Getting excited about a full-on hardtail race bike seems difﬁcult when the market is ﬂooded with suspension bikes that promise to move the world. Lapierre’s Pro Race thinks it can change our mind, but costing £1,000 more than last year's model, can the (TBC) 2010 bike justify its £5,500 pricetag?
There’s no getting away from it: the pricetag is huge. To muddy the water still further, it also raises the whole ‘hardtail or full-suss’ question, as the 2010 Specialized S-Works Epic full-suss race bike also costs £5,500, weighs just 2.5lb more at 22.2lb (10.1kg), yet offers 100mm of race-tuned suspension with an all-carbon frame and a similar SRAM XX-based speciﬁcation. But which should you choose?
That’s down to your own personal preferences of course, but if you absolutely must have a hardtail then the Pro Race 900 is a glorious-looking bike with superb ride characteristics.
But it’s more than just a race machine. The wider bars add signiﬁcant control and the overall ride is truly conﬁdent, and it has the potential to be a very special trail hardtail with a shorter stem and more aggressive tyres. To this end, the 900 scores four for performance and two for value, giving it an overall ‘good’ score of three stars.
Ride & handling: Light, responsive frame makes this bike lightening fast through technical trails
The Pro Race range sees some major changes for 2010. It consists of seven models, ﬁve of which feature new frame designs but stick with the same measurements and geometries as 2009.
The 900, 700 (£2,750) and 500 (£1,950) enjoy the new carbon frame and the 400 (£2,150) has a fresh alloy 7005 triple-butted frame, while the 200 (£1,300) and 300 (£1,600) get the alloy double-butted frame. We rode the high-end 100mm-travel 900 with the new SRAM XX groupset.
The sub-20lb (19.4lb/8.8kg without pedals) build is bound to be a noticeable characteristic when ﬁrst riding this type of bike. With every revolution of the cranks, the acceleration lunges through the bike and the 900 takes just seconds to get up to speed.
It doesn’t feel like your average race-bred cross-country rig: the seated position is more comfortable and doesn’t give the feel of a road bike ﬁtted with knobbly tyres and straight bars.
There’s also an element of control that sometimes seems to be overlooked when making ultra-efﬁcient race machines. Hitting climbs hard and fast was a joy, with weight distribution well centred and traction never a problem. The 585mm (23in) top tube and 100mm stem offer a low, comfortable body position that can be sustained without regular visits to a chiropractor.
As the trail steepened, the XX gear range really shone through. With a 10-speed cassette ranging from 11-32T and a dual ring up front with 28-42T, there was a wide and efﬁcient spectrum on offer. The ‘X Glide’ technology works very effectively and the gears change comfortably under load if the occasion arises.
Also enhancing climbing efﬁciency is the XLoc hydraulic remote lockout for the RockShox SID World Cup fork – another weapon in the XX armoury. This is one of the most convenient and effective systems on the market.
A simple push of the button and, hey presto, the front fork becomes rigid. Little force is required and the button is easy to locate and operate, so no scrabbling around trying to ﬁnd the trigger on this one.
Unleash the 900 on the singletrack and what you get is a rush. The bike carries speed incredibly well, more like a quality trail bike than race whippet.
The 640mm bar specced on the entire Pro Race series is much wider than many other manufacturers would recommend, but the gamble has paid off: combined with a 71° head angle it creates a snappy but comfortable ride. The wide bars give great control and the light, responsive frame makes this bike lightening fast through the technical trails.
Point it downhill and the difference between what you expect and what you get is quite surprising. After climbing so efﬁciently without power loss, we were expecting a more rigid ride on the technical alpine descents.
Once up to speed, this wasn’t the case though, with the 900 happily staying in its comfort zone and begging to be pushed harder. The way the frame absorbed rough terrain meant that rather than hitting the bumps and losing momentum, the bike continued through and over while maintaining speed and ﬂuidity.
The SID World Cup XX fork was consistent and reliable and while the bike was well within its limits, the tyres were on the boundaries of washing out due to the shallower racing tread. Something more aggressive than the Hutchinsons when you’re away from the race track would certainly take this bike into another dimension.
Frame: Redesigned carbon chassis is lighter than ever
Simple clean lines with the unique 2010 custom Lapierre graphics go some way to setting this race whippet apart. But the most important thing for 2010 is the redesigned carbon frame. The 2009 geometry is retained; it’s the changes to the construction of the frame where we see radical departures.
Using new monocoque carbon ﬁbre technologies, sufﬁcient strength can now be created to allow manufacturers to create smooth ﬂowing shapes more usually found on an aluminium frame.
The Pro Race 900 uses this monocoque technology for the front triangle and now 100 percent carbon dropouts, cable stops, bottom bracket bearing seat and headset. The bottom bracket is Shimano’s direct press-ﬁt bearing system.
Lapierre claim these changes save 70g over the 2009 frame, with the new frame weighing just 22g more than the 2009 Scott Scale LTD at 1.04kg (2.2lb for the 18in frame we tested). Changes to the rear triangle eliminate the seatstay bridge thanks to clever use of carbon ﬁbre construction.
"I was blown away by the agility and speed that this bike produced. The XX groupset is light and works brilliantly. The frame feels great and its compact size means you can really throw it around. It can still be pushed really hard without the trepidation you might get with a narrower barred, more rigid race bike, but at the same time you get a highly capable winning machine."