The Lapierre Zesty 214 has been my constant companion for 2011 — tested all over the UK, from the Black Mountains in Wales to Scotland’s rugged Highlands, and everything in between. It’s been used and abused in the name of thorough testing to bring you a year in the life of a Lapierre. Here’s what I thought about the bike for its final report, from the November issue of mbr…
F**king dancer! That’s honestly what I’d written down; my first impression of the Lapierre from way back in 2010, hastily scribbled down in my notes after the first test ride. It was as euphoric a moment as diving into a crap-encrusted toilet and rescuing suppositories that had been hastily stored up the bottom [Ed — for you youngsters out there, he’s harking back to the film Trainspotting.]
Other than watching Nineties films, and riding the bike of course, I’ve taken a bit of time this month to look back over the Zesty’s monthly reports to see how my appreciation of the bike has changed. It has had its peaks and troughs but it’s generally been an upward curve, of the sort that would have George Osborne grinning from ear to ear. But I also wanted to make sure I wasn’t overly harsh on the bike — it’s all too easy to subconsciously start comparing it with the 2012 updates and technology we’ve become so used to seeing: no dropper seatpost, tisk (or tisk tisk); chain device conspicuously absent, another black mark. Sure, those bits and pieces were all available when the bike was put together, but they weren’t standard bits of kit on trail bikes, and certainly not sub-£2k bikes.
So what does “f’ing dancer” mean anyway? No one knows, but what I do know is that the bike felt amazingly confident on the descents — super-long and stable. It’s something I still felt when I rode the bike just last week. If I’m being overly critical I would say those chainstays are a bit too long, meaning the bike can be hard to manual or wheelie for someone of limited skill such as myself. It’s compensated for though by a long wheelbase, sure-footed descending and hilarious moments where I wheelie off into the bushes, out of control.
Scratching around for ways to make the Lapierre perform even better, I did the usual mbr trick of ditching the short stem and fitting a wider bar: instant gratification. I also became fixated on changing the fork. The RockShox Sektor Solo Air wasn’t holding me up enough in turns or in the mid-stroke, so SRAM kindly switched the internals for a coil-sprung unit. The performance boost was and is impressive — just make sure you go for the extra firm option if you’re around 75kg or the sag will be too much, and if you’re any heavier than this, think again.
Fast and loose
Something I seem to have missed from my reports has been a criticism of Shimano’s wheels, however. It’s a problem we’ve had before at mbr — the cones come loose as you ride, meaning suddenly the back of the bike will feel so flexy you’ll think you have a flat! They need some spannerwork and Loctite’ing in position, but it’s not something you should have to worry about when buying the bike — the shop should cover it under warranty.
I also found myself missing a ProPedal lever. Of course Lapierre made a good call to use a Fox Float R shock — good because it works well and is easy to adjust — but it doesn’t help the bike climb. If you’re running the bike in the ‘all-mountain’ sag position, as indicated by the sag adjuster scale Lapierre fixes to the seat tubes of Zestys, then you do feel you’re losing lots of energy as it bobs around uphill. It’s a fairly heavy bike too (over 30lb), thanks to the budget wheels and drivetrain — necessary, for Lapierre to hit its price point, but weighty nonetheless.
Oh dear, I had meant this review to be very positive indeed — but in doing so I seem to have concentrated on the bike’s few weaknesses. In truth the only really serious error Lapierre made when speccing the Zesty 214 was to fit that Solo Air fork rather than a coil option. Sure, it made the package lighter, but it’s a bike that’s never going to win any weight records and the boost in performance from the coil fork is well worth the payoff. But given that you can get SRAM to swap this over for you for £80 it shouldn’t hold you back.
Lapierre has done an incredible job to squeeze so much bike into £1,800, with the cheapest, heaviest bits like the drivetrain and wheels also the first bits you’re likely to upgrade. It’s a bike you could happily go on building around the fantastic frame for years to come — unless you’ve seen the wonder that is the 2012 Zesty already…
Mbr rating: 9
Words: Jamie Darlow Pics: Roo Fowler