Lapierre’s X-Flow platform debuted last year, but in truth it left us a little underwhelmed. For 2013 Lapierre have made significant changes that should end up paying dividends.
Ride & handling: Lively under power with trail-ready geometry
Compared to the original X-Flow the 2013 bike has a shallower head angle, a longer top tube, wider bars and a little more fork travel. That all combines to deliver substantially more trail-friendly handling when things move beyond the mundane.
At first glance the X-Flow looks as though it uses the commonly seen linkage-driven back end with pivots on the seatstays. It sort of does, but there’s a hidden ingredient tucked away at the bottom of the frame – that press-fit bottom bracket shell isn’t a fixed part of the frame. Instead it swings on a pivot at the bottom of the down tube, with an extra linkage driven by the swingarm that pushes the BB forward by about 5mm when the suspension’s fully compressed.
Why does it do it? The idea is to improve pedalling by keeping chain tension high, and causing pedalling inputs to drive the swingarm back towards the sag point. It’s called the Pendbox, and it originally appeared on Lapierre’s downhill bike, which has 100mm more travel than this.
It’s to the credit of the Pendbox suspension that it has no trouble keeping up with the revitalised geometry and the extra speed that brings (although given its debut on downhill bikes, it’s not all that surprising).
Impressively, despite all those pivots and linkages between the bottom bracket and the rest of the frame, there’s no discernible pedalling flex. Indeed, the X-Flow has great behaviour under power, with pedalling input acting to level the bike out, and without delivering unwelcome levels of pedal feedback. Even so, while we appreciate the performance of the Pendbox we’re not convinced it’s a worthwhile trade-off.
Yes, the X-Flow is a little more stable under power than, say, Lapierre’s own Zesty, but it’s a subtle difference and comes at the expense of three extra pivots and the substantial chunk of aluminium that is the Pendbox itself. We reckon Pendbox makes more sense on bigger, longer-travel bikes where the benefits are more noticeable, and the drawbacks less so.
Frame & equipment: Tweaked geometry and Pendbox suspension
Hung off the sleek frame is a very respectable selection of parts, including Fox suspension at both ends, a full Shimano 3x10 transmission and Avid brakes. Much of the finishing kit is Lapierre’s own, but it carries the signature of multiple world champ Nico Vouilloz – if it’s good enough for him…
The first generation of X-Flow bikes in 2012 showed promise, but were let down by their steep and narrow shape. This time around, Lapierre have moved everything in the right direction, making the new X-Flow 312 a good-handling and well-equipped bike that performs beyond its travel numbers.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.