Life as a technical editor for one of the largest cycling websites in the world is admittedly a dream gig but it’s not without its downsides (I know, I know – cry me a river). It sounds ridiculous from the outside but constantly riding different bikes does get old and just as my colleague Oli Woodman noted several months ago, I likewise longed to once again have a personal bike – one that I actually paid for and could just mindlessly ride without constantly having to take mental notes. Having sold my beloved Santa Cruz Blur TRc a few years ago, it was once again time to go shopping.
I’ve always preferred downhills to uphills but I also like to earn my turns so I wanted a do-it-all mountain bike that was light and efficient enough to climb on for hours on end but tough enough to truly attack rough descents. My list of requirements seemed straightforward enough, at least initially:
- 150-160mm of travel
- New-school geometry with a low bottom bracket, long front end, and a slack head tube angle
- A neutral rear suspension design that didn’t require any goofy shock valving to pedal well. It also had to use a standard shock mounting system that would also allow me to test various rear shocks
- A frame that was stiff but also quite light. I’m not particularly heavy and generally punch well below my weight class in terms of climbing ability so I wanted all the help I could get
- Room for a water bottle inside the main triangle. There’s far too much horse and cow poop on our local trails to make under-the-down tube mounting practical, plus I find that location generally sucky regardless
- Something semi-rare that I wasn’t going to see everyday at local trailheads
After months of searching and plenty of candidates being eliminated for various reasons, I ultimately decided to take a leap of faith and went with a Lapierre, wholly sight unseen and without the benefit of any test ride whatsoever. My British colleagues have long praised Lapierre’s longer-travel mountain bikes and as the company only recently started selling on these shores, I knew I wouldn’t see that many of them. The burlier Spicy model that I ultimately wanted unfortunately wasn’t available but since the Zesty AM uses the same frame (just with a more weight-conscious component build), I plunked down the cash for a Zesty AM 927 and eagerly waited for the box to arrive.
The 150mm-travel OST true four-bar rear end definitely ticked one of the boxes
Since the stock Zesty AM wasn’t quite what I was after, the bike as it stands today is ultimately quite different than how it was delivered. All I’ve kept from the original build are the SRAM XX1 transmission and Avid XO Trail disc brakes (which, I should mention, have been utterly trouble-free). The original 150mm-travel Fox 32 Float was quickly replaced with a far superior 160mm-travel RockShox Pike RCT3. And even though I’m a self-professed tech nerd, I still prefer to make decisions for myself so the fancy RockShox e:i auto-adjusting electronic rear shock system (along with all of its associated wiring, sensors, and battery) was jettisoned for a RockShox Monarch Plus.
These days, however, there’s now a Fox 36 up front (I wanted to try something beefier) and Cane Creek’s mind-blowingly awesome DBAir Inline CS rear shock. Both ends are set up with quite a bit of low-speed compression damping so I don’t have to worry too much about excessive suspension movement or brake dive in critical low-speed situations, and just enough high-speed compression damping to keep the treads firmly planted on the ground.
I recently swapped out the 160mm-travel RockShox Pike RCT3 I was using for a new Fox 36
I was so impressed by the stiffness and ultra-quick hub engagement of the Industry Nine Enduro 27.5 wheelset I tested several months ago that I ended up buying them. I also eventually tired of rebleeding the RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper post. At the recommendation of my Colorado co-worker, Josh Patterson, I bought a Thomson Elite Covert dropper instead. I modified the remote for tidier cable routing but I otherwise haven’t touched it since.
The rest of the bike is a rotating mishmash of various test gear. As it stands currently, the bike weighs just 12.6kg(27.75lb), complete with a set of thoroughly used Shimano XTR Trail pedals. However, I’ve had my Lapierre as light as 12.2kg (27.0lb) with the Pike and a set of Race Face SixC carbon cranks in place of the present Turn Girder M30s.
As much as I like how carbon wheels ride, alloy rims are a more prudent choice for my ultra-rocky local trails
Either way, this thing has been everything I had hoped it would be. It pedals so well that I almost never use the rear shock’s climb mode, and yet both ends devour bumps and drops big and small. It’s also confidently stiff, particularly out back, so I never have to second-guess my chosen path through a bumpy corner or worry that I’m going to be bounced off-line through a field of babyheads.
And despite the PF92 bottom bracket shell, the bike has been almost completely creak-free (thank you, Lapierre, for maintaining tight tolerances down there).
The oversized 35mm clamp diameter of the Race Face SixC bar and Atlas 35 stem nicely complement the stiffness of the frame and fork
Is this the absolute best bike out there for what I wanted? If I were doing it again today, I would at least have to consider the new Ibis Mojo HD3 and latest Specialized S-Works Enduro 27.5 but even then, I might very well end up at the same decision anyway. Regardless, at this point the Lapierre and I have become fast friends and I’m not about to put it out to pasture any time soon.
Here’s to many more awesome rides to come.