Don't forget the likes of Anne Caroline Chausson, Kirt Voreis, Brain Lopes, Mikael Pascal, Chris Kovarik.... In My Opinion, Vouilloz and Chausson are in a class on there own... They are the Tiger Woods and Annika Sorenstam of MTB...
  • + 2
 No mention of Greg Minnaar, who I'd consider a fairly secure 3rd 'all time'. My top 5 would be Nico, Peat, Minnaar, Tomac, Gracia.

Anne Caro is an interesting one. Obviously her domination and rsults speak for themselves, but that's the problem: she had no real conpetition. Even Missy Giove was always a step behind.

How good would it be to see Anne Caro, T-Mo and Rachael Atherton going head to head?!?

I LOVE geeky downhill talk... Superfan!
  • + 10
 By using the word Arguably they've made sure they're not going to piss anyone off who doesn't agree with them.
  • + 3
 Tomac, Peat and Minaar obvious contenders even though the Tomes never won the overall... Giove was on top before Anne Caro started dominating... Tara Lanes is queen in her style as well. Myles Rockwell was a rocket and Mike King wasn't to shabby either. And we can't exclude Leigh Donavan who was also always contending... If you ask me, anyone who beat Anne-Caro in the early years is a exploit on itself. Sabrina Jonnier won a few years as well...

I think Anne-Caro would eat up T-Mo, Jonnier and Rachel if all in same era... Anne-Caro used to win be 20 seconds+... Nobody has ever done that.
  • + 5
 And here I was expecting to read comments about the new Lapierre bikes, how silly of me.
  • + 1
 Read on...
  • + 1
 you gotta get past page 2 to finish a book...
  • + 2
 ^^^^ brit-100 - those girls wouldnt hold a candle to anne caro. they are 30-45 seconds off the pace of men's times. iirc AC was much closer to the men in her day.
  • + 2
 AC used to BEAT quite a few dudes in her day.
  • + 1
 I would SO love all the results in a table so I could crunch the numbers. That Nico won the most Champs is not debatable, but was he as dominant in his era as, say, Sam Hill was in his? I've heard that Nico's suspension was insanely highly-tuned, so I don't think it is fair to assume he was in some dark ages of DH. Plus he had some very good competition and still won. He beat many of the legends cited above. Sam Hill won by some big margins (though does Kovarik hold the record?) - had he not slid out a few years back he would have a very strong case indeed.

MmmBones makes a great point: I think that Anne-Caro would be the best as a proportion of both the men's and the women's times.

If I was unemployed I would see if I could get a dataset going and do the analysis.

Let me throw one more super-winnning name into the mix, albeit gated racing - Katrina Miller. No-one beat her in the years she was racing.
  • + 6
 this pendbox stuff here looks a bit gimmicky, especially on the 120mm travel bike. oh well, try it, then judge it.
  • + 6
 This is the linkage that caused a million arguments some time last year when they showed off the frame. Some people compared it to gt and others where confused about chain stretch. I think it looks a little neat and I'd like to try it. The problem is PB wants to be everybody's friend so they won't say "it performs far better (or worse) than the similar offerings by Giant or Specialized" so we will never know how it compared to bikes we might have tried.
  • + 1
 Well, Pendbox works way differentially than GT's iDrive and Mongoose and I think the worse way because it eases the chainpull when you need to accelerate and tensions the chain (pulls it back) when you need to absorb the lerger bumps. But yes, one must try it on his own to have a proper feeling.
  • + 0
 it looks ridiculous. hard to believe the added complexity of it all adds to up to any advantage while riding that is noticeable. it would be awesome if someone could do a double blind frame test, enclose the frame in a shell so the rider can't know what it is, then record riders observations. i would bet money there is no significant difference in all frames made today, the only design that may prove a difference in performance is the ABP of trek, and that would probably be noticeable only in DH.
  • + 1
 The abp doesn't look all that special to me. Basically a 4 bar with a lower leverage ratio. You can get the same thing with a super long shock.
Gotta say a santa cruz Nomad with the virtual pivot point vs a Diamondback mission with a bell crank 4 bar I noticed an immediate difference. I liked it a lot. I still prefer my 4 bar because it's what I'm comfortable with, but the nomad platform felt like a hard tail climbing a hill. That was with a pushed dhx 5.0 coil so it might have had some effect, but I'd bet that would mostly effect the descent. But i couldn't believe how nicely it climbed. My rp23 on my 4 bar felt that nice when almost that nice with the propedal on 3. Also, the bikes had the same forks and similar setups otherwise.

