Lapierre has announced Bosch and Shimano based e-MTB models for their 2018 line-up. The Overvolt iShimano uses the Shimano STEPS E8000 system, along with a proprietary battery designed by Lapierre to integrate seamlessly into the downtube. I took the bike for a spin in Valberg, a less well known resort in the French Alps that has spectacular terrain and riding.
New Suspension, New Batteries
The Shimano drivetrain based bike is a completely new model for 2018 using a new suspension design giving 140mm of travel that is based around 29” wheels. There will also be a 27.5+ model with 160mm travel. The four bar linkage has been designed to lower the overall centre of gravity of the bike to improve handling.
The bike uses Snake Power Technology, a battery system that has been developed by Lapierre. By dividing the battery into flexible segments, the size of the downtube has been reduced by 20% versus a regular Shimano battery, and the opening for inserting and removing the battery by a massive 70%.
This has allowed Lapierre to design a downtube that is smaller and stiffer, again coming closer and closer to classic mountain bike looks. That said, it is still a burly downtube with a double-walled extrusion providing the necessary strength. The battery can be charged on or off the bike.
Using the Shimano E8000 system allows for relatively short chainstays as the bottom bracket is further back than comparable systems. This is part of the reason this system was chosen for the 29er design. Indeed the Shimano system is definitely one of the sleekest and smallest available.
I got on really well with the geometry of this bike which was well suited to the riding we were doing on it. The relatively steep 75.5 degree seat angle brings your weight forward, making the bike feel shorter and more manoeuvrable whilst keeping the front end down.
The reach is longer at 454mm than the Bosch system I tested. When standing it is easy to bring your weight back for steep descending. The slightly steeper head angle of 67 degrees works well with the 29” wheels to give quick handling. The bottom bracket drop of 25mm also lowers the centre of gravity giving a more stable ride.
I rode the Overvolt AM729 iShimano during my testing which sits in the middle of the range, with two higher and two lower specced models. Each of these is available as 27.5” or 29” builds – I was on the 29er with the following spec:
- Supreme 5 Alloy Frame Construction
- Fox 36 Float 29 EBike Performance Series 140mm
- Fox Float DPS Performance Shock
- Shimano XT with 11-46 Cassette
- SRAM Guide RE Brakes
- Formula Hubs laced to Lapierre 30C Rims
- Schwalbe Nobby Nic Addix Speed Grip with Apex Casing
- Lapierre Dropper Post
- Lapierre Finishing Kit
- Measured weight of 24.37kg in Size L
It must be noted that the bike I was riding is still a prototype so some details may be subject to change. The anticipated release date for this bike is in the first quarter of 2018.
Ride & Experience
We were able to ride a variety of terrain on this bike, with Nico Vouilloz showing us round some of his favourite trails. In the morning we did a short circuit which involved around 1000m of climbing and took in one of the Enduro World Series stages.
In the afternoon we spent some time in Valberg bike park to better assess the trail capabilities of this bike. We rode everything from blazing fast grass trails, rooty loam , rocky descents, loose scree, dusty singletrack and off-camber traverses.
I get on very well with the Shimano STEPS system. For me it is more intuitive, better thought out and more friendly to an existing cyclist coming over to an eBike system.
Obviously your experience may vary, but I find the Shimano system melds much better with my riding, is more intuitive and feels more seamless. The assistance is a lot less noticeable and sometimes even lets you believe it's you blasting up the hill.
I really like the mode selector for the motor, which, designed like a standard gear lever has familiar ergonomics. Changes are completed with a satisfying click and audible feedback from the system computer (though this can be turned off if required). The display is compact and unintrusive whilst displaying all information required clearly.
My only criticism is that the jump to boost mode is quite large. With the large power input it was sometimes easy to loose traction. However, the individual power settings for each of the modes can be modified using the Shimano app. In any case I spent the majority of my time in Trail mode.
The huge range on the cassette means it is possible to get up pretty much anything, and the large jumps are not really apparent because the motor assistance fills in those large gaps quite nicely. I did notice that the load on the drivetrain was sometimes noticeable when shifting gears uphill. Whether this has any effect on the longevity of components remains to be seen.
Getting on to the bike it initially felt very short due to the steep seat angle. However, this provides a very good position that is possible with this machine – keeping weight forward to avoid the front wheel lifting.
With the terrain it is possible to ascend with a powered system, the suspension needs to be active to maintain traction. Again whilst I didn’t have much time to set up the suspension properly, I felt it was remarkably plush and was very active over small bumps. It did perhaps exhibit some pedal bob but such an efficiency loss is not a huge concern to me on a bike which is powered anyway.
The lower centre of gravity design of the suspension was noticeable on descents as well, with the bike feeling stable yet manoeuvrable. The suspension dealt well with big hits with a nice sense of progression. Of course the 29” tyres help with rolling over obstacles as well. The steering was pleasantly accurate, a factor of the Fox eBike specific forks which use thicker stanchion walls to increase stiffness.
The only time when the bike felt out of its comfort zone was on tight switchbacks where the chainstay length and weight of the bike is noticeable in making it less manoeuvrable than a non-powered mountainbike. Things that you can wrestle a lighter bike round just become a little more strenuous on an eBike – however I think this is a criticism that can be levelled at most eBikes.
Overall, this feels like a bike that has been designed from the ground up in a much more considered way to the specific needs of an electric bike. The bike is a successfully put together package that is a blast to ride on a variety of trails. This is a playful and fun bike that with its confidence inspiring handling also has the potential to explore further afield. I really hope to get my hands on one for some further testing!