Fleet footed French flyer
The 2018 Lapierre XR 529 is the bike Lapierre developed to meet the demands of XCO and Marathon cross country racing but it’s a capable trail bike too.
As with many brands, the XR has been overshadowed somewhat by Lapierre’s more popular, longer travel models such as the Zesty and Spicy. But the XR has a long standing fan base of riders more concerned with racing between tape that goes uphill as well as down. We were sent the Lapierre XR 529, the entry point to the range to find out what makes it tick.
Lapierre XR 529 review
The XR is only available with a carbon frame and befitting of a bike aimed at fast XC it spins on 29″ wheels (hence the 29 part of the name). The XR features a distinctive, swoopy mainframe that characterises itself as a Lapierre from a distance, especially as it shares the same shock configuration as the latest Zesty and Spicy ranges. Where it differs is in the addition of twin ribs that run in an over/under configuration around the rear shock. Presumably for additional lateral support due to the lighter carbon layup of the XR. The frame also benefits from the latest must-haves. Rear hub spacing is 148 BOOST, shock sizing is metric, it has the ability to run a stealth dropper post and of course a bottle cage.
The XR’s OST+ suspension features a Horst link pivot at the chainstay coupled to a counter-rotating upper linkage, making it a sort of cross between a FSR and VPP system. It’s certainly pretty effective in delivering the 100mm of travel in a fairly smooth and capable manner. It edges more towards the progressive, plusher side of travel delivery, rather than a more regressive, platformed kinematic. Making it a shade more suited to longer distance events where comfort can make a difference. More aggressive, short course races with punchy power climbs and rapid accelerations will see you fiddling with the lockout more than on something like the Scott Spark or Canyon Lux. In charge of delivering the movement is RockShox’s Deluxe RL shock with just rebound adjustment and a simple on/off lockout.
Matching the rear perfectly is a 100mm travel RockShox Reba RL fork. Lapierre has chosen to fit the remote lockout version to the XR, to allow for a bit of fingertip control and increased efficiency when smashing up the climbs.
Being the entry level model, the XR 529 has to make do without the higher end bling. Instead of the SRAM Eagle used on the higher 729 and 929 models, it uses a SRAM NX 11 speed 1X drivetrain. This in itself functions flawlessly but doesn’t quite have range of Eagle or even Shimano’s 11 speed drivetrains. To make up for the more demanding 11-42 tooth cassette Lapierre has specced the Race Face Aeffect chainset with a smaller 30 tooth chainring. This might help deliver some much needed relief for the climbs but does come at the expense of singletrack and downhill speed.
SRAM’s Level brakeset is again functional but has a pretty agricultural aesthetic and clunky lever shape that, dare I say it, cheapens the cockpit of the XR.
The wheels on the XR spin up smoothly thanks to the Formula hubs and with the Mavic rims, the decent build quality has kept them running true throughout the test. They are a fairly average set of hoops though and feel like they hold the bike back thanks to slightly sluggish acceleration and a level of flex that feels too much on the side of comfort. If you are really considering racing you might be better off changing the wheels to something like Mavic’s Crossmax or something else a shade stiffer and lighter. Skinwall Maxxis Ardent and Ikon tyres look the biz and offer a near perfect tread pattern combination for XC use.
Lapierre should be commended for speccing a pretty short (for XC) stem on the XR 529. Smaller sizes get a 60mm length whilst the larger two get a 70mm.
Lapierre has started to move away from the traditional steep geometry of XC and combined with the plusher suspension kinematics, makes for a surprisingly effective trail bike, let alone a favoured machine for longer races on harder terrain like the Scott MTB Marathon series. The longer chainstays and overall wheelbase provide the XR with a decent level of stability for descending, adding to its confident handling prowess. This added length requires more manhandling on tighter twisty stuff and so it doesn’t quite have the same poppy, lively feel of the Scott Spark or Giant Anthem.
We seem to be moving away from the ‘lighter is better’ thinking in most aspects of modern mountain biking, but for cross country racing weight reduction is still crucial. As such with a weight of over twelve kilograms the XR529 is pretty heavy for a full carbon XC machine. And to be expected this is most noticeable on the climbs where, it is still true to say, that races are still won. There is a positive aspect to this added mass though, the XR descends sure-footedly and resists being bounced off line better than its featherweight rivals.
The Lapierre XR 529 sits more at the trail and marathon end of XC race machines thanks to the plush performance of the OST+ suspension design and rides more like a mini trail bike thanks to its relatively modern approach to XC race geometry. It loses out to more efficient, lighter and livelier bikes as a short course racer but if longer distance racing is your thing then the added comfort and stability the XR brings will pay dividends at the end of the race. The uninspiring wheels Lapierre has specced on the XR 529 detract from the ride quality of the full build, so if we were to go for the 529 we would be looking to upgrade those as soon as possible.