Here’s an interesting approach to the 26 v 29 debate: the Lapierre Raid 329 is offered in both wheel sizes. That’s not about sitting on the fence, Lapierre merely sees wheel size as a part of the overall size of the bike; bigger 29er wheels only go on the M, L and XL Raids, while the 26in wheel bikes go all the way down to XS. It’s a convincing argument in theory, but without spilling the beans on her conclusions, the experience of 5ft 4in Janet on our women’s-specific bikes suggests it doesn’t entirely check out in practice.
Regardless of the wheel size, the frame detailing on the Raid and overall finish are first-rate. Out of the box, the riding position is totally dialled, and the bike has a real sense of urgency that inspires you to push harder and ride further. In that respect, the Lapierre Raid 329 definitely has some cross county DNA, but it’s been combined with impeccable trail manners to offer a much more versatile ride. Spec-wise, it’s up there with the big brands: the gear shifting is light and accurate, and you get Shimano’s excellent brakes and low-profile Shadow rear mech.
In fact, the Suntour XCM fork is the only underwhelming component on the Raid. The problem is a lack of sensitivity — it’s not that it doesn’t move, but it is seriously over-sprung, so our 80kg test riders struggled to get more than half of the 100mm of travel on offer. Fortunately, this didn’t seem to dampen the Raid’s spirits, as balanced handling, plenty of standover clearance and direct power transfer made the Lapierre Raid 329 one fun, fast and flickable machine. It did, however, leave us wondering how good it could have been if it was fitted with size-specific fork springs.
Highs: Excellent frame, great parts and stellar handling
Lows: Not getting the full 100mm of travel from the fork
MBR Rating: 8
Frame: 6061 aluminium
Fork: Suntour XCM 29 100mm
Wheels: Shimano RM66 hubs, Mach 1 rims, Michelin XC Racer 2.1in tyres
Drivetrain: Shimano M931, Acera 9-speed shifters and f-mech, Deore Shadow r-mech
Brakes: Shimano M395
Weight: 14.43kg (31.81lb)
Sizes: M, L, XL
Size tested: M
On test in our Hardtail of the Year competition:
For more Lapierre reviews, check our test of the Lapierre Zesty 314.