The Zesty model from French bike brand Lapierre has become a firm favourite over the last few years and the exciting news for 2014 is that the women's specific Zesty AM 327 Lady has had a total redesign.
Luckily it keeps all the qualities we love and now has a solid new geometry designed around 27.5 inch wheels.
Lapierre no longer make 26 inch wheeled Zesty bikes; that ship has sailed. So, you now get to choose from the Zesty TR (Trail) Lady with 29 inch wheels or the 27.5 inch AM version - which we're testing here.
The AM name stands for 'All Mountain', and as you’d expect it’s capable of riding everywhere on the mountain, you can rest assured it certainly is! Well, maybe not the biggest of drops, or the kind of crazy descents you’d need a downhill bike for, but most of the mountain is open for fun on this bike.
Geometry on the Zesty is relaxed enough to get you confidently and speedily down steep rocky trails while managing to make climbing a pleasant experience.
It’s a stable and forgiving ride, well balanced thanks to the low centre of gravity, generous wheelbase, and with 27.5" wheels it rolls comfortably over obstacles. It has a surprising turn of speed and is more agile through tighter turns than we initially assumed.
The frame is beautifully made and is bombproof in terms of construction, it feels stiff and lithe laterally and can track a line as well, if not better, than any all-mountain bike we’ve ridden. The Supreme 6 OST+ frame is a work of art in terms of the shaping and forming of the tubes and the pivot points and hardware are beefed up and offer smoother action and performance.
Concentrating on the suspension design, it’s worked so well on the Zesty for so long, we were nervous it might have been tweaked in the redesign, thankfully it’s just as plush and responsive as ever. There is 150mm of rear wheel suspension available on both the Small and Medium sized frames and both have bags of stand over height so even small riders are catered for.
The Fox 32 Float CTD Evolution fork and the rear shock have adjustment dials to allow you to switch between Climb, Trail and Descend settings, they basically adjust the amount of travel and the way in which it works to accommodate the terrain.
In the Climb position both the shock and fork responded to bumps and rocks to maintain good traction without wasting any pedalling energy. After a long rooty and rocky ascent in Climb mode, adjusting to the Trail setting showed off the plush suspension on the flowing singletrack sections.
Switching to Descend mode the bike handled reasonable sized drops and rock strewn trails with ease. Setting up the rear shock is simple and effective thanks to the sag indicator on the seat stay, you adjust the air pressure until the seat tube lines up with the ‘line’ and off you go.
Some reviews on the ‘unisex’ Zesty suggest the fork could do with beefing up to open the scope for bigger mountain riding, but in Lapierre’s defence I don’t think most women would want the extra weight or feel the benefit. Having thrown the Zesty down some sketchy descents we have no complaints about the 32mm diameter fork.
My general feeling is that bike manufacturers should look at choosing components that are lighter for female specific bikes. Typically being smaller, and dare I say it not as strong as blokes, women welcome lighter components and bikes.
Anyway, back to the Zesty AM Lady - having 150mm travel on both ends leads to a well-balanced bike with ample travel for most situations, having to reach down to the fork and shock to switch between CTD settings is a bit daunting when riding along a technical trail, so remote levers would be my preference here, but that would obviously increase the price tag.
The drivetrain and gears are a nice mixture with SRAM X7 front derailleur, Shimano SLX shifters and XT Shadow Plus rear derailleur - a low profile mech which means it’s less likely to get damaged out on the trail and with a clutch system that reduces chain slap dramatically. How did we ever manage without this, and it’s great not to need a chain device to restrain the chain too?
The gearing is 2 x 10 providing ample range for most terrain situations. Brakes are Formula RX and have loads of reach adjustment on the levers, so one-finger braking was a doddle for my small hands, braking was accurate too.
A female specific Fizik Vesta Lady MG is a good all round choice for women riders too, we found it offered plenty of support and good level of comfort. The slender shaping through the sides and towards the rear allow you to move around on the saddle without restriction.
Upgrade potential includes cable routing for an adjustable seatpost and e:I electronic shock system, although you’re looking at quite an outlay (up to £500) for those upgrades. That said, a dropper seat-post would be the very first upgrade I’d buy for this bike, especially for proper mountain riding. Stopping to lower or raise the saddle is really annoying and means you have to slow down to do so, not something we welcomed whilst riding the Zesty AM 327 Lady, it was just too much fun to ride.
The £2299 price tag surprised us, we were expecting to pay another couple of hundred quid at least, so it was a welcome surprise! The overall weight isn’t spritely, but then neither price tag or the spec on an aluminium frame would suggest otherwise, also a solid bike rolls well over obstacles and that’s the aim for an all-mountain bike.
The actual weight of our size medium Zesty AM 327 Lady is 13.7kg, so it’s not too lardy, you’d need to spend a whole load more to get a lighter bike. There could be some weight savings on the Mavic XM319 wheels and Schwalbe Rapid Rob tyres but again there’s a financial implication associated with that kind of upgrade.
It’s aptly named as an 'all mountain' bike, but, it certainly is not for 'ladies', so tune in to your inner speed demon and let it rip with the Zesty AM327 Lady.
Descending is stable, fast and controlled and the suspension is definitely worth writing home about. The all new frame designed around the 27.5 inch wheels improves handling and is awe-inspiring as well as confidence inducing. All that rolled into a very competitive price tag too!
If you’re looking for a trail biased Lapierre then the Zesty Trail is a natural fit for UK based riding, it’s slightly lighter (about 400g) and has 30mm less travel than the AM and costs £2099.
However, should you be likely to venture into the mountains or get your kicks on descents then the AM will float your boat more. Of course, there’s the choice between 27.5 and 29" wheels to consider too.
- Well specced for the price tag
- Rides like a dream - descends like a demon and doesn't turn its nose up to climbing
- It's gagging for an adjustable seat post
Sizes: Small or Medium
More information: Lapierre
What Lapierre say about the Zesty AM 327
An established best-seller, the Zesty All-Mountain is now equipped with 27,5’’ wheels and a new OST+ 150 mm frame. It’s now even more playful in descent without forsaking the best compromise between reliability and weight.
It's ultra-light monocoque carbon or Supreme 6 frame is even stiffer and more robust, with geometry adapted to 27.5’’ wheels to make it as fun a ride as possible.
e:i Shock and telescopic seatpost are available as standard on 4 of the 5 models, and all benefit from a short stem, 740 mm riser handlebar, 180mm Formula brakes, FOX 32 mm fork, SDG saddle, 1 x 11 or 2 x10 drivetrain….. ready to hit the trail!