Lapierre’s X-Control platform has been around, in one form or another, for over a decade. The X-Control 110 props up the bottom of a five-bike range that tops out under £2,200.
Although the bikes at £1,500 and up get air forks, the entire lineup relies on Lapierre’s own air shock at the rear. To keep costs down the 110 also has a coil-sprung RockShox fork and nine-speed transmission. Is it still a competitive option?
Ride & handling: Outclassed and outperformed by almost all competition
Lapierre’s description of how their FPS2 system works sounds compelling enough. After all, who wouldn’t want a bike that minimises pedal-induced bobbing yet remains active? The trouble is that the reality fails to live up to the hype and, over a decade after it was first introduced, we’re left scratching our heads over what, exactly, the point of Lapierre’s suspension system is.
Here’s the problem. The system is supposed to work by using chain tension to constantly bring the suspension back to its ‘equilibrium’ position – in effect, the sag position set up using the X-Control’s built-in indicator. Lapierre maintain that, even while this is happening, the rear end remains fully active.
But in practice, hard pedalling all but locks the rear end out, hobbling small bump response and leaving the rider with the disconcerting feeling that the bike is fighting back, particularly on technical climbs.
Because the degree to which the suspension can move is directly related to chain tension, the bumpier the climb the more on/off the suspension action can be, making it all but impossible to predict how the rear end will react when it hits a bump.
Sadly, things don’t get much better on the descents. The suspension is more active when you stop pedalling, but a steeply rising linkage rate gives the X-Control a jittery, unsettled feel on medium and larger hits.
There’s no denying that this is a good-looking bike, but the X-Control’s outdated and oddly schizophrenic suspension system is looking increasingly anachronistic next to its competitors. The longer travel Lapierre Zesty – a regular test favourite that has none of the X-Control’s suspension foibles – would be a much better bet, even for those of a more cross-country riding persuasion.
Frame & equipment: Beautifully finished but suspension and weight potential problems
Lapierre’s original X-Control concept – current bikes use a second incarnation, dubbed FPS2 – was developed at a time when rear shock technology wasn’t particularly evolved and pedal-induced bobbing was a problem. That’s why the floating pivot point setup – with linkage-activated shock and the swingarm rotating around a second linkage anchored behind the bottom bracket – is designed to isolate pedal input from the suspension.
The built-in sag indicator at the top of the left hand seatstay makes set-up a doddle, although the needle-sharp point caused a few concerns for the more safety conscious testers within our group. Oh, and FPS stands for ‘Full Power Suspension’. In case you were wondering.
Suspension aside, the X-Control is starting to show its age in a couple of areas. The head tube isn’t tapered, arguably reducing torsional rigidity (and therefore steering accuracy). It seems particularly odd when combined with a 120mm (4.7in) travel fork.
There’s also no provision for a remote-mounted dropper post, though you could argue that’d be overkill with a 100mm (3.9in) travel rear end. Frame fit and finish is excellent though, with hydroformed main tubes and a flowing aesthetic to the way front and rear fit together.
As you’d expect from a bike that’s been built down to a price, the fork is a coil-sprung RockShox with controls limited to preload, rebound damping and lockout. Average weight to heavier riders will likely have no issues with it, but if you’re lighter or less aggressive in your riding it might be worth considering a swap to a lighter spring.
The own-brand shock at the rear continues the pared-down theme, offering only rebound damping adjustment. Still, at least an air shock allows a decent range of adjustment for rider weight.
Speccing a high-end rear mech is the oldest trick in the book, so you need to look beyond the X-Control 110’s spangly XT derailleur (though it’s a worthwhile upgrade we’ll happily take).
The rest of the transmission is unexciting-but-reliable nine-speed Alivio – in other words, about what you’d expect for the money. Centre-ridge tyres roll fast on smooth hardpack, but quickly lose grip in the wet. Unless you only ride your bike in dry conditions, we’d recommend changing them for something with a more open tread pattern.
This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.