Lapierre XRM 8.9
Words by Matt Beer; Photography by Tom Richards
Although there are two frames in Lapierre’s cross-country stable that share the same shape, the XRM construction varies slightly from the XR model’s “Team” carbon layup. If you were up for short-track cross-country racing, you could opt for the XR series, which uses just 80mm of rear wheel travel, while for marathon-style racing the 110mm-travel XRM is more appropriate.
• Travel: 110mm rear / 120mm fork
• Carbon frame
• 66º head angle
• Reach: 440mm
• 74.5º seat tube angle
• 435mm chainstays
• Sizes: S, M (tested), L, XL
• Weight: 12.0kg / 26.5lbs
• Price: 5,199 EUR
For 2022, the redesigned frame moves the 55mm race shock via a rocker arm positioned in the seat tube and the popular “flex mount” approach near the dropout to reduce weight. Lapierre approached the suspension design with parameters tailored to the needs of riders who generate power and high BPM. A falling leverage curve starts out very firm and smooths out towards the sink point, ideally rising again at the bottom of the run.
If that rig isn’t tight enough for you, those extra cables sticking out of the handlebars attach to lockouts on both the Fox 34 StepCast fork with a Fit4 shock and a Float DPS rear shock to really eliminate any suspension movement. I wouldn’t say they’re neatly arranged, though, because the thumb-over-the-top thumbstick for the dropper caught us all once or twice when trying to unlock the suspension, but instead it lifted the post.
Inspection of the components bolted to the candy-colored carbon frame shows a hint of Shimano XT parts throughout the build. We’re used to finding their four-piston brakes on enduro bikes, but Lapierre has opted to downsize to two-piston XT brakes and 160/140mm rotors. Interestingly, though, the overall weight of the bike isn’t as light as we might have imagined. The build is more workhorse than thoroughbred because a closer look at the specs reveals DT Swiss XM 1700 wheels and an alloy Race Face handlebar.
Price-wise, the XMR 8.9 isn’t quite as impressive as the other test boutique lightweights and wireless gizmos. You can upgrade to an XRM 8.9 for €5,199 by visiting the Lapierre online store or by visiting one of their distributors in Europe. On either side of the 8.9 is their XRM 6.9 with mostly entry-level SRAM components and a fixed seatpost for €4,099, and a Lapierre 75th anniversary special edition packed with Shimano XTR, Race Face carbon parts, and Gold Fox suspension that sounds like an expensive €8,699.
As said, the overall feel of the XRM is compact, and that’s mostly due to the super low stack height and short top tube. We used the medium size and while I can agree that a forward weight bias proves to be more effective for climbing than a relaxed one, overall the fit was smaller. Both the standing and seated riding positions felt a bit cramped because the reach is only 440mm. That matched up well for front-to-rear balance as the chainstays measured 435mm. They are the same in the sizing chart though, so something to consider for taller riders looking for large or x-large frames.
I appreciated that the spec 60mm stem on the mid-sized XRM was no longer longer and felt perfect for the bikes intent and 66-degree head tube angle. On paper, that number is deceptively weak, as we’ll discuss in the downstream portion of the review.
Trailforks Regions Where We Tested
Testing for the Lapierre XRM 8.9 was done primarily on stage Circuit Neilson Nord in Vallée-Bras-du-Nord and around Mont St. Ana’s vast network of trails. The Neilson Nord Loop is wedged into a valley between a rock monolith and follows along the edge of the Neilson River over the bedrock of the Canadian Shield and sailing in a single downhill track.
We put the XRM through some demanding rock gardens, root-infested turns, and smooth single track the entire test to cover all the bases. There was no lack of variety in terms of trail conditions, but we never released the XRM beyond its marathon XC race intentions.
VBN Secteur Shannahan Mountain Biking Routes
Throw a leg over the XCM 8.9 and you’ll find that this bike doesn’t want to sit on its ride. “Compliant” might be the last word I’d use to describe the suspension, even on the climbs. We often looked down and double-checked to see if the rear shock was locked up, only to remember what the XRM was geared for: transferring all the power to the rear wheel.
However, if you hit a smooth section of double track or tarmac, closing the lockout switch activates the full sprint potential of the XRM; you might be confused why you would ever need a hardtail. The low stack and short reach give you maximum leverage over the top of the bike and really make you feel like you can rip the handlebars off the stem as you drive down on the cranks.
Going through hairpin turns was like driving a Smart Car through a slalom course; it spun on a dime and the front wheel never wanted to get up. He would point fingers at smaller geometry numbers like range, stack, and wheelbase for that reasoning. Like the BMC Fourstroke LT, you have to be on your game: the body position is set high above the bike and any tilt or frown can change your line of attack very quickly, for better or worse. However, when the trail gets technical, navigating steep switchbacks and precarious rocks requires some attention because the riding position is very compact and heavily loaded towards the front.
All I can imagine when driving XRM downhill is a big-headed caricature of myself leaning road over the front of this bike, aiming my pearly whites aiming straight at the ground. I have never felt so exposed on any bike. Once you realize you’re basically riding a hardtail and you shouldn’t expect this bike to save you from any “Oh shit!” moments, you can find a little rhythm.
That stiff rear suspension makes it hard to try to keep it moving over rough terrain – getting into the ride really takes effort and isn’t comfortable, nor is there much traction when the bike is weightless, standing above the sag mark – that’s when the suspension goes from regressive to progressive. There is good bottoming support and resistance, it just takes a good hit to get into the crush. Is all that worth a few fractions of pedaling efficiency? Well, check out the Proof of Efficiency for those results. I would say that in a real life driving scenario, on a trail, the suspension theory fails and makes the ride less compliant simply by not keeping the wheel on the ground.
The forward riding position is exacerbated by the firm separation of the rear shock and Fox Fit4 shock. The fork works well on the rattle and small bumps, but it doesn’t hold up high enough in travel when you’re taking on descents like “La Beatrice,” on Mont St. Anne’s World Cup XC Course.
The saving grace here is that the bike is short enough to move your body position back and forth to balance your center of gravity. There are old-school photos of me hanging off the back of a bike on descents, but at least there’s a dropper on board this time.
Because of the bike’s short length, there’s also not much wheelbase under you to play with traction in corners.
On the plus side, the XRM was the quietest bike in our test, thanks to the cable-actuated rear derailleur and rubber chain shock protection in all the right places. In terms of components, the DT Swiss wheelset was excellent, no issues.
However, the same cannot be said for the frame’s down tube. Levy managed to spit a stone out with the front tire and punch a hole in the carbon down tube, just above the bottom bracket. That could be considered user error, or just part of the game in the XC world, where adding more weight in favor of protection is frowned upon.
Overall, it doesn’t seem like comfort was at the top of Lapierre’s priority list when they set out to build this cross-country marathon tool. You have to be ready to keep this one out of harm’s way.
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