Lapierre got on board the electric mountain bike bandwagon pretty quickly, so while some brands are only just releasing their first e-MTB models, this is actually the second iteration of the Overvolt FS.
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It’s broadly based on Lapierre's Spicy enduro/trail bike and there’s a strong visual resemblance thanks to the kinked up top tube. It’s certainly not the most elegant of designs (neither is the Spicy), but it does mean that the shock can be positioned to give the characteristics Lapierre was after, namely plenty of progression with a supple initial stroke. Compared with the Spicy, the tubing is seriously beefed up, but it’s actually slightly down on travel, with 140mm from the four-bar rear end and 150mm from the RockShox Pike RC at the front.
At the heart of the bike is a Bosch Performance CX pedal-assist motor, capable of adding up to 75Nm of torque to whatever the rider can put out, until the 25kph speed limit is reached and the assistance ends. It’s the most powerful motor that Bosch currently offers and it’s paired to the newer, high capacity 500Wh lithium ion battery.
The tubing has been beefed up from the non-e-assisted Spicy that the Overvolt is loosely modelled on
Although this system is available with a fancy Nyon head unit that offers GPS navigation among other features, the bike comes with the more basic Intuvia display. That’s probably a wise choice in the rough and tumble world of mountain biking, but it’s still fairly exposed to damage, sat atop the stem.
Your current speed, battery level and assistance level are always displayed, but it’s also possible to cycle through remaining range, trip distance, total distance and time and date among others. It’s also possible to have a shift recommendation, which will prompt you to change gear when your cadence is outside the optimal range for the system.
The Intuvia display is a little vulnerable to damage, standing proud in the middle of the bars
The system will work with or without the head unit fitted and there’s a bar mounted remote that allows you to adjust assistance level or change screen information too. The display is clear and easy to see, even in bright sunlight. We did have a few issues with the bar remote accidentally knocking the system into a different assistance setting as the large buttons require only a light touch, making it easy to trigger them when getting bounced about off road. Careful positioning does reduce the risk of this, but a more mountain bike specific remote and display mount would be a welcome sight.
Bish, bash, Bosch
Regardless of small issues, the Bosch setup is probably the most refined system currently on sale, smoothly feeding in power as you pedal. Just how much grunt you get depends on which of the four settings you’re in, which range from the frugal ‘Eco’ up to the rather entertainingly savage ‘Turbo’. There’s also a walk assist mode for when you’re off the bike and trying to move the not inconsiderable mass along.
We got a 30-40km range from the motor on the highest setting – which is addictively fun
Riding in pretty steep terrain, we got around 30-40km of range from the bike when in the highest power setting, which tallied well with the reasonably accurate range calculation. Unless you’re desperate to get yourself around a long loop, it’s hard to be sensible and take the bike out of this setting as it’s simply huge amounts of fun. That said, it’s probably not the wisest for making progress on twisty singletrack as the surge of power tends to kick in and push you off line if you pedal mid corner, especially if you’re not fully acclimatised to it.
Leaving the system in Sport or Tour still makes easy work of flowing uphill trails but the less aggressive boost is much easier to manage. If you’re the sort of rider that likes to put in a little crank stroke here and there to keep your momentum then the quarter crank turn or so delay that the system has before the assistance kicks in – presumably to prevent novice riders wheelying their way into oblivion – might well catch you out in a similar way. You soon learn to ride around this however, either keeping constant cadence or trusting to momentum.
Fork travel from the Pike up front is reduced to 150mm compared with the Spicy
The bike feels slacker than it is, with a relatively steep 67-degree head angle being masked by the stability that the overall mass of the bike generates. In keeping with most e-MTBs, all that weight can make it a handful on really twisty stuff, as the bike simply doesn’t want to dart from side to side in the way a conventional bike would. It’s a very different riding experience, but once you learnt to coax speed and manage the bike, it’s quite a satisfying one.
This bike is really better suited to hauling up and the trucking down some techy trails however. There, the mass of the bike and the progressive rear end draw a surprisingly large amount of grip out of the Schwalbe Hans Dampf rubber and the bike really starts to work.
It sits nicely into corners and the relatively short stem and wide bars make moving it about a muscular but rewarding experience. It is much harder to keep the bike low to the ground over jumps or drops as the weight simply wants to boost you into the air, leading to one or two hairy moments until we started to expect this. Once you’re used to it, it’s hugely grin inducing as the bike is super stable when airborne and naturally wants to carve a smooth, stable arc from take-off to landing.
Unless you’ve been hitting the gym in a serious way, choosing lines is much more of a case of point, shoot and carve. You can use the weight and suspension of the bike to pop it up and over obstacles but – unsurprisingly – it’s nowhere near as dynamic as an unassisted machine. The suspension does give great support at both ends, feeling like it had the bike well in hand even in large compressions. That does boost confidence and allow you to give the bike some freedom, which it’s only too happy to exploit.
Can’t stop, won’t stop
Taking advantage of that performance is all well and good, but there’s a bit of an issue when it comes to reining the Lapierre in. The Shimano Deore brakes are perfectly adequate performers when used on normal bikes, but despite using 180mm rotors front and rear they simply don’t provide enough stopping grunt to haul the Overvolt up from the speeds it’s capable of generating.
With 22.7kg of mass to bring into line, 180mm-rotored Deore brakes just aren't powerful enough
Going to larger 200mm rotors at both ends would help considerably and we’d rather see some sintered metal pads instead of the resin items fitted to improve heat management and lifespan too, but more powerful higher end brakes would be a boon. If a spec compromise needed to be made, then we’d be happy to see a cheaper drivetrain fitted instead of the Shimano XT 11spd setup. It’s plenty smooth when shifting and the 11-42t gear range is fine in conjunction with the extra power of the motor, but it’s debatable whether you notice this extra refinement over a more basic setup.
Overall, the Overvolt is a blast. The Bosch pedal assist system is refined and smooth, almost certainly being the one to beat at the moment. At 22.7kg for a size Large frame, it’s a relative heavyweight in the e-MTB game but we never really noticed this extra mass over rivals when riding. We’d much rather have the extra travel, grip and stiffness it offers over more puny rivals for the marginal weight penalty.
It’s just a shame that the Lapierre’s brakes are woefully inadequate and pose a huge weakness in the overall performance of the bike. Sort those out and you’ll have a machine that’ll keep you lapping up the lairiest of descents with a broad smile plastered on your face.