Lapierre are a company who like to go that extra mile when it comes to attention to detail and their 2010 range looks sublime, with some substantial changes to a few of the classics.
The X Control has had a complete revamp, with changes to the geometry, spec list and shock. The Race 700 is one of three models that uses an all-new carbon frame, built with new technology and completely redesigned.
What Lapierre have achieved with these changes is a much more rider-friendly bike that’s capable of riding anything from trail centres to national cross-country races.
There’s a comfort factor that lulls you into thinking this could be just another trail bike that should be ridden all day on some basic singletrack, but unleash this into a harsher environment and it shines. This bike likes to go fast, both up and downhill, and throws plenty of fun into the mix – you won’t be disappointed.
Ride & handling: Confident and versatile fast-riding cross-country/trail machine
When seated, the X Control rides like a hardtail and will only move when it comes across a sufficiently large bump; hammer into the climbs and the FPS2 suspension system does a superb job of creating a stable, efficient action with little wasted energy while cranking out of the saddle.
Lapierre have specced shorter stems and wider bars for 2010 which nods to the X Control’s undoubted trail versatility. This cockpit change also makes it an easy bike to adapt to and far less twitchy than some pure and strung-out race bikes from other brands.
The shorter 90mm stem means the front end picks up if the gradient increases and you’re forced to compromise your seated position in order to maintain control and traction.
This is a small price to pay, though, for the added control the stem offers when combined with the wider 640mm bar – which is substantially longer than most cross-country race bars.
The Fox RP2 rear shock we had fitted to our medium test frame had great stability and the ProPedal platform damping was a real bonus, but hardly needed for the rough trails we were riding.
In a bid to make climbing more eficient, the Fox 32 F FIT RL 100mm fork comes fitted with the new FIT (Fox Isolated Technology) cartridge, which has a new lighter chassis and swapped rebound and compression adjusters. The adjuster switch is there to aid in-ride adjustment, as once the compression is dialled in it will generally remain untouched.
Another development featured on the X Control 700 and developed by Fox is the new remote lockout – a simple system that lets you activate the lockout with your thumb. The action is precise and definitive, with no scrabbling around or pushing on the fork to see if it’s worked.
After proving itself as a climber, it is a surprise to discover how comfortable the 700 was on the descents too. The slacker 70° head angle, plus the wider bar and shorter stem, combine to create a faster, more controlled ride, and the 100mm of rear travel worked well over some of the harshest stutter bumps without interfering with the handling of the bike.
Both the fork and rear shock are well balanced and work well together: hitting the rougher sections, the rear end sits comfortably into the first third of its travel and tracks the terrain with ease.
With this confidence slung beneath you it’s easy to get carried away, but the 700 – although capable and trail ready – will soon bring you back to reality when, on harsher and steeper terrain, the bike pitches forward and underlines its cross-country/trail, not all-mountain, leanings.
The Hutchinson tyres struggled in the damper conditions and gave a skatey feel when let loose over high-speed gravel sections, although they do roll exceptionally well.
All in all the bike works well together with some great component choices and a dedicated theme that runs throughout, making it one of the best-looking machines out there.
Frame: New carbon chassis takes its cues from aluminium hydroforming
The X Control is now in its third generation, with two variants – Race and Marathon. Both boast 100mm of rear wheel travel, with the Marathon series using a 120mm fork for some added comfort and the Race keeping things sprightly with 100mm front and rear.
The 700 has an all-new carbon frame that takes its inspiration from the hydroforming used on Lapierre's alloy frames. New monocoque carbon frame construction allows the tubes to be crafted as sleekly as its alloy counterpart, and weigh even less. Lapierre boast that the entire frame weighs less than 2kg (not including rear shock).
The revamped frame also includes some tweaks to last year’s geometry to help improve ride characteristics and comfort. The head angle of the 700, along with the rest of the range, is now 70° (one degree slacker than last year) to give it that edge when it comes to the descents.
The frame still uses the FPS2 suspension platform that’s been such a success on Lapierre's downhill bikes but now uses Fox’s reworked Float R rear shock to control the 100mm of rear wheel travel.
The 700 we tested actually featured a Fox RP2 rear shock that debuts the new Boost Valve technology developed on the DHX Air rear downhill shock.
The FPS2’s virtual pivot setup virtually eliminates pedal bob under power and creates a stable platform that lets you steadily turn the cranks with an efficient transfer of power to the rear wheel.
With the frame based on a simple triangular design, the X Control 700 looks fantastically minimalist and the compact linkage and pivot arrangement stays laterally stiff under heavy loading.
We spoke to Remy Girodon from Lapierre’s R&D department about the new X Control 700...
BikeRadar: What are the main changes to the X Control for 2010?
Everything is completely different; it’s all new. There’s no change from a kinematic (motion) point of view but the new carbon frame and shape is different. We now have a full-carbon front and rear triangle frame just like the alloy version; we used to use a carbon front triangle with alloy rear. So our biggest change is the shape of the frame. On the X Control’s suspension, the biggest changes are the Fox rear shock and fork. The head angle on the X Control has been changed, but only by one degree.
How long did it take to develop the new fork and shock with Fox?
The collaboration with Fox is now a permanent thing. We worked together on the new shock with the boost valve and the FIT fork cartridge, and we do a lot of testing sessions with Fox — at least four or five times a year. We tell Fox what we want from the platform, shock and fork, and every year we try to make these better.