by Jorji Frederiksen
July 4, 2014
The Lapierre launch is a bit of a highlight on the bike journos’ calendar: we can all have a good old nose at what this progressive company have been busy doing for the last 12 months. It was Jorji’s turn to head on out to Les Gets and report back this year.
While Lapierre made radical changes to their line-up last year, the 2015 bikes see these changes being refined and fine-tuned, all complemented by overhauled build kits and sweet new graphics.
Spicy and Zesty Ranges.
Renowned for forward-looking tech development, last year Lapierre made the bold move to fit their e:i Shock technology as standard on higher end Spicy and Zesty models. Journos and industry folks tried their best to fool it, to break it, find its weaknesses – but try as they might, most were left concluding it was a solid system which worked well – really well. Many UK riders were skeptical as to how an electronic system could cope with months of riding through our gloop, but after a particularly grim winter, warranty claims have been incidental – and related only to some minor connector issues on the handlebar screen.
For 2015, their e:i Shock becomes e:i Shock Auto – and is now found across all Spicy and most Zesty models. e:i Shock Auto does away with the aforementioned screen, which is replaced by a neat little unit fitted to the side of the stem. An LED indicates the operating mode – either automatic (system controlled) or manual (fully open, half open or fully locked settings) – and a single button navigates between these modes. The overall system functioning remains the same, with accelerometers on the fork and stem, and a cadence sensor on the cranks, all feeding information back to the brains of the system situated on the shock. The shock is then adjusted tens of times per second – precisely reacting to the terrain the forks are hitting moments before the rear wheel does. Lapierre have continued to work closely with RockShox to refine the system for 2015 – using a tuned Monarch RT3 evolution shock, with ‘Fast Black’ coating and large volume air chambers. The battery which controls the system is reshaped, and now sits to the side of the down tube, allowing space for a water bottle. Charging takes just over an hour, for over 25 hours use – and warnings of a low battery kick in way before the battery dies.
The OST+ (Optimised Suspension Technology) virtual pivot point system remains the same across the ranges: Zesty Trail models have 29″ wheels, with 120mm travel, Zesty AM models have 27.5″ wheels and 150mm travel, and the Spicy range (aimed at the enduro market), have 27.5″ wheels and 160mm travel.
Build kit however is altered considerably. Reverb seat posts come as standard on all models (except the Zesty TR 329). Formula brakes are replaced by various specs of either the new SRAM guide brake range, or Shimano i-spec. Wheelsets are now either SRAM Roam/Rail UST, or Race Face Turbines. RockShox forks and drivetrains proliferate across most of the range, and stems are shortened, and include signature Nico Vouilloz 7075 CNCed beauties. An entire (super-gorgeous) Spicy Team Nico Vouilloz replica is available too.
Lapierre have also extended their popular roadbike ‘Ultimate’ program to Zesty AM and XR models (more to be announced in August). This online configurator allows saddle, seatpost, platform, wheelsets and groupsets to be selected from a variety of options.
First-up for the test ride was the Spicy Team. A stunner of a bike, we got to take it down the unofficial DH tracks of the Les Gets bike park. Torrential storms the day before primed the trails with ankle deep mud – so test conditions conveniently resembled those of a messy UK winter. With only a short afternoon test session, I left the suspension in auto mode, to see what the e:i Shock Auto could really do. And like the countless skeptics before me, was left mega impressed. Through the undulating terrain – with small climbs, sudden steep shoots and slogs though deep mud – you can just about hear the system quietly whirring beneath you. The LED on the stem unit constantly flicks between red, amber and green – letting you know what’s happening with the shock. Whilst climbing, the LED indicates red or orange as the suspension flicks between locked out and semi-open – and the traction is superb, with minimal pedal bob – even with out of the saddle spurts. The light-weight monocoque carbon frame was nimble and effortless to manoeuvre around the tight trees. And then dropping into steep rocky sections, the 160mm fully opened Pikes and RT3 shock (as indicated by the green LED) smoothly chewed up everything in their path. The stiff frame, light-weight wheel set and grippy tyre combo let you point and shoot this bike down the steepest of gullies – and come away amazed at what you’ve just got away with.
