Review: Lapierre Zesty 327, The Budget 650B Ripper
In San Francisco, $2,900 is one months rent in a small studio apartment in a semi-gentrified portion of downtown. Elsewhere, that small fortune could net you a reliable economy car with sufficient miles on the odometer to have circumnavigated the world a half dozen times.
Yet in the strange world of cycling, that tidy figure seems paltry compared to the cost of this years latest crop of enduro wonder bikes. Since those bikes are often only within the reach of dentists, lawyers, and trust fund babies, today we’ve turned our focus to something a little more attainable.
The Lapierre Zesty 327 is a 150mm travel bike that retails for “only” $2,900, but shares an Enduro World Series proven pedigree.
Out of the box, the Lapierre landed on our scale at 31 lbs. Once we installed an aggressive front tire and a dropper post (things we consider essentials for rowdy trail riding), the weight increased by ~ three quarters of a pound (340 g), to 31 lb 12 oz.
The current industry trend is towards longer front triangles, and the 605 mm (23.8″) top tube puts the Zesty on the longer end of the spectrum for a medium. To help reign the controls in, we swapped out the stock 70mm stem for a stubby 35mm.
The brakes and cranks were both SRAM items, but the remainder of the drivetrain duties were performed by Shimano components. Shifting was flawless and the 36/22 gearing, mated to an 11-36, hit the sweet spot across a variety of conditions.
Our only complaint came in the form of the howling Elixir 3 brakes, which provide adequate stopping power, but had a tendency to pump up during prolonged descents. At this price point, we would have preferred to see Shimano’s segment leading SLX or Deore brakes come standard.
A 32mm Fox Float CTD Evolution Fork and Shock provided the squish. Both of these units have three on the fly compression modes (Climb, Trail, and Descend), but lacked the additional compression adjustments in trail mode found on higher end Fox models.
For the beginner to intermediate rider, the fork performance is fantastic, but larger or more aggressive riders will find that the the 32mm fork leaves the front end feeling undergunned when charging gnarly terrain.
The dropper post is routed under the top tube, while the remaining lines are grouped cleanly under the downtube.
Contact points are important and Lapierre didn’t skimp. The 740mm aluminum handlebars and house brand grips felt spot on, and the SDG Duster saddle proved to be comfortable over both short and long distances.
To help keep the bike affordable Lappeire did not spec the 327 with a dropper post, but for our review we mounted the trusty Fox D.O.S.S. post we have on long term review.
Please ignore the extra healthy serving of dropper routing, this photo was taken before we trimmed it
In the Lapierre line up, the Zesty and Spicy models share the same frame and OST+ Horstlink Suspension, but the Spicy swaps out the 32 mm fork (found on even the highest end 2014 Zesty model) for a 35mm fork, with an additional 10mm of travel.
The Zesty comes spec’d with Lapierre branded hubs laced to Mavic 319 rims. Despite being significantly narrower than what’s currently trendy, the rims were able to take a serious beating.
The only weak note on this setup was the 2.25″ Rapid Ron Schwalbe tires that came stock front and rear. Designed for XC riding, they felt out of place on a burly 6″ bike. We’ll skip the rest of the long and heated rant and simply suggest you swap both tires out if you live anywhere rocky.
From just about every angle, the Zesty has the overbuilt characteristics that make Tonka trucks so distinct.
This design language translates into an extremely stiff frame that can be driven hard into corners without complaint.
The downside is that our shoes rubbed on the swingarm, because of how wide the rear triangle is. The bike did come with plastic decals to protect the frame from marring, but they weren’t quite wide enough.
For our test period, we spent most our time in the redwood forests of drought ridden Santa Cruz, then headed up to Downieville to sample some rocks.
Designed on the burlier side of the 150mm trail category, the Zesty was still a capable climber while seated. The suspension has two suggested sag points for XC or AM oriented performance, but we setup our test bike on the plusher side for a more downhill oriented ride.
With that suspension setup, we found that spinning the pedals with the shock open provided ample traction and allowed even hacks (such as myself) to plow up technical climbs. During out of the saddle exertions though, the suspension was very active, and firming up the compression on the shock made a noticeable difference in performance.
When the trail dropped out of view only to emerge several feet below in mess of rocks, the Zesty got cooking. The rear shock tune has a nice progressive ramp towards the end of the stroke, which prevented harsh bottom outs, and really allowed you to muscle through sections of rough trail.
The only thing holding the bike back in these situations is the fork. While the well balanced chassis and stiff frame allow the bike to hold a line, the flex of the 32mm stanchions at this travel is noticeable.
Despite the front end flex, we frequently found ourselves stuffing the bike into berms for the fun of it. The Zesty has an uncanny ability to accelerate through corners and is incredibly nimble despite it’s curb weight. Even beginners found the front end easy to pick up and more advanced riders enjoyed how playful the bike felt in the air. It’s definitely a bike that rewards riders who are always in search of bonus lines.
If you’re looking for a full suspension bike with a reasonable price tag, the wallet friendly Zesty 327 offers a great balance of performance and quality – with a few quirks. Paring weight weenie components like a 32 mm fork and XC tires hampered the out-of-the-box performance of the 2014 model, but all of next years models were recently announced and will feature the much vaunted Pike, dropper posts, and better brakes. Whether you buy a 2014 model now or are waiting for the availability of the new model year, the Zesty is a great platform for having fun.