Interview: Gilles Lapierre on Ebikes And Why They Are Not Evil

by
June 30, 2016

Gilles Lapierre is clearly excited by Ebikes, and has invested much in the new range, so Hannah asked him why he was so excited by them, warning him that whenever we post anything about Ebikes, we get comments like ‘Burn them with fire!’.

Gilles Lapierre

Gilles Lapierre – “Talking about the people’s reaction, I have been riding mountain bikes for a long time and…and now all of a sudden we see more and more Ebike mountain bike sportives. I would say that over the last year, we can see a lot of difference. One year ago, the reaction was very aggressive, and now without any clear reason except that there are more and more Ebikes coming through, I think that people are more curious than aggressive. That’s a good thing I think.”

“We see more and more couples doing E-mountain bikes together, and that’s why we developed an E-mountain bike in alloy, an E-mountain bike in carbon, and also an E-mountain bike women’s series. So that means that we strongly believe that there is an opportunity for women to enjoy mountain bike riding when it was not the case before if they found it too difficult. I’m not sure if this is good news for the men or not! I have my personal experience with my wife, where now we can go on vacation and we can do E mountain biking together.”

Lapierre Overvolt XC Women
Photo Credit: Manu Molle/Lapierre

Hannah – The new range of E mountain bikes from Lapierre includes the alloy models which look like other Ebikes that we are used to seeing, but there’s also the carbon model. I asked Gilles to explain how this, quite different looking Ebike, came about.

Lapierre Overvolt AM Carbon 2017

G.L – “The story is that it has been a pretty challenging project. We were facing to potential solutions. Number one solution, the one we’re already familiar with in normal mountain bikes: we make a carbon version of the alloy version, just a copy and pasted project. But Nico and I – because Nico is a very important part of the project. Nico is not just a fantastic champion, he is also a very clever guy, a smart guy, and that’s why we’ve been working together now for ten, twelve years, as part of our R&D. So in all the new projects on mountain bikes, Nico is involved from the earliest stage.”

Nico Vouilloz Lapierre Overvolt AM Carbon 2017
Photo Credit: Damian McArthur/Lapierre

[Nico is also a big fan of Ebikes, having first seen their potential while recovering from a major crash – Ed]

“So, we decided together not to go for the easy solution, we decided to go for something pretty challenging: how to try to give people the possibility of riding an Ebike with the same feeling of a non Ebike. So we decided after some investigation and some calculations that we should decrease the centre of gravity – because a battery is close to three kilos, it’s pretty heavy. On paper it was pretty easy to prove that if we lowered the centre of gravity then at the top of the bike it would much easier to handle. But I remember the first time Nico and I rode the very first protoype. We were together the first time we tested the bike, and it took less than 100m to know it was working. We really felt the difference.”

“But yes, it was challenging. When you look at the bike, it’s pretty complex. And if you see the construction, it’s pretty impossible to to do this in alloy. So it’s been an ambitious target to build a bike around the battery and the motor with our own approach, and that’s why we’re pretty proud of this.”

Lapierre Overvolt AM Carbon 2017

I concur that having ridden the new range, it’s noticeably easier to handle than the more traditional Ebikes – you can shift your weight on it like you would on a standard bike, and it makes you feel a lot more confident on the trails. In testing, I rode the carbon bike set up with 27.5 tyres – but as it’s fitted with Lapierre’s patented DWS Dual Wheel System, you can also ride it as a 27.5+ bike. I noted that this was a different approach to many other manufacturers, who tend to offer 29 or 27.5+ options. Gilles explains his thinking:

[With the system] People have the choice depending on the area, depending on their mood, depending on whatever you want, to change the wheels without changing the frame. For beginners, I would suggest 27.5+, because it brings a lot of confidence. You feel so controlled.

“There are so many standards, it’s easy to get lost, but at a certain time you have to make a choice. After a lot of discussions with Nico and the rest of the team, we decided to go for 27.5 and 27.5+.”

