Lapierre'sSimplified E:I Electric Shock Controls
traditional bike launch takes place in the French Alps in Les Gets, where some of the country's more famous DH racers cut their teeth. The terrain is steep and stunning, with six world class bike parks within a 20-kilometer circle and a seemingly endless supply of technical singletrack interlaced between them. For 2015, the French bike brand reasserted its mission to produce a line of performance racing and trailbikes that are among the most innovative and relevant in their categories. While that may seem to be a big check to cash, considering how competitive the trailbike, enduro and DH marketplace has become, backed by strong results in international competition, its recent move into North America, and its proven electronic suspension controls, Lapierre is in an enviable position to make good on those claims.
Lapierre's front-line players for 2015 are the Spicy enduro racer, which is basically Nico Vouilloz's personal enduro race bike; two versions of the Zesty trailbike - one with 29 and one with 27.5-inch wheels; an all-new X-Control XC trailbike; and an absolutely wicked looking DH racer that PB previewed last June.
Gilles Lapierre, the brand's namesake and its third-generation man-in-charge is strong on e-bikes. Gilles said that the e-bike market is quickly becoming a separate entity and to address this, Lapierre relaunched its Overvolt e-bikes as a stand-alone brand. Guests attending the launch in Les Gets were given guided rides on the top-range, 140-millimeter-travel Overvolt 900 FS that included some impressive climbs and descents, and also spanned distances that would have been leg burners for most self-propelled cyclists.
Equal parts rain and sunshine made for an exceptional opportunity to test ride and compare Lapierre's most promising 2015 models back to back on the similar trails, and in a variety of conditions. The following report includes riding impressions of the most important models in the 2105 Lapierre range, and details key upgrades important and changes in the French brand's trail all-mountain and DH offerings.
Lapierre's E:I suspension control was launched in 2013, and has been proven to be one of the best hands-free pedaling lockout systems in production. For model year 2015, Lapierre introduces E:I Auto Shock, which eliminates the remote handlebar switch and the bulky and damage-prone LCD display module which sat on the top of the stem. In their place is a slim control box which sits beside the stem, tucked out of harm's way. The battery is much smaller and sits beside the down tube-bottle mount in a quick-release holster. Auto Shock eliminates one wire, which further simplifies E:I, and the system turns itself off and on automatically when the bicycle is active, similar to Shimano Di2, which greatly extends the battery life and eliminates the need for the user to monitor the system. E:I is offered standard, or as an option on all Lapierre's AM, trail and XC ranges.How E:I works:
For those unfamiliar with E:I, the system locks out the shock when the rider is pedaling and opens the shock while coasting. Seamless suspension performance is ensured by two accelerometer sensors, one in the fork slider and one at the stem-mounted control box. The accelerometers signal when the front tire hits a bump, which instantly unlocks the shock so it can soften the blow when the rear tire contacts it. The system reacts fast enough to unlock the shock in one tenth of a second - which is time enough to get the rear suspension active before the bump passes between the front and rear wheels. Because the system is automatically opened while the rider is not pedaling, E:I bikes don't lock out when you are jumping or descending. Battery life is 24 hours of actual riding time and recharge times average at 1.5 hours.Options:
In Auto mode, three sensitivity settings can be selected with a single button that determine whether the shock will remain locked, switch to trail mode, or completely open, depending upon the magnitude of the impact. The user can also switch to manual mode and select 'open,' 'trail,' or 'locked' as a full-time setting. A small LED lamp on the control box indicates which mode is active. We found that the middle, number 2 position, was the sweet spot and we left it there for all riding situations. E:I Shock:
Lapierre partnered with RockShox, to design a servo-motor-activated Monarch RT3 shock for the system. If the E:I system fails, the shock's lockout circuit will remain where it was last set. Basically, the servo-motor remotely operates the Monarch's standard lockout lever assembly. A three-millimeter Allen Key can be used in fail mode to manually select lockout, trail, or open options.
