Lapierre Xelius SL 500 CP review£1,800.00

Radical-shaped Gallic lightweight

BikeRadar score4/5

Lapierre is the longtime bike supplier to the French FDJ cycling team, and this frame – with different kit – is the same their riders use on mountain stages. It has a claimed frame weight of just 850g and features a massive BB86 bottom bracket shell, while the fork has a muscular crown that segues seamlessly into the tapered head tube. The inset front brake adds to the beefy, purposeful look.

Pro-rider design input

The design is partly the result of collaboration with FDJ riders, who provide feedback to the company’s engineers. “They’re here to understand the riders’ needs,” Lapierre’s lead engineer Rémi Gribaudo told us. “The level of feedback is very high. Good or bad, it can turn into a request and we have to take everything seriously.”

The Lapierre’s unique frame configuration works wonders in the comfort stakes

So Lapierre has taken the needs of pro riders into account, but what does that mean for the rest of us? Quite a lot, it would seem, as FDJ’s riders appear to have surprisingly similar requirements for their bikes.

There’s no contact between the seatstays and seat tube, so the seat tube is free to flex – resulting in outstanding ride comfort

On the road the Xelius is an absolute revelation. We expected light, of course; we expected stiff, too. But we didn’t expect so much suppleness, or the sort of spring at the back that you’d expect from a high-quality titanium or steel frame.

If you’re anything like us, you’ll spend the first few hours of riding the Xelius repeatedly checking the tyres to make sure you’re not losing any air. Once you get over that feeling, however, you can really start to use the feel that the Xelius offers. It lets you hit rough patches of road without backing off, and hunkers down into corners to let the back end bite. It’s an intoxicating feeling when you nail the Xelius through a bend and you can revel in its assured feel.

Frame junction wizardry delivers outstanding comfort

Lapierre has achieved this level of handling thanks to something that, at first glance, looks like a rehash of GT’s vintage ‘triple triangle’ frame design. Look closer, however, and you’ll find a totally new setup: the top tube narrows and splits into three in front of the seat tube.

The sharp handling almost feels at odds with the plush back end, but it somehow gels together well: the sharp handling almost feels at odds with the plush back end, but it somehow gels together well
The sharp handling almost feels at odds with the plush back end, but it somehow gels together well: the sharp handling almost feels at odds with the plush back end, but it somehow gels together well

The sharp handling almost feels at odds with the plush back end, but it somehow gels well

The biggest tube curves upwards to meet the seat tube, while the two smaller sections bypass the seat tube entirely and morph into seatstays. There’s no contact at all between the seatstays and seat tube, meaning the seat tube is free to flex, resulting in the outstanding ride comfort.

The Xelius’s front end doesn’t have the same ‘softness’ as the rear. In fact, the sharp, direct handling almost feels at odds with the ultra-plush back end, but somehow it gels together well. There’s thudding when you hit ruts, but the front still does a decent job of damping road buzz, some of which is down to the quality Zipp bar and stem pairing.

The 52/36, 11-28 gearing of its 105 groupset is spot on for going quickly without leaving you overgeared for steeper climbs, and the Mavic wheels run as smoothly as expected, although they did need a bit of fettling with the spoke key to even the tension.

The Michelin tyres continue the French theme that runs through this bike, and although they’re narrow for 25mm and, at around 300g, a little weighty, their grip in the dry is very good and they manage to perform well in the wet too. That said, lighter, racier rubber would still be the first upgrade we’d look to make.

This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

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