Lapierre Overvolt AM Carbon

Despite the bend in the asymmetrical seat tube, there’s still room for a dropper post – and it’s Lapierre’s new own model. Gilles says that this was something they thought of right at the start.

G.L – “It was part of the brief. When you prepare a draft brief, everything that is absolutely necessary for the ‘perfect bike’ goes in. So we said we had to give the consumer the choice of 27.5 and 27.5+. We said we have to have a dropper seat post, with three different sizes. And we designed our own wheels specifically for the Ebikes.”

Lapierre Overvolt AM Carbon

Hannah – So are they stronger to go with the torque that you produce on an Ebike?

G.L – “Yes, but also, it seems like a stupid thing, but you have a magnet – and this is something we also tested quite a lot. We discovered that sometimes the magnet would move, and then the motor is not functioning any longer. So we decided to go for a simple solution where the spoke shape means that the magnet doesn’t move because of the spoke shape.”

Talking to Gilles about his sponsored riders, I discover that they are sponsoring a French rider called Chloe Gallean to ride Ebikes in competition.

G.L – “For the first time ever we decided to participate in the new Ebike events, because in France now, all the main events – really well known, extreme events Transvesubienne – they all open their events to Ebikes.”

Hannah – As a category? Just like a singlespeed category?

G.L – “Absolutely. For instance, Nico, when he is not riding the World Cup Series, he’s always participating in Ebike events as well. And I say to everybody: it’s always the best rider who wins, Ebike or not. You have to pedal, but at the same time you have to be clever, because you have to check your battery life. It’s like a car, you talk about going fast, but you talk about the consumption. It is a second parameter to take into consideration.”

Nico Vouilloz Lapierre Overvolt AM Carbon 2017
Photo Credit: Damian McArthur/Lapierre

Hannah – So I think it’s difficult to be precise because there are so many variables, but what kind of distances could you be looking at travelling on this carbon Ebike? Could you do a 24 hour a race?

G.L – “As an example, Transvesubienne is a very hilly – I think 4000m climbing – event in the south of France. They’re [riders] are allowed to go with three batteries, it’s very controlled. So you have to be very smart about how you ride the bike, how you use the bike – on the eco mode much more than the sport mode, otherwise the three batteries are not enough.” 

“The latest technology, the maximum capacity we know, is 500W per hour – I’m talking about the battery. Round here [Cote D’Or] if you go for a ride with maybe 600-800m elevation, and you go in turbo mode only, then maybe you’ll get maybe 1.5 hours maximum.”

Lapierre Overvolt AM Alloy

Hannah – But turbo mode is pretty full on – often it’s too much, you’re flying. You don’t need it all the time.

G.L – “No. I would say the most convenient is go on the Tour mode, the second level – it delivers to you something like 125W plus yours; [from your legs] you are maybe close to 200W; it’s close to 300W, and 300W is lots, and it can last maybe 3 hours.”

Hannah – The eco mode feels quite comfortable and then you just give it a bit more and put a bit more effort in up hill – if you sit in turbo mode up a hill you could kind of go up anything!

G.L – “I would say eco mode, this is the mode you can use when you are riding with friends on normal mountain bikes. It delivers to you close to 50W, so it’s more than enough to be at the front!”

Hannah – My impression is that the battery life is more than long enough for most rides with friends – if you were going for a big day out in the Lake District you’d take an extra battery, but for your average trail centre thrash around, there’s more than enough.

G.L – “You’re right – usually when you go on the Tour mode, which is more than sufficient, you can easily go to three to four hours.”

Hannah – And most people, after three to four hours, are beginning to think about pies, and beer, I think?

G.L – “In France, they will think about wine – even more especially in this area!”

For more on Gilles and his love of the Cote d’Or, click here to read Hannah’s account of her first night on her first press trip.

Gilles Lapierre
Photo Credit: Manu Molle/Lapierre

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