The aim of this review is to come to an accurate, direct conclusion in the shortest possible time. No meandering, or avoidance, just as it is. So I could then just say that the Lapierre Spicy is the best twenty–seven–five (650b to some of you) enduro bike I’ve ridden to date (which it is) and be done with it…
From Dirt Issue 138 – August 2013
Words by Steve Jones. Photos by Steve Jones.
Many of you might obviously have made your own minds up on wheel size through personal research, discussion with friends and testing the many bikes out there. Having said that I recently met a chap, ever so nice, that was about to drop seven grand on a so–called ‘boutique US brand’ (does anyone know who invented that bullshit?) that he had never swung a leg over. “Well nobody makes shit bikes anymore do they?” And followed by, “anyhow it’s in all the mags and websites”. Bright bloke too. Yes there are actually people out there who buy bikes on looks. Well take a look at this puppy, doesn’t she look as cute as any US brand? So why not go ahead?
Why not? At a guess because there needs to be some more foreplay, that’s why not. Look how many times have we been through the detail here? Handlebars, stem, cranks, gears, grips, internal cable routing… there’s nothing in there that I cannot tell you that you probably don’t already know. OK, so Nico Vouilloz runs a chainguide on his bike rather than be fully confident in the Sram XX1 and he’ll occasionally drop the Ei shock (Lapierre’s electronic ‘terrain sensitive’ rear damper) for a standard shock on the odd full–on downhill day simply in the name of progression (it’s difficult to learn unless you enter the different margins that ‘against the clock’ riding delivers). And that in itself warrants a whole volume of discussion.
So too does the pro’s and con’s of Ei. But at this point can I maybe suggest why not choose one of the following and let’s progress? A) It’s totally right for the all–round riding I do and saves energy, B) I like the idea but hate cable clutter, C) I like to be able to interact with the bike and terrain my own way without any interference, D) I don’t really fancy keeping my bike fully charged, and E) Here’s my card number 4244 6488 56…
There are other items on the agenda, components to make our lives so much easier right? RockShox Reverb seatpost. Totally brilliant and possibly the best mountain bike product ever invented, until as a tester you get a bad one, or two… at which point I lose interest and bolt a cheap mechanical under seat lever version on my bike whilst waiting for the garage to fix it. You’ll have learned by now to identify the pen to paper weariness of a rider that’s punch drunk, so again for your own sake choose, A) ask a friend on seatposts.
Brakes. Sorry Formula you are an awesome company but your brakes are simply no match for Avid X0 Trail or Shimano XTR, luckily the top end Spicy comes shod with the former… and at which point we probably got on the chairlift.
Dropping into the steep rooty terrain the Spicy feels so much more poised than with the weak little 32 Fox fork which features on the same frame but differently forked Zesty. I still have pit talk in my brain as I head into areas of woodland that need a bit of concentration, but then I forget I’m on a Spicy now and don’t need to worry. Still, the gear shifter is digging into my hand (I’m what people describe weakly as one of those with weird middle finger braking. I find it hurtful, nasty and blinkered). Anyhow, Torben Borrowy from Sram is waiting at the bottom of the run with a van full of kit and has just the very component to change this – to move the shifter inboard – and I also tell him that there’s not enough support in RockShox Pike fork.
He quickly looks at the bike – it’s the top end Team version. “I’m pretty sure there’s no volume spacers on that fork as stock”, and swiftly dumps two red bits of plastic in, and also in the process reduces the compression which I had dialled in to compensate for the weak front end.
Now we’re charging, the mood has lifted, the voices in my head about paintjobs, boutiques, stem length arguments, wheel size discussions had left the building – this was now rider, line, flow. With the bike maintaining a better shape with the increased progressivity given to the Pike the cornering is improved, as did my confidence to hit harder sections. The bike does feel slightly small for a large and at six foot I’d certainly be looking to ride the XL which is finally available. An up to date Spicy size will please no end of people.
The suspension on this bike is frankly one of the best paired units I’ve ridden (Pike with a Monarch rear), its suppleness, elasticity through roots is just sublime. I actually started going the more difficult route just to find trouble for the bike. You can charge into root sections fully committed – how many times have you heard that – but more importantly with more control and grip. The Spicy has become (no surprise thanks to Nico) one of the best hard charging trail/enduro bike’s on the market.
Yet it’s more than that. It’s light, it’s direct, it’s a bike you’d happily pedal around all day on – that is after all what enduro is about – taking in some climbs and hitting some handmade local or historic Alpine or Mediterranean descents. Whatever, why the hell would you now buy a Zesty? I don’t know.
In many ways the Spicy is now what the Zesty used to be like four years ago, but now more slimline (the chainstays stuck out a bit to accommodate for the new inboard caliper but they say this will be reduced by 10–15mm or so by production) and it’s lighter with suspension that is just so much better than it used to be. It proves there is progression, evolution to their programme. I just wish more companies would get it.WHY?
Who’s this bike for? It’s for hard chargers and all day trail riders alike, often the same thing isn’t it (seriously)? And there is nothing American in 650 that will match it – seriously. Totally at home in tough terrain thanks to the powerful damper, although some riders will want just a slight bit more compression muscle in the Pike (don’t get me wrong, at the minute it sits top of my 160mm list) you could easily session the Alps on this bike and take in the entire World Enduro series on it. Most of us will want to use it as their do–it–all thrash around the woods bike. It’s probably too much bike for trail centres but then such places have become either worn out and in need of 29” bikes or freshly smooth and bermed in which case a hardtail will do.
As mentioned we are seeing real progression here. Bikes that have been the best last year and the year before are genuinely being overtaken by lack of balls or lack of technical knowhow. So many brands are falling behind. With the Spicy the French company has taken a stride ahead of the opposition. I can only really see one or two companies getting close to an all–round 150mm as good as this, and of those currently available some being weighted more towards trail, others more 160mm uplift bikes. It really is a gem.REALLY
Yes really. Lapierre have got the weight right, the sizes just about right, the shock tune right, the components are flawless for their application, it looks a winner and, for those who put performance and perhaps results before looks (and hell the Spicy has all three)… it clearly is a winner. So there.