The well established and highly successful Lapierre Spicy gets some very significant changes for 2014, including a jump in wheel diameter to 27.5in. After extensive trials, plus feedback from 10-time World DH Champion and chief test pilot Nico Vouilloz, the company decided that the 650b wheel size is an ideal choice for the platform.
“We spent time testing the wheel sizes with the team in Lets Gets, but it was more about feel and understanding how they worked, rather than just the timing,” said Nico, although – according to the clock – the 27.5in wheels are quicker than the 26in versions. On his test track, he reckons the bigger hoops are saving him roughly a second over a 2min 50sec run. A small gain but, with the Enduro World Series hotting up, every little edge becomes an advantage.
Based around the new wheel size is the tweaked geometry, something Lapierre’s engineers and Nico have worked on tirelessly during the past 12 months. The top tube has been stretched by 10mm and now measures 600mm on the medium frame, while the head tube shrinks to 110mm on the small and medium models. Both the head and seat angles have got steeper by 0.5 degrees, measuring in at 66.5 and 74 respectively.
The bottom bracket has been dropped by 10mm, placing it about 340mm off the ground. “I don’t like to touch my pedals on the trail but it [the lower BB] feels better in corners,” Nico explained.
To ensure the bike remains playful, the 430mm chainstays remain. Those with a keen eye will notice changes around the linkage area, though. The shock shuttle now wraps around the linkage to bolster the stiffness of the newly designed, chunky carbon seatstays, which are no longer bridged. Down by the dropouts, the brake mount has been moved and is now neatly tucked inside the seatstay in a bid to improve aesthetics and help reduce any brake effect on the suspension action.
The carbon seatstays are bridgeless to improve tyre clearance
Lapierre have opted to go with full alloy chainstays for next year, for a couple of reasons – to improve durability and because of the inconsistencies found bonding carbon to alloy on previous designs.
The main lower and upper pivot bearings are now inset into the corresponding mainframe tubes. “This change will help protect the bearings from dust and water and make them easier to get in and out if you need to replace them,” said Hervé Layes, the engineer behind the Spicy project. Each pivot now also features new tapered, collet-style hardware that is claimed to reduce by half the amount of torque required to tighten the pivot.
If you’re wondering why the down tube now is kinked, it’s to fit a water bottle in. There’s also talk from UK distributors Hotlines of bringing the Spicy in as a frame-only option, including a headset cup and adjuster chip to allow the frame to be converted for use with 26in wheels.
The Spicy’s rear wheel travel gets reduced from 160mm (6.3in) to 150mm (5.9in), due in part to the switch to the bigger wheels. “With the wheel size capability, we can come down with the amount of travel, and sometimes the bike can be quicker using a bit less travel,” said Nico.
To help create a plusher, more comfortable ride, the leverage ratio curve is flatter, which should lead to a more linear rear-end feel. “The kinematic is the same profile but with less variation because the link is longer,” said Nico. “The curve is also flatter. It’s a bit more linear. It’s smoother in the sag position, so feels more plush. It’s more comfortable. It’s better on flatter or easy trails as you have a more reactive bike.”
According to Nico and Layes, the plan was to find the sweet spot somewhere between the more efficient 2010 OST platform and the current 2013 OST+ design. “I think we improve the mix between ratio curve and efficiency every year. I think we’ve really improved the compromise between grip, comfort and power,” said Layes.
First ride impressions
We spent the day riding Nico’s prototype aluminium bike, with carbon seatstays and his custom parts build. The top-of-the-line production Spicy will look similar to this in terms of spec but will have a carbon mainframe.
Although we were riding an unfamiliar setup on unfamiliar trails, a couple of things were immediately apparent. The bigger wheels and geometry tweaks add stability and composure that boosts confidence when the going gets rough. The bike is still just as flickable and fun as the 2013 version, but you get the sense that you can ride that bit quicker on more challenging terrain.
The 27.5in Lapierre Spicy certainly felt stable at speed
The new Spicy certainly isn’t afraid of getting put to the test in tough trail situations, handling the numerous rock gardens and boulder fields we hammered through admirably. It’s worth noting that – even with a meaty 2.5in, tacky, prototype Schwalbe Magic Mary tyre up front – the Spicy was more than happy climbing with what felt like a more efficient power delivery than the current model.