Lapierre Zesty 314 – £1899
There’s no point beating around the bush: I love this bike. For 2009 I wanted a bike that would allow me to keep up with the really fast lads on descents without being a real dog on the ups, and so far, the Zesty is exceeding my expectations. I’m more confident down hill, so I’m riding faster than I ever have before, and of my group of riding buddies, I’m still among the quickest on the climbs. What more can you ask for from a bike?

When we first started talking about 2009’s longtermers I immediately staked my claim on a Zesty. I’d ridden one at Afan earlier in the year as part of our Ultimate Trail Bike test, and although I found it sluggish on the ups, as soon as the gradient pointed down, it was a revelation. The geometry was so confidence-inspiring that I was almost keeping up with Muldoon, in spite of the rain and the 5am start to get to Wales. It wasn’t quite love at first sight, but it was certainly a good start.

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Once it was decided I could have a Zesty, the choice was which model. With so many bike tests going in mbr each year, we didn’t want to repeat one model. In the end the choice was between the top-of-the-line Zesty 914, complete with full XTR and a carbon rear end, or the very bottom-of-the-range Zesty 314. Guess which one I was pinning my hopes on?

So when the Zesty 314 arrived I was a bit gutted. That said, the minute I pulled it out the box, I started to notice all the neat details — colour-matched anodised pivot hardware, matching lock-on grips and the neat (also colour matched) sag-o-meter. Stepping back, the 314 looks a lot better than it does in the catalogue. The frame is probably as well laid out as you can get when using aluminium.

Before the first ride out I swapped the tyres over. The Conti World Cups supplied might be OK for bone-dry trails, but in the British winter? Forget it. On went a set of tried-and-trusted Maxxis Minions that will probably stay put until they fall apart.

Rock-solid ride
Because of the slack seat angle — the seat tube starts ahead of the bottom bracket — climbing initially felt really sluggish. With my saddle set up centrally in the layback seatpost, at full height, I was way too far behind the BB. By slamming the saddle as far forward as it will go, climbing ability is greatly improved.

Lapierre’s Zesty and Spicy ranges are long bikes for their size and this is one of the reasons they ride so reassuringly well. However, even with the saddle moved forward, I was still finding the reach too great so I swapped the stock 90mm stem for a 70mm. It feels better and in my opinion, it looks right too.

On the trail, the long wheelbase translates to stability at speed, making for a confidence-inspiring ride. Going into berms or jumps, you know that the bike isn’t going to pull any surprises, which isn’t always the case on shorter bikes. So you push yourself, and the bike, harder.

I’m glad we’re not scoring our longtermers until their final outing. I’m definitely smitten with the Zesty 314, but I still have a few niggling doubts about some of the components. I’m going to swap the brake pads to see how that affects braking performance, and the chainset — well, it just looks tatty with all the paint wearing off. I can live with that though. The next six months are going to be spent trying to wear out ALL the components — should be fun!

Lapierre Mountain Bikes are available through Hotlines’ UK Dealer Network