Slightly lighter for 2012 and with the already excellent OST suspension evolved even further, Lapierreâ€™s Zesty is a truly outstanding ride, even if some of the componentry on the 314 model is begging for upgrades.
Ride & handling: Outrageously controlled suspension, superbly balanced weight distribution
The Zesty is saddled with a twisty fork, under-levered cockpit and plastic tyres, which makes the way this bike transformed the riding of most testers who tried it even more remarkable. Despite its 29.34lb (13.31kg) weight, it pedals with such stability yet consistent grip that it drops most others in its travel category (140mm) with ease on technical climbs.
Not only does it pedal and float the small stuff sweetly, the OST+ suspension sucks up squares edges with impressive economy and efficiency. It also controls the bikeâ€™s position and response so well that it seems to actually pump the Zesty forwards over punishing sections.
It doesnâ€™t matter if itâ€™s the big boulder blocks of rougher trail centres or geological chunder on a gnarly bridleway, the Lapierre stays mobile and fluid where other bikes stutter and choke. Modifications to the shock rate for 2012 means it now handles the biggest hits better too, landing serious launches like a cat.
Consistent shock control, impeccable weight balance plus frame and rear end stiffness mean no stumble or stagger when you push it to the limits either. No hesitation, no heart stopping ‘what happens next?’ off-line horror â€“ just check your line, release the brakes, drop in, land and collect control instantly before driving straight out.
Through every technical section it accumulates not just speed, but confidence, momentum and an unparalleled, insolent playfulness. Weâ€™ve watched everyone from enduro downhill racers hitting the lines and times they normally reserve for their big-hit race bikes to hardcore roadies suddenly ripping the descents like serious rad addicts on the Zesty and itâ€™ll likely do the same for you.
Frame & equipment: Stiff chassis needs component upgrades to unlock its ultimate potential
The Zesty has undergone a subtle but significant evolution for 2012. The head angle is a degree slacker and the bottom drops for increased stability too. The chainstays are also significantly shorter, bringing them inline with the category average and increasingly 3D agility. Tubing is lighter in most areas but tighter at the pivots for a stiffer overall feel. Decent tyre clearance, tidy cable routing and carbon mech protector fin are all still present.
The OST suspension has been tweaked to create OST+. This moves the shock mount forward and adds a blanking block onto the rear of the can. This reduces the angle change in the shock as it goes through the stroke and creates a more progressive compression rate. It also means you can fit a longer shock and link to give 160mm of travel, like the bigger Spicy model.
The Fox fork rides well but the quick-release tips and Mavic wheels feel flexy when pushed. The bar is narrow and the stem long considering the chaos tackling capability of the chassis. Formula brakes and Shimano gears provide a superb stop/go combo. Itâ€™s worth noting that the 514 model adds a lighter, stiffer carbon mainframe and through-axle RockShox fork for an extra Â£600.
We like the balance of chunkier Mountain King II front tread and lower-profile, faster X-King rear on the Continental tyre combo but the hard compound is slippery when wet. The top level Black Chili version of the tyres (or another brand entirely) would really let the Zesty shine.
This bike was tested as part of What Mountain Bike magazine’s Bike of the Year shootout. You can read the full feature in this month’s mag, in shops now, and available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.
Trail Bike of the Year preview
The testers reflect on this year’s crop of bikes