With the curved top tube, black and yellow colour scheme, and skin wall tyres, the XR 729 draws attention wherever it goes. A bike this distinct is bound to divide opinions and generate some strong reactions. I enjoy the highly engineered appearance, and after three weeks with the bike, I can say it is not just a pretty face. The Frame The frame has seen some tweaks from the 2016 model (which we reviewed here). The geometry has been updated significantly: the chainstay is 5 millimetres shorter, the reach is 20 millimetres longer, and it has been specced with a shorter 70 mm stem. These changes aim to provide more responsive steering and a more agile ride.Other features include internal dropper post routing, and trap door technology which offers Di2 battery mounting inside the frame above the bottom bracket, or the option to store the e:i suspension battery out of sight. Components The XR 729 is the second from the top of the XR range, and is well kitted out.Fork: I got on well with the Rockshox SID RL. I find the travel very smooth and the fork easy to set up. Shock: The Rockshox Monarch e:i RT3 feels super plush. Lapierre recommend running it at 30% sag which I did. I felt that there was a bit of a mismatch between fork and shock. The shock felt very plush, while the fork is a hardcore cross country fork and handles like one. I tried pumping up the shock to just over 25% sag, and this felt a little more balanced but meant I wasn't using the full travel on the rear. I think time, and some more tweaking of the suspension setup might have resolved this.
Wheels: The Mavic Crossmax Elite wheelset features boost front and rear hubs. The wheels felt reassuringly stiff and engagement time on the hubs was good.Tyres: The Maxxis Skinwall tyres are a nice peacocky touch and are one of the reasons the bike stands out so well from the crowd. The 2.25" Ardent on the front offers acres of grip, and the 2.2" Ikon on the rear serves its purpose well, as a fast rolling, lightweight cross country tyre. Drivetrain: Lapierre opted for a 2x11 drivetrain on this bike, with an 11-40 SLX cassette and an XT crankset with 26- 36 chainrings. Only their top of the range offering, the XR 929 Ultimate comes with a 1x drivetrain: SRAM's 12 speed Eagle. Although from an aesthetic and simplicity point of view, I prefer a 1x drive train, the reality is that my legs do love the granny gear on a 2x system. I find it a lot more comfortable covering distance, and dealing with punchy climbs with the aid of the 26 tooth chainring. So while I think this bike would look even sleeker and more dangerous with a 1x setup, and losing the extra cabling and weight wouldn't hurt: from a functional point of view the drivetrain does the job admirably. Brakes: The Shimano XT brakes, as always, offered firm reliable braking. Contact points: I used the Lapierre VL-1743 by Velo saddle for the three week test period without issues. It was comfortable, although it was noticeably too narrow for my super wide sit bones. I liked that it didn't feel cheap and slippery like stock saddles often do. The grips offered good cushioning and the 720mm handlebars with a 70mm stem were a good fit for me on the medium frame.
E:i Shock The e:i Shock is the intelligent suspension system pioneered by Lapierre and is the reason for the somewhat space age appearance of the XR 729. The system is composed of a rechargeable battery, mounted to the down tube, a control & display unit on the headset including an accelerometer, a servo motor mounted to the shock, an accelerometer on the fork lowers and a cadence sensor on the crank axle. The entire system has a claimed weight of 350 grams.The motor shifts the compression damping of the shock between three modes: open, medium and closed based on input from the sensors which change depending on the terrain. The compression mode is indicated by the display LED which is solid in automatic mode. Green indicates open, yellow the medium setting and red is fully locked out. When freewheeling or not pedalling the suspension automatically moves to the open setting: this is useful for descending and jumps or drops where the fork may not register a hit before the shock needs to open.
