Although Lapierre have made a few tweaks here and there to this year’s Zesty frame, what’s really interesting about this particular model is the inclusion of Ei (Electronic Intelligence) technology. We hit the hills to see if computers really are taking over.
Ride & handling: Stable, grippy and quick to adapt
Key to this Zesty is the Ei technology. Using accelerometers on the fork and stem cap, along with a speed and cadence sensor on the fork and BB respectively, a small servo motor on top of the RockShox Monarch RT3 Ei rear shock adjusts the amount of low-speed compression damping.
Depending on the hits going through your fork and the amount you’re pedalling, the shock can automatically toggle through three low-speed compression settings –open, platform or locked. If you’re not keen on the system doing the work for you, there is the option of simply selecting one of the modes.
Video: Lapierre Zesty 514 Ei first ride
Sticking with the automatic though leaves you even more options. With five levels of sensitivity (Auto 1 being the most sensitive) to choose from, it’s easy enough to find one that suits you. With the changes taking a claimed 0.01 seconds, transitions certainly feel fluid.
There’s a fairly small head unit that tells you what setting the Ei system is in, along with various other details including speed, time and distance. You don’t need the head unit in place for the Ei system to work, though, so you can just set things up to your preference before disconnecting it.
Getting to grips with the Ei system was relatively straightforward, and setup took no time at all; the controls are nicely intuitive and easy to understand. The bar-mounted remote sits right next to the grip for easy access, and toggling through the menus is a doddle. A lockout button is included to prevent any accidental tampering while riding, which we found handy – especially when shifting our hands around the bar when climbing.
What does take some time is getting familiar with the sensitivity settings and understanding how the bike behaves as you shift between them. Finding the mode that best suits you simply requires a bit of patience on familiar terrain.
A servo motor on the shock adjusts compression settings
Auto 2, the second most sensitive setting, was where we were happiest; you’re not shifting between shock settings quite as regularly but are still making the most of the system as and when you really need to.
Reliability-wise, even after numerous mud-soaked rides, we’ve had no real problems with the Ei system. The only thing we’ve needed to do is clean the contacts on the back of the head unit, but that’s it. The battery life is extremely impressive too.
And how does the Ei system enhance the experience? Well, we think it really depends on the sort of riding you’re looking to do. If you’re happy to just winch your way up, have a natter and come hurtling down, maybe it’s not for you. A simple flick of a lever might suffice.
If you’re after that continuous flow, eking out efficiencies wherever possible, or are a racer, Ei certainly makes a lot of sense. The changes in damping are smooth and don’t hamper your riding in any way as you transition from section to section, helping the bike make the most of each situation you find yourself in.
Lapierre Zesty 514 Ei
Ei aside, the Zesty 514 is a very capable machine that will happily claw its way up the steepest, most technical climbs or hammer challenging, technical descents with relative ease. The OST+ platform delivers grip and stability consistently across the terrain spectrum, while the back end feels nicely stiff and is happy to be chucked around.
The Fox 32 fork does get a little outclassed by the back-end performance, though, with noticeable flex when you clout into rougher sections – something you can’t help thanks to the speed and confidence the bike encourages.
We’ve got to say the tyres really are the Achilles' heel here. The flimsy sidewalls can get squirmy when pushed hard, and if there’s a drop of moisture on the trail you’ll spend most of your ride fighting to keep the 514 upright. The dicey tyres aren’t helped by a bar that could do with getting stretched at least another 20mm, just to boost control further.
The one crucial thing we felt did stifle the all-important trail flow on the 514 was the lack of dropper post. Not adding something to a bike that promotes seamless transitions from section to section seems somewhat counterintuitive. Having your shock automatically adjust at the top of a climb ready to attack a descent is fantastic, but if you’ve got to stop to put your saddle down anyway, something seems amiss.
Dropper post or not, the Ei system is here to stay, and could well be the way forward.
Frame & equipment: Proven chassis with cutting-edge electronic shock tech
The 514 frame boasts full carbon front and rear triangles, housing the well-established OST+ suspension system, which does a good job of balancing sensitivity and support. Cables are all internally routed for a clean, minimalistic finish, with routing for a RockShox Reverb Stealth post if you’re in the market for an upgrade.
There are all the staple ingredients to turn the Zesty into a more rugged beast should you wish to tackle something a little more, err, zesty. The tapered head tube helps keep steering accurate, while there are ISCG 05 tabs if you’re looking to add some chain security.
The 32mm-stanchioned Fox Float fork does flex a bit at speed in the rough stuff
Lapierre have lowered the seat tube height, to improve clearance with a dropper post, and have stiffened up the bottom bracket area to improve pedalling efficiency. The 12x142mm rear axle further bolsters overall stiffness, and slightly longer chainstays improve stability on faster trails.
The 514 is the fourth priciest Zesty in a six-bike lineup, and includes some nice little trinkets alongside the Ei shock technology. We’re big fans of the dependable transmission mix of Shimano XT and SLX, as well as the Mavic Crossride wheelset. The Formula RX brakes do a good job of stopping things, with plenty of controllable power on tap.
The Schwalbe tyres were disappointing, though, and we’ve already mentioned the lack of dropper post.