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The Frame

The XR 729 frame is all carbon and is designed to run 29 inch wheels. Lapierre use a linkage driven single pivot suspension design. Most of Lapierre’s longer travel bikes make use of a chainstay pivot, on the XR 729 however the pivots are replaced with flexible carbon stays.

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The seat tube is interrupted by a wedge which supports the suspension linkage and houses the rear shock. The design raises some eyebrows in terms of aesthetic tastes. Personally, I like it. There are far too many curvy carbon masterpieces out there. I find the brash design on the XR 729 refreshing. And, when you take the bike out on the trails, it's clear that the design is not only for cosmetic purposes.

Component check

The Lapierre XR 729 as tested was built up from a frame with a custom parts. With the exception of the wheelset, none of these components come on the full factory build.

Fork: We’ve harped on about the excellence of the Pike in a number of bike reviews but never have we had one on a full blown cross country bike. Despite my initial skepticism it turned out to be an excellent choice and matched the feel of the rear suspension surprisingly well.

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Shock: I have had mixed experiences with Fox Float CTD shocks while testing other bikes. The XR 729, however, managed to awaken the Fox shock and it was a pleasure to ride on the Lapierre.

Wheelset: The DT Swiss Spline X1700 wheelset proved to be up to the challenge. Despite being a bit narrow for current trends, the wheels performed flawlessly. Even with some hard bashing they remained predictable and sturdy throughout testing.

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Tyres: While the Schwalbe tyres rolled excellently on farm roads, the Thunder Burt on the rear was ill-equipped for the dry Cape trails and farm road turns.

Drivetrain: The drive train was a bit of a mix and match. Shimano’s XT 11-speed shifter, derailleur and cassette were driven by an older XTR crank fitted with a Wolf Tooth chainring. The combination shifted well and proved to be reliable.

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Seatpost: The XR 729 arrived with a RockShox Reverb adjustable seatpost. While not yet widely adopted by endurance races, from my observations at least, there are many riders (and medical insurers) who would reap benefit from the use of a telescopic seatpost.

On the trail

Although the Lapierre XR 729 arrived dressed with some components you would expect to see on a trail bike, it remained a very capable cross-country weapon.

Going up the hills, the XR 729 did a good job transferring pedalling energy into forward motion. In full lockout, I found myself occasionally spinning out the Thunder Burt tyre on steeper, loose trails. I favoured the Trail setting for just the right amount of pedalling platform while still giving enough compliance to maintain grip and comfort. The efficiency of the rear suspension continues on the flat open road with a direct feel of pedalling effort translating into forward motion.

The Lapierre XR 729 climbs and covers distance like a cross-country bike but on the descents it outshines the competition. The 100 mm rear travel felt deep with good support from the mid-stroke onward. There was a firmness at the end of suspension range that gave the XR 729 an almost bottomless feel. The bike felt composed through rocky sections and punchy on faster smooth trails. The full carbon frame felt nimble, stiff and responsive throughout testing. The sturdy Pike in a 120 mm configuration matched well with the capable rear suspension. It provide the added assurance needed to explore the unexpectedly broad boundaries of the XR 729.

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The unique shock position proved to have its advantages and disadvantages. While it may sound trivial, the position of the shock in the frame was perfect for easily adjusting and checking the damper switch position. The downside, there is no space for a second bottle cage on the seat tube. It also makes it a bit tricky to measure sag with the shock tucked into the frame.

Unfortunately, despite trying, I was unable to source a 100 mm cross-country fork in time to put it on the XR 729. It would have been interesting to see how a shorter race inspired fork would have sharpen the geometry and impacted the feel and balance of the XR 729.