I’ve followed the French brand Lapierre for years, regularly admiring the sleek, fast-looking frames at Interbike each year, but I’ve never had a chance to test ride one. So at Sea Otter Europe this year I made a point to reserve a Zesty AM 527 in my size to test on the trails north of Girona.
The Zesty AM 527 frame
The Zesty AM 527 Ultimate I tested features a full carbon frame, but lower-level builds with aluminum frames are available from Lapierre too. With internal cable routing and a glossy finish, the Zesty AM looks smooth and svelte. Offering 150mm of rear travel, the frame utilizes a VPP suspension design Lapierre calls OST+ (Optimized Suspension Technology).
The 2018 model I rode sports a Boost-spaced rear end and metric shock sizing, which should future-proof the design a bit, at least for the next few seasons anyway. Sadly for the home mechanics out there, Lapierre went with a press-fit bottom bracket on this version of the Zesty AM.
Lapierre says the Zesty AM, which rolls stock on 27.5″ wheels, is also 27.5+ compatible. This is a bit unusual since most bikes boasting 27.5+ compatibility start as 29ers. There isn’t any kind of flip chip to account for the jump up to bigger plus wheels, which is a little suspect IMO. However, it’s clear the Zesty AM offers plenty of side-to-side and front-to-back clearance for fatter tires, notwithstanding what the taller tires might do to the overall geometry.
Speaking of geometry, the Zesty AM sports a 66.5 degree head tube angle which is about half a degree more slack than the average trail bike according to our calculations, but pretty much spot on for a 27.5 bike with 150mm of rear travel. The Zesty AM also offers a longer-than-average reach for a trail bike, which many riders may appreciate.
The 527 Ultimate build sits just below the top of the line and is the least expensive build (€3,599, or about $4,250) Lapierre offers with a carbon frame. Buyers get a 150mm RockShox Revelation fork, RockShox Deluxe RT shock, and a SRAM GX Eagle 12-speed drivetrain.
Lapierre brands a number of the included components themselves, including the usual bits like the 760mm alloy bars, 55mm stem, and even the wheel set. The company takes things one step further and includes a Lapierre branded dropper post with 150mm of travel. The bike I tested features a thumb-over-bar remote which is not my first choice, but the post and remote seemed to work just as well as any other I’ve used.
SRAM Guide R brakes and Maxxis High Roller II tires (2.3″ wide) round out the build. All told, the Lapierre Zesty AM 527 Ultimate weighs a smidge over 28lbs.
On the trail
Thanks to its light weight, the Zesty AM 527 Ultimate climbs like a champ. The 74.5 degree seat tube angle placed me comfortably upright, while the Eagle drivetrain allowed me to stay seated for maximum efficiency. I found the steering tracked straight, made somewhat easier thanks to the 27.5 wheels compared to the 29ers I tested earlier in the weekend. Overall I have to say the climbing performance was solid, but unremarkable.
However, I can’t say the same about descending on the Zesty.
Of all the bikes I tested at Sea Otter Europe, the Zesty AM was by far the most capable (and fun!) on the descents. This isn’t just hyperbole; my Strava data backs up the fact that I descended faster on the Zesty AM than on any other bike I tested. Despite offering only 150mm of travel front and rear, the Lapierre felt like it offered much more, like an enduro bike shrouded in trail bike specs.
How can I explain this descending prowess? Honestly, I’m not sure. There’s certainly something to be said for the VPP suspension design. Looking back at the test bikes I’ve enjoyed the most over the years, most, if not all of my favorites, use a VPP or VPP-like suspension design. It could have been the suspension tune; perhaps this test bike was more dialed than the others I rode. Or maybe it was the fact that I was running short on time to return the bike and I just decided to pin it back to the expo.
Whatever the case, I felt extremely confident aboard the Zesty AM 527 and found both small bump compliance and its ability to soak up big hits to be excellent.
Back in 2013 Lapierre announced they would be selling their bikes in the US, though sadly it seems those plans have been abandoned. Still, the company continues to pump out regular updates to their mountain bike line, with relevant geometry and specs that in my experience, are even better on trail than they appear on paper.