There is a difference. Whether or not all the other designs are different I couldn't say. I also know of a lot of failed links on 2010 giant reign x's (even with the new link) and a few other frames with issues. That is enough to keep me selective.
  • + 2
 Rasterman, I'd like to see a blind frame test on pretty much every suspension design.
  • + 2
 after thinking about it more i guess doing a real ride test and getting useful results is probably impossible, a good alternative is systematic comparison of different frames by creating a controlled testing environment and then putting each frame through the tests. you could do this by simulating forces when climbing, cornering, descending, and when rolling over different obstacles. unfortunately even doing this is non trivial as you would need some kind of robotic analog for the rider for repeatability. the only thing even close to this that i have seen is the marketing material released by trek, where they show the abp vs non-abp on the same exact section of trail and how it does help, granted this was made by trek and could be a total fabrication, but at least they showed something, rather than just believing the marketing text, i haven't seen any other tests such as this.
  • + 1
 Statistically, if you got 1000 expert level riders to ride each bike on the same terrain and timed them you'd probably get a reliable datum about what design was faster, but it wouldn't tell you much else. I knew that research class would come in handy . . . I do agree you can't go by marketing hype. That's why I want our pinkbike reviewers to make comparisons for us since they can try various bikes. The catch 22 is if they get too honest the bike companies might stop letting them try new bikes.
  • + 3
 I've got a Spicy 316 2010 model,already an amazing do-it-all bike.. But with the updates ok the new version it must be a blast to ride, I'll certainly look around for a 2012-model when I'm switshing my current one next year..

Innovative and cool designs, pretty uch the definition of Lapierre Smile
  • + 5
 "Its head angle feels around 69 degrees with the shock sagged into the "free ride" zone on the... "

Is there a facepalm emoticon?
  • + 4
  • + 2
 with their new offerings, we need more LaPierre in the U.S.

some goes for BMC w/ their new carbon trailfox

I want to know how these bikes match up to SC Blur and nomad, respectively.

Also mojo and mojo hd, respectively.

RC can you give me some shootouts?
  • + 1
 i ride a spicy 316 09 mod. fantastic bike. granted there r bikes out there that will go uphill quicker, or downhill faster, but u wud have 2 b buyin a specific bike 2 do that specific job. this thing tho does the lot n does it extremely well. a true 1 bike does it all. this is why im gettin the new spicy 516 2012 in the nxt couple of months. life without spice isnt worth livin!
  • + 1
 Finally they have cleaned up the routing on the Zesty and the Spicy, looks internal - nice, the Euro's do it again - longer TTs short CS I think my next AM bike is a Zesty or leaning to a Spicy right now, finally what I've been waiting for.
  • + 1
 absolutely love these bikes... the Zesty 514 is my personal favorite... simple concept... extraordinary ride... especially on the climb... it's like your riding a road bike on fresh pavement... come by the shop UC in Kelowna give one a rip!
  • + 1
 Is it just the photo or does the pendbox linkage extend below the big ring? Looks like it would take a real pounding especially if you run a double with a bash on the front.
love the looks of the zesty and spicy and the nice short chainstay length.
  • + 1
 look at the first pic.
  • + 1
 Just rode a Lapierre Team DH last week in whistler and was blown away! i am now selling my bike and buying one. Now i want to ride more of their bikes and see if they preform as well as their DH rig does!
  • + 1
 Ya we don't see to many lapirre here in nyc but this one looking nice. That bottom linkage in interesting but as you see it packing up too much with mud. Def a worthy trail bike though.
  • + 1
 "Lapierre states that they are exploring their options for OST + in the US and Canada, and are quite optimistic"

In Canada you can get them already. I was riding a Spicy last year.
  • + 1
 yes... we've been selling and riding Lapierre mtn bikes at UC in Kelowna for 2 years now... they will give any other cutting edge suspension platform a run for their money... BEST pedaling bike we have ridden... not so bad on the way down too!
  • + 1
 perfect. huge super d event last week and im going to switzerland TOMORROW. Frown
  • + 1
 I finaly bougth X-flow 312 three moths ago. it's the lowest one but I love it
  • + 1
 looks like a tidy bike the upper link plate looks identical to a giant trance circa 2007
  • + 1
 on the xflow 712 that is
  • + 1
 Been running my 2011 Spicy 316 for 6 months no problems. Keep up with the xc boys, then destroy the bikepark. 1 bike 4 all.
  • + 2
 i´ll be there in the 16th!!! Smile
  • + 1
 nice, but stick a 1 x 10 gear set on and theyll be rockin'
  • + 1
 I think itd be cooler if they called it the cashflow.
  • + 1
 Heeee Oli sur les photos Wink
  • + 1
 Surely that linkage is goingto hit something.
  • + 1
 Amazing pictures, I did the Passportes as well last week! Good times Smile
  • + 1
 Is that the new Prototype Fox Adjustable seatpost?
  • + 1
 No if you look closely you can see the rb on the rear of the collar pointing out that it is a RockShox Reverb
  • + 1
 Reverbs only come with black stanchions... It could be a KS, its not a Joplin, Reverb but could be a Fox, but I doubt it, cause its years away from production. If 'saamiam21' is talking about the last photo then yes that is a Reverb
  • + 1
 It's a KS post on the Spicy. I didn't know they made one with black ano bits. cool!
  • + 1
 Yeah I was looking at the last photo. I am going to agree that the other is a KS
  • + 1
 Come to France, you're welcome !
  • + 2
 That looks so complicated and overbuilt.
  • + 1
 looks like a trek!
  • + 1
 Nice bikes
  • + 1
 The spicy looks great!
  • + 1
 Just Wow!
  • - 1
 the linkage on that bike looks like it wants to jam up and break!

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