Lapierre's Xelius EFI has evolved steadly over the years. This 2013 model is still based around the previous year's impressive – and impressively light – 998g frame and similarly featherweight 390g fork, but when we tested the 2012 version it not only cost £150 more, it was also a few hundred grams heavier.
What changes there have been are subtle, with the majority of components unaltered, but the cockpit has moved from Ritchey to Deda, and the brakes have been upgraded from 105 to Ultegra.
- HIGHS Fast finessed handling
- LOWS Narrow handlebar hinders comfort
- BUY IF… You want a light, race-ready ride
What has stayed constant is the exciting way the Xelius rides. It all stems from the frame design – our 55cm (7.6kg) test bike pairs parallel 73 degree head and seat tube angles with a long 57cm top-tube. The cockpit mated to this consists of a 11cm stem and a narrow (for the size) 40cm handlebar. Get on board and the experience is very much flat back, head down and heart rate up.
The frame and fork are impressively stiff throughout. The plus side of this is that the Xelius feels very precise, its needle-threading precision coming to the fore in corners. We like the way the it handles and it also climbs well, helped by the combination of a hill-friendly 12-28 cassette and 50/34 compact chainset.
All isn't perfect though: the narrow bar, feels good when you're at 100 per cent, but contributes nothing in the comfort stakes when fatigue sets in, despite the nicely flattened top sections, because their lack of width puts pressure on your hands. On a bike of this size we'd expect a handlebar at least 2cm wider.
The 23mm Mavic tyres have ample grip wet or dry, but they are narrow for a 23, which means running them at firmer pressures to avoid pinch punctures and excessive deformation. A shift to 25mm rubber on a bike like this would add considerably to the ride quality with very little weight penalty.
A sub-1kg frame at this price will take up plenty of the overall production budget, so that does mean a few compromises such as the Tiagra chain and cassette, but we were hard pressed to criticise as shift quality was consistently good. Elsewhere, it's a basic alloy seatpost and budget Selle Italia X1 saddle, which belies its price by providing sufficient comfort.
With a few cleverly chosen upgrades (bar, seatpost, tyres) the Xelius would be a genuinely sparkling performer, and as it stands, it's still better than average.