Lapierre Zesty 314L £2150

Women-specific trail star

BikeRadar score 4.5/5

Lapierre have taken the UK by storm in the past year or so. They produce a women's range too, so we were keen to get our hands on the new Zesty 314L and see how it measured up in the real world. In short, it was adored by everyone who rode it and even more so when they found out the price.

Ride & handling: Great connection with the trail and eager to match every scrap of effort you put in

Every suspension system needs an acronym and Lapierre’s is OST, which stands for Optimised Suspension Technology. Thankfully, the Zesty makes it clear from the outset that optimised suspension is exactly what you’re getting.

Dial in the rebound using the familiar red button, but don’t be alarmed by the lack of lockout on the rear shock: it’s not there because the Zesty doesn’t need it.

Although the initial car park test led us to wonder whether or not the rather soggy amount of sag requested by the neat swingarm marker would keep us happy in the woods, we knew it was spot-on the second we hit the trail.

The 314L ascends beautifully for a 5.5in bike and it’s capable of sucking up climbs without leaving you too drained to enjoy the descents. Sit down and cruise through the moderately lumpy miles, then stamp hard on the pedals to send it scooting past trail blockages.

It’s not choosy either and simply riding it at the trail yields fantastic results – if traction’s at a premium, drop a couple of sprockets for extra momentum, stand up and just keep pedalling as every stroke pulls the rear wheel tighter into the hill.  This enables you to squirrel straight past your mates as they flounder for grip.

It’s not the sveltest bike in its class, but it’s by far the most flighty in terms of ride feel, which builds masses of confidence coming into the descents. Indeed, the light, flickable heft encourages you to float the wheels over sections that would usually mean scrubbing speed and picking your lines carefully.

The high volume, low weight and minimal tread of the Continental tyres work a treat, keeping rolling resistance low to make the most of your speed and gripping in a limpet-like fashion on both loose and rocky surfaces when moving quickly.

We lost the rear end a few times while switching lines at slow speed, because the Race King’s lack of side knobs means it slides without plenty of momentum behind it, but this is a characteristic, not a fault. Frankly, we were too frightened of tearing up the carpet to think about itting anything with more grip anyway.

Frame & equipment: Simply superb suspension and a great price for a bike of this calibre

The frame features a slightly shorter top tube than the equivalent 314 but, with the exception of a Fizik Vitesse perch and slightly shorter stem, the spec is identical.

This means you’re treated to the flawless shifting of a Shimano SLX drivechain and an obligatory bumped-up XT Shadow rear mech with extra protection from a bolt-on carbon wedge. It may look flimsy, but this wedge took hits that would have folded the mech without sustaining any damage at all.

Mavic Crossride wheelsets are cropping up everywhere for 2010; they’re tough, effective and their decidedly untraditional appearance complements the Zesty’s angular frame tubes.

The 2.2in Race King and 2.4in Mountain King tyres look massive out of the box, but leave you in no doubt that this bike is ready to head straight for the hills without the need for any immediate component upgrades.

Our only regret is with the Zesty’s frame sizing: our 42cm test model is the smallest size and, although the top tube was short enough for a 5ft 4in rider, the long fork does limit standover clearance and will exclude some shorter riders from the party. If the frame fits you, however, this is a fantastic bike that will wring every watt of power from your engine and then some.

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