PINKBIKE FIELD TEST
Lapierre XRM 8.9
Words by Matt Beer; photography by Tom Richards
There are two frames in Lapierre's cross-country stable that share the same shape and carbon layup, but with different travel amounts. If you were poised to race short track cross-country, you might opt for the XR series, which uses 100mm of rear wheel travel, whereas for racing marathon style events, the 110mm travel XRM is more appropriate.
For 2022, the re-designed frame moves the 55mm stroke shock via a rocker placed on the seat tube and the popular “flex-stay” approach near the dropout in order to reduce the weight. Lapierre approached the suspension design with parameters that suit the needs of riders that churn out wattage and high BPM. A digressive leverage curve starts out very firm and softens towards the sag point, ramping up again at the end of the stroke, ideally.
Lapierre XRM 8.9 Details
• Travel: 110mm rear / 120mm fork
• Carbon frame
• 66º head angle
• Reach: 440mm
• 74.5º seat tube angle
• 435mm chainstays
• Sizes: S, M (tested), L, XL
• Weight: 12.0 kg / 26.5 lb
• Price: 5,199 EUR
If that platform isn't wound tight enough for you, those extra cables protruding from the handlebar tie into lockouts at both the Fox 34 StepCast fork with a Fit4 damper and a Float DPS rear shock to really eliminate any movement from the suspension. I wouldn’t say they are well sorted, though, because the over-the-top, thumb-actuated thumb lever for the dropper caught us all out once or twice when we tried to unlock the suspension, but instead raised the post.
Inspecting the components bolted to the caramel-colored carbon frame show a splash of Shimano XT parts throughout the build. We're accustomed to finding their four-piston brakes on enduro bikes, but Lapierre has chosen to downsize to two-piston XT brakes and 160/140mm rotors. Interestingly though, the total weight of the bike isn't quite as light as we might have guessed. The build is more of a workhorse than a thoroughbred because a closer look at the specifications reveals DT Swiss XM 1700 wheels and an alloy Race Face handlebar.
Price-wise, the XMR 8.9 isn't as shocking as the other boutique lightweights on test and their wireless gizmos. You can hop on an XRM 8.9 for 5,199€ by visiting Lapierre's online store or visiting one of their dealers in Europe. On either side of the 8.9 is their XRM 6.9 with primarily base-level SRAM components and fixed seatpost for 4,099€, and a special edition for Lapierre’s 75th anniversary littered with Shimano XTR, Race Face carbon parts, and gold Fox suspension which rings in at a pricey 8,699€.
As stated, the general feeling of the XRM ride is compact, and that is mainly due to the uber-low stack height and short top tube. We rode the size medium and even though I can accept that a forward weight bias proves to climb more effectively than a relaxed one, overall the fit was on the smaller side. Both standing and sitting riding positions felt a touch cramped because the reach is a mere 440mm. That did match up well for front to rear balance since the chainstays measured in at 435mm. Those are the same across the sizing chart though, so that’s something to consider for taller riders looking at large or extra-large frames.
I did appreciate that the 60mm stem spec’d on the size medium XRM wasn’t any longer and felt just right for the bikes’ intent and the 66-degree head tube angle. On paper, that number is deceivingly slack, as we’ll discuss in the descending portion of the review.Trailforks Regions Where We Tested
Testing for the Lapierre XRM 8.9 mainly took place on the scenic Neilson Nord loop at Vallée-Bras-du-Nord
and around the vast trail network of Mont St. Anne. The Neilson Nord loop is wedged in a valley between a monolith of rock and follows along the edge of the Neilson River over outcropping Canadian Shield bedrock and navigating swooping singletrack.
We put the XRM through some demanding rock gardens, root infested turns, and smooth single track throughout the test to cover all bases. There was no lack of variety in terms of trail conditions but we never threw the XRM past its marathon XC race intentions. VBN Secteur Shannahan mountain biking trailsClimbing
Swing a leg over the XCM 8.9 and you'll realize that this bike doesn't want to sit in its travel. "Compliant" might be the last word I'd use to describe the suspension, even on the uphills. We'd often look down and double check to see if the rear shock was locked out, only to be reminded of what the XRM was geared towards: transferring all of the power to the rear wheel.
If you do hit a smooth section of double track or tarmac though, closing off the lockout switch engages the XRM’s full sprint potential - you might be confused why you’d ever need a hardtail. The low stack and short reach give you maximum leverage over the top of the bike and really let you feel like you could tear the handlebars from the stem as you drive down on the cranks.
Swinging through tight switchbacks was like steering a Smart Car through a slalom course; it turned on a dime and the front wheel never wanted to lift. I’d point a finger towards the smaller geometry numbers, like the reach, stack and wheelbase, for that reasoning. Much like the BMC Fourstroke LT, you have to be on your game - the body position is set high above the bike and any lean to or frow can change your line of attack very quickly, for better or worse. When the trail turns technical though, navigating steep corners and precarious rocks takes a bit of attention because the riding position is so compact and heavily weighted towards the front. Descending
All I can envision when riding the XRM downhill is a big-headed caricature of myself leaning way
over the front of this bike, leading with my pearly whites aimed straight at the ground. I’ve never felt this exposed on any bike. Once you come around to the fact that you’re basically riding a hardtail and you shouldn’t expect this bike to save you from any “Oh shit!” moments, you can find a bit of a rhythm.
That harsh rear suspension makes it a handful to try and keep it tracking over rough terrain - getting into the travel really takes an effort and isn’t comfortable, nor is there a lot of traction when the bike is unweighted, standing above the sag mark - that’s when the suspension moves from regressive to progressive. There is good support and bottom-out resistance, it just requires a good hit to get into the squish. Is that all worth a few fractions of pedaling efficiency? Well, check the Efficiency Test for those results. I’d say, in a real-life riding scenario, on trail, that suspension theory backfires and makes for a less compliant ride by simply not keeping the wheel on the ground.
The forward riding position is exacerbated by the firm break away of the rear shock and the Fox Fit4 damper. The fork does work well on the chatter and small bumps, but it doesn’t hold up high enough in the travel when you’re faced with descents like “La Beatrice”, on Mont St. Anne ‘s World Cup XC course.
The saving grace here is that the bike is short enough to move your body position back and forth to balance out the center of gravity. Old school photos of me hanging off the back of a bike on descents exist, but at least there’s a dropper on board this time around.
Due to the short length of the bike, there’s not a lot of wheelbase underneath you to play with traction through the corners either.
On the positive side, the XRM was the quietest bike in our test, thanks to the cable actuated rear derailleur and rubber chain slap protection in all of the right places. In terms of componentry, the DT Swiss wheelset was superb, with zero issues.
The same can’t be said for the downtube of the frame though. Levy managed to spit up a rock with the front tire and punch a hole in the carbon downtube, just above the bottom bracket. That could be considered user error, or just part of the game in the XC world, where adding more weight in favor of protection is frowned upon.
Overall, it doesn't seem like comfort was at the top of the priority list for Lapierre when they set out to build this marathon cross-country tool. You’ve got to be sharp to keep this one out of harm's way.