2015 Lapierre Spicy Team – Long term review
I am an unabashed bike geek. I should really have a medal or a lapel badge to show it. I lust over the latest carbon full suspension rigs with their linkages and lock outs. I read the marketing spiel and absorb what the latest suspension design is going to do for my riding. I may even comment on how a bike might ride based on the geometry or suspension leverage curve. Put me on a bike though and all that geekery goes away and I just want to focus on my riding and not worry about any of that, because at the end of the day that’s what a bike is for.
Despite my geekery I’m also a bit of a technophobe. I like my bikes to be simple and ride well without any more of my input than needed. I don’t want to be messing about with shock modes to get the best out of the bike for what I’m riding at that moment. I’m forgetful and tend to dive into a trail forgetting which mode the rear shock or fork is in and I’m often so busy trying to navigate a bit of trail that I don’t have the motor skills to activate or deactivate anything when I’m just trying to hang on to the bike.
So why was I interested in riding the Lapierre Spicy Team, a bike with electronic wizardry to control the shock? Well the way I saw it, it was a bit like adding a few extra brain cells to aid my ride. Nothing wrong with having a helping hand sometimes. I recognize that having a shock interpret speed, impacts and cadence and react accordingly could be beneficial.
The quick ride that I had on a Spicy with the E:I shock setup at Interbike had got me interested. The bike felt nimble heading up the hill and yet when pointed down it had serious descending intent. The terrain we rode at Bootleg Canyon wasn’t enough for me to get a strong sense of how the bike really handled so I wanted to try things out on more challenging trails on my home turf.
Luck was on my side and it was a few weeks later that I picked up a fresh from the box Spicy Team from Mike at Lapierre. The Spicy Team is dripping with SRAM’s finest from the wheels to the seat post, with Michelin rubber fitted as a nod to the homeland. This was actually my first experience on the new Michelin tires (Wildrock’r Magic-X -front, Wildgrip’r Gum-X rear) and I actually quite like them. They have very good traction in most conditions but they excelled when it was dry and loose. The sidewalls are nice and stiff, they set up tubeless nicely and they seem to be durable as well. There is a price to pay for this though and it is weight.
The Michelins are around 1000 grams at each end and they contribute to the slightly porky overall weight of the bike. At 30.5lbs for my size large with pedals, the Spicy Team is not the lightest of the bunch in the enduro genre, easily giving away 2.5lbs or more to some of the competition. Having said that the bike is equipped with tires fit for purpose and not something for the show room floor. Even so a tire switch, without much performance compromise, could knock a pound off this bike.
I was itching to get out and ride the bike on some familiar trails and as soon as you jump on the bike you are aware of the rear shock shuffling between the three modes. Firstly you can hear the motor on the top of the Monarch shock doing its thing. Secondly the head unit has a LED that indicates modes, green for fully open, orange for the mid-platform and red for the full platform. That full platform mode has three actually selectable options, from super firm and almost locked out to firm but with some give for climbing technical trails.
The sensors pick up inputs from the fork and head unit on the stem to determine what sort of terrain you are riding and this info is combined with the cadence sensor hidden in the bottom bracket to determine the correct setting. As soon as you have put in half a pedal stroke the red light on the head unit lights up indicating that you are in full platform mode.
For climbing something like a fire road this is a good thing. You hit the bottom of a climb and start to pedal and away you go with barely a bob from the rear end. As soon as you reach the top and stop pedalling the green light on the head unit flashes up indicating that the rear shock is now in fully open mode. If the accelerometer on the fork and the head unit sense bump inputs while you are pedalling the rear shock goes into the mid setting to balance compliance and power transfer.
That climb mode actually helps the bike beyond giving you a firmer pedal platform. It also sits the bike up in its travel a little, effectively steepening the head angle and giving you a touch more clearance from pedal to rock (or root). Given that the bike has 150mm of rear travel it helps the Spicy Team feel quite spritely when you get up on the pedals.
In practice it was hard to say how often the mid setting was activated. I caught the orange light in my peripheral vision a few times but I sometimes felt that the way I ride prevented that mode from kicking in when I needed it. For instance if you come to a stepped section of trail on a climb, an experienced rider will often loft the front wheel over a lot of trail chunder while letting the rear end soak it up. Doing this means that the fork doesn’t sense impacts and the rear shock will remain in full platform mode, potentially robbing a little bit of traction or requiring a little more physical input from the rider.
It helps to have the shock set to the loosest of the full platform settings, but there were some rare times that I wished that the rear shock was giving me a touch more traction than it thought it should. This happened a few times on trails that were very much up and down in quick succession with punchy rooty climbs. It made me think that it wouldn’t be so hard for Lapierre to offer a mode on the E:I unit that would use the mid platform mode more readily for riders that want that.
