A few years ago Lapierre’s Zesty and Spicy double act won our trail and all-mountain bike tests with such regularity it was almost embarrassing. Can the latest Spicy put the French brand back in pole position for today's gravity slanted big-mountain riders?
Frame and equipment: trusty frameset but some average kit
Lapierre's frame layout is well proven, stiff and strong – with BikeRadar's US tech editor James Huang among the latest to be sold on its merits via his personal custom Zesty/Spicy build – though the all-alloy construction is heavy for a ride at this price. The geometry is off the pace for full-gas gravity work and the dropper post hose can rub on the chainrings if you’re not careful. The damage-shielded inside-stay brake mount on the rear, however, no longer rubs your ankles when you pedal, and the frame is available in four sizes.
Lapierre’s OST+ suspension is impressively sorted even in analogue Fox rather than RockShox e:i electronic format
Our Spicy came with conventional rider-adjustable dampers but the auto-adjusting e:i rear shock and sensor setup is also available for a premium. Otherwise the kit is traditional, with a Race Face Turbine double crankset letting you twiddle up climbs at the expense of chain security and a cluttered left-hand side of the bar, complete with awkward RockShox Reverb dropper post button placement. Shimano XT/SLX gears and XT brakes are a dependable choice but considering the alloy chassis, the low-spec SRAM chain and heavy cassette are disappointing. The heavy-duty wheels and tyres are mismatched with the trail style cockpit too.
Ride and handling: frustrating kit choices rein back a lively steed
‘A game of two halves’ may be a cliche but it describes the way our test team felt about the Spicy perfectly. Everyone who rode it came back more than happy with the way the bits that contacted the ground were working, but less than happy about the bits that reacted with them.
While the Mavic rims nip them in a bit thin, the soft compound Michelin treads are outrageously confident and traction rich. Even on mossy ‘rarely get any sun’ boulder and root web trails deep in dark woods they regularly made spectacular saves when we were trying to work out the best place to bail off into. Because you can run them at comically low pressures even with inner tubes in (and even lower if you take advantage of their tubeless compatibilty) they melt the contact between tyre and trail in terms of ultra-smooth small-bump connectivity.
Michelin’s reinforced Magi-X and Gum-X treads are bombproof but you’ll blow a lung getting them moving
The suspension capitalises on this gifted trail connection with a well balanced and progressive feel that requires nothing more than a basic sag level gauged setup. The OST+ linkage system with its rate changing shock extender makes the Performance spec Fox shock feel totally competent and predictable all round the trail, from cornering support to calm big-hit collection, and it pedals well enough that you can leave the CTD compression lever untouched unless you’ve got a particularly long climbing stretch ahead or a choppy pedalling style. RockShox’s Pike RC fork provides an equally sorted and reassuringly capable ride up front with the included Bottomless Token spacers giving more aggressive riders the potential to add progression quickly and easily.
Unfortunately the hefty weight of the wheels and over a kilo of rubber at each end, plus the high overall mass, mean even a sorted suspension system has no chance of making the Spicy an enthusiastic climber. The unsprung weight also makes itself known in the form of occasional hang-ups and hesitation when the dampers are slowed down in their reaction to rapid repetitive hits. Borrowing the wheels from the Specialized Enduro we were testing simultaneously for a few runs confirmed that the basic suspension setup is trail (rather than just gravity) compatible though.
The Spicy is a mostly sorted ride but failed to excel either on ups or full-velocity downs
That’s a good thing too, because the rest of the Spicy character is skewed in the opposite direction to the rolling stock choice. Nico Vouilloz may be the most successful rider to ever grace a gravity bike but – at the risk of committing heresy – the 740mm width of his signature handlebar confirms that he’s definitely old school rather than contemporary with his cockpit tastes.
Not only is the limited steering leverage immediately obvious as soon as you swap from another bike but it also makes the whole bike feel narrow and nervous on the trail, undermining the impressive suspension and tyre connection. While you could fit a wider bar, it sits on top of a relatively steep 66.7-degree head angle and short wheelbase too. Even when we swapped in a broader bar, the front end still sometimes felt twitchy and tuck-prone on descents, with only the suspension and tacky Michelins saving us from several sketchy moments.