Nico Vouilloz's rather special Lapierre Overvolt AM 727i
Nico barely needs any introduction… one of the greats of mountain biking, he’s competed, and won (many, many times) at World Cup DH and Enduro World Series level, and has an incredible 10 world championship titles. He works closely with Lapierre on the development of its bikes these days and competes in e-MTB enduro races.
We caught up with Nico at the Lapierre launch of four new Overvolt e-bike models in France, including the AM 700i and AM 729i, and had a good old poke around his personal Lapierre Overvolt AM 727i.
A Super Deluxe shock takes care of the rear travelTom Marvin / Immediate Media
Nico is sponsored by RockShox suspension and runs a 160mm Lyrik RCT3 up front and a Super Deluxe shock at the back.
Setting up suspension for e-bikes is slightly different to a normal bike because there’s much more weight in the chassis to work around and the weight distribution is different.
Compared to his usual enduro bike, Nico runs higher pressures in his fork, but with fewer volume spacers.
The man himself, looking rather happy with his bike!Tom Marvin / Immediate Media
On a normal bike, his lower pressures give sensitivity off the top of the stroke, while the volume spacers provide extra support in the mid and end of the stroke.
With the e-bike, the extra weight helps the suspension feel suppler anyway, and so he uses the higher pressures to prevent the fork going through the travel too easily, instead of relying on extra volume spacers to do that job.
If he were to run the same volume spacers in his e-bike forks, Nico says he’d get nowhere near full travel. As it is, he usually aims to get 140mm of the available 160mm in normal use — saving the last bit as a get out of jail card.
Conversely, at the back Nico adds extra volume spacers to the shock, along with slightly higher pressures, to prevent the shock from blowing through its travel too easily. Adding the spacers also alters the feel of the shock, giving it a more reactive, poppy feel.
A neat viewing window makes setting up sag easyTom Marvin / Immediate Media
I asked Nico how people new to e-bikes should set up their e-bike’s suspension. He reckons it depends a lot on the bike and its weight distribution.
If an e-bike is lighter at the front (for example, the carbon Overvolt) then having a faster reacting fork (less compression and rebound damping) is good, to keep it planted and more reactive on varied terrain.
Slowing down the rear suspension a touch (adding compression and rebound damping) would mean the bike acts more predictably on rough terrain.
If the bike’s weight distribution is further forward, as it is on bikes with a battery integrated into the down tube, then slowing the rebound of the fork aids control on steps and repeated hits because the up-down nature of the front of the bike can start to feel a little less controlled with the extra weight up there.
Adding air pressure front and back is clearly needed, as there’s extra weight from the battery and motor, while adding a bit of hydraulic damping (compression) isn’t always a bad thing because the extra weight can give that sensitivity back — as can running plus tyres.
A Shimano motor is fitted with a Miranda 160mm crank for better ground clearance and spin-abilityTom Marvin / Immediate Media
Along with the Shimano motor, Nico has an XTR Di2 rear mech and usually runs an 11-46t cassette (though I believe this one is a 11-42 version) with a 34t chainring.
He’s currently testing 160mm cranks from Miranda, although when the bike comes to production it may end up with 165mm cranks. This is to give extra ground clearance. It allows Nico to run a touch more sag in the rear shock, and he says works well with the Shimano motor.
Having the shorter cranks makes pedalling at higher cadences feel more natural, which suits the power curve of the motor — it also helps keep the power down when on technical climbs — a common feature of e-bike races.
HT sponsors Nico, and he runs its T1 pedal model with relatively little tension. He likes the feel of the pedals, which he says is somewhere between Crank Brothers and Shimano.
HT T1 pedals are Nico’s preferred option, feeling somewhere between Shimano and Crank BrosTom Marvin / Immediate Media
Wheels and brakes
The 30mm wide carbon rims Nico runs are currently prototypes being developed by Lapierre. They give decent support and volume to the 2.5” prototype Michelin DH tyres he had on the bike in Valberg — they’re as close to a plus tyre as Michelin do, but offer plenty of the toughness required by an e-bike ridden by Nico.
He changes tyres depending on where he’s riding, but on these ones he was running 19psi in the front and 23psi at the back. On plus tyres he’d usually run 17psi front and 20psi rear.
Nico is well known for his analytical skills, so it’s no wonder companies like Michelin use his feedback on proto partsTom Marvin / Immediate Media
The wheels aren’t built super stiff, as this can compromise traction, however being carbon, Nico concedes that they are still relatively stiff — on an e-bike he doesn’t find this an issue though.
Many riders are now running inserts in their tyres — Nico is helping develop a new one which I believe will be called BeSafe (we’ll find out soon!) — he says they’re designed to hold the tyre in the rim if it flats, while also protecting a carbon rim.
Currently bringing Nico to a stop are XTR Trail brakes, but he wants to change these to Saint brakes. While there’s good initial power with the XTRs, he finds the two-pot design doesn’t offer enough power on prolonged descents and believes four-pot brakes should be run on e-bikes as a general rule. He’s paired these with 203mm rotors.
XTR Trail brakes don’t quite give the power he’s after — Saints will be fitted soonTom Marvin / Immediate Media
Finishing kit and spec
Nico’s 35mm Lapierre stem holds a 780mm Truvative Descendant bar in a neutral position, though he likes a bar with reasonable upsweep.
He runs AVS hand protection, which is popular in the south of France where overgrown trails can rip hands to shreds, and his left Lizard Skinz grip is split with another piece taped below it — he’s carrying a small wrist injury and the extra padding makes it more comfortable with the wrist support he wears at times.
In the scratchy, scrubby trails in the south of France, AVS hand guards give that little extra protectionTom Marvin / Immediate Media
Modded Lizard Skinz grips help a sore wristTom Marvin / Immediate Media