Sign up for our newsletter

Lapierre: 75 years of innovation and speed

In association with
2 Dec 2021

The French brand Lapierre’s impressive heritage of speed and comfort is seen in its new Xelius and Aircode road bikes. They’re the latest chapters in a story that stretches back to 1946...

Groupama-FDJ’s David Gaudu weighs 53kg and measures 5ft 8in. But the pocket-sized French rider packs quite a punch, finishing a superb 11th at this year’s Tour de France including taking the prized combativity award on Stage 18. Gaudu’s stature in the peloton is growing and in no small part thanks to his new Lapierre Xelius SL, which the two-time Vuelta a España stage winner and his teammates rode in France.

The Xelius SL is the latest in a long line of ground-breaking bikes from the acclaimed French brand, which is now celebrating its 75th anniversary and projecting elite and recreational cyclists ever faster and in more comfort. Here, we chart the highlights of Lapierre’s three-quarters of a century leading the planetary peloton.

Lightweight and aero

The third-generation Xelius SL is a lightweight all-rounder that, in Gaudu’s own words, ‘is excellent. Reactivity, agility, the bike responds perfectly on difficult terrain.’

Its cutting-edge full-carbon construction features unique seatstays that bypass the seat tube, instead attaching at the top tube, to both reduce seatstay weight (as they’re not supporting the rider) and better absorb vibrations for more comfort.

It also lends a nod to Lapierre’s aero machine, the impressive Aircode, by employing aero tubing for lower drag and greater speed. In short, it maximises your every pedal stroke, whether you’re ascending Hardknott Pass in the Lake District or scything through the Aberdeenshire winds raging off the North Sea.

As we’ve mentioned the Aircode, let’s delve a little deeper into the bike that has delivered the likes of Groupama-FDJ’s sprint sensation Arnaud Démare and former Tour de France podium finisher Thibaut Pinot so much success.

Where do we start? Let’s go streamlined and home in on that innovative tubing that’s more aerodynamic and comfortable than ever before thanks to Lapierre’s DRS; in other words, the Drag Reduction System. The design derives from NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) profiles and is a game-changer.

Further streamlining comes in the form of integration of cables and conduits within the cockpit and frame, while a short wheelbase adds a nimble edge.

While carbon now sits atop Lapierre’s range, the cycling landscape was a very different beast when Gaston Lapierre started his small bicycle business in Dijon, the capital city of the historic Burgundy region and known for its mustard, in 1946. But from small steel seedlings grew one of the world’s leading bike brands.

In 1960, Gaston passed the Lapierre baton to his son, Jacky, and come 1972 a new factory was constructed in Dijon to accommodate increased demand. That demand shot through the roof in 2002 when Lapierre hooked up with Marc Madiot’s FDJ team, a collaboration that continues to set the world alight.

History of success

The partnership proved successful from day one, with the team winning 35 times in 2002 including Bradley McGee’s Stage 7  success at the Tour de France. Twelve months later the Lapierre-FDJ partnership delivered further success including McGee’s prologue triumph that slipped the Australian into the yellow jersey.

Teammate and countryman Baden Cooke cranked up the feelgood factor by claiming stage victory two days later in Sedan. Cooke would go on to win the sprint classification.

Closer to home, a 23-year-old Bradley Wiggins, who raced for FDJ in 2002 and 2003, served notice of his huge potential by winning the opening stage’s individual time-trial at the Tour de l’Avenir. Whatever happened to that guy…?!

The bedrock for those early 2000s successes was Lapierre’s lightweight carbon LP 0.9C, which tipped the scales at just 900g. This monocoque masterpiece caught the attention of the world, its beauty, stiffness and lightweight qualities laying the foundations for today’s Aircode.

The key to this pursuit of perfection can be derived from the quality of the mould, which is often neglected but is integral to the quality of a final frame. In a process that continues to this day, the layup of different carbon fibres is done entirely by hand, ensuring precision performance.

McGee delivered further Lapierre success in 2004, winning the prologue of the Giro d’Italia to claim the race leader's pink jersey. And that GrandTour statement of intent fired up a degree or two in 2012 when Thibaut Pinot and Pierrick Fedrigo both won stages of that year’s Tour de France.

The victory also helped Pinot to become the first under-23 rider since 1947 to finish the Tour in the top 10. But it was his victory aboard his Lapierre 12 months later that lives long in the memory, winning the queen stage atop the legendary Alpe d’Huez.

Since then Pinot has won another Tour queen stage at the peak of the Tourmalet and won Il Lombardia. Fast-forward to 2021 and Lapierre bikes helped Pinot’s Groupama-FDJ team rack up an impressive 23 wins, including Démare’s season-ending victory at Paris-Tours.

Keeping it local

It’s not just on a global stage that Lapierre bikes are making history – it’s happening much closer to home, too. Lapierre and Cornish Continental team Saint Piran, named after the fifth-century Cornish abbot, joined forces in 2021 and will continue to work together over the coming seasons, Kernow’s finest riding Lapierre’s Aircode DRS and the Xelius SL.

‘I’ve been in this industry a long time and I’m really excited to see Lapierre taking this step to become Saint Piran’s go-to brand,’ commented team principal Richard Pascoe on the link-up.

‘To have a minimum three-year deal with a top-quality bike brand gives us stability, it’s another important step towards our goal of sustainability and, of course, it gives us the tools to go out and win races.’

Lapierre will also provide bikes for Saint Piran’s women’s team, which is set for an exciting 2022 with the recruitment of DS and assistant team manager Megan Chard.

The 23-year-old raced professionally in Belgium for four years before returning to the UK. ‘I feel like we are capable of great things,’ Chard said on her arrival at the Cornish team. ‘We have big goals in the National Series and Women’s Cup and I look forward to ticking them off one by one.’

At 75 years old, Lapierre continues to innovate, and continues to evolve. The future looks bright for this forward-thinking French brand, and consequently bright for any road cycling enthusiast. Here’s to the next 75 years of Lapierre’s cutting-edge advancements.

Not all about the road

Lapierre is not just synonymous with world-leading road bikes. Since the mid-1980s, the French brand has led the way in mountain biking too, winning titles galore at every level. That success includes partnering with the off-road legend Nicolas Vouilloz, who won an incredible 10 senior and junior world titles between 1992 and 2002.

While racing, Vouilloz worked closely with Lapierre’s acclaimed research-and-development team to create a range of cutting-edge downhill bikes.

Vouilloz continues to race to this day and now heads up Lapierre’s EWS-E team aboard the Lapierre Overvolt GLP II, which Vouilloz designed with e-enduro racing in mind.

Lapierre’s association with