It is possible to adjust the sensitivity of the system by pressing and holding the button on the control unit for 4 seconds. The green light indicates maximum sensitivity to bumps, the yellow light is the medium (and most commonly used setting) and the red light indicates minimum sensitivity ie. the firmest suspension setting.The system can easily be switched to manual mode by simply pressing the control button once. When the display LED is solid it indicates automatic (electronic control) mode. A flashing LED indicates a manual setting, where green = open, yellow = medium, red = closed. On the trail, the e:i Shock system is pretty handy. Much like the Specialized Brain, it lets you get on with the business of riding, without having to fiddle with suspension settings. It can feel rather weird as it switches between modes: the change is noticeable as it firms up on flat ground, or opens on rough terrain, along with the characteristic buzz of the servo motors. Once you get cracking on a fun piece of trail, it is easy to forget about it, but I found myself watching the light and trying to predict when the mode would change whenever I was slogging along jeep track. To give you a rough idea: the e:i shock locks out on tar, flat jeep track and sand, while choppier jeep track with small stones and roots would cause it to switch to medium, and finally any bigger hits or baby head sized stones would open up the suspension completely. The battery provides 24 hours of riding time. I was none too pleased at having yet another battery to think about and sure enough: after riding the bike for two weeks without charging the battery I was caught out by the flashing green and red- indicating low battery. The shock defaults to open when the battery dies, and thankfully I was able to continue riding. Geometry & Sizing Specifications
FrameXR 29’’ CARBON 100mm Rear Travel BOOST 148ForkROCKSHOX SID RL 29’’ SOLO AIR BOOST 15x110 / Mechanical: SID RL + ONELOC REMOTERear shockROCKSHOX MONARCH e:i RT3 190x40mm / Mechanical: DELUXE RL 190x40mmHeadsetFSA ORBIT 1.5E ZS + 8mm Top CapBottom bracketSHIMANO SMBB7141A PRESS FITCranksetSHIMANO XT FCM8000 BOOST HOLLOWTECH II 36x26 FOR 11-Speed 170mm (S) / 175mm (M, L, XL)StemRACE FACE EVOLVE 6° Ø: 31.8mm L: 70mm (S, M, L) / 90mm (XL)SeatpostRACE FACE EVOLVE Ø: 31.6mm L: 400mmHandlebarLAPIERRE HB-FB21L TOP FLAT W: 720mm R: 15mm Ø: 31.8mmFront derailleurSHIMANO XT FDM8020E6XRear derailleurSHIMANO XT RDM8000GS 11-SpeedBrakesSHIMANO HYDRAULIC XT BRM8000 BLACK - SHIMANO SMRT76 180mm / 160mm 6 Bolt TypeShiftersSHIMANO XT SLM8000 I-Spec 11-SpeedSaddleLAPIERRE VL-1743 BY VELOWheelset CROSSMAX ELITE UST 29’’ 15x110 / 12x148 BOOST + LAQR12-E Thru AxleCassetteSHIMANO SLX CSM7000 11x40 11-SpeedTyresMAXXIS ARDENT Tubeless READY 29x2.25 / IKON Tubeless READY 29x2.20 SKINWALLSizeS,M,L,XLPriceR85,000.00
On the trail Jumping on the XR 729 initially felt like piloting a space ship. The “bzzzz” of the servo motor as the shock changes modes can be disconcerting, and the nest of cables around the cockpit feels cluttered and excessive.Once you hit the trail you forget about it all. The bike eats up climbs, the more technical the better. I love the challenge of a steep, loose and rocky climb, and this bike feeds that: powering straight over rocks that I would usually try threading my way around and motoring through thick sand. As long as you put in the power, the bike finds a way. It made me feel like a superhero. On the flip side, when my legs weren’t in the game it felt like a lot of bike to be pushing around. The XR 729 comes alive in the rocky sections. Photo credit: Theo Bruwer. Point it downhill and it feels like a trail bike, the 69 degree head angle lends confidence, and the shortened chain stays give it unexpected agility. It is the sort of bike that has you looking for rocks, roots and bumps in the trail to boost off. There is no better way to test an XC bike, than in cross country race. Fortunately for me, and the purposes of this review, the test period coincided with the first SA Cup XCO series event at Rhebokskloof and the Cape Town Cycle Tour 55km MTB marathon race the following weekend, so I was able to get a feel for the bike in its natural habitat. The XR 729 delivered on both occasions. The slack head angle translated into heaps of confidence, and forgiveness through the rock gardens on the XCO course. Drop offs that would otherwise have given me the horrors, were barely noticeable. Weighing in at 12.8 kilograms without pedals, but with plenty of sealant in the tyres, the bike is not the lightest on the climbs, nor does it feel ultra stiff, but it eats up ground in response to power through the pedals, and absolutely destroys technical sections. It really feels like it looks after you when you make a mistake. I came to appreciate the e:i suspension more and more, especially towards the end of the marathon race: it was just one less thing to fiddle with. I could focus on eating and drinking, and most importantly, keep my attention on the racing at hand. Where normally I would have ended up leaving my shock in trail mode for short bits of open jeep track and punchy climbs, the e:i system flipped modes for me so that the bike was always pedalling as efficiently as possible. Most importantly, the bike had a smile on my face during, and after every ride: it was fun, capable, and for lack of a better phrase: powerful. Business and party somehow in one package. In short If you are looking for a do-it-all cross country ripper, that will allow you to cover ground, and invite you to get involved, and enjoy the descents then the XR 729 is well worth a look. It's a bike that comes alive when ridden hard, both up and down, and will have you looking for a new tiger line to try on every ride.
No fiddling with suspension
ConsLots of cabling
Remembering to charge the battery
Not super light