In the heart of the French Alps this week, Lapierre launched a full overhaul of their popular Zesty All-Mountain and Trail platform for the 2016 season. The most obvious changes from the current bikes are the repositioned shock layout, new longer reach frames, and the replacement of the current TR 29er with a 27.5″ XM that lets them build the bikes on a much more similar common platform. Travel carries over for the 150mm AM, and the XM picks up at 120mm where the TR left off.
We had a chance to ride the current and new generation bikes on the technically demanding trails on offer in the Portes du Soleil region and give our thoughts, plus lots of pics, details, and availability after the fold…
Lapierre Zesty AM
The Zesty AM has been one of the most popular bikes that Lapierre has made and so it carries over with frame upgrades, both in carbon and aluminum. Lapierre’s engineers have updated the new bikes with a longer toptube (bikes spec’d with shorter stems) and a bit more BB drop for a more stable and rearward weight balance.
The movement of the front shock mount to the underside of the toptube necessitated an overhaul of their OST+ suspension, and let them go with a shorter shock and eliminate a shock extender, leaving a lighter frame and increased space for a water bottle. The carbon frames have dropped a whopping 500g with the update, while the aluminum ones drop 50g. The frame update also drove the designers to rework the suspension curve for a more supple start and steeper progressive ramp at the end of compression. The shorter stroke shock also limits heat generated, so suspension feel remains more consistent over long riding sessions. The new frame also allowed little tweaks, like narrower stays for better heel clearance (a problem we had on the 2015 TR ourselves.)
For the first time the two top level Zesty AMs (827 at ~5900€ & 527 at ~4400€) go all in with carbon, including stays and the link. The bikes carry over the excellent e:i Auto shock system, which really makes the bikes a joy to ride. Set up soft, a sensor in the fork measuring incoming impacts, one in the bottom bracket measuring pedal input, and the controller on the stem automatically switch the rear end from fully open to a medium dampening to fully locked out, as you ride. It happens fast and consistently every time you need it, so no worrying about flipping lockout levers, or accidentally descending with the bike locked out. The bikes we tested had the 2015 e:i controller, but the new bikes will come with a new version that is trimmed down a bit to work with a 35mm stem (currently 50mm is a minimum limit.)
The AM carries over the unique Lapierre carbon BB bash guard that protects the frame and cable routing by deflecting instead of just absorbing impacts. We rode a lot of silly rocky trails on several of these bikes, where there were many riders retelling on the day about taking a rock to the shin, but didn’t see any of the bikes to have suffered. The bikes we tested were either setup with narrow-wide single rings or doubles, so we didn’t see any chain guides, but the bikes are both direct-mount front derailleur and ISCG05 compatible
Pricing is not yet available, but Lapierre has pushed the updates across the whole line, so for the AM you get the two aluminum versions (427 at 3700€ & 327 at 2900€) to maximize the bang for your buck. The 427 keeps the great e:i Shock Auto system, making it probably the best value out of the bunch. Btw, the 827, 527, and 427 are also available without the e:i shock setup for a savings of 400€ (that we would say is probably not worth taking off.)
The aluminum Zestys bring over most all of the other tech details as the carbon bikes, just with more welding and a bit more weight. All of the 2016 Zestys get a small carbon deflector to protect the rear derailleur like we’ve seen on their longer travel bikes, and all get spec’d with dropper posts.
We did especially like the orange and sky blue paint on the 427.
Geometry updates for the Zesty AM carry over with 4 sizes in carbon or aluminum.
Lapierre Zesty XM
Adapted from the new All Mountain bike, Lapierre’s new Zesty XM gets the 27.5″ wheels for the added stiffness, better frame sizing, and ample aggressive tire options. The switch does effectively kill off the 29″ Zesty TR at the end of 2015. But while the 29er was well regarded, the bike just didn’t sell well enough. Lapierre chalks this up to consumers looking elsewhere when they think of 29ers, while Lapierre was consistently selling out all of their 27.5″ bikes. Key to note is that while the Zesty XMs are all 120mm, the bike is designed for a 130mm fork to best match to its plush travel. With the bike developed on the longer AM platform, Lapierre also didn’t seem worried at all about riders bumping up to 140mm in the front for better descending.
Just like its longer-travel sibling, the XM gets geometry based on the ideas of: long reach, short stem, and wide bars. The switch to 27.5: wheels at this travel is new for Lapierre, but they carry over most of the more aggressive capabilities of the AM, including comfortable tire clearance for 2.4″ tires. As is also the case with the carbon AMs, the carbon XMs get ti bolts throughout to save a bit more weight.
The excellent work of the main controller; fork sensor; and battery, shock actuator, and bottom bracket sensor all come to the Zesty XM as well. They really make the bike shine here; again the soft initial setup makes the bike feel way more plush than 120mm, while still pedaling uphill well. Its descending skills feel like they add at least 10-20mm of suspension feel, and it was a very wise choice by Lapierre to pair the 120mm from a with 130mm forks across the line. The e:i battery has a 26 hour runtime, so it should be good for at least a few long days on the bike, but will be another thing to keep track of, lest you end up having to pick one mode and ride home with it.
Geometry for the new XM is pretty grounded in the AM bike with a tiny bit steeper headtube, a bit more BB drop, and a decent amount lower front end, again with 4 sizes in the carbon 827 (5400€) and 527 (4400€) or aluminum 427 (3700€) and 327 (2900€).
Both bikes seemed to better match their front and rear travel vs. last years bikes. The plush feel of the e:i setup definitely warrants good supple forks, and it looks like Lapierre has delivered there. They’ve worked closely with Rock Shox on the e:i Auto Shock setup, and paired them well with the respective Pikes and Revelations. While I personally am a fan of 29ers for XC, it’s true they have their limitations, and the TR was definitely limited by its wheel flex on the technical or enduro-style descending of the Pass’Portes that the AM enjoys. The XM is a huge step from the 29er, while the AM was a bit more of an incremental improvement. The XM may be a more versatile bike, with lighter wheels that climb better than the AM, but the 27.5″ wheels and new geometry are still stiff enough for true trail descending.
Ultimately the e:i Auto Shock system shouldn’t be underestimated. Sure it is a bit of electronic complication, and I’m not sure that Lapierre couldn’t get the battery inside the bike (although weekly charging would be more of a pain), but its use of low shock pressure is excellent. Many riders are not using their suspension to the full extent possible, but with the e:i you can use all of your travel, and still be able to pedal up a hill. The system really pairs well with 1x drivetrains, and we climbed better with the rear locking out, rather than the fork which often times is the standard option.
Both the Zesty AM and XM will also be available in Lapierre’s custom à la carte Ultimate program, so the sky will be the limit for premium builds if you desire. All of the Zestys are planned to be available at the start of September following Eurobike.