Lapierre's jewel in the 2015 crown was its new 27.5-inch-wheel DH Team, which was released
in pre-production form to the world at Fort William and earned the top spot in the Female Pro category under Emmeline Ragot. We were shown the final version of the welded aluminum DH Team at Les Gets. Loic Bruni's name was on the top tube, and as he had no plans to lend it out to journos, we can't say how it rides just yet. Co-designer and test rider Nico Vouilloz was on hand at the launch to talk about the bike's development program, which used data acquisition technology and a number of 'test mules' with which the Gravity Republic team used to evaluate different geometry and suspension configurations. The new bike no longer uses Lapierre's Pendbox arrangement, in favor of a more conventional single-pivot swingarm that drives the shock via a rising-rate linkage borrowed from MX motorcycles. The team asked for some changes in the bike after testing it on the Fort Bill track, which was explained by Sam Blenkinsop to be some modification of the linkage rates. Reportedly Bruni's bike was the first to arrive with the new changes.
Supra Link Technology
The graphics on the DH Team perimeter frame hide two important pivot locations. The swingarm pivot (A) has been lowered significantly to improve traction while braking. The fixed arm (C) of the rising rate linkage also pivots on the frame beneath the graphic at (B). As the suspension begins to compress, the relationship of the fixed arm (C) and the L-shaped rocker link (D) initially changes very little, but as the suspension reaches mid-travel, the fixed link begins to pull on the rocker (D), which compresses the shock at an accelerated rate and causes the suspension to ramp up. The DH Team's Supra Link arrangement is duplicated in some form by most MX racing motos and has been previously used in DH racing as well. Emmeline's win at Fort William indicates that Lapierre's design is capable of reaching the top step on a course that requires good suspension and pedaling traits, so apparently, Supra Link is off to a good start.
Nico said that job one was to provide the team with a rear suspension that was very supple over small bumps and chatter - which is critical in order to maximize traction - and then to create a quick ramp-up in the damping and spring rate near full compression to handle big events and flat landings. Nico explained that the solution already existed in Motocross bikes, because they need similar suspension curves for exactly the same reasons. DH bikes, however, require much shorter swingarm/chainstay lengths, so Lapierre's design team revised the layout of the moto-style, rising-rate shock linkage from horizontal to vertical to tuck the mechanism into the frame. The new DH chassis is also borrowed in part, from MX, with a twin-strut "perimeter" frame at the bottom bracket area that provides monster stiffness there and, more importantly, creates a tunnel for the suspension mech and shock. The result is a lower center of mass, which has proven to be a crucial element for a winning DH design.Race only:
Lapierre makes no excuses about the DH Team's role as a purpose-built DH racer. The elevated speed and intensity of World Cup DH racing has spawned race-specific suspension and geometry that in most cases, does not translate well to park style riding or weekend gravity play. When fractions of a second determine who stands on the box, we'll bet that most competitors will gladly sacrifice "pop" for a bike that can keep its wheels on the ground. It will be interesting to see how Lapierre's new DH bike rides. So far, all we can say is that the frame weighs 4.5kg without the shock and that it will be sold in two versions: the DH Team replica shown here, that sports all the Gravity Republic's sponsored parts and accessories, and the 727 DH production model with an equally impressive spec. Prices TBD.DH Team Specifications:
Suspension is a RockShox Boxxer World Cup 200mm fork and a Vivid Coil shock. The drivetrain is a SRAM X01 7-speed DH (10 x 24)
with an e-thirteen chainring and guide. Brakes are SRAM Guide RSC with 200mm rotors and wheels are Easton Havoc 27.5" with Schwalbe Magic Mary DH tires. The cockpit is all Easton Havoc, including the seatpost, and with a 35mm bolt-on stem and an 800mm handlebar. The saddle is a Lapierre-logo SDG Circuit DH model.