Given that this is Nico’s weapon of choice for Enduro racing it wouldn’t surprise you to learn that the Spicy Team was a fun bike when gravity was on your side. Actually that’s a bit of an understatement. I had a lot of fun on this bike and really liked it for hitting rowdy terrain. The Spicy Team is an easy bike to get up to speed on. The geometry is very well balanced, with the static head angle at a moderately slack 66.5, a roomy 24.6″ top tube on my large frame and the chainstay length at 16.9″. I had enough room on the bike to weight the front and rear tires as needed without feeling like I really needed to throw my weight around excessively to stay centered on the bike.
Lapierre should be commended for the set up of the Monarch rear shock in combination with their take on the 4-bar linkage. I set the sag so that when the shock was fully open it sat right on the FR mark on the indicator on the chain stay. I then set the rebound to the slow side of pogo stick and left the settings at that. Even ignoring all the electronics, the rear end has that feeling where you have a hard time detecting if you are getting full travel as the ramp is nice and gradual and at the same time the mid-stroke support is there to allow you to pop the bike up and over stuff on the trail. It also means that on flowing and relatively smooth trails the Spicy doesn’t feel like too much bike. Some bikes with similar travel and intentions can feel sluggish on flow trails, so it was nice that the Spicy still allowed me to enjoy a rip down Expresso.
The Spicy Team is a bike that reacts best to a rider that is active on the bike rather than being a passenger. You can ride it that way but it is not this bike’s M.O. You can generate some serious pace on this bike by turning on your inner trail ninja and working with the terrain. Picking the bike up and gapping roots, hitting the downside of jumps and basically interacting with the trail make this bike fly and it encourages that type of riding. That shock set up helps the bike feel lively and willing but at the same time it has your back if you get into something over your head.
Into the twisty stuff and the bike remains faithful. The frame is nice and stiff front to rear and backed up by the wheels and tires. The stiff chassis urges you to hit turns harder and faster, sticking to a chosen line without wavering. The geometry is such that you can make sure that you stick the front tire into a line if you reach the tires’ limits that both tires will tend to drift at once. The added benefit of the E:I shock is that when getting after it and wanting to hit the gas out of a turn, the shock will firm up making it feel like someone just stuck a roman candle in your shorts. It basically inspires you to ride in race mode all the time.
There is one thing to consider with the bike for certain riders. The rear stays do splay quite wide around the rear brake caliper, so if you have large feet and ride with your heels more inboard than the rest of your foot, you will likely rub the chain stays as you pedal. For me, I have a pretty straight gait and I didn’t rub the stay but I know some riders that do. It isn’t a big issue and the wide rear end probably contributes to how stiff the frame feels but it would pay to cover that area with some tape if you want to keep the frame looking good.
The component choice is pretty spot on. The SRAM Rail 50 wheels were particularly impressive, being featured packed with bladed straight pull spokes and asymmetric rims. They have impressive stiffness when tracking through something rough or maxing out the g’s in a bermed turn. While I may have highlighted the portly Michelin tires, they are definitely worth considering if you ride in really rocky terrain or are looking for something that you can run at low pressures while tubeless. I got down to 24psi on the front and 27psi at the back, without rolling the tire or having any issues with burping. The sidewalls and tread show little signs of wear or damage even after a lot of hard riding.
For me, I’m still a fan of Shimano brakes, so even with the new Guides from SRAM I would likely swap them out, but I won’t be quite as upset when a bike turns up with Guides on. Lever feel is definitely improved for a SRAM brake and the power is good, but to me the Guides still don’t quite have the infallibility of Shimano and the build quality of the lever just isn’t the same.
This bike suits an experienced rider that likes a bike to have good trail feedback and is easily placed on their line of choice. Maybe the influence of Nico has a hand in that, but you can seriously haul ass on this bike without feeling like you’ve reached its limits. It is like you have a little devil version of Nico sat on your shoulder egging you on to pedal out of a corner, carry more speed into a section or gap over some roots. It is a fast bike in the right hands.
While the E:I shock isn’t without its minor quirks, it works pretty seamlessly and I feel that the benefits it brings to the bike outweigh the negatives. It gives the bike a sense of responsiveness that can be lost on bikes with 6″ of travel and not having to worry about flipping a lever allows the rider to focus on the trail while in full attack mode. I can see why for a rider like Nico that can be a big aid during a long day in the saddle at an EWS round. It also means that the Spicy Team is a good all-round trail bike, having good manners even when heading up, although losing a pound or so could make it even more effective for that.
The 2015 Lapierre Spicy Team sits at the top of the range and retails for $8500USD. The lower models, the 527 and 327 feature full aluminum frames rather than the carbon front triangle on the Team and retail for $4800USD and $3500USD respectively.
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