Dirt Rag Magazine

Lapierre brings new mountain bikes to US shores

By Karen Brooks

Lapierre is a storied French brand that has been making bicycles since 1946. Last year it debuted an electronically controlled suspension system in Europe, for 2014 that system, called Ei, will be available in the States on a trio of bikes: the Spicy and Zesty 27.5-wheeled trail bikes, and the XR 29er for cross country.

These bikes were so eagerly anticipated that it was tough to get a good look at them, let alone a ride. But I managed to snag one for a run down several trails at Deer Valley and shoot another between demo sessions.

Both the Spicy and Zesty AM (pictured here) were redesigned with input from no less than Nicolas Vouilloz, the enduro racer, former WRC rally car driver and 10-time (yes, 10) UCI downhill world champion.

The biggest change is the move from 26 to 27.5 wheels. The Spicy is the enduro specialist, with 150mm of rear travel and 160mm up front, while the Zesty has 150mm travel all around. (There is also a Zesty Trail version with 120mm of travel on 29-inch wheels.)

So, about all those wires… basically, the EI system activates the platform switch on your rear shock for you. It operates on a combination of sensors that feed into a computer which controls a servo motor mounted to the RockShox Monarch RT3 shock to change between Floodgate compression settings: open, platform, and closed.

There are accelerometers on the fork and in the headset top cap that detect the size of the bumps you’re hitting, and a cadence sensor in the crank to tell the system when you’re pedaling.

A small display on the handlebar gives some basic cycle-computer functions, and also switches between five sensitivity settings and turns the system on or off.

In general, pedaling and no bumps at the fork means the rear shock is locked out, while combinations of bumps and pedaling cause the system to choose between platform and wide open, depending on what it senses. Reaction time is only 0.1 second.

I got a chance to ride two new Lapierre bikes, a Spicy with the Ei and a Zesty AM without it. Both bikes were a helluva lot of fun, and seemingly tailor-made for Deer Valley’s extensive network of lift-serviced trails—lots of turns and some rocks, with loose sections and occasional sand traps of deep powdery soil. (Just like the snow!) Very enduro-like.

So what difference did the Ei system make? The Lapierre folks said, and in my case it was true, that many people neglect to use their platform switches and just leave the shock open or in platform mode. I did this with the non-Ei Zesty and still had fun, even if I worked much harder to climb the short uphills in the thin air.

But the Ei-equipped Spicy was certainly busy as I rode the same set of trails, clicking and whirring as it did its stuff. I can say that it did improve the ride, making the rear end more plush when the trail turned chunky or stiffen up when I hit the fire road climb.

However, it remains to be seen whether this fancy electronic system does as good a job with automatically changing the suspension feel as a mechanical system, such as a dw-link, would. I also wonder how all those wires, and the battery, will fare in a rainy, muddy climate. But of course, that’s why we test things.

Some stats:

Spicy:

  • Available in Team or 527 models
  • Head tube angle 66.5, seat tube angle 73.5, bottom bracket drop 10mm, chainstay length 430mm (same length as the previous 26-wheeled version)
  • Carbon frame with an aluminum swingarm
  • Replaceable down tube/BB protector
  • Internal cable routing for shifters, brakes and dropper post
  • 142x12mm thru-axle, ISCG05 tabs

Zesty:

  • Available in five models
  • Same frame as Spicy but with 150mm fork instead of 160mm (67 head tube angle, 74 seat tube angle)
  • Rear shock settings are slightly stiffer than on Spicy
  • Carbon frame with an aluminum swingarm
  • Replaceable down tube/BB protector
  • Internal cable routing for shifters, brakes and dropper post
  • 142x12mm thru-axle, ISCG05 tabs
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