Lapierre have featured strongly in World Cup racing over the last few years, with Sam Blenkinsop grabbing many podium places in 2010, whilst last season Cameron Cole stepped it up a touch more. Blenky tidied up the season with a bronze at the Worlds meaning the French company was very much in the mix at the highest level.
DIRT ISSUE 125 – JULY 2012
Words by Steve Jones. Photos by Steve Jones
Noticeably taller than the earlier team riders of David Vasquez and Danny Hart the 2012 New Zealand pinners are riding much lengthened versions of the downhill machine, the even better news (if you are on the large side) is that from now we’ll all be able to get the longer versions too.
The new bike is an evolution of this year’s model and essentially features some serious strengthening, more travel (up to 220mm) and of course the sizes. The bike retains its carbon swingarm, superb internal cable routing, but appears to have lost the downtube fender. I really liked the bling polished original frame with crisp black and blue graphic finished with the gold Pendbox bolts, but for this season its very much gone down the stealth route.
Not only had Lapierre had given us an exclusive first look at this bike, and some shuttle runs on Sospel’s infamous slopes, but Nicolas Vouilloz was the host, drive’, spannerman, model and (most of all), the company of the most technical racing mind that’s ever raced.
What of the new bike? Featuring an overall evolution of the Pendbox system Lapierre have increased the travel to 220mm, have softened off the curves and given the bike improved stability, having engineered more width into the bottom bracket, Pendbox and swingarm areas. The swingarm drop–outs are now less acutely angled than previously and the bike retains a similar weight to the previous version.
As usual Nico had been busy using two versions of the Fox rear damper and for some reason the bike came with non–standard Michelin rubber. No complaints there! The rest of the componentry featured a massive spread of Easton products, including the new bigger diameter bar and stem and attractive wheelset. Formula brakes completes the build for next season.
How did it perform? Of course one of the ideas behind Pendbox is to disassociate pedalling from the suspension system and in this respect it works pretty well on the boot. But I just wonder how many riders will be concerned about that on a bike of this variety.
Boasting more rear travel it is robust, offering excellent rear tracking through mid–size hits. The Lapierre certainly offers a soft ride characteristic, which was particularly beneficial out in the rocky Sospel slopes, and compared to a Labyrinth which we had on hand, presented a far smoother ride on the rear. However, having that other French bike highlighted the massive changes in ride dynamic achievable within an inch or so, for it was the the Lab not the Lap that was more poised given the really close similarities in sizing.
There’s bound to be comparisons made with other downhill bikes too, in this instance I rode a ten grand Specialized carbon Demo within ten days of the Lapierre test. It brings home the benefits of low bikes with a good standover height, and in that department I think the Lapierre could be improved upon. The weight distribution isn’t helped by the high position of the damper or the complexity of the Pendbox, but essentially the angle of the top tube means the standover isn’t brilliant. It’s also only when you consider the position of the standover curve on such bikes as the Demo that you see the worthless value of many top tube measurements.
In terms of damping I still found a weak spot past fifty percent, which was a feature on the early bikes. I feel this leads you to feel not entirely sure where your feet are relative to the ground. Nico says this was a hydraulic issue (the team riders certainly confirmed an improvement over last years bike in that respect, having spent the time to get it dialled), Cole, Blenky and Bruni looked super balanced out in Val di Sole. At 220mm of travel the bike will need careful attention to set up, very much like a Santa Cruz V10, but once done it will offer good tempo.
Overall I like the initial tightness and give of the suspension, miss the bling factor compared to the early bikes, but the sizing is a welcome feature.
Pricing is yet to be revealed but expect them to be similar to last years £5800 price tag.