Battery Included: We Test An ‘Intelligent’ Mountain Bike

A bike that knows what terrain is coming and adapts its suspension, but still goes like hell on climbs and smooth trail…. Sounds like science fiction, but a mountain bike by Lapierre, the XR 729, does just that, instantly recognizing terrain over which you ride via sensors and adjusting your rear shock in milliseconds.

It’s the first technology of its kind, and in our test it worked seamlessly. Here’s a closer look.

The Gear: Lapierre XR 729

Price: About $5,500, but contact your local dealer. Lapierre shares a parent company with Diamondback and Raleigh so a shop that carries those brands can set you up.

Available: Now.

Who’s it’s for: The affluent rider looking for the best of both worlds — an efficient race bike that doubles as a capable and plush descender.

Smart Suspension: Lapierre’s “e:i Shock technology” crunches data collected by an accelerometer in the fork as well as a cadence monitor in the bottom bracket to optimize the rear shock for the coming terrain in a blink. In short, when the front shock hits a bump, the rear shock opens within 0.1 of a second, smoothing out the impact of the rear wheel. Pedal on smooth terrain and the e:i shock will lock out the rear faster than you can say “hardtail.”

Important Specs: Beyond the remarkable shock technology, the XR 729 is a crosscountry thoroughbred with 100mm travel front and rear. The carbon frame is gorgeous and the SRAM XO build is remarkably light at just 24 lbs 3 oz. This is the company’s mid-level build. Lapierre has a team build made with this frame at 21 lbs flat.

Made In: Taiwan. Designed, engineered and tested in France by downhill and enduro champion Nico Vouilloz.

Awesome!
— Innovative design looks evil, the best looking race bike this year
— Never get caught bombing a downhill with your lockout on
— You won’t get “Nintendo thumb” locking out your ride over and over
— Keep up with your hardtail friends on the Strava climbs and let it rip on the descents
— Well-designed frame with beautiful curves and paint, solid mechanicals, nice wheels
— Lightweight at just 24lbs, 3oz (with tubes and pedals)

Flaws:
— There is no front lock-out, so the stiff efficiency we sought was never fully realized
— Even the rear “lock-out” is not as “locked out” as a hardtail, it is merely very firm
— Extra wires, batteries, computers and parts; not for the minimalist
— Block out a little extra time for cleaning versus standard full suspension

In The Saddle Impression: Our test rider Justin Bakken put a Lapierre XR 729 through the wringer this season, racing it through the Minnesota Mountain Bike Series season as part of Team GearJunkie/WEDALI. It handled the wide variety of terrain in the Gopher State well.

The bike feels fast and racy, but the shock really does open to make technical section easier. The riding position feels low, sunk in-between the wheels, which helps descending and handling.

The bike’s suspension design deserves some of the credit. Even without the auto-sensor, the bike climbed and accelerated better than most other full suspension bikes — it always felt fast and efficient.

Notable changes from this 2014 bike for 2015:
— Colored LED shock indicator (no hard-to-read stem computer screen)
— Streamlined setup and improved electronics
— Changed battery design keeps bottle cage spot open

Bottom line: Is this the mythical “do it all” unicorn of a bike we have all been waiting for? Not quite. The front end does not lock out, so some efficiency is lost there. But we like it, and considering there is virtually no weight penalty to be paid for its intelligent lock-out, it makes for a very compelling cross-country ride.

Contact Brand/MoreBeta: Lapierre XR 729

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