Lapierre Xelius SL 700
Revamped, innovative climber's bike ridden to Alpe d'Huez triumph at the Tour
When Frenchman Thibaut Pinot rode away to stage success on Alpe d’Huez at last year’s Tour de France, the 25-year-old did so aboard the new Lapierre Xelius SL.
The striking new machine first broke cover at the Giro d’Italia and was officially launched by the French brand in advance of the Tour.
Lapierre have supplied FDJ with their race bikes since 2002, and achieved plenty of success in that time from Baden Cooke’s green jersey the following year right through to Pinot being crowned best young rider in 2014.
And as seals of approval go, victory atop one of the race’s most iconic summits is almost as good as it gets for the newest bike to join the French firm’s stable. In fact, success has followed Lapierre in their just short of 70 years in the business, across the cycling disciplines. This is a brand that knows how to cater for the champions of cycle sport.
Success has followed Lapierre in their just short of 70 years in the business, across the cycling disciplines. This is a brand that knows how to cater for the champions of cycle sport.
But the new lightweight climber’s bike is not only one for Pinot and co to feel the benefits of, as its hugely innovative new design will provide equal ride-enhancing qualities to anybody looking to clock some hilly miles.
Lapierre made big waves when the Xelius SL launched in the summer – joined by the revamped Aircode SL, Lapierre’s aero road bike. Whereas the Aircode was updated for the new year, however, the Xelius SL was significantly revamped.
And with the Aircode plugging the gap for wind-cheating abilities and top speed, it meant Lapierre’s engineers could focus on reworking the Xelius into a super-light, super-innovative climber’s steed.
It may be a bike built for racing at the highest level, but the Xelius is also a bike you’ll appreciate if you’re simply heading for the hills on a social ride or sportive
That SL moniker is fully deserved when it comes to the frame, which tips the scales – size-dependent, of course – at just 850g. That means you don’t need top-end kit to keep the weight down, with the Ultegra Di2 model we put to the test in the summer still weighing in at less than 7.5kg.
Lightweight isn’t a compromise for stiffness, either, as Lapierre have called their ‘Power Box’ tech into action. In short, that means the headtube, downtube, bottom bracket and chainstays are oversized to offer a rigid frame with sharp handling and swift acceleration.
And that’s barely scratching the surface when it comes to the feature-packed frame, with the more striking feature being the new seatstay-seattube junction. Or rather the lack of one. Instead the seatstays bypass the seattube altogether, and meet the frame on the toptube instead. It’s a striking addition, and a hugely practical one.
First, the seatstays can be thinner, as they’re not supporting a rider’s weight – and therefore they are lighter too – and secondly by uncoupling the seattube you get more flex and better absorbing of road vibrations and bumps.
And as well as making a noticeable aesthetic change, it is the most obvious difference in how the bike rides too. You certainly can’t help but notice the flexy, well-cushioned ride the Xelius SL affords. It’s proof that a race bike can successfully marry performance and comfort in the same package.
Another big difference between the Xelius and the Aircode, is Lapierre have lowered the centre of gravity on the former.
Part of that is through the integration of ‘Trap Door Technology’ – the underside of the bottom bracket comes out (like a trap door, see?) and with it the mount for the battery. Not only does that make removal very easy but also moves the battery further down in the frame – hence the lower centre of gravity.
Internal cable routing keeps things nice and clean too, while the skinny 27.2mm seatpost and integrated clamp are a further nod to comfort.
There are several models in the 2016 Xelius SL range, from the Claris-equipped 100 through to the 700 series here, with Shimano Ultegra Di2.
If you want a Dura-Ace-equipped bike akin to the one Pinot rode at the Tour de France, you’ll have to go through Lapierre’s ‘Ultimate’ online bike builder/programme service.
We found the Xelius SL 700 – paired with Mavic Ksyrium Elite hoops – to be a perfectly valuable ally when we put it to the test, though, so the Dura-Ace model can remain in the realms of fantasy for the everyday rider.
It may be a bike built for racing at the highest level, but the Xelius SL 700 is also a bike you’ll appreciate if you’re simply heading for the hills on a social ride or sportive.