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Lapierre Aircode DRS 8.0 review

19 Feb 2021
Verdict:

Lapierre has made some bold and original choices in the Aircode DRS. For the most part they have paid off. Photography: James Carnegie

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£6,299
For 
Speed • Design originality • Spec choice • Price
Against 
Weight • Exclusive ride position

Lapierre’s new Aircode DRS doesn’t look like a typical aero bike. Its 7.6kg weight is a little hefty by modern standards, and where are the hugely extended tube depths we’re used to? The lack of a sleek proprietary cockpit assembly is notable too, and that head tube and fork crown combination looks like it presents a comparatively blunt frontal area to the wind.

Things get stranger still – the seatstays meet the top tube for goodness sake. That’s miles away from their more conventional ‘aero’ location of attaching halfway down the seat tube.

Yet Lapierre has pedigree in producing idiosyncratic bikes that perform superbly, and from my time with the Aircode I can confirm that this is one rapid bike. So how does it do it? Settle in – I’m going to spend the next 700 words telling you.

It is not about the bike

The Aircode DRS’s geometry chart confirms what is obvious within moments when riding the bike for the first time: the fit is aggressive. Essentially Lapierre has given each frame size the reach dimension you would expect to find on the frame size above.

This size large has a 403mm reach figure, paired with a more size-typical 557mm stack figure. This puts the bike solidly at the stretched-and-slammed end of the riding position spectrum. It isn’t a ploy without its trade-offs but in terms of speed there are few more effective moves to make.

When it comes to reducing drag, body position is by orders of magnitude more important than a frame’s tube shapes, so the Aircode feels pretty damned competitive in the aero stakes.

Even when riding casually on the hoods, the bike’s fit meant I was hunkered down lower than usual and was therefore presenting much less of my body to the wind. The effect was exacerbated when I slunk into the drops and pedalled in earnest.

 

Into a headwind or at high speed I felt as if I had some sort of drag invisibility cloak on. Obviously it is not something I can prove empirically with any accuracy, but based on the experience of riding the same roads time and again I am sure I was going faster than usual for the same effort along certain sections.

The fit also helped going downhill. Familiar high-speed descents were taken with unusual confidence because I felt as evenly spread out across the top of the bike as a layer of butter on top of a French baguette.

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There’s another side to this coin, though. The position the Aircode DRS commands you to adopt isn’t the most comfortable to sustain unless you’re quite flexible. It’s probably not the bike for you if you struggle to touch your toes.

Buy the Lapierre Aircode DRS 8.0 now

The Aircode’s extreme ride position isn’t done any favours by the rigid front end either. The head tube houses 1.5-inch bearings to create space around the steerer to route cables internally. As a result it is particularly stout.

The bars are also reinforced to accept TT extensions, so this combination of features does little to filter chatter coming up from the front wheel. It does, however, mean that the Aircode’s handling remains brilliantly precise no matter how much torsional load is put through it during arm-wrenching sprints.

 

A tale of two halves

The Aircode’s most distinctive feature – and one of Lapierre’s hallmarks – is the peculiar seat tube cluster arrangement. The seatstays swoop past the seat tube and attach to the top tube.

Various iterations of the concept have featured on the brand’s bikes over the years, and although its appearance is polarising (I actually believe this latest version is the most elegant example of it to date) I do think the design holds functional merit.

Without being buttressed at its rear by the seatstays, the seat tube is better able to flex fore and aft under load. The rear of the bike is therefore a reasonably comfortable place to perch and this goes some way to offsetting an otherwise uncompromising ride experience.

Lapierre should be applauded for producing a particularly bold and characterful frameset, but equally so for backing it up with astute spec choices.

 

The Aircode DRS 8.0 comes with a set of premium DT Swiss ARC wheels, yet uses a ‘second-tier’ Shimano Ultegra groupset.

Buy the Lapierre Aircode DRS 8.0 now

It’s a wise move because, for my money, up-speccing the wheels (to drop rotational weight and improve aerodynamics) at the expense of the groupset (which adds around 200g over Dura-Ace but with zero drop in functionality) brings far more tangible benefits to overall performance. I’m happy to see those excellent wheels come set up tubeless as standard as well.

If you’re in the market for an aero bike and want something a little different from the conventional options, I would say the Aircode DRS is worthy of serious consideration.

Pick of the kit

Castelli Cubi jersey, £100, saddleback.co.uk

My test period aboard the Aircode DRS was characterised by plenty of dry, cold rides, for which I found Castelli’s Cubi jersey to be an ideal garment.

It majors in doing simple things well. The cut is slim without being constrictive and the body design means the jersey looks smart. Most of it is made from Castelli’s fleecy X-Stretch fabric, which insulates well but breathes far better than any weatherproof fabric. It isn’t as versatile as an ensemble such as Castelli’s Gabba jersey and Nanoflex armwarmers, but in its weather niche the Cubi is ideal.

Buy the Castelli Cubi jersey from Tredz now

Alternatively…

Solid core

The Aircode DRS 5.0 uses the same frame as the 8.0. To get the price down to £2,699 the spec is more modest, but similarly well thought out. Shimano’s 105 is functionally excellent and tubeless tyres still feature.

Buy the Lapierre Aircode DRS 5.0

Different beast

At £4,499 the Xelius SL 8.0 is the aero Aircode’s equivalent in the lightweight category. It trades some speed for a lighter weight and more comfort thanks to skinnier tubes and a more conventional geometry.

Buy the Lapierre Xelius SL 8.0 here

Spec

Frame Lapierre Aircode DRS 8.0
Groupset Shimano Ultegra Di2 Disc
Brakes Shimano Ultegra Di2 Disc
Chainset Shimano Ultegra Di2 Disc
Cassette Shimano Ultegra Di2 Disc
Bars Lapierre UD Carbon
Stem Lapierre -5.7°
Seatpost Lapierre Aero Carbon
Saddle Prologo Dimension Nack
Wheels DT Swiss ARC 1100 Dicut 50, Continental GP5000 TL 25mm tyres
Weight 7.6kg (large)
Contact lapierrebikes.com

All reviews are fully independent and no payments have been made by companies featured in reviews

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