Just Landed: The aerodynamic Lapierre Aircode is the bike of choice for the French FDJ team. Having just arrived at Cycling Weekly towers, we will be doing a full review once we have had a chance to ride it, but for now, let's take a look at this beautiful looking machine
It was this frame, the Lapierre Aircode, that carried Tibault Pinot to third overall in the general classification of the 2014 Tour de France. The 24 year old French Grand Tour prospect was also first in the Young Rider classification and fourth in the King of the Mountains competition, thanks in part to superb performances on the climbs of La Planche des Belles Filles and the Hautocam.
Before we take a look at the specific bike on test, we should point out that Lapierre have just unveiled four unique custom paint jobs in this frame for Thibaut Pinot, Arnaud Demare, Arthur Vichot, and Jussi Veikkanen.
Gilles Lapierre, MD of Cycles Lapierre said “we are recognising the successes of some riders by producing special artworks for them. It’s an honour to have these riders help us develop products and riding on them in the world’s greatest races. We in turn are excited to have developed a special look for some of the stars of the FDJ team!” Our test bike is in the standard red, white and blue FDJ livery.
We really like the way the Lapierre Aircode looks. Too many bikes are matte black these days, so it is nice to see colour, and even nicer to see it used in a tasteful way. The red, white and blue is a nod to French national colours but they are so ubiquitous amongst other nations, it doesn’t scream of patriotism of our near neighbours. In addition, the FDJ logos are small, but allude to pedigree of the bike.
The frame is described as being the best possible combination of rigidity, weight and aerodynamics. The down tube and seat tube feature a ‘Kamm-Tail’ which is claimed to improve cross wind performance by eliminating the turbulence associated with a traditional trailing edge. Internal cable routing, an integrated stem and seat clamp, add further to the aerodynamic credentials.
The components on Aircode 500 FDJ are a combination of Shimano Dura-Ace and Ultegra 11 speed. The chainset and rear derailleur are Dura Ace, while the shifters, chain, cassette and front derailleur are Ultegra. When we consider the retail price of £3099, we are happy to see the bike specced with some top end Dura-Ace components. Our test bike has come with a mid compact 52-36t chainset, an ideal all round option, that will suit most terrain, and the cassette is available as either 11-25t (as pictured on our test bike) or 11-28t.
The brakes on this bike are unusual. The rear is a standard Shimano Ultegra calliper, while the front is an Ultegra direct mount calliper. Having used direct mount brakes on several bikes, including the Merida Reacto Team E and Canyon Aeroad, we much prefer the superior modulation and power they offer. It is just slightly strange that bike does not come with front and rear direct mount.
The seat post bolt is neatly tucked away under a rubber cover, which can be seen in the above picture – a nice design feature. The bars and stem are Zipp service course, while they are not the lightest components, they are strong and of high quality. It should also be pointed out that Lapierre offer custom build options.
Here at Cycling Weekly we are huge fans of Mavic’s Ksyrium Equipe wheel set. Whilst not super light, at around 1690g a pair (without skewers or tyres) they are a very dependable set of hoops with great bearings and stiffness. Our gripe is that they don’t suit the visual aesthetic of the aero road frame, with the Aircode screaming out loud for a pair of deeper section rims to be fitted, to complement the aero tube shapes.
On the plus side, if you upgrade the wheels (which you should!) you will be left with an excellent pair of training wheels. The wheels come fitted with Mavics 23mm Yksion Comp tyres. Owing to the superior rolling and comfort of 25mm, we would have preferred to see those specified, but there appears to be a trend for aero bikes to still come with 23mm (we are informed the narrower tyre is more aerodynamic).
Our size 55cm (Large) tips the Cycling Weekly scales of truth at 7.62kg without pedals. This is very respectable for a three grand aero bike, featuring a mixture of Ultegra and Dura Ace components. If you wanted to drop some weight off the Lapierre Aircode, the obvious places to start would be the saddle and wheels. The Fizik Antares Mg is entry level for the Italian brand and weighs around 240g.
We can’t wait to put this bike through its paces. Having tested several of the aero road bikes currently being used by the pro-peloton, we are keen to see how the Lapierre stacks up against the Canyon Aeroad CF SLX, Cervelo S5/S3, Merida Reacto to name but a few. Comfort is often sacrificed in the pursuit of aerodynamics and stiffness, so it will be very interesting to see how the Lapierre fairs in the this regard, as many current aero bikes suffer from harsh rides. Initial inspection of the all the components suggests the Airocode 500 FDJ is a quality and stiff package, in an elegant form. A full review will follow, so stay tuned.