Lapierre’s Spicy has a long and storied history, helped in no part by the man who helped raise the bike over the years, a certain 10-time downhill World Champion and fellow Frenchman, Nico Vouilloz.
A new focus, but not a looker
The Spicy has always been Lapierre's long travel trail bike of the range, but this newest version is much more focused on the lessons its dad has learnt sessioning the Enduro World Series – and there have been a whole host of changes for this year to make it more suited to that task.
The input from legendary downhiller and enduro racer Nico Vouilloz is apparent
The first and most obvious difference is the profile. It’s safe to say that this new bike has looks only a father could love, with a somewhat awkward top tube kicked up at the front and a low-slung belly where the down tube hits the bottom bracket. However, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and there are some very good reasons for these changes.
The big one is that the rear suspension linkage has been heavily modified. While it’s still a four-bar setup, the shock shuttle of the old model has been deleted in order to boost travel up to 165mm from 150mm, also giving a more progressive ending stroke to give more support on big hits. The hunchbacked top tube means a piggyback shock can be accommodated, while the little belly means you can fit a waterbottle in there too.
The more progressive shock curve means the old shock shuttle has been ditched in favour of a conventional shock bushing
The rear end is also designed to give optimum pedalling performance around a 34t chainring rather than the 30-32t the old bike was made to work with. Those who remember the somewhat wide stance of the old bike’s heel-catching rump will also be pleased to know it’s now much slimmer, despite 10mm more mud clearance.
It’s not just the suspension that’s had an overhaul though. Reach figures have been extended across the range, with a medium frame now 14mm roomier at 444mm with a 605mm top tube.
The seat angle has been steepened up to 75 degrees for a more forwards weight bias when sat down and the head angle has been relaxed slightly to 66 degrees, running the same 160mm fork up front. Those new numbers are paired with a wider 780mm own-brand alloy bar and shorter 45mm stem.
As this is the top end Team version, you get a carbon mainframe and seatstays paired with alloy chainstays and shock linkage. The kit is all functional and durable stuff, with a SRAM 11spd drivetrain using a mix of X1 and X01 bits, tubeless-ready SRAM Rail 50 wheels
At 13.25kg (medium) the complete bike is behind rivals such as the Mondraker Dune Carbon, which is 12.74kg. Some of that is down to the tyres fitted. As this is the Team bike, Nico’s sponsor Michelin provides the rubber, with a Wild Rock’R2 Reinforced up front and a Wild Grip’R2 Reinforced out back.
Michelin supplies the rubber and it's tough and grippy, if a little heavy for trail use
Both of the tubeless ready specimens use the sticky Gum-X rubber compound and sport a weight of over a kilo apiece. That means that you can hurl them into rock gardens while running minimal pressure and not have to fear, but the extra weight and drag noticeable dampens the verve of the bike uphill, to the point that we thought we were running a much bigger chainring than the 30t fitted.
The E:I system does almost eliminate bob and unwanted bounce however, with smart and unobtrusive automatic control of what setting the rear shock is in based on bump input from the front fork. It’s a shame that while the frame can take a piggyback shock, the E:I system isn’t available with anything other than the inline RockShox Monarch RT3, which is capable enough but will definitely start to heat up and get stiffer on extended rough descents.
Offset pivots mean you can fit a front derailleur, should you wish to, though the Team model has a SRAM 11spd drivetrain
While we’re griping, it’s also a shame that the stock E:I battery takes up the space where a water bottle would fit. Happily, serious enduro racers can request a different style of tubular battery that’s offset to the side when they purchase the bike.
Spicing up the ride
While on paper, the numbers of the bike aren’t extreme by any means, out on the trail the bike really starts to gel together. That’s because when running the recommended 35% sag at the rear, the somewhat high bottom bracket is dropped to a low and stable position and the head angle slackened out a touch more.
While the Spicy certainly doesn’t feel incredibly plush despite all the sag, once you really turn up the speed it starts to show what it can do, with a firm ride transforming into something that’s remarkable at eating up serious terrain. There’s enough progression in the linkage and shock that, while you do use full travel, it’s never a harsh bottom out.
With more travel, slacker head angle and greater reach the Spicy is more ready than ever to hit the trails at serious pace
It also retains a lively feel when on flatter trails, tyres notwithstanding, though if you prefer seriously steep plummets a touch more off the head angle wouldn’t be amiss. That is possible with purpose made headcups, but for most riders the stock balance will allow them to push hard without having to massively adapt their riding style, unlike more extreme machines.
Overall the Spicy is hugely competent. Lapierre hasn’t chased current trends, choosing to instead gently progress the performance of the old bike. It’s not groundbreaking but the results do speak for themselves. Would we recommend this Team spec bike? Well, the 527 E:I gets the same frame, clever shock and a kit list that you’d struggle to tell the difference out on the trail and it’s £1700 less. Go figure.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.