There's a little more than meets the eye with the all new Lapierre hardtail
Lapierre has gone all out in producing a completely revamped ProRace for 2018. Going beyond what is expected from a modern cross country hardtail, the French company has revealed what they think is a pretty unique, carbon framed hardtail.
One look will tell you that the new ProRace is still obviously entrenched firmly in traditional cross country racing. However, the French company has worked hard to make it a little bit more than just ‘the latest, lightest, stiffest speed weapon out there’. In fact, this new design puts it more toward the real-world hardtail camp than a lot of its competitor’s race frames.
So what’s new for the 2018 ProRace?
Lapierre has drawn inspiration from its Pulsium road model (a frame used for rougher races such as the cobbled Paris-Roubaix), and XR full suspension bike to create a new frame with the purpose of achieving comfort but without sacrificing performance. At the heart of the new design is Lapierre’s SAT (Shock Absorption Technology) zone. Effectively one of the carbon junctions joining the seat tube to the stays and top tube is cut to allow a controlled amount of flex within the seat tube and surrounding area. Careful shaping of the seat tube allows this supported flex and an elastomer damper is wedged between the broken tube to add a little control to the movement and absorb vibrations. So as Lapierre themselves coin it, it’s a softail hardtail…
2018 Lapierre ProRace need to know
- Brand new carbon frame design, available in two grades of carbon
- Three models; Ultimate, 729 and 629 (Prices TBC)
- 29er specific across all four frame sizes
- New single ring specific chainguide with storage for spare links
- 27.2mm diameter, shaped seattube. Routing for a dropper post *
- All models specced with SRAM Eagle groupsets and Rockshox 100mm forks.
*Lapierre have a 27.2mm dropper post in the works. Nico Vouilloz’s personal bike sported a pretty slick looking prototype, looking to have a fairly close to production finish quality. Production models will most probably have a reduced drop to minimise weight. Even though it’s cable operated it has an extremely smooth action and zero play at the head.
First Ride Impressions
When confronted with the prospect of tackling Les Gets’ numerous trails (and fearsome braking bumps) on a carbon XC hardtail, I (and my wrists) weren’t totally sold on the idea. In the spirit of discovery I donned my finest Lycra, made like an XC racing snake and threw my leg aboard the XL ProRace 729 that would be my partner for the day. And almost instantly I was blown away by how composed the bike behaves in the rough. Let’s get one thing straight though, with a 69.5° head angle, 100mm negative rise stem and a 2.25” Maxxis Ardent/2.1” Maxxis Ikon tyre combo; this is still very much a racing thoroughbred. So definitely a long way from a new-breed, slack angled hardcore trail thrasher then!
But I don’t think the ProRace got that particular memo, judging by the way it merrily dealt with steep, rooty, and rocky trails. There is much less of the typical pinballing of the rear end normally associated with mega light carbon frames. As long as your line choice isn’t too agricultural, the rear end manages to loyally stay on line. What is also impressive is the way the frame copes with the transference of trail shocks, at faster speeds over repeated rocks and roots there are times when you could be forgiven for thinking you were on a short travel full-susser.
Chatting to Nico Vouilloz and one of the Lapierre designers, they explained that the SAT technology incorporated into the top tube and seat tube junction allows the frame to flex around 5-6mm. This translates to a not inconsiderable amount of movement at the rear wheel (actual figures are not available at this time) that delivers a ride quality quite unlike most other carbon frames. It’s not a super plush feeling, more like a deadening of the normal feedback accompanied by less painful saddle/anatomy interfacing. The other bonus is unlike similar designs such as Trek’s IsoSpeed decoupler found on its Procaliber, Lapierre’s SAT works whether you are seated or standing.
The good news for the racers out there still pining for an ultra responsive and efficient machine is the ProRace delivers this in spades. Flat out sprints and out of saddle climbing is rewarded by a surge of acceleration. If anything, the SAT design actually creates better climbing grip, clawing the rear wheel into the ground as the frame flexes. I would go out of my way to say that this frame should be high up the list for riders looking for a comfortable marathon race bike or even a bike for enjoying long days in the hills.
It’s not the lightest race frame on the market (1070g for a large) but the additional features and comfort are worth the slight penalty. In fact the ProRace frame is actually a few grams lighter than BMC’s equivalent Teamelite (with a similar design concept).
Lapierre has specced the ProRace sensibly for its intended use as an XC/marathon racer. The Rockshox SID RL fitted to the 729 version I rode features the better Charger damping cartridge and performed impeccably during the test period. The suitably Gallic Mavic Crossmax Elite are a robust wheelset that cope well in harsher terrain (You might want to fit a lighter wheelset for XC short course racing). Maxxis Ardent/Ikon tyres are a fast and relatively grippy pairing. SRAM XO1 Eagle is almost flawless in performance although the 32 tooth chainring might be a little under-geared for some riders on such a fast bike. It’s also good to see a 720mm Raceface carbon bar.
The perfect hardtail race bike?
The ProRace isn’t perfect though, the reach of the frames pushes rider weight too far over the front wheel and it’s difficult to justify the fitting of long stems on a modern bike. Lapierre aren’t alone in keeping to this tradition though. A shorter stem would make the bike ride even better on steeper terrain, but at least the handlebar is a more sensible 720mm width! Also it’s interesting to see Lapierre sticking with a front mech mount even though none of the bikes come specced with front derailleurs. A better option would be to get rid of the mount and spec a shorter armed chain guide that would be both stiffer and lighter.
For more information head to Lapierre’s home page.
It’s safe to say that most users of the new ProRace will predominately be cross country aficionados, but to dismiss it as ‘just’ a carbon race bike is to do it a disservice. The new frame technology transforms the ProRace into one of the most comfortable and stable carbon frames I have ever ridden, short of proper full-suspension. With a sensible stem length and the addition of Lapierre’s forthcoming XC dropper the ProRace would be a fantastic choice for the rider looking for a bike for marathon racing or just enjoying long days in the hills.