Lapierre X-Lite 400 FDJ

THE STORY
First seen under Francaise des Jeux riders Philippe Gilbert and Sandy Casar at the 2008 Tour de France, the new 2009 Lapierre X-Lite series has attracted quite a bit of attention. Despite success with the previous X-Lite frame series, Lapierre took feedback from the Francaise des Jeux team and went back to the drawing board to completely redesign the X-Lite series for 2009.

Last year Road Bike Action tested the Lapierre X-Lite 200 with mixed results; while impressed with many of the bike’s ride characteristics, we came away wanting lighter weight and a stiffer bottom bracket. When the X-Lite 400 arrived, we were eager to see what changes Lapierre made for 2009. The first thing that we noticed was the striking new frame design with smooth gracefully arching tube profiles and a Francaise des Jeux replica paint scheme. Unlike the Lapierres of old, the new X-Lite 400 is anything but subtle. It is classy, bold and stylish in a way that demands attention.

THE FRAME
The Lapierre X-Lite 400 FDJ is second from the top in the Lapierre racing line. Only the Francaise des Jeux team replica sits higher. Designed for racing, the X-Lite 400 FDJ shares the same frame as the Team replica model. Frame construction on the X-lite 400 FDJ is first-rate, with clean lines and a race-ready appearance that is elegant and purposeful. Each tube is carefully shaped to maximize the properties of the carbon fiber. The front triangle is made with an oversized down tube mated with a 1.25-inch-lower headset bearing and a full carbon EC 90 fork. The head tube tapers from 1.25 inches at the base to a standard 1.125 inches at the top. The top tube gently arches from the head tube to the seat tube where it meets the chainstays that are specially designed to add vertical compliance to the frame. To finish off the X-Lite 400, Lapierre chose a classic white and black paint scheme with blue accents.

THE PARTS

The Lapierre X-Lite 400 FDJ comes with a complete Shimano Ultegra SL drivetrain. Mavic Ksyrium Equipe wheels keep the X-lite 400 FDJ rolling, while Ritchey PRO seatpost, stem and handlebar make up the rider compartment. A Selle Italia Filante SE saddle, and 23c Hutchinson Fusion TS FDJ tires finish off the X-Lite 400.

The Ultegra SL group has now reached a level that makes it hard to tell the difference between it and Shimano’s top-of-the-line Dura-Ace group. Aside from the performance, the Ultegra group has an anodized gray finish that gives it a high-end finish well above its actual price. The Mavic Ksyrium Equipe wheels are smooth and reasonably light at 1770 grams. The Ritchey Logic-equipped cockpit worked well and shows solid choices in this price point. The 23c Hutchinson tires are good all-round tires that provide good traction on wet roads and match the ride characteristics of the frame.

THE NUMBERS
Our 55-centimeter X-Lite 400 has 73-degree head and 72.5-degree seat tube angles, connected by a 57-centimeter top tube. Chainstay length was race-ready at 40.8 centimeters, while the X-Lite 400 weighed 16.5 pounds.

THE RIDE
What a difference a year makes. The new Lapierre X-Lite 400 is a top-flight road-racing machine. The X-Lite is smooth and comfortable, promoting long hours in the saddle. Out of the saddle the Lapierre responds with instant acceleration. Gone is the added bulk and compliant bottom bracket feel of last year’s model. The increase in bottom bracket stiffness results in good climbing performance both in and out of the saddle. The Lapierre is also a solid descender. The oversized carbon tubes and 1-1/4-inch-lower headset bearing make for precise steering, while the vertical compliance of the rear triangle takes the edge off and adds a feeling of control. One aspect of the new frame design that received mixed reviews was the 15-centimeter tall headtube. While some riders liked the higher bar position and claimed that it aided climbing, others found it difficult to get their normal position and said that the high bar position took away from the bike’s cornering abilities.

THE VERDICT
For 2009, Lapierre did their homework. The redesigned frame is a masterful work of functional art. The X-Lite 400 is a solid blend of performance and all-day comfort that makes it perfect for long days in the saddle or hard efforts on the race course.

PRICE: $3499.99
WEIGHT: 16.5 pounds
INFO: www.lapierrebikes.com