The X-Control, Lapierre’s cross-country and marathon platform, might be in its 14th year, but it’s rocking a new design, including an updated suspension platform and 650b wheels.
Frame and equipment: solid selection
Marathon and short travel trail bikes are designed to be efficient and comfortable, made to boost speed and keep fatigue at bay. Ideally they’ll be fun to ride too.
The 327 is the top all-alloy model (carbon versions have just been launched), and comes with a Lapierre-branded shock. The air shock is basic but does have rebound adjustment, which is useful for taming the back end.
FPS+ suspension is an all new design for 2015
Elsewhere the spec might not amaze, but it’s all solid kit. The 100mm rear suspension is matched by a 120mm RockShox Recon TK Gold Solo Air fork. It's responsive and capable on all but big repeated hits. The 15mm axle aids steering stiffness and the lockout is useful for long climbs.
The wheels come with Mach1 rims and Formula hubs. They’re impressively built, with good spoke tension for a stiff build. They won’t win any weight contests at 2.21kg, but they’re far from heavy. As a result acceleration isn’t too taxing, aided by thin-walled Schwalbe Rapid Rob rubber.
Those tyres are probably the biggest disappointment with the spec. They might be relatively light, but the hard compound won’t give huge levels of grip unless the trails are dry and hard-packed. Fortunately they're easy to upgrade.
Shimano Deore brakes offer respectable stopping power
The 2x10 drivetrain is a dependable mix of Shimano Deore and XT. The XT cranks are, for the money, about as good as they come and the standard XT mech looks the part but we’d rather see an SLX Shadow+ derailleur, which would reduce chain clatter thanks to its clutch control. Deore shifters lack the multi-release that pricier items offer, but they’re solid bits of kit too. Shimano creates some of our favourite brakes, thanks to their reliable performance, and its Deore brakes stop the X-Control.
Easton provides the EA50 seatpost and stem – both functional items, and both plug into Lapierre branded saddle and bars. The bars are 720mm wide, leading to a cockpit that’s wide enough for this type of bike, but we’d rather see a 60 or 70mm stem, instead of the 90mm on offer to sharpen handling. A final gripe with the finishing kit is that the bike comes with a bolted seat clamp; if you want to drop your saddle you have to get the tools out. A QR clamp wouldn’t cost much to add, or add much weight.
Ride and handling: does well, so long as you respect its limits
Starting with comfort, Lapierre’s done a good job. That’s mainly thanks to the new FPS+ suspension platform, which is incredibly active. Keep the X-Control on the kind of trails it’s designed for (anything but super-gnarly, fast tech sections) and the suspension tracks the ground well, soaking up bumps and ripples. This allows you to remain seated far longer than you might expect, which is ideal for conserving your energy. The FPS+ manages to remain active during braking too, so traction and control can be maintained when you haul on the stoppers.
Things get interesting when the trails start to climb. When you’re sitting down, spinning away, the suspension does as it should. It doesn’t get out of shape, and the nature of the multi-link setup means traction is impressive, even with the lightly shod Rapid Robs.
Put too much power down and the suspension will begin to bob
When you put the power down by standing up the suspension bobs and there’s too much pedal feedback kicking your feet forwards. A more progressive shock should calm things down, but the Lapierre item lacks that adjustment. The X-Control’s designer says that adding oil to the shock would increase progressiveness, but limit the suspension’s travel.
The Lapierre shock does come with rebound adjustment, and we slowed it down a few clicks from our normal setting, which helped calm things. The tactic is to remain seated and fortunately the 73.5-degree seat angle puts your hips in a reasonable position over the bottom bracket for an efficient pedal position.
When the trail descends, the 120mm of suspension up front helps prevent the X-Control from feeling too nervous. The 68-degree head angle means that, despite the long 90mm stem, the bike’s more than capable of winding through twisty trails with relative confidence. Its geometry is far from revolutionary but it’s not old school. The stiff back end, fork and wheels allow the bike to hold a line nicely through the corners. Through swoops and berms it stays composed, but in big G-outs the relatively linear suspension gives up its travel a bit too easily and you can feel the bike disappearing beneath you.
Aim the X-Control downwards and it keeps its composure respectably on most terrain
We’ve put the X-Control through its paces on a range of routes, from wooded rooty paths to smooth manmade trails, and it coped pretty well 90 percent of the time. Sure, when trails get rowdy the X-Control gets threatened, and at the slightest hint of rain the Rapid Robs skate away from you, but for the most part, as long as you don’t exceed its design parameters it’s a perfectly functional trail bike. We’d be tempted to save for a pricier model though with a Fox shock to tame the bob.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.