First Ride: Lapierre Zesty TR 729

The Zesty TR 729 from Lapierre is a versatile trail bike with 29-inch wheels and the option of an E:i shock (which changes the shock settings automatically). Let’s take a look around the bike, and stay tuned for our full test.

07.02.14.Lapierre Zesty 29erPIC © Andy Lloyd

Lapierre Zesty TR 729.

Overview

The Zesty TR is aimed at being an all-round trail bike that bridges the gap between Lapierre’s 100mm travel XR and it’s bigger brother, the 150mm travel Zesty All Mountain. With 120mm travel and clear trickle-down ride characteristics from the AM, on paper the TR 729 is a perfect option for the UK trail centre rider. We chose to test the version with E:i shock, which comes in at £4,199.99, but it’s worth noting that the shock isn’t compulsory and without it the Zesty comes in at £3,749.99.

Frame

We love the look of the Zesty – its carbon front end gives curvy sleek lines, and its low-slung top tube provides plenty of space for manoeuvre when the going gets technical. The frame is stiff and the lack of flex gives the bike a great, nippy ride, which is perfect for thrashing around singletracks and trail centres. Dimensions are good, with plenty of space in the cockpit, yet a wheelbase that is pretty much bang-on; long enough so as to be stable at speed, but not so long that it rides like a boat. We’ll report back on durability around the linkage in our full test, so watch out for that.

Kit

For around four grand you’d really hope to get a decent build on a bike, and with the Zesty TR 729 you won’t be disappointed, although there are one or two areas we’d like to change.

Drivetrain

SRAM’s X01 groupset – which is the slightly cheaper version of the company’s ground-breaking XX1 single ring 11 speed set-up – is nothing to be sniffed at. Dependable and efficient, while providing a broad range of gears; there’s little more to be said.

Wheels

Easton’s EA70 XCT UST wheels are sturdy and stiff, another area of the bike to be content with, and an important part of the bike when talking 29ers. 24 straight-pull spokes lace into Easton’s own hub have so far proved strong and dependable enough to be given a pretty hard thrashing at the trail centre. Of course, if you want to run tubeless (and who doesn’t in this day and age?), the option is also there. A 12x142mm rear axle and 15x100mm front no doubt add to the wheels’ stiff and stable nature.

Brakes

07.02.14. Lapierre Zesty 29er PIC © Andy Lloyd

Now, this is an area of which we are going to take a slightly less optimistic view. Formula brakes have always had a good reputation among ‘core’ riders, but recently they just haven’t cut the mustard, in our opinions at least. Perhaps other companies have just upped their games. The lever isn’t as comfy as, say, an Avid number, and they come nowhere near the stopping prowess of a Shimano brake, plus they need more regular bleeds. Having said that, the brakes do include Formula’s super simple ‘quick release’ hoses – which make detaching hose from lever very easy and is a neat feature.

Kit

Schwalbe’s Nobby Nic tyres are decent, providing a good medium between a chunky adverse-conditions tyre and a summer tyre. There are grippier tyres out there but as a stock choice we can’t fault them; they’ll rip around trail centres no problem. The 90mm Easton stem and 720mm wide Nico Vouilloz signature handlebar came off straight away; just a spot on the long/narrow side for the nature of this thrashable bike, we felt.

The main show: E:i suspension 

A good frame is the heart and soul of any quality bike; its wheels the vital connection with terra firma. The Zesty TR 729 wins on both those fronts, but what about the all-important suspension with its E:i gadgetry?

Let’s start by stating the probably-predictable: we were cynical about E:i at first, even after having briefly tried out Haibike’s flagship model in 2013. Why do we need this? Surely it’s going to go wrong? What happens when we misplace the charger and/or run out of battery? Can it get wet? And so on… We had many questions to ask of the suspension system and were inclined to poke fun at it, but in fact on first ride it surprised us.

07.02.14. Lapierre Zesty 29er PIC © Andy Lloyd

The control panel. If you forget/lose this, rest assured that the E:i system still remains functional.

There are various wild claims floating around the internet as to how many times a minute the suspension can cycle through its settings with the automatic aid of E:i, which in essence is a simple motor that turns the ride setting dial on your shock for you, from ‘lockout’ to ‘medium’ to ‘open’ and places its judgement by way of readings from a cadence-monitor in the bottom-bracket, speed sensor on the front wheel, and a sensor in the fork. Some say this can change up to 200 times a minute (although the manufacturers’ guess is lower at 20-30), but we remain a tad sceptical on how fast it adjusts itself. This is merely a note.

07.02.14. Lapierre Zesty 29er PIC © Andy Lloyd

It all goes on in there.

On the trail it’s actually quite difficult to fault the E:i system; it’s hardly even noticeable, which is a good thing. Although at first we decided that not a lot was going on in there, in actual fact it was more a case of ‘fit and forget, but go pretty fast thanks to it,’ as each rider who swung a leg over the bike discovered while seamlessly powering away from the group at each intersection between descent and climb. Also when entering short, snappy sprints mid-trail the automatic swap between settings is a godsend (especially when racing mates, of course).

So far we have had no major issues with the E:i system itself and its claimed 25 hour battery life seems to be just about spot on. One problem we did encounter was that of the computer/display unit (which sits atop the stem like a normal bike computer), which has occasionally failed to register movement and settings. We can only presume this is due to water and mud getting between its connectors. Having spoken to UK distributor Hotlines, this is not so much of a problem as it first appears though, as the E:i system still functions even without the computer being attached.

07.02.14. Lapierre Zesty 29er PIC © Andy Lloyd

The battery pack.

One last thing: what happens to the suspension when the inevitable happens and you run out of battery half way round a ride? It reverts to fully open, so although pedalling efficiency won’t be at an optimum you’ll still have full use of the suspension.

With the E:i build version of the 729 the bike comes equipped with RockShox Monarch rear shock, which is one of our favourite air shocks and one we have had very few issues with. The non-E:i version, however, comes with a Fox CTD (Climb, Trail, Descend), which we have small grumbles with (as it is somewhat lacking in compression damping, meaning for harder or heavier riders it can feel ‘wallowy’ in its open setting), although the quality and smooth action are good. Up front Fox’s 32 CTD fork does the duties, although as with their rear shock it is lacking in compression damping.

What next?

07.02.14.Lapierre Zesty 29erPIC © Andy Lloyd

All in all this is a great bike, on first impressions at least. We have ridden it on a variety of singletrack and trail centre terrain so far and have found the frame to be nice and stiff, allowing for good ‘feel’ and quick handling, while its curvy, low-slung shape keeps everything nice and compact and out the way, which is great for throwing around and into turns. Hell, we haven’t even mentioned the wheel size – shows that this bike handles with the best of them.

Price: £3,749.99 w/out E:i; £4,199.99 w/E:i
Weight: 11.6kg/12kg
Sizes: S/M/L/XL (we tested the Large size, which comes up a tad smaller than some brands’ bikes and fits a 5″10′ rider well)
More information: Lapierre Zesty TR 729

We’ll be reporting back with a roundup of the bike’s perks and failings, as well as its long-term durability, in our ride feature soon, so stay tuned.

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