Lapierre’s Zesty has been up in the mix since it first appeared. The carbon 514 has even overcome a cheap shock spec to make it onto the What Mountain Bike Trail Bike of the Year podium again.
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Video: Lapierre Zesty 514
Ride & handling: Fast and confident on descents, and great elsewhere
With both WMB editor Steven and bike test editor Guy having loved their long-term Zestys, you’d think the Lapierre started with a serious ‘teacher’s pet’ advantage. What actually happened was the opposite, as this Lapierre refused to play ball at first.
The thing that’s always made the Zesty stand out is its ability to squeeze every bit of forward speed out of the trail, whether you’re blasting descents, turning or even climbing. The OST+ suspension is normally the easiest system to set up bob free, but still supple, so we didn’t mess about with the pressure before we set off. You can imagine our surprise when the back end slapped and clattered around our Coed y Brenin test route, Wales, leaving a trail of burst inner tubes in its wake.
The main culprit was the basic ‘Evolution’ damper in the rear shock, but excess dive and twang under braking from the 150mm travel Fox 32 forks really didn’t help. The wet, loose rocks of the natural trails on day two did no favours to our confidence either, as the hard compound tyres slid and skittered wildly whenever we needed grip most.
It was time to work some tuning magic on the shock. Thankfully, we found the sweet spot just in time to hit Gwydyr Forest on day three. A slightly softer, more compliant rear shock setup was just enough to slacken and lengthen up the bike and get it up to the speed where it finally came alive.
Frame & equipment: Light and stiff, with upgrade potential
The full carbon frame and new 142x12mm rear axle tighten up the already stiff back on the 514 to give it a really precise, clean connection to the trail. Add the longer chainstays and a slightly slacker 66.5-degree head and we suddenly forgot about the sketchy tyres and twangy fork as we crushed it into corners, flicked it from feature to feature or blasted rocky sections without even thinking of grabbing the brakes.
We’d still like a wider handlestick and shorter stem as standard, but the basic shape and speed appetite of the Zesty is infectious, even when it’s begging for a shock and tyre upgrade.
Fork dive is easy to reduce and the Shimano XT/SLX drivetrain mean no worries, even if the long dead-sweep of the basic Formula brakes won’t suit small hands or easily pumped-up wrists.
It’s an extremely versatile bike. The light frame and excellent pedalling make it easy to embarrass shorter-travel ‘race’ bikes on climbs and out of corners, plus easy scope for big weight savings. Yet there’s an ISCG mount for chain taming too, and internal routing for the dropper post it’s gagging for.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.