Bikemagic editor Dave got the LaPierre Zesty 314 in recently to remind himself what all last yearâ€™s fuss had been about, before the replacement model comes out soon. That looked like a good opportunity for me in my search for a new steed after 8 years in an MTB timewarp.
As yopu probably know, the Â£1900 Zesty is a 140mm all-mountain bike with a great reputation for being fun and fast. The 314 is the mid-range option, with SLX/XT mechs, nice Mavic Crossrides and Fox shocks, including 140mm at the back. Itâ€™s more of an all-rounder than LaPierreâ€™s X-Control, which BM regulars John Gourette and Daftpunk have recommended as a replacement for a fast hardtail â€“ which I hope to get my hands on too. But even if it may not ultimately be the one for me, itâ€™s part of a great tour of the key bikes around now.
First impression, coming from a trio of hardtails, is â€˜duuudeâ€™. Itâ€™s early days in my journey, and the only other full sussers Iâ€™ve ridden have been a springy, skitty Kona and an agreeable but disengaged sofa that weighed a ton. By contrast, the Zesty felt immediately well balanced and weirdly â€˜rightâ€™. It pulls off the trick of feeling kind of laid back, and beautifully planted on the ground… but at the same time not at all sluggish.
In fact the confidence and the speed are the two things that blew me away the most and put a smile on my face every time I climbed aboard. It doubtless helped that by the time the bike got to us, the 2.2 Conti Race King on the front had been changed for a 2.4 Mountain King. The grip of that fat boy on the front was a revelation â€“ to the point where it was confidence-inspiring even to be cornering on a loose surface with the back wheel virtually off the ground. Coming from a lively Klein hardtail with 2.1s, that was a new experience.
The second impressive thing was its speed â€“ wind-whistling stuff on downhills where I would have been grabbing the brake on a hardtail, and not at all bad on climbs. My default lap last weekend at Bedgebury was faster on the 28lb Zesty than it was on the 22lb Whyte 19 in fact (though Iâ€™m sure that says as much about how I benefit from a forgiving, stable ride than about the bikes themselves).
It was not at all the dead weight I feared it would be on uphills. The absence of pedal bob was an eye-opener, and it kept up happily with friends on faster bikes.
So, Iâ€™m not sure whether my reaction is the wide-eyed enthusiasm of someone exposed to a modern full-susser for the first time, but genuinely Iâ€™m impressed, and I canâ€™t wait to explore other contenders.
What do you think? Is the Zesty just pretty typical of a modern 140mm full susser, or was I riding something quite exceptional?
From other BM forum posts it looks like itâ€™s a good one for a shortlist â€“ and also as Nobby points out on this really interesting thread about choosing a bike â€“ itâ€™s going to be important to put preconceptions aside about whatâ€™s right for you until youâ€™ve tried them out. Looking forward to the next ones on the listâ€¦