Next up, the Zesty AM has the same linkages and stiff monocoque manufactured carbon frame. Aimed more at the AM market (the Zesty is the most popular Lapierre bike sold in the UK), it comes with 150mm Pikes and RT3 shock. The e:i Shock Auto similarly works its magic with the suspension, and we still were able to rag the Zesty down some equally gnarly trails with total confidence. With a slightly steeper head angle, we spent a bit more time climbing on the Zesty. Minimal pedal bob and fantastic traction, combined with a super lightweight build kit allowed us to fly up the Alpine steeps.
Lapierre’s budget XC offering sees a new frame for 2015, with a design inspired from OST+. The X Control is comprised of Supreme 6 alloy – a strengthened aluminium mix – and a down-tube carbon shield completes the stronger build. The front area has been further stiffened by 20%, which supports a 1.5° slacker head angle (coming in at 68° for the new model) and the new frame geometry – revised around the 27.5 wheels which are introduced for 2015. There is a new FPS+ (Floating Pivot System) suspension kinematic with new linkages and axles inspired from OST+. The 100mm rear travel is given greater progressivity, less kick-back and is supposed to be easier to maintain. Suspension is controlled with a handlebar remote, though the X Control is e:i Shock Auto compatible should you wish to upgrade, and it can accommodate XTR componentry and 2.35 tyre widths. There is also internal routing for a dropper – so whilst the X Control is specced for the XC market, there is certainly scope to beef it up for some more techie riding.
First impressions were pretty good for a budget XC full susser. Whilst the frame wasn’t as super stiff as it’s Spicy and Zesty cousins, the X Control isn’t designed to be ragged down Les Gets bike park trails. But when we took it up into the gentler trails up in the Alpine, it more than proved itself as a light, nimble climber. And on the odd drop and tech descent? The plush RockShox suspension coped well – though you wouldn’t want to spend too much time on the techy stuff – not with the off the shelf build kit.
From the UK shores, we’ve watched the growth of E-Bikes on the continent with interested confusion. They now make up a third of sales of the Accueil Group (Lapierre’s parent company). Judging by the reaction to the picture posted on our Facebook page recently, we in the UK don’t understand their application within the mtb market, other than for those recovering from injury, or the super lazy. However – and I’m anticipating a barrage of abuse below for this, the Overvolt test turned out to be a highlight of the launch for me. I was massively surprised quite how much fun it is possible to have on an E-Bike. Indeed, for 2015 Lapierre will have seven Overvolt models available, as opposed to the two in 2014 – an indication enough of their popularity.
Lapierre admit themselves they don’t even bother trying to scrimp weight on componentry – there’s no point. E-bikes are heavy: the battery packs and ‘engine’ are bulky, solid lumps of metal. But as soon as you jump on the Overvolt – and knock the power transmission into Turbo mode, the first pedal stroke takes you flying forward with much more speed than you think possible from a bike of this heft. But the car park test is a million miles from Alpine singletrack, so once we’re all charged up, we begin a climb high up into the Alpine on the new Overvolt FS 900. And all of a sudden, those long heart-sinking climbs which link together the fun stuff become hugely enjoyable themselves.
Capped at 25km/hr – that’s still ample speed to fire up the climbs. And you still have to pedal for the electric assistance to kick in, so you are still very much involved in the powering. And when the climbs turn technical – having extra power behind your pedal stroke, sees you able to nimble over some properly difficult features. Similarly, when you’re racing through twisty singletrack – despite the Overvolt’s weight – the extra power means you can nip around and over obstacles far easier than you imagine. And when we took the Overvolt FS down some full-on rooty steeps into Morzine, it’s incredible how capable this bike was. The weight helps plant the bike, like an old school DH bike – and armed with 140mm Rockshox Revelations, a 140mm Lapierre R shock and XTR brakes (180 rotors) on 27.5 wheels, we all commented on how we forgot we were riding an E-Bike on the fast descents.
So yes, controversial the Overvolt is and will continue to be – but it’s a very much a case of don’t knock it till you try it. And contrary to some journos perception, this isn’t the future of mountain biking – but it is a fun addition to the mtb family. And surely anything which can take you further and for longer on two wheels can’t be that bad? Can it??