An innovative carbon chassis, sorted handling and super-light spec make Lapierre’s all-new racer rabidly fast – and we reckon the electric version might be even better.
Ride & handling: Quick and ultra light, just ignore the pedal bob
Press your pedals against the carbon BB30 cranks and it’s like stamping a kickstart. The Lapierre leaps forwards and skims up to speed with eagerness, the big rear stays and screw-thru axle pouring out your power.
Neither the SID fork nor the Easton wheels score high for rigidity, and the narrow bar reduces leverage, but a reasonably short stem and the short back end punch it in and out of tight situations keenly.
The carbon frame plots an accurate and authoritative course even when the contact points are moving about underneath; deliberately trying to loosen its grip while milling it flat out down flood-scarred descents had little adverse effect. The Lapierre still refused to feel nervous or ask us to lift off the gas. The suspension hid its lack of pivots perfectly when slapping through ruts and rocks, and the harder we pushed the more the XR impressed.
The suspension falls slightly short when under power. Even in the firmest climb setting and with plenty of pressure in the shock, mashing the pedals still has it bouncing. Minimal chain growth means it’s not obvious through the pedals, but there’s movement on grinding climbs and it regularly stumbles out of traction when you’re out of the saddle.
Lapierre provide the solution for those after a stiff pedalling platform that still hits rough ground fully open, and that’s its electronic damping adjustment tech, EI. The £3,800 XR 729 EI wasn’t available in time for this test, but we’ll be getting it (or the £3,100 XT-equipped 529 EI) in for review to see if it really does create the perfect race bike.
Frame & equipment: Light but stiff chassis with impressive spec
The XR frame is all new, all carbon and loaded with the latest tricks. The big tapered head tube leads into broad main tubes with separate entry points for each internally routed control cable/hose. An asymmetric S-bend seat tube leaves room for the chainstay-mounted front mech above the stiff, press-fit BB30 bottom bracket. Flex in the chunky seatstays removes the need for a rear pivot, while the ‘basket’ shock mount leaves all the other tubes free from suspension stress.
Lightweight SRAM kit – including a carbon twin-ring chainset, an X0 rear mech and a SID fork – plus lightweight Easton wheels and Schwalbe tyres bring it in relatively light, too.
With its impressively stiff, state-of-the-art full carbon frame and super-light spec, the 729 is an effortlessly fast machine. It’s swift and surefooted on descents too, given the cross-country cockpit and twangy wheels. Underwhelming pedalling manners mean the EI version may be our choice to unlock the XR’s outstanding performance potential.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.