The original Aircode was in Lapierre’s range for a mere season and a half, so it was a bit of a surprise to see a new model appear quite so rapidly. But having gleaned knowledge from other projects such as its new Xelius SL lightweight climber’s bike, the French outfit’s design team saw fit to revisit its aero-optimised frame and drop in a few improvements.
The SL in the name refers to ‘super light’, and Lapierre reckons it has trimmed 20g from the fork and a significant 20 per cent from the frame, while claiming to have maintained the same frame stiffness and ride quality. Its designers achieved this by changing the carbon construction of the frame, mixing in different modulus fibres.
The most obvious aerodynamic features are the Kamm tail profile tubing (contours smoothly then continues to a tail) and the direct-mount front brake set into the fork crown. The cabling uses pretty standard internal routing, which isn’t as aerodynamic as that on some aero road bikes, but would have been designed to make life easier for the FDJ team mechanics.
The direct-mount shimano ultegra brake integrated in the fork aids its aerodynamics:Robert Smith
The direct-mount Ultegra brake integrated in the fork aids its aerodynamics
The finish is very striking, the sharp-looking FDJ graphics further enhanced by the radical frame shape. It’s certainly going to stand out in a crowded market.
Frameset aside, the rest of the Aircode is an impressive package for a latest generation aero machine. For your £2299.99 you’re getting full Shimano Ultegra, Zipp finishing kit, Fizik’s Arione saddle and Mavic’s Cosmic Elite wheelset. This is considerably cheaper than the similarly swift Cervélo S3 we tested a month ago, with pretty much a like-for-like spec – that’s impressive stuff.
As is the ride. This Aircode is as fast as its graphics are sharp, and the frame is rock solid through the head tube and down through the bottom bracket. Getting up to sprinting speeds is met with metronomic steadiness and it gains that speed with assured handling.
When the roads start to twist and turn the Aircode is poised, swift and ready to change direction, yet it’s easy to hold a line through fast bends in the road. We didn’t expect any great plushness from the frame – that’s not what aero bikes are known for – so we were pleasantly surprised by the lack of chatter or buzz at both ends. Rest assured, though, this Lapierre does still have a firm ride, and we were glad of the 25mm rubber and carbon seatpost to take out the worst of the sting.
Super light and super sharp, the aircode impresses with its performance
Super light and super sharp, the Aircode impresses with its performance
The increasingly popular 52/36 chainset and wide-ranging 11-28 cassette form a great combination, with the frame’s long, low riding position rewarding in-the-saddle power efforts. We were surprised that hard out-of-the-saddle efforts resulted in the rear rim brushing against the brake blocks, but when we switched to a different – pricier – set of wheels this disappeared, so we think it was down to the Cosmic rims.
Those wheels are one of very few negatives, and in an ideal world we’d opt for better. That said, the much dearer Cervélo also had Cosmics, and plenty of other bikes at this price – and even some more expensive bikes – have even lesser quality rolling stock.
Some may find this Lapierre’s ride on the firm side, but the Aircode SL is an impressive achievement. It handles very, very well, looks fast and its performance delivers on those looks.