It’s fair to say that the arrival of Lapierre’s Zesty on UK shores a few years ago made more than a few riders sit up and take notice. The combination of plenty of travel, trail-friendly geometry and competitive pricing soon made it a favourite for riders in the know. 2013’s entry-level 214 features a few mild geometry tweaks, but essentially offers more of the same popular ingredients. Is it still a winner?
Ride & handling: Blisteringly good all-round performance
What successive generations of Zesty have always managed to do is walk the fine line between cross-country efficiency and on-tap hooliganism. That’s a surprisingly difficult thing to get right, given that efficient pedalling and downhill handling don’t always go hand in hand. But the Zesty has proved, time and again, that it is possible to have your cake and eat it.
Lapierre’s minor tweaks haven’t changed this situation much – and that’s a good thing. The 142x12mm rear axle adds an extra dose of torsional rigidity to what was already an impressively stable rear end.
The Zesty’s short chainstays and chunky pivots combine with a rear triangle that’s compact overall, to deliver twist and shudder-free tracking in every trail scenario you can throw at it – everything from flat-out pedalling effort to unexpected rock garden idiocy.
This implacable accuracy is backed up by a fork that swallows everything in its path, although if anything – and this is saying something for Fox’s 15mm through-axle, which is a decent performer – the fork is more easily phased in the really rough stuff than the rear end.
Low-speed, pedally stuff is handled just as efficiently. The combination of Horst-inspired chainstay pivot setup and Fox’s clever CTD damping makes it easy to set up the shock anywhere from firm – for sprints and climbs – to plush. Most of the time we left it on Trail and simply forgot about it, content to leave the rear end to patter through whatever daft line choice we’d pointed the fork at without complaint.
Watch out for the sizing though – our ‘medium’ test bike felt a tad short. If piling on the miles is your thing, you might want to investigate a larger size.
Frame & equipment: Competitive price doesn’t sacrifice important components
The most obvious change for 2013 over previous Zesty incarnations is the 142x12mm rear axle set-up – a stiffness-adding upgrade that’s a no-brainer for a bike offering 140mm (5.5in) travel at the rear and 150mm (5.9in) up front.
Larger frame sizes have a bit more cockpit room too, the chainstays and wheelbase are a bit longer, and the head angle’s a tiny bit slacker. None of these changes are radical but, frankly, the Zesty wasn’t broken, so it didn’t make sense to ‘fix’ it.
Subtly curved, hydformed tubes make up the front end, anchoring the tapered head tube up front and the kinked seat tube at the rear. The seat tube sits ahead of the bottom bracket and rakes back to give a normal effective top tube length while providing loads of room for the rear suspension to do its thing.
There are bolt-on cable guides for a remote dropper post upgrade and a series of mysterious-looking holes on the down tube. These provide routing and anchor points for the various sensors associated with Lapierre and RockShox’s electronically-controlled EI rear shock system – although, disappointingly, it’s not available as an option on the 214. You’ll have to stump up £2,750 for the EI version of the 314, which has the same frame as the 214.
The rear end is standard Zesty fare. Assymetric chainstays bolt to straight seatstays via Horst-esque pivots, while the shock is driven via a neat rocker mounted ahead of the seat tube.
Despite boasting the lowest price tag of this batch of test bikes, Lapierre’s product managers have managed to shoehorn in both a Shimano Deore and SLX-based transmission and Fox CTD shocks both front and rear.
Avid’s entry level Elixir 1 hydraulic disc brakes aren’t, it’s fair to say, our favourite hydraulic stoppers, but they’re given a hop-up thanks to the sensible decision to run 180mm rotors at both ends.
Finishing kit from Easton and SDG rounds out a spec list that’s a good blend of value and performance. For the money, it’d be churlish to gripe.
Like other 140mm (5.5in) travel bikes at this price, the Zesty won’t win any awards for low weight, and it probably wouldn’t be our first choice for lining up at the start of a cross-country race either. But for sheer all-round versatility with handling that’ll flatter any skill level, it’s a tough act to follow.
This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.