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.
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.
Meet the X-Flow:
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
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.
Pendbox Suspension Basics:
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 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.
X-Flow 512 First-Ride:
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.
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.
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.
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
X-Flow first impressions:
Enjoying life, riding the X-Flow 512 in the French Alps. Life could be a lot worse and still be wonderful.
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.
OST + Suspension for the longer-travel Zesty and Spicy:
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
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.
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: 140-Millimeter-Travel Trail Shredder:
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
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
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.
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.
Pinkbike’s Take on the 2012 Lapierre Launch:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Pinkbike would especially like to hear from anyone who has spent some quality time on a Zesty or Spicy.