French brand Lapierre have announced updates to the Aircode aero bike and Pulsium endurance race bike for model year 2018, based upon extensive rider feedback from the FDJ WorldTour team. (Update 13/10/2017: we've now reviewed the 2018 Aircode with Shimano Dura-Ace Di2).
Both bikes are second generation developments of their original fore bearers launched in 2015, with both updates addressing key issues highlighted by the FDJ riders. not least sprinter and rouleur specialist Arnaud Demare.
Importantly, both machines represent a merging of design among the bikes Lapierre offers, with the Aircode and Pulsium now physically showing the family traits of the Xelius, with the intention of allowing that DNA to shine through when the FDJ riders switch between bikes for different races. So, what have they done?
Lapierre Aircode - updated geometry and aero tube profiles
According to Remi Gribaudo, Lapierre’s lead road project engineer, as soon as the first generation Aircode was launched, he was already taking on board feedback from riders who praised the speed and stiffness of the original machine but felt it lacked the easy handling characteristics of the Xelius – a bike that has become something of a blueprint for the French company.
As a result, the new Aircode receives an updated geometry and fork rake that takes its cues from the Xelius, along with a shortened and more integrated headtube-fork setup for more direct handling and tidier aerodynamics.
“Riders felt they needed easier handling before the final turn – a really important moment in the sprint," says Gribaudo, pointing out it was Demare himself who reported losing places ahead of the finale, compromising his chances of success. “This is why we’ve reduced the stack height by 10mm, to improve that directness, and reduced the chainstay length."
The bike has also seen improvements made elsewhere, including a new integrated top cap setup, and the inclusion of both NACA and Kammtail aero profiles in a nod to the Aerostorm DRS TT bike - a natural development according to Gribaudo, who says the tapering to the boxier Kammtail towards the bottom bracket area improves stiffness and pedalling efficiency through what Lapierre calls ‘Powerbox’ technology. All the while, the top section of the downtube makes the most of the fully aerofoiled NACA shaping.
Additionally, a new proprietary seatpost with integrated clamp (another feature borrowed over from the Xelius) has been aerodynamically optimised, while an elastomer section in the tail portion of the post is said to improve compliance.
There are also now direct mount rim brakes to be found at both front and rear – rather than just the front as was seen on the original – with both calipers semi-integrated. Lapierre have hidden the Di2 junction box on the underside of the bottom bracket area.
In all there will be seven models, five of which will receive Lapierre's top-level ‘Ultimate’ carbon layup for reduced weight and improved stiffness, although no disc brake versions are on the horizon as of yet, pending further research according to Gribaudo.
You’ll be able to have the bikes built with Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 down to 105, with Mavic supplying the rolling stock. We expect prices to be confirmed late summer.
Lapierre Pulsium - endurance frame gets stiffer
First spotted during Classics season under FDJ riders, including top ten Paris-Roubaix finisher Demare, the new Pulsium improves on its predecessor by improving stiffness while maintaining the same comfort levels as before, according to Gribaudo.
“Our targets were to improve the stiffness levels with feedback from FDJ riders because the original really focussed on comfort," he says. “They said they missed the stiffness of the Xelius, while we wanted to get the look of the Xelius too to maintain this new family look and feel."
As a result, the Pulsium maintains the distinctive gapped toptube-seattube junction design, now incorporating the elastomer technology that debuted on the original in an updated single piece design, while the seatpost slims at the base for claimed improvements in compliance.
From there, it’s all about improving responsiveness and handling poise: there’s an oversized ‘Powerbox’ area, taking in an enlarged headtube, downtube and chainstays, which Gribaudo says “balances the comfort levels of the first generation with new levels of stiffness - a 40% improvement in the bottom bracket, 25% in the chainstays and 20% in the headtube over the first generation." Again, there's tidy Di2 integration if you run an electronic groupset.
Additionally, Lapierre’s engineers have made sure the Pulsium is as relevant to the general public as it is to the Classics-targeting FDJ pros, with additional adjustment possible in the stack height at the front end: up to 25mm in spacers.
Where the Pulsium's carbon layup differs from the Aircode is that the top-level Ultimate spec uses more fibres in the key power transfer areas, such as the chainstays and bottom bracket area. Consequently, Gribaudo claims the Ultimate frame that the pros will use actually comes in slightly heavier than the standard version, although with the benefits of improved stiffness given that weight isn’t the main concern for this bike.
The Pulsium will be available in nine guises, including five based around the ‘Ultimate’ carbon frame and four using the standard carbon frame. Groupsets will range from Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 down to 105, with Mavic once again responsible for the hoops. There will also be three disc brake bikes in the mix.
Once again, prices are to be confirmed in late summer. In the meantime, read our first ride review of the Lapierre Pulsium.