The mainstay of Lapiere's AM/trailbike range, and quite possibly its most versatile design, the Zesty is produced in two wheel-sizes, with models in carbon and also aluminum. Both feature Lapierre's OST-plus suspension, which is a Horst-Link arrangement that drives a top tube-mounted shock and the elite-level models are equipped with Lapierre's E:I electronically controlled suspension system. The 150-millimeter-travel Zesty AM is built around 27.5-inch wheels, while the 120-millimeter-travel Zesty Trail is designed for 29-inch wheels. For 2015, Zesty E:I bikes get the simpler and more crash-worthy "Auto" system without the clumsy monitor display on the stem. As promised, the 29er Trail model's seatstays are dramatically slimmer in order to clear the rider's heels - a problem with last season's Zesty TR. Other than the new 29er stays, Lapierre carrys last year's Zesty AM and Trail chassis designs forward for 2015, which is a good thing. That said, there have been some major component changes that make the new Zestys feel like different animals. Zesty upgrades:
Zesty models now feature SRAM or Race Face wheelsets, and bikes with Shimano drivetrains have Shimano brakes, while SRAM equipped models feature Guide brakes. Previously, Lapierre spec'd Formula brakes, which did not have impressive stopping power, primarily due to their organic OEM pad configuration. Carbon models get the now-famous RockShox Pike fork, with its larger, stiffer stanchion tubes - a reponse from criticism for spec'ing 32-millimeter sliders last year. The Zesty's handlebar is slightly wider at 750 millimeters - which is acceptable, and all models get short, AM-length stems. Last year, we asked for more aggressive tires, but Lapierre chose to continue with the fast-rolling, 2.25-inch Schwalbe Nobby Nic.The Zesty AM family:
There are four models of the 27.5-inch-wheel Zesty AM: the 827 leads them off with a SRAM XX1 drivetrain, Guide brakes, a RockShox Reverb dropper post and a 150mm RockShox Pike fork. Wheels are SRAM Roam and the frame's front section is carbon, while its rear suspension is aluminum. Next in line, is the Zesty 527 AM, with a Shimano XT drivetrain and brakes. The dropper post is a KS LEV and the frame is the same carbon front/aluminum rear design that the 827 AM uses. Two 'Supreme 6' all aluminum models follow, with the 427 sporting Shimano XT/SLX components and Race Face wheels, and with a 150-millimeter-travel RockShox Revelation fork. Up to this point the top three Zesty models can be purchased either with the E:I system, or with a conventional RockShox Monarch TR3 damper. The base-model Zesty 327 AM is sold with a Fox CTD Evolution fork and shock and features Shimano XT/ Deore component kit. Wheels are Mavic. North American prices are not yet finalized for Lapierre's range, but we will post them here the moment we receive that information. Check back in a week or so.Zesty Trail 29 family:
Lapierre believes that the 29-inch wheel is better suited for XC/trail riding, so its big-wheel Zesty lineup features less suspension travel. In truth, though, the 120-millimeter-travel Zesty TR29 feels nearly as capable as the 150-millimeter AM version. As mentioned earlier, the TR 29's seat stays have been tucked in to address last year's foot-clearance issues. Otherwise, the chassis is carried forward. Component spec follows that of the AM models, with the exception that the elite-level 829 TR has a two-by-ten SRAM X0 drivetrain and a 120-millimeter-travel RockShox SID RL fork. The 529, 429 TR models use Shimano XT/SLX three-by drivetrains with Shimano XT brakes and both sport RockShox Reba forks and Race Face wheelsets. As mentioned, the top three Zesty Trail models offer E:I suspension and have dropper posts - KS LEV in this case, while the base model 329 TR does not. North American pricing TBD.Zesty 827 AM:
|Lapierre's latest Zesty AM reminds me that most of the bikes in the all-mountain, trail, enduro categories that are that are touted as wonderfully efficient pedalers are not so wonderfully efficient. Riding with its E:I controls switched off, the Zesty 827 AM feels on par with the best in class. Turn on the E:I Auto, select level two, and then be prepared for a rude awakening. Oh, you mean I can set my suspension up for descending and my bike will still climb perfectly? Oh, and I don't have to remember to push some funky remote lockout or travel adjust mech? If you want compromise, buy a bike with Bo-Bo link suspension or a pooper-platform shock. If you want the best of both worlds, the Zesty's OST+ four-bar suspension and E:I active pedaling controls come awfully close. The Zesty 827 AM may be the easiest trailbike that you'll be lucky enough to ride. It handles beautifully, it weighs around 27 pounds (12.25kg), and its mid-sized wheels carry speed without robbing agility. All you need to do is turn the pedals and remember that the gears are on the right side of the handlebar, the dropper seatpost is on the left, and that the trail should be somewhere between them - the Zesty 827 AM will pretty much take care of everything else.|
|The Spicy Team is so closely related to the lighter-spec'd Zesty that one may wonder why it exists, but one or two high speed runs at the bike park, or a trip down the rooted steeps that the locals here call trails would convince you otherwise. The Spicy always seemed to have an extra measure of control in the bank to rescue me from Hail Mary moments when I was already beyond my comfort zone and missed my line or botched a landing. At an enduro event, where practice is limited and the pace is 100-percent, a bike that offers a bit of a safety net could be a real asset. The same can be said for any situation where you are pushing hard in unfamiliar terrain. The Spicy Team's E:I system provides a similar advantage. The Spicy rider doesn't get caught napping with his or her remote levers flipped in DH mode when an unexpected climb or pedal section appears. Downshift, pop the saddle up and hammer. It didn't take much saddle time to discover that, like the Spicy, E:I is an asset that plays well in the technical realms of the sport.|Small changes make a difference. The Spicy shares
the same chassis as the Zesty AM, yet its more
aggressive tires and wheels, and the effects that a
slightly taller fork have upon the steering geometry
give the Spicy a noticeable measure of stability on the
descents - go figure.
