One our most revered mountain bikes scored big changes for 2016, the new Zesty oozes panache. We'll never forget the countless great days that we've had riding a Lapierre Zesty, they always bring out the fun and speed of a trail with a dialled balance of frame geometry and excellent suspension.
The not-so-minor details
Lapierre Zesty XM 427
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Fun and lively ride.
It's a Zesty!
Lose the tyres.
10-speed double chainring limits upgrading
Well known for e:I Shock bikes, their electronically adjusted suspension design that senses the terrain and rider input to make constant adjustments to the rear shock, it is time to try out a Zesty without any batteries or wires. And an aluminium frame too, sitting at a more affordable price point of $4799.
We’ve had plenty of experience with the Zesty range over the years, click here to check out some of our reviews and long term review of a great bike: http://flowmountainbike.com/?s=lapierre
For a closer look at the 2016 Zesty range from Lapierre check out our range preview here: http://flowmountainbike.com/post-all/new-2016-lapierre-zesty-am-xm-first-look/
The Zesty range has been a great option for mountain bikers for years, the name Zesty is synonymous with ‘real’ mountain biking, always specced for serious riding and constantly moving with the times to keep up with the latest trends in frame geometry. For 2016 the Zesty range is split in two, the Zesty AM and Zesty XM. The AM is the bigger brother to the XM with longer travel and more aggressive components and hard-charging character.
The Zesty XM uses a 130mm travel fork on a 120mm travel rear end, there’s a massive gear range, dropper post and a robust aluminium frame to keep you riding anything in your path.
The aluminium frame uses their excellent OST+ suspension design, a true four bar design with a pivot on the chainstay to give the rear wheel an axle path for pedalling efficiency and active suspension. The cables are externally routed under the down tube which makes for quick and easy maintenance, and to help with suspension setup a nifty little sag meter is provided on the frame.
The rear wheel is bolted firmly in the rear end with a thu-axle and a regular 142x12mm hub spacing keeps it simple. You’ll notice a few random unused holes in the frame, they are to accomodate for the e:I Shock system found on other Zesty models with the same frame.
Geometry wise the Zesty is fairly neutral, making it a bit of an all-rounder trail bike. Where the Zesty AM gets slacker angles and longer reach, the more sensible XM reigns it in a fraction to help the rider get good performance on a wider variety of trails. The number chart tells us the Zesty XM has a 67 degree head angle, 430mm chain stays and a medium size frame has a 442mm reach.
Dressed for a bit of anything the Zesty’s component spec is a mixture of Shimano, FOX, RockShox, RaceFace and Lapierre’s own bits.
A brilliant FOX 32 fork uses their buttery smooth and active FIT 4 damper system with a three-stage lockout, we found the fork a real highlight of the bike providing excellent control in the rough terrain, especially navigating the steep trails where you rely so much on a good fork not to spit you off when the big hits happen under heavy front braking. Gold star for the fork!
The RockShox Monarch rear shock is one of the most supple and plush units we’ve tested, the Monarch range just seems to keep getting better and better. The two-stage compression control lets you firm the suspension up for the climbs, but it still remained somewhat active to make it suitable for climbing rough singletrack, keeping the traction in check.
Lapierre are huge in Europe and it shows in the way they spec their mid-range bikes, hence a double chainring drivetrain. We’d not normally harp on about double chainrings on test bikes this much, but in this case there’s more to it. While the gear range of a double chainring setup comes in handy on the climbs, the growth of wider range drivetrains make single-ring bikes more common and we’re all about it.
The Zesty XM 427 uses a Shimano 10 speed drivetrain, which holds it back a little in our minds. 11 speed is trickling down the range from the expensive stuff, a little slower in the case of Shimano though, SRAM already have a wide range single drivetrain for bikes in this price point. While the gears shift crisply and cleanly and we never had one issue during testing, we’d typically recommend converting the bike to a single-ring setup by the simple process of removing the left hand shifter, front derailleur and fitting a narrow/wide chainring. But being 10-speed the options for cassettes don’t quite give you a low enough range that the 11-speed products do, and upgrading to 11-speed would not be as cheap an exercise as it could have been.
Shimano have just released 11-speed SLX which would have been perfect for this bike.
Shimano is there to slow you down with a nice set of brakes. The levers feel really great with a consistent lever feel at all times. Our test bike arrived with a contaminated set of brake pads in the rear, and they never came good. Perhaps the brake calliper was leaking fluid onto the pads, we’re not 100% sure.
Rolling on 27.5″ wheels the Zesty also hits a bit of a wall in terms of spec, the narrow Kenda Slant Six tyres have to go, not only are they underdone in terms of meatiness and size, they are wire bead (not kevlar/folding) and are about as tubeless compatible as cotton socks. Don’t leave the shop without swapping them out for wider tyres with meatier tread or at least tubeless ready.
The wheels however feel great, stiff and fast, the rear hub is super-positive and gives the bike a snappy and quality touch.
On the trail
We can’t get enough of these new breed of mid-travel trail bikes with dialled geometry, and the Zesty is one of them. It has a fun character from it’s vibrant paintwork, right down to the way it lights up the singletrack.
We did however not exactly get along with it at first, the narrow, low-profile and hard compound tyres were a real drag, it all felt wrong. So we swapped out the wheels to a set with good rubber set up tubeless and we were happy again, very happy.
Setting up the suspension is helped by the little sag indicator on the seat stays that lines up with the rubber marker on the seat tube when you sit on the bike, Lapierre were one of the early adopters of this setup tool and we love it. Sag is so important to get right, this helps you keep an eye on it.
120mm of rear travel is enough to keep you in control but not too much that the bike feels heavy and numb on the slower and tighter trails. It’s super-efficient too, we left the shock in open mode at all times except for the smoothest of climbs. Jump on the pedals and the Zesty responds in eagerness with great acceleration.
We quickly forgot the un-cool double chainring setup, and got along with the drivetrain just fine, the bike was also quite quiet considering the front derailleur arrangements are typically noisier. A good low-range of gears is a blessing for this go-anywhere bike, we hardly got off it even on the steepest pinch climbs the Zesty would get up it with ease.
Point the Zesty into the descents and it’s a whole lot of fun, for a short-ish travel bike we really enjoyed taking it to the trails where we ride a lot of 150-160mm travel bikes. The fork really shines, the 32mm legs may be too thin for some, but the solid frame takes up the slack and delivers a sturdy steering bike with fantastic big-hit capabilities.
While we may have been a bit hard on the tyres and drivetrain considering the price of the bike, we still really enjoyed how the Zesty rips on the trails. Sort out the tyres at least and you’ll be happy too.
Our love for the range of Zesty’s continues, even without the super impressive e:i Shock system the bike holds its own and lets you have a tonne of fun on the dirt.