I wouldn’t say that I’m in the market for a new mountain bike, I’m quite happy with what I have and there are other, more pressing demands on my wallet. That said, when Martin (Over Ride Cycles, Sheffield) said I’m having a Lapierre demo day, you should pop down, I’m unlikely to pass up the opportunity to spend the morning riding some very high end mountain bikes around Parkwood Springs Trail Centre.
For those of you that don’t know, Parkwood Springs is a newly developed Mountain Bike trail in Sheffield near what used to be the Ski Village. Made up of flowy berms and small table tops with a choice of descents designed to inspire every level of rider, a job it does very well.
I cycled from home, it’s only about 6km and served as a good warm up. When I arrived the bikes were all out and the menu consisted of the Zesty 514 (Medium), a Spicy 516 (Large) and XR 529 Carbon 29er (Medium) with electronic suspension.
Lapierre Spicy 516
This is a 26″ 160mm travel rig aimed at the big mountain enduro rider and would happily chew through anything the Peak District could throw at it. I would love to take this thing down The Beast or Jacob’s Ladder and see what it does to my personal best. On a track like Parkwood Springs the travel and slack head angle feel a touch over the top on the hardpack single track, and they are, this is not the Spicy’s natural habitat.
I’ve not ridden a 26″ bike for over a year so the Spicy’s small wheels and short stem took some getting used to. For this reason I’ve posted the second lap where I was a little more settled. I’m not going to get hung up on the technical stuff except to say that the slack head angle of 66 degrees means the 516 is not a great climber and the front end wandered a bit going up hill, that said, at 13kg, this is a light bike considering the applications.
Downhill the Spicy felt lively and quick, really quick. As I chucked this bike around the berms I couldn’t shake the unnerving thought that “this thing is egging me on because it wants to hurt me”. Taking this bull by the 750mm horns was a lot of fun, but warm, fuzzy thoughts like “stability”, “control”, “grip” were far from my mind, terms like “skittish”, “unbridled”, “mental” came to the fore. Add to this the not unlikely prospect of running out of talent and stacking someone else’s £3000 bike and my over all impression of the Spicy 516 was unsettling, fun yes, lots of fun, but it’s a mad man.
Lapierre XR 529 29er
There were two XRs on the demo, sadly they were both mediums and the Lapierre rep suggested that I might need a large or even an x-large. An interesting feature of this frame is the electronically controlled rear suspension (£400 extra) that is supposed to calibrate the rear shock depending on whether you’re peddling uphill or pointing down.
Perched on top of this undersized frame I really wasn’t expecting to get much out of the XR as I pootled up hill but it climbed well and the times going down hill weren’t awful, a wider bar would have been nice and I’m not convinced handing over the configuration of the rear shock to a computer is for me.
I don’t feel I can really give this bike a fair review as it was considerably too small for me but Jim was a better match for it and was blown away by it, so much so that I think this could be his next bike. I might get him to add his comments at the bottom.
The Zesty on offer was also a medium but with 26″ wheels even smaller than the XR, this really would have looked like a clown bike with me on it so I didn’t bother taking it around the loop. It is however interesting to note that Lambo didn’t rate the Zesty while he was riding it but when his Stava results came back he’d beaten all his best times laid down on his own bike.
Back on Katie
I was expecting to get back on the old girl after riding full suss dream machines and find myself a little despondent but quite the opposite was true, she climbs better than the Spicy, felt more stable and grippy in the corners and granted I didn’t have that exhilarating “glad to still have skin on my knees” feeling that the 516 gave me at the bottom of the hill, but I’m not sure I want that from my everyday mountain bike. The times were just as good as the mad man too so it just goes to show that feels fast is not the same as actually faster.
So it would seem that all I have to show for a Lapierre demo day is affirmation, I am better off for good or no, on a home built steel hardtail. Of course this isn’t true, benchmarks are important and it’s always interesting to compare and contrast and when all the proceeds are going to a great cause like the Lady Canning’s Mountain Bike Trail, everyones a winner baby.