Lapierre's Spicy rolls on 27.5-inch wheels and shares the same carbon/aluminum frame and OST+ four-bar suspension as the Zesty, and it also has 150-millimeters of rear-wheel travel. On paper, the main difference between the two is ten millimeters of fork travel (the Spicy has a 160-millimeter-stroke fork). It came as a surprise, then, that among the 20-odd journos who test rode the Spicy and Zesty back to back, that the Spicy was the overwhelming favorite. The Spicy Range:
Perhaps it was the tacky-rubber Michelin tires, or the placebo effect of riding alongside a ten-time World Champion aboard the bike that he personally designed to race enduro. Perhaps the two frames use a different linkage configuration that slackens the Spicy's head angle and drops the bottom bracket slightly, but the Spicy kicks ass everywhere on the mountain, especially when the terrain is steep and chunky, and while it only weighs a half pound more than the Zesty AM 827, it feels more grounded under the rider than its trail-oriented brother. A quick check puts the Spicy's head angle at 66.5 degrees, 8-millimeters of drop at the bottom bracket, while the Zesty AM, with a 150-millimeter-stroke fork is stated to be 67-degrees with a 12-millimeter bottom bracket drop. What that means in real terms, is that the addition of a longer fork is probably the reason for the Spicy's slacker head angle and that, in addition to some more aggressive component selections, are the factors that give the Spicy its superpowers.
Spicy Details: I rode the top-line Spicy Team in Les Gets, which is powered by a SRAM XX1 eleven-speed drivetrain and suspended by a 160-millimeter RockShox Pike Solo Air fork and Monarch RT3 E:I shock. The Spicy uses the new SRAM Guide brakes and its wheels are SRAM's slightly wider and more gravity oriented Rail 50s, mounted to Michelin WildRock'r Magi-X (F) and Wildgrip'r Gum-X (R) tires in 2.35-inch sizes. The dropper post is a RockShox Reverb Stealth. and the forward cockpit is decked with a 50-millimeter stem designed by Nico Vouilloz and a 750-millimeter-width, carbon Black Box handlebar. The Spicy Team is only available with the E:I Auto Shock system
Lapierre offers two Supreme 6 aluminum-framed models of the Spicy. The Spicy 527 shares the 160-millimeter RockShox Pike Solo Air fork, but it is powered by a Shimano XT two-by-ten drivetrain and features XT brakes as well. Wheels are by Mavic and the 527 rolls on the same Michelin tires as the Spicy Team. The Spicy 327 shares the same aluminum chassis, with a Shimano XT/SLX two-by-ten drivetrain and A similar Mavic-wheel/Michelin tire spec. Suspension, however, is by Fox Factory, with a Float CTD Evolution shock and a 160-millimeter-stroke Float CTD Evolution fork. North American pricing, TBD
X-Control is a reissue of a popular XC trailbike that Lapierre has been very successful with in Europe. The heart of the X-Control's Supreme 6 aluminum chassis is a dual-link rear suspension that has been configured to use chain tension to pull the ear wheel into the sag zone, where the suspension's virtual pivot point lines up with the chain. The purpose of the design is to eliminate or reduce pedaling induced suspension bobbing, which oddly, the E:I system does so well. We don't expect to see the X-Control in North America because at present, the reverse action of the upper and lower rocker links reportedly violates the Santa Cruz VPP patent.
