Lapierre’s Spicy range has been a staple long-travel trail bike for years. But with the help of development rider, multiple world champion downhiller and Enduro World Series racer Nico Vouilloz, the 2016 bikes are even more firmly focused on being race-ready enduro machines – and Lapierre has made a huge number of tweaks to try and achieve that.
It’s more progressive and there’s more travel. By tweaking the pivot points, Lapierre has boosted travel by 15mm up to 165mm at the rear, and there’s much more support at the end of the stroke to improve control on really rough terrain.
It’s got longer. The reach has been lengthened and it’s now 444mm for a medium sized frame, but if you want to go even longer the seat tubes have been shortened to allow for up-sizing.
The cockpit kit has been beefed-up. You now get a seriously wide 780mm bar paired to a 45mm stem.
It’s got slacker too. The head angle has been slackened slightly from 66.5 degrees to 66.0 degrees, and the seat angle has been steepened by 1.5 degrees to 75 degrees.
You can now fit a piggyback shock and water bottle. That humpbacked top tube might not be the prettiest but there’s now enough space for a shock that will cope with longer and rougher descents without overheating. As more enduro racers ditch backpacks, enough space for a water bottle inside the frame is an important touch too.
There’s more tyre and heel clearance. The old Spicy had notoriously widely spaced seatstays, leading to many riders hitting their heels when pedalling. Despite them being slimmed down to correct this, Lapierre has also boosted mud clearance by 10mm.
There are going to be three bikes in the range, with the top Spicy Team coming as a complete bike for £5,500 / €6999 / $8599 / AUS$10499 and fitted with Lapierre’s E:I automatically adjusting shock technology.
This is a true fit-for-purpose enduro bike. Enduro-specific eyewear sold separately
The midrange Spicy 527 bike uses the same frame, but E:I is an option that’ll cost you an extra £300 / €400 / $600 on top of the base price of £3500 / €4499 / $4899 / AUS$7499 . If you’re on a stricter budget, the entry to the range is the all-alloy Spicy 327 at £2500 / €3199 / $3599 / AUS$4999 with no E:I shock model available.
So how does it ride?
Fresh (or not so fresh) from racing the Finale Ligure round EWS, I got my hands on the top-line Spicy Team to test on the demanding and rocky trails that surround this seaside rider’s paradise. To make the most of the suspension Vouilloz himself recommended I set it up with a generous 35 percent of sag at the rear. He reckons more sag creates more control and traction in the rough, and the progressive rear suspension allows for this without excessive wallow or bottom-out.
Related: Lapierre Zesty AM 827 E:I first ride
Sitting just 5mm below the axles, the bottom bracket may not look particularly low on paper, but when you throw in the generous sag and ample 165mm travel, the riding position becomes properly low-slung. At 75 degrees, the seat angle is nice and steep too – even with this much sag I never felt I was sat too far rearward on steep climbs.
Lapierre’s E:I system looks complicated, but on the trail it requires no thought
Before long, I headed down one of the stages from the race. Following Vouilloz (who was probably going at about 50 percent of his maximum pace, while I was at the full 100), Lapierre’s latest refinement of its E:Isystem performed sublimely.
When not pedalling, the shock defaults to fully open; when you turn the cranks the shock firms to its stiffest position after about one second, depending on cadence. Hit a bump and, depending on the size of the bump detected by a sensor on the fork, it’ll either turn the shock to the middle pedalling platform setting or open it completely for big hits.
It does this within around a tenth of a second, fast enough that unless you’re going warp speed (more than about 26 miles an hour, to be exact), the shock will open up before the bump hits the rear wheel. On the trail, this allows for super-efficient pedalling efforts, whether grinding up a fire road or sprinting out of a corner; yet as soon as the going gets tough, it opens up to offer the full 165mm of travel.
You don’t have to think about it – it just takes care of the suspension for you without mid-ride fiddling, and I couldn’t catch it out even when pedalling into rocky terrain. In short, this is no gimmick.
Nico Vouiloz was on hand to offer his technical wisdom. He wouldn’t share his cheeky inside lines though
The suspension dealt with large impacts without bottoming or wallowing, thanks to that more progressive leverage curve. Up front, the RockShox Pike fork does its job impeccably as ever, yet under the head tube is a 10mm spacer to allow a 170mm travel Lyrik to be fitted without ‘upsetting’ the geometry – which is exactly what Vouilloz has done to his personal bike.
On this top line Team model you get a complement of SRAM’s finest kit to help justify the price tag. Power is handled by a full XX1 11spd drivetrain with neat direct-mount single front chainring – though the Spicy is capable of accepting a front derailleur – and Guide RSC brakes with a 200mm rotor upfront and 180mm our back handle stopping duties.
Lapierre has decided to keep a touch of nationalism with the rubber on the SRAM Rail 50 rims too; tubeless ready and reinforced treads from Michelin with a chunky Wild Rock’R2 up front and a Wild Grip’R out back. At 13.65kg (30lb) for a medium Team bike, it’s reasonably competitive with other top end enduro machines too, though we suspect less heavy duty rubber might get it right in the game weight wise.
Beating about the bushing?
In order to get the more progressive suspension ratio, Lapierre had to remove the cartridge bearing-equipped shuttle that drove the shock on older models. Instead, the new design uses a traditional shock bushing between the linkage and shock eyelet, which undergoes a high degree of rotation as the suspension moves through the travel.
Vouilloz was keen to check that my bike’s bushings were okay before riding, as they can cause friction if it’s not taken care of – one of the other journalists attending the launch had a slightly sticky back end (insert your own pun here). The MTB legend turned R&D guru suggested taking the bushings off and putting them back on again to reduce bushing friction (I assume Vouilloz must have worked in IT before turning to bike racing).
The longer, slacker geometry helps the new Spicy tear up the trails
Any friction in our test bike was by no means troublesome, though. In fact, the highly-sagged and progressive suspension system delivered great traction. It’s a small concern that the bushing’s larger range of rotation might make it more prone to wear, but we’ll need a longer term test to determine this. Interestingly, the team riders were using a needle bearing in place of bushings. We’d prefer if this upgrade was available on stock bikes for better sensitivity and reduced chances of wear.
Another small quibble is that the E:I equipped bikes come as stock with a large upright battery that uses the bottle cage mounts. There is a cylindrical unit, which leaves room for a bottle cage, but you have to request it from your dealer and I’d rather this was the primary option. After all, this is a race-focused bike, and the ability to carry a water bottle is no trivial matter when racing.
I must point out that I’m 6ft 3in (190cm) and normally require an XL bike, but I had to settle for a large as that was the biggest bike available. As a result, the ride felt a little twitchy on the rocky, steep and technical trails of Finale, making it difficult to hold a line confidently through technical sections. A bit more off the head angle might have helped, though we spotted angle reducing cups on some of the pro’s bikes which we were told may well come with the Team bike at some point.
At the end of the stage…
The new Spicy is a thoroughbred enduro racer with pedigree and the E:I system is a huge boon for racing duties. But as with many racing machines, the exact setup that the pros are using is slightly different from what you can buy in the shops, and if I were honest, I’d rather have what they’re having.
Despite this, the Spicy is a fast, efficient and properly capable bike as it is. Its clever and well-adjusted suspension allows it to climb, pedal and absorb terrain with aplomb, while the longer, slacker geometry gets a big tick in our book too. Despite our quibbles, it’s a genuinely rapid racer and we’re looking forward to a having one for a complete review soon.