Field test: Lapierre XRM 8.9 - Firm French Flier - Pinkbike

Field test: Lapierre XRM 8.9 – Firm French Flier – Pinkbike

PINKBIKE FIELD TEST

Lapierre XRM 8.9


Lyrics by Matt Beer; photography by Tom Richards
Although you might be tired of hearing the term, the Lapierre marketing team decided to use the downcountry designation to describe the intent of their XRM series of short-travel bikes.

Although there are two frames in Lapierre’s cross-country stable that share the same shape, the XRM construction differs slightly from the XR model’s “Team” carbon layer. If you were up for doing some short-track cross-country, you could opt for the XR series, which only uses 80mm of rear wheel travel, while for marathon-style racing events, the XRM 110mm travel is more appropriate.

Lapierre XRM 8.9 Details

• Travel: 110 mm at the rear / 120 mm at the fork
• Carbon frame
• 66º head angle
• Reach: 440 mm
• 74.5° seat tube angle
• 435mm chainstays
• Sizes: S, M (tested), L, XL
• Weight: 12.0 kg / 26.5 lbs
• Price: 5,199 EUR
• lapierrebikes.com

For 2022, the redesigned frame moves the travel damper 55mm via a rocker placed on the seat tube and the popular “flex-stay” approach near the dropout to reduce weight. Lapierre approached the suspension design with settings that meet the needs of riders who produce high wattage and high BPM. A tapering leverage curve starts off very firm and softens towards the sag point, ideally coming up at the end of the stroke.

If that rig isn’t tight enough for you, those extra cables protruding from the handlebars hook into the lockouts of the Fox 34 StepCast fork with a Fit4 shock and Float DPS rear shock to really eliminate any suspension movement. I wouldn’t say they’re well sorted, though, as the thumb operated thumb lever for the dropper surprised us all once or twice when we tried to unlock the suspension, but instead lifted the post .

Inspection of the components bolted to the caramel-colored carbon frame shows a splatter of Shimano XT parts throughout the build. We are used to finding their four-piston brakes on enduro bikes, but Lapierre chose to downsize to two-piston XT brakes and 160/140mm rotors. Interestingly though, the overall weight of the bike isn’t as light as one might have guessed. The build is more workhorse than thoroughbred, as a closer look at the spec reveals DT Swiss XM 1700 wheels and Race Face alloy handlebars.

In terms of price, the XMR 8.9 is not as shocking as the other shop lightweights tested and their wireless gadgets. You can hop on an XRM 8.9 for €5,199 by visiting Lapierre’s online store or by visiting one of their stockists in Europe. Either side of the 8.9 is their XRM 6.9 with mostly basic SRAM components and a fixed seatpost for €4,099, and a special 75th anniversary edition from Lapierre littered with Shimano XTR, Race Face carbon parts and of a golden Fox pendant that rings in at an expensive €8,699.

As noted, the overall feel of the XRM ride is compact, and that’s mostly due to the ultra-low stack height and short top tube. We rode the size medium and while I can agree that a forward weight bias proves more effective than a relaxed weight, overall the fit was on the small side. The standing and seated riding positions were a bit cramped as the reach is only 440mm. This matched the front-to-rear balance nicely since the chainstays were 435mm. These are the same in the sizing chart, so this is something to consider for taller riders looking at tall or extra-wide frames.

I liked that the 60mm stem specified on the mid-size XRM was no longer longer and felt perfectly matched to the bikes intent and the 66-degree head tube angle. On paper, this number is deceptively low, as we will see in the top down part of the review.

Trailforks regions where we tested

Testing of the Lapierre XRM 8.9 took place primarily on the scenic Neilson North loop in Vallée-Bras-du-Nord and around the extensive Mont Sainte-Anne trail network. The North Neilson Loop is wedged in a valley between a rock monolith and follows the edge of the Neilson River over the outcropping bedrock of the Canadian Shield and navigates a single track.

We put the XRM through demanding rocks, root-infested corners and slick singletrack throughout the test to cover all the bases. There was no shortage of variety in trail conditions, but we never threw the XRM beyond its XC marathon racing intentions.

VBN ATV Trails Shannahan Sector

Escalation

Swing a leg over the XCM 8.9 and you’ll find that this bike doesn’t want to sit up in its travel. “Compliant” might be the last word I would use to describe the suspension, even on the climbs. We would often look down and recheck to see if the rear shock was locked out, only to be reminded of what the XRM was geared towards: transferring all the power to the rear wheel.

If you hit a slick section of dual-track or tarmac, closing the lockout switch engages the XRM’s full sprinting potential—you might be confused why you’d ever need a hardtail. The low stack and short reach gives you maximum leverage on top of the bike and really makes you feel like you could rip the handlebars off the stem when you get down on the cranks.

Swinging through tight switchbacks was like steering a smart car down a slalom course; it turned on a dime and the front wheel never wanted to lift. I’d point a finger at the smaller geometry numbers, like reach, stack, and wheelbase, for that reasoning. Just like the BMC Fourstroke LT, you have to be on your game – the body position is set high above the bike and any tilt or frown can change your line of attack very quickly, for better or worse. When the trail gets technical, navigating steep turns and precarious rocks requires a bit of attention because the riding position is so compact and heavily weighted forward.

Descending

All I can imagine going down the XRM descent is a big-headed caricature of myself bent over way on the front of this bike, leading with my pearly whites aimed straight at the ground. I have never felt so exposed on a bike. Once you figure out that you’re basically riding a hardtail and you shouldn’t expect this bike to save you all “Oh shit!” moments, you can find some rhythm.

That hard rear suspension is actually a handful of trying to hold it over rough terrain – getting into the travel is really effortless and not comfortable, and there’s not much traction when the bike isn’t weighted, standing above the sag mark—this is when the suspension transitions from regressive to progressive. There is good support and resistance at the bottom, it just takes a good push to get into the squish. Is all of that worth fractions of pedaling efficiency? Well, check the efficiency test for those results. I would argue that in a real-life, track-based driving scenario, this suspension theory backfires and makes the ride less compliant by simply not keeping the wheel on the ground.

The forward riding position is exacerbated by the firm breakdown of the rear shock and Fox Fit4 shock. The fork works well over chatter and small bumps, but it doesn’t hold up high enough in travel when faced with descents like “La Béatrice” on the Mont Sainte-Anne XC World Cup course.

The saving grace here is that the bike is short enough to shift your body position back and forth to balance the center of gravity. Old-school photos of me clinging to the back of a bike on the descents do exist, but at least there’s a dropper on board this time around.
Due to the bike’s short length, there’s not a whole lot of wheelbase under you to mess with cornering traction, either.

On the plus side, the XRM was the quietest bike in our test, thanks to the cable-actuated rear derailleur and rubber chain strike protection in all the right places. Component wise, the DT Swiss wheelset was superb with no issues.

The same cannot be said for the downtube of the frame. Levy managed to cough up a rock with the front tire and punch a hole in the carbon downtube, just above the bottom bracket. This could be seen as user error, or just part of the game in the XC world, where adding more weight in favor of protection is frowned upon.

Overall, it doesn’t seem like comfort was high on the priority list for Lapierre when they set out to build this cross-country marathon tool. You have to be quick to keep this one out of harm’s way.

#Field #test #Lapierre #XRM #Firm #French #Flier #Pinkbike

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