When researching my first road bike purchase, I went round the houses for three months but eventually came back to the first one I fell for. That first copy of Cycling Plus I bought had a review of a Lapierre Audacio 400 (2013) and they liked it, much better bike than the aluminium frame and price tag suggested, they said – it was fate that I chucked that mag into my Sainos trolley. I thought it looked great in its black and sky blue paint job. Inevitably I flicked through all the mainstream options but I love things French and quirky.
Once I had earned my stripes and was ready to upgrade from my Audacio, I had three criteria; quality carbon frame, full Ultegra and endurance geometry. Two bikes hit that nail on the head for me, the newly launched Orro Gold and the Lapierre Sensium. I was within a credit card swipe of buying the Orro – a nice bloke from Orro brought one round to my house (aswell as his credit card machine) and we went out for a test ride. Great bike and it looked all stealthy in its black and gold trim. The guy left my house with the bike back in his van because I could not get the next Lappie out of my head.
Lapierre are a French brand, bike sponsors of FDJ, based in Dijon. Famed mainly for their high-end mountain bikes, they have a big share of the French road-bike market but are very scarce in the UK. They import to order and I rarely see another on our roads – I have spotted less than the fingers on one hand in 3 years. And that is what I love – it is quirky and no one else has one.
The Lapierre Sensium 400 (2015) is not to everyone’s taste looks-wise – black, white and green flashes, unnecessary text boasting of its carbon technology (I know its carbon), and no, I don’t belong to a “Lapierre Racing Team”. But that is detail. For the money (£1700) you get a great full carbon frameset, full Ultegra, carbon seat post, half-decent Deda finishing kit and a pair of bog standard Aksiums. The previous year’s model was £2300, so I knew I was getting a lot of bike for the money.
The frame is beautifully relaxed, light and comfortable but has race pedigree – it was originally developed as the Spring Classics frame for FDJ (since superceded by Pulsium) and has a lovely smooth ride, absorbing the knocks. But when you lay the torque down, the rear end is stiff and responsive and when you get to the top of Barhatch, it then returns to its sedate cruiser mode and allows you to rest in comfort (if you haven’t fallen off), as if it is breathing a sigh of relief itself. On the flat, I find it purrs along for my needs but it’s not pure-bred lightening and it doesn’t stretch you out. On the descent, it is assured and my confidence improved immediately on getting the bike – the handling of the frame and the Ultegra brakes really stand out here. It feels planted to the road and the Conti GP4000s II tyres provide buckets of grip.
One of the first things I did was swap out the wheels for some hand-builds with Aivee (French) hubs and DT Swiss rims. These were meant for the Lappie. In combo it feels like they are pushing me up the Surrey Hills – they make me smile and they make the bike hum. It is a lovely sound on a quiet Summer’s evening with the bird-song complimenting it.
The Ultegra is a well-known quantity and it works, is reliable and, when freshly indexed, butter smooth. The brakes are excellent, especially combined with some Swiss Stop Green blocks. I have swapped out the cranks for some shorter 165mm to accommodate my stumpy little legs. Ultegra is a significant step-change upgrade from my previous Tiagra set-up.
I have settled now on a black Fizik Aliante VS saddle (thanks, Rich) and Fizik 3mm bar-tape with some gel pads, again focusing on comfort. I have my rig how I want it.
Sometimes I dream of what my next bike will be and I do have pangs for a custom-build from that place in the Surrey Hills but each time I mount the Lappie, they disappear as my smile broadens. Why would I want another bike?