Like other direct-to-consumer brands, LaMere Cycles sells bikes straight to your doorstep, with no bike shop in the middle. The Dopamine is LaMere's own mold, but LaMere admits that most of its carbon frames are from open-source molds. However, unlike buying a part off the internet from Asia, buying from LaMere means a lifetime warranty on its frames and components.
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I became aware of LaMere Cycles at the 2017 Fat Bike World Championships in Crested Butte, Colorado. While taking photos I saw an interesting carbon frame so I asked the guy riding it about the brand. He clued me into LaMere and it went from there.
LaMere Dopamine specs
LaMere will build up any of its frames with whatever parts you desire. In addition to parts choice, LaMere weighs each component (instead of simply relying on manufacturer claimed weights) to give you a very accurate estimate of the total bike weight.
The $6,500 (UK and Australian pricing not available) Dopamine I tested was jammed with high-end kit: SRAM XX1, Thomson Elite dropper post, and Industry Nine hubs spinning LaMere's own carbon 65mm rims.
The squish, aside from the Surly front Bud 4.8in and rear Nate 3.8in tires, was handled by a Fox Float EVOL rear shock and a RockShox Bluto RL up front. Getting the suspension dialed proved to be challenging as the Bluto's performance couldn't keep up with the active linear rear end.
The build was impeccable. The cables were the perfect length and kept in line with little ties. The shifting was spot on, the discs span rub free and the carbon wheels were set up tubeless out of the box. It's crystal clear that the folks at LaMere are bike geeks, and a serious amount of attention is given to build quality.
A chameleon of sorts
Browsing LaMere's site, it's easy to spot how many different wheel sizes work with the Dopamine. In addition to the range of fat rim and tire widths, this 115mm travel frame can handle 29-inch and 27.5+ wheels and tires. Complementing the various wheel sizes are differing builds, from full-on fat to XC-race whips.
More versatility comes from the interchangeable rear triangles, fat tire-friendly 170/177mm or 190/197mm widths, or slap on a Boost 12x148mm rear end for a more standard 29er or 29+ set up.
LaMere Dopamine ride
Cross-country riding and racing seem to be LaMere's forte, and with that in the back of my head I expected the Dopamine to be an efficient, purposeful pedaler. That wasn't the case, however.
The frame felt a bit flexy when really stomping down the power, but it is a bit hard to tell with the bulbous tires squirming around. Even off the snow and ripping dry trails, when pumped up to a relatively firm 7psi up front and 10psi rear there was a bit of frame wiggle, but only when I was working it hard.
As mentioned above, getting the front and rear suspension to work in unison was difficult. The shock tune of the Fox Float Evol didn't mesh well with the bike's leverage ratio. The rear suspension felt much too linear, making the rear of the bike super active with no support through the middle or enough ramp up on bigger, full-stroke compressions.
In contrast, the Bluto RL fork felt harsh off the top and then blew through its stroke without much support.
A quick email to JP, LaMere's head honcho, revealed that the base Fox tune wasn't ideal for the Dopamine, and "the Cane Creek DB Air Inline metric shock is 1,000x better and perfect in the Dopamine frame."
Swapping shocks proved JP to be correct. With the DB Air Inline, the bike had a much more eager pedaling response and a better, more controlled rear stroke throughout its travel. Plus, with high- and low-speed rebound and compression adjustments dialed in, the Dopamine's ride was changed.
Sadly though, the vastly improved rear end further exaggerated the shortcomings of the Bluto fork up front.
Even more interesting handling could be attributed to the 720mm wide bars, which look and feel narrow. The 90mm stem doesn't help matters either. However, it sort of works with the steep 69.5-degree head angle. It's a classic feeling cockpit and one that heart rate-monitoring, uphill-fiending XC types will likely love while hard-charging, descent-hungry rippers will toss away.
It should be noted however that LaMere will build your bike however you want, so if you know you prefer the stubby/wide combo you can have that.
Bottom line: a squishy, monster-tire machine
Even though the Dopamine is claimed to be the lightest full-squish fat bike, its ability to swallow the fattest of the fat rubber makes it the most winter oriented of the three full-suspension fat bikes (LaMere Dopamine, Salsa Bucksaw Carbon and Trek Farley EX 9.8) I have on test.
It's also the lightest, by one pound on the Trek and almost three pounds on the Salsa.
The focus on weight and slightly more aggressive head angle dictates the Dopamine's intentions as a race-focused machine. However, the slight hint of frame flex when truly hammering highlights that perhaps the lightweight mantra comes with trade offs.