For the past few months I’ve been riding the new 2012 Lapierre Zesty 714, which gains improved suspension, a lighter and stiffer frame and refined geometry. Have these changes improved a bike that was so keenly adopted by UK mountain bikers for the better?
If you want to know the answer without reading the next 1,000 words, then we’ll just say, yes it is. In every way, the new Zesty is a huge improvement over the previous bike. The suspension is more capable, the geometry better suiting to a bike like this, the frame more refined; lighter, stiffer and better looking.
Enlist a world champion to make a good bike great
For 2012 Lapierre wanted to update the Zesty. They enlisted the help of the best mountain biker in the history of the sport, Nicolas Vouilloz. He’s well known for his speed and bike handling skills, but it’s his ability to really set a bike up and communicate the changes he wants made to the designers and engineers that allowed Lapierre to advance the Zesty.
So, under his guidance the bike has become slacker – the head angle a degree lighter at 67 – along with a half inch lower bottom bracket and shorter chainstays, to the tune of 5mm.
Nico’s feedback also led to big changes at the suspension. The previous OST (Optimized Suspension Technology), a four-bar configuration with the shock mounted horizontally underneath the top tube, is now OST+. From a distance, it looks the same, but a lot has changed.
A shock shuttle, a short strut between the rocker linkage hinging off the top tube and the Fox shock has allowed the leverage ratio to be tuned. The top shock mount has been moved further forward, and there’s now scope to fit a longer stroke shock (so you could convert it into a Spicy if you really wanted).
These changes mean the suspension is more supple, making it more active over the smaller bumps: riding over a root infested trail for instance shows this up nicely. Push deeper into the stroke and it gradually becomes more progressive, ramping up even more progressively in the last stage of shock stroke allows the Zesty to tame big drops with ease.
Impressive carbon frame
Around those changes is an all-new frame, though you’ll be hard pressed to spot the difference between a new and old Zesty at a thousand paces. That’s a good thing; the Zesty has always been considered a classy looking bike and to mess with its lines too much would be been sacrilegious.
What they have done is to bulk out the tube profiles in various places to increase stiffness, reduce material where it’s not needed, and fit a tapered head tube up front. Cables are neatly routed internally, and there’s provision for a dropper post hose to be routed internally too.
As before, the Zesty can be bought in a choice of frame materials, aluminium or carbon. We were fortunate enough to receive a £4000 carbon model for testing, and the implications on the weight are pretty damn impressive – as pictured with a Shimano XT/XTR groupset and Easton wheels, it weighing in at a highly impressive 25.5lbs.
We won’t dwell on the specification too much; you’ll be looking at the spec of whichever model of Zesty is in your price range. Lapierre have always offered good builds, and the Shimano XT/XTR kit on this test bike, with a 3×10 drivetrain, was on the money.
Initially we felt a 2×10 option would have suited the bike better, but after several hilly rides (where the granny was used) we reluctantly changed our mind. However, with the developments in 2×10 (and 1×11) we feel a bike of this calibre should move with the times, a go 2×10.
A Fox 32 FIT 140mm fork, with a 15mm bolt-thru axle, paired beautifully with the rear suspension, offering a very similar feel; supple over the small stuff and ramping up nicely on the bigger hits.
Brakes were the excellent Formula RX1 disc brakes, with 180mm rotors at both ends. With ample power out of the box and virtually no bedding in time, and lever reach dials allowing us to tune the levers to feel the same. The 180mm discs were bolted to excellent Easton EZ70XCT wheels shod with Hutchinson Cougar 2.2 and Cobra 2.25 tyres. Interestingly, the tubeless tyres came set up as tubeless, which was a nice touch.
Finishing kit is from Lapierre’s in-house brand, topped of with a Fizik Gobi saddle. We won’t linger too much on the handlebar and stem setup – we know we all have our personal preference for width and length based on riding style.
What we did find is that with a 65mm stem and 750mm handlebar, the Zesty really came to life. A bike that packs this much capability really deserves a cockpit that will allow the rider to squeeze every ounce of speed out of the trail.
If you haven’t tried a combo like this, you really must. Like us, you probably won’t look back. Bikes are getting more capable, and the bars and stems we’re running need to size up in relation. Doing this allowed us to fully exploit the Zesty’s potential. It felt more balanced front to rear and could be chucked about with arrow like precision.
The details impressed. The sag indicator, a simple collar around the seat tube and a corresponding sag chart on the seat stay, made it a cinch to get the shock nicely setup.
It all sounds peachy, but how does it ride?
I’ve done my best to batter it, forcing it into ever more difficult situations to see where the limits are with the bike but, try as I might; the Zesty just lapped it all up.
Riding the Zesty it is immediately apparent what a difference the changes to the suspension have made. It’s incredibly plush, small bumps are better handled and as you increase the speed and roughness of trail so the suspension shows its increased capability to cope. Nothing seemed to faze it, despite our best attempts.
It’s better able to cope with hits that push the suspension into the mid stroke, where it’s remarkably well composed with a decent amount of platforming that gives a very stable feeling. Take it onto the bigger trails and throw in some larger drops and the progressiveness in the later stage of the shock stroke works incredibly well; big landings never felt harsh, nor did it feel like it was blowing through its 140mm of travel too easily.
Not only is it at home being chased through a twisty singletrack trail, but on the climbs the bike displays its true capability as a do-everything bike. We climbed hills faster on this bike than some 29ers of equal weight. On technical climbs the suspension finds a staggering amount of traction, making previously tricky climbs almost too easy. As bikes that attempt to tame the terrain go, the Zesty is almost without rival.
And as for the change to the geometry and the shorter chainstays, they make the bike incredibly fun to throw around the trail. It responds keenly to being hustled about, thrown into deep corners, chucked down a rooty drop, lofted over a jump. It’s easily one of the most fun suspension bikes we’ve ever ridden.
One of the most composed, capable and fun 140mm trail bikes we’ve ridden.