Lapierre have a new platform for 2012, the X-Flow, and surprisingly for the French company it prioritises smooth sit-and-ride traction over downhill drama.
Ride & handling: Exceptional rear wheel traction and pedalling smoothness; nervous front end
We spent plenty of time on the Lapierre to make sure we properly got our head around the multiple-linkage Pendbox suspension system and how it interacts with the rest of the ride. In terms of advantages, the rearward swing of the back end makes it brilliant at reacting to hits.
When pedalling hard through random rocks there’s less disturbance of rhythm, and it sucks up drops more like a 140/150mm travel bike than a 120mm travel one. Isolation of the power centre from either end means the hard compound, semi-slick Michelin tubeless tyre on the back felt more like a sticky compound knobbly on steep, technical or greasy climbs.
The way it transmits torque combined with the long stem keeps the front wheel down so it grinds up weaving, woodsy climbs far more predictably than the slack, short stem bikes often found at this price. Despite hundreds of rocky miles and regular grounding on the lower part of the linkage, we didn’t get any wobble or flex in the multilinkage system either.
Unless you lock the shock out there’s definitely a ‘soft chain’ feel when you really stamp the power down. This adds to the overall weight and creates steady rather than snappy acceleration, although the X-Flow holds speed well once you’re moving. More critically, the Pendbox system pushing your weight forward onto an already steep skinny cross-country cockpit, quick-release fork and front end can make it feel precarious on descents.
Understeer in corners was an issue as the front snaked around underneath the low-leverage narrow bars, and it feels desperate for a longer fork, wider bar and shorter stem. Because the three parts work in isolation it’s also harder to manual, wheelie or otherwise influence the bike with your body movement, and overall it encourages you to just sit and pedal rather than be dynamic.
It’s not what we expected from the normally fast and furious Frenchies, but they’ve definitely delivered a very different ride that’ll potentially appeal to a new group of riders. Meanwhile the 140mm-travel Zesty is even more flat-out fun than ever this year, so there’s certainly still a Lapierre for more lairy riders.
Frame & equipment: Extra linkages add weight and complexity
A hydroformed front end with tapered head tube, internal gear cable routing, clips for a dropper post, proper water bottle mount and bearable tyre space tick all the contemporary mainframe boxes. The X-Flow has a conventional old school quick-release axle, IS brake mount rear end though.
The multiple-linkage Pendbox design, originally developed for downhill racing, isolates the press-fit bottom bracket and chainset from movement from both the mainframe and rear end, but adds a lot of weight and pivots for a short-travel frame
The mixed Shimano XT/SLX drivetrain is decent and the Easton EA70 wheels and tubeless Michelin tyres are a nice touch. The Fox 32 fork is quick-release rather than 15mm-axled though and the cockpit – particularly the 660mm own-brand bar – is startlingly cross-county in both shape and size.
This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine.