Lapierre Xelius EFI 600 - review

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Lapierre Xelius EFI 600 racing bike – review

Pace, poise, and a level of comfort above most 'race' bikes

The Lapierre Xelius EFI 600 is a high-quality race bike, blessed with pin sharp handling and a ride quality that while stiff is not jarring. It’s a machine with a natural turn of speed and one we’d happily ride all day.

We tested the Xelius EFI 600 on loops with a host of geographical features and discovered that its prowess on brutish ascents, where climbing was swift and unhindered, is bettered only by its performance through corners. On fast, twisting descents it is a joy, and its eagerness would allow a rider to respond confidently to the sudden changes of pace in a racing pack.

The Lapierre Xelius EFI 600 provided pace, poise, and a level of comfort beyond most ‘race’ bikes

The long top tube encourages a low, aggressive position, but this is a machine that can be ridden in comfort on the hoods for mile after mile. Such is its performance, however, that one-paced efforts seem a waste of its considerable abilities, and the temptation to make big-ring assaults on climbs and to launch it into corners is hard to resist.

The chassis

The chassis at the heart of the Xelius EFI 600 is one heavily revised by designer, Remi Gribaudo, from its predecessor to produce improvements in stiffness and aerodynamics, without gaining weight. The geometry is identical to the frameset ridden by the FDJ.fr team in the UCI WorldTour; only in the lay-up of the carbon fibre does it differ, but there is nothing sub-standard about this frameset. It showed ample stiffness beneath our best efforts, and was a willing accomplice on climbs; a function of its low weight and 408mm chainstays.

‘Fast and sharp’ describes the Xelius EFI 600. It’s a bike that will pay back in spades input at the pedals; a quality that provided all the inducement we required to attack climbs and sprint on the flatlands

The fork, one of Gribaudo’s major revisions for this latest iteration of the Xelius, played its part in the bike’s excellent handling. The 1-1/4” lower bearing,  a reduction from the 1.5” unit present on its predecessor and implemented to reduce the bike’s frontal area and so improve aerodynamics, contributed to a front end that while slightly more slender was still plenty stiff enough. The classic 73 degree head angle combined with a 40mm rake and 52mm trail to hit a steering sweetspot that made the Xelius EFI 600 a supremely accurate machine.

The components

The 600 sits third in line to the Xelius EFI throne, below the Ultimate supplied to FDJ.fr and the SRAM Red 22-equipped 800. Much of the £3600 asking price has been invested in a Shimano 6870 Ultegra Di2 groupset. The Xelius EFI 600 offered our first extended acquaintance with this second iteration of the Japanese component giant’s second-from-top electronic group and its excellent performance came as little surprise.

Chief among the assets of Shimano’s 6870 Ultegra Di2 groupset we felt were the super slim lever hoods and intelligently positioned shift buttons

Chief among 6870’s assets we felt were the super slim hoods of the STI levers and their perfectly positioned shift buttons. The ability to hold the button for multiple shifts at the rear mech, an advantage that required a firmware upgrade on its 6770 predecessor, was one to relish. Shifting was wonderfully accurate, especially at the front mech, whose ability to move the chain between rings with zero fuss was truly inspiring. The automated self-correction to eliminate chain rub was the icing on the cake. Braking was reassuringly sharp, and the four-arm chainset a thing of beauty.

A favourite stretch of twisting and undulating road proved to be the natural habitat of the Xelius EFI 600 and we blasted along at full gas without thought or care for the remaining distance home

The wheelset, Mavic’s Ksyrium Equipe S, performed adequately, if without fanfare. Chapeau to Lapierre for looking no further than Annecy from its Dijon HQ and spec-ing hoops from arguably the world’s most respected wheel manufacturer. The Equipe S, however, a wheelset with a claimed weight of 1690g, offered function rather than performance, and with it a ready path to upgrade the Xelius EFI 600. The spread of budget between electronic shifting and wheels is one we’ve discussed in reviews of similar machines from rival brands (Specialized’s Tarmac SL4 Expert Di2, for example), and one on which the potential purchaser will have his own opinion. For this reviewer, the performance advantage of electronic shifting does not equal that gained from lighter wheels.