X-Control is based upon 27.5-inch wheels and the platform is intended for XC/Trail riders and entry-level mountain bikers. Rear-wheel travel is 100 millimeters and its Lapierre-branded shock is paired with a 120-millimeter RockShox Recon Gold Solo Air fork with a remote lockout. The top-of-the-line X-Control 327 features a two-by-ten Shimano Deore-level drivetrain with an XT rear mech. The 327 cockpit is outfitted with Lapierre branded components that were both good looking and functionally correct.
While we were not provided actual numbers, the medium-sized X-Control that I rode felt roomy enough for unhindered climbing and its steering geometry was steep enough to give the bike a snappy feel at singletrack speeds, while managing to be slack enough to make it possible to enjoy reasonably technical trails. Lapierre chose 2.25-inch Schwalbe Rapid Rob semi-slick type tires for the X-Control, which provide adequate grip and a very fast roll over hard pack surfaces. Lapierre will offer two value-spec'd options: the X-Control 227 and 127 that should make for good starter bikes for mountain bike curious cyclists looking for a good handling bike on a budget.
|While a 100-millimeter-travel XC/trailbike would not be my first choice for exploring the Alpine trails around Les Gets, the X-Control proved to be a worthy mount. Power transfer was crisp and its steering and overall handling was reminiscent of the best performing bikes of recent decade, when cross-country was king and super-slack head angles were still the domain of downhillers. Just for grins, I took the X-Control down a couple of bike park flow trails and, beyond the pounding I took over the braking bumps, it was surprisingly capable outside of its element.|
E-Bikes are welcome on the trails around Les Gets, but cyclists are still surprised to encounter them in the back country. Lapierre's most expensive e-bike is the Overvolt 900 FS - a 140-millimeter-travel single-pivot dual-suspension hybrid that can more than double the power output of a fit climber. In profile, the Overvolt 900 FS looks like a modern rendition of a circa 1912 board track racing motorcycle
, and after spending some time on one, it's hard not to make moto sounds when powering up techy climbs and other places where human power seems inadequate. Sadly, e-bikes are limited to 25 kilometers per hour in Europe, where they are embraced, while in North America, where e-bikes are largely shunned, the legal limit is almost double that.
I am sure that Lapierre and Bosch, the folks who make the powerplant, did not design the Overvolts to withstand the abuse that we gave them, but it was quite fun to glide up dirt roads and singletracks as if someone had secretly injected us with EPO, and then blast downhill on a mid-travel beast that must have weighed 60 pounds (27kg)
. To its credit, the Overvolt 900 FS climbed over a pass that would have been a grinder on a carbon XC racing bike, it didn't break the hooks on the uplifts, and although its head angle is on the steep side (69-degrees, I think)
, it got me safely down some rooted trails that would have given that carbon XC racer much grief. The experience was akin to being seventeen years old and having your mom ask, "Hey will you please drive my Camaro on that long, curvy dirt road over the mountain pass and pick up some groceries for dinner? I am in a hurry..."
|You have to pedal to make the Overvolt go, so there is effort involved in the e-bike experience, but it is very fast in comparison to the speeds that most riders pedal around the mountains. The downside is that when the battery runs out you will quickly discover that the pedals are as effective as male breasts. The Overvolt takes some getting used to. The motor quits helping you at 25 KPH, which feels impossibly slow after busting out runs all day at the bike parks on real mountain bikes. You quickly learn that jumping the Overvolt can get you into trouble, as the speed that most flow-trail jumps require is a bit faster than the motor is allowed to go, so at the moment of truth, as the Overvolt's front tire begins to roll up the ramp, the motor kicks out and it feels like the brakes come on. Nose-first landings are common until you find jumps that match the Overvolt's governed velocity. The bottom line is, as wrong as it should be, riding the Overvolt off road is way fun. There is a certain sense of satisfaction one gets when the Overvolt's power level is maxed on 'Turbo' and you are weaving through a number of suffering souls who are struggling to turn the cranks, while you are barely breathing, making 17 KPH or better. I am positive that I'll go to hell for smiling at the poor saps.|