Lapierre's new Cross Carbon is more of a versatile fun machine than a cyclocross racer, with stable steering and mounts for bottle cages and racks.
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I got to ride the new Cross Carbon for a few hours on farm tracks, singletrack and gravel roads up and down the Côte d'Or hillside. The front end's slack angle worked brilliantly over the bumps and ruts created by farm vehicles, roots, rocks and plenty of rainfall.
On flat bumpy sections, the Cross feels sharp, the solid frame holds a line well allowing you to pump up the speed and let the Rocket Ron tyres take up the bumps. They offer surprisingly good grip on a mixed bag of surface conditions, from dry and dusty gravel, to sticky clay to peaty grass.
Confident and controlled handling
Through tight and twisty singletrack paths through the woods the Cross’s level of control impressed. Shifting back over the saddle and railing short sharps descents with tight hard braking corners it felt confident, allowing for plenty of exuberant speed. The steering response is more neutral than snappy, which sounds like a negative, but on this sort of terrain it means little in the way of unpleasant surprises.
It also rides light, despite the semi-modest spec (Ultegra is a highlight but it's mixed with a RS500 crank and Lapierre’s own wide-rimmed 'cross wheelset). The light feel of the ride encourages a bit of fun, I found myself looking for bumps to kick off, and rocks and roots to hop. Always confident in the assured way the bike handles itself and how composed it feels when riding on the limit. One long steep super bumpy descent on our test loop really showed the Cross carbon at its best, with me riding at my limit and feeling that the bike had more to give.
It's not perfect; I didn’t think the semi-internal routing through the seatstays with its big lower cable/hose loops at the bottom added much, apart from a potential catching point. Plus the inclusion of canti mounts on the frame (as its available in both brake versions, using a single frame) is an obvious compromise for cost purposes.Finally the rear thru-axle was shaken loose mid-ride. While it did not come fully undone, the rear wheel rattle wasn't encouraging.
Cross racing purists probably won’t appreciate the addition of carrier mounts, or bottle cage bosses, though we can forgive those as it makes the Cross carbon more versatile than a race bike. I'd be happy to use it as a tough commuter with a switch to some more road friendly rubber, or choose this instead of a gravel, adventure, enduroad, or whatever buzzword is being applied to that style of bike this week.