The Mavic Ksyrium Equipe S wheels were functional rather than outstanding and offer an immediate path to upgrade

We commented on the quality of the finishing kit in our ‘first look’, and having tested the bike, we’ll tip our hat again to Lapierre’s refusal to cut corners with generic or house-branded kit. The 42cm Ritchey Pro Curve bar suited us perfectly; the Fizik Antares saddle did not, but this is no criticism (we’d ask our friendly neighbourhood Lapierre dealer to swap it for an Arione). The Ritchey Pro carbon seatpost proved easy to adjust, and the 103g Ritchey WCS C260 stem was as good as any factory supplied unit we’ve seen.

The ride

‘Fast and sharp’ about describes the Xelius EFI 600. It’s a bike that will pay back in spades input at the pedals; a quality that provided all the inducement we required to attack climbs and sprint on the flatlands. A favourite stretch of twisting and undulating road proved to be its natural habitat and we blasted along at full gas without thought or care for the remaining distance home.

Despite the responsiveness of the steering, there was nothing flighty or nervous about the handling of the Xelius EFI 600. It showed impressive stability on a particular double digit descent, even under the hard braking demanded by an ensuing right hand hairpin. Exiting the corner, the bike responded smartly to some out-of-the-saddle input, and we continued our flight to the foot of the valley in perfect safety, despite being crouched low behind the bars. There was no hint of speed wobble.

The Lapierre Xelius EFI 600 offered all the performance of a race bike, with none of the harshness

The Xelius EFI 600 proved equal to the challenge of one of the toughest climbs of our locale: a monster with a broad, arcing bend in its upper reaches that seems to place the summit at an impossible distance. Having motored up its lower slopes on the big ring, the bike provided the inspiration to remain out of the saddle and drive onwards. Even at the steepest section of the climb, the Xelius 600 EFI had something more to give, and ignoring the heart rate reading on our Garmin 510, we stayed on the power to reap the machine’s considerable rewards.

Gravel-strewn winter roads and 23c tyres will expose harshness in the frame where there is any but despite the less-than-cushioned ride offered by the unseasonal rubber (Mavic’s puncture-prone Yksion Comp), the Lapierre chassis failed to pass on road shock to the man in the saddle (me). Striking an acceptable balance between stiffness and harshness in a carbon frameset is the greatest challenge faced by designer and  composites engineer, but the French brand have achieved it with aplomb. Despite the race-oriented geometry and performance, the Xelius EFI 600 did not provide the sort of uncompromising ride that often results from an unswerving commitment to speed and resolution to defeat flex at all costs.

Conclusion

The Lapierre Xelius EFI 600 exceeded our expectations. Despite testing in conditions far from those for which it was intended – the gnarled, wet, and muddy highways of an English winter – it performed beautifully, offering pace, poise, and a level of comfort atypical for a bike of such racy intentions.

The combination of instant acceleration and turn-on-a-dime handling would make it an ideal bike for circuit racing, but to describe the Xelius EFI 600 merely as a ‘crit bike’ would be to tell only half the story of this excellent machine. It is far more comfortable than a machine designed to be raced hard for an hour, and offers superior climbing performance, too.

The sizeable downtube and bottom bracket shell of the Xelius EFI 600 made it an efficient transferer of power

At nearly £3,600 the Xelius EFI 600 represents a serious investment, and we’ll repeat the point made in our reviews of machines of similar spec and intention, such as the Bianchi Sempre Pro Ultegra Di2 – that a considerable saving can be made by opting for a model with the same frame and still-excellent mechanical Ultegra groupset (the £2400 Xelius EFI 400 in this case), freeing funds for a higher quality wheelset. File this under ‘suggestion’ rather than ‘recommendation’ – there will be many riders for whom the step into territory marked ‘cutting edge’ represented by electronic shifting will be more appealing than lighter wheels.

Bike journos are a privileged bunch, and while we rarely encounter a ‘bad’ bike, returning even the best of them is rarely a heart-braking affair. The Lapierre Xelius EFI 600 is a machine with which we’ll part with sorrow, however. Were we invited to ride it each day for the rest of the year, we’d do so without complaint. This is an excellent bike.

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Price: £3599.99
Size: XS, S, M, L, XL
Colour: black and white
WebsiteLapierre Bikes
UK distributorHotlines

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