Lapierre need to take a closer look at the height, steepness and weight of the production version of their World Championship winning bike. The good news is that it looks fixable.
It conquered the world in an immense conclusion to the pro downhill season at the World Championships in Andorra. French bike, french pilot flying Lapierre to its first major senior men’s downhill win. It came after a painful series of second place positions but the new champion Loic Bruni had finally placed the Lapierre downhill bike in the right position.
This is Lapierre’s third attempt at producing the ultimate downhill bike. It has some dazzling predecessors including the beautiful gold and silver 09 versions that Danny Hart used in his early senior years. The Pendbox bike arrived a few years later but was plagued by swing arm weakness and the balance was a difficult one on times. The team stars Sam Blenkinsop and Cam Cole performed reasonably well enough on it but overall it was possibly over-complicating matters.
The Lapierre is available in three sizes although bear in mind the reach on these bikes (a reasonable indicator of fit) is on the small size. It’s certainly a lot smaller than most downhill bikes. This has been a constant feature of Lapierre DH bikes for some years now.
This new bike marked a return to basics when it was launched at Fort William in 2014. Progressive suspension, robust linkage driven system, aluminium chassis, it was pretty much all in the bag.
After a sneaky ride on some early versions this is the second time we’ve had a production version of this bike (on previous occasions manufacturing fault led us to postpone the testing) and we were eagerly looking forward to riding a bike that had proven itself time and again last season.
At just over 37lb without pedals the Lapierre is one of the heaviest bikes on the market at present but the Nukeproof Pulse is close, although lighter than the Commencal if the prototype bikes are anything to go by. Crucially however, when we have done previous tests we found weight to be less of a factor than many make it out to be.
The specification build is excellent. The seven speed Sram X0DH groupset, RockShox BoXXers and Vivid damper, Guide brakes. Not so hot on the Easton 35mm bar and stem combination but more than happy with the Easton Havoc wheelset. The bike has a cohesive, well balanced feel about it. At over £5000 the bike is close to the carbon Giant Glory and GT Fury but how does it ride?
With a bottom bracket of 360mm, wheelbase at 1223mm and head angle of what we measured close to 65 degrees it’s one of the shortest, highest, steepest size large downhill bikes on the market. Now some of those figures taken in isolation are similar to other production size large bikes, for example the wheelbase is actually close to the Trek Session, Specialized Demo and Devinci Wilson, but many of the other numbers particularly head angle and bottom bracket are some way off current production downhill bikes that work well. The Lapierre downhill team obviously have shock shuttles that will allow them to drop the bottom bracket and slacken the head angle, so it’s not terminal.
How does it ride? Like the championship winning bike that it is? Afraid not. Because of the high bottom bracket the bike gives you the impression you’re riding in high heels, and because of that you begin to ride like you are! Many might think that ten mil’ here and there in the lower regions of a bike makes little difference – but it does.
In comparison to many other bikes, there is heightened pressure on the thighs, an amount of overcompensation due to the cramped position and a rattling of cable inside the frame. It certainly lacks the silence of a Demo. On the positive side the bike offers a very robust damping characteristic which is fully supportive, although many might find this strength in damping will add to leg fatigue.
Diving into g-outs the bike has good hold, but on the return to a highish steep setting the steering becomes quite light and squirrelly, compromised no doubt by the high bottom bracket and steep head angle. It’s no coincidence the high Intense M16C acts in a similar way.
Too high and too steep, we are currently experimenting with another well known bike that suffers similar geometric issues. It appears to be an easy fix by re-positioning the damper. As for the Lapierre it clearly has immense potential and the specification is spot on so it’s something we’d like to sort out.
But as it is, and even though the bike comes with a World Champion’s rainbow tied to its chassis with Loic Bruni riding it off the leash to gold, we’d be more tempted to put a lead on it for very different reasons. Lapierre has some way to go with this one.
Check out Dirt’s downhill bike buyer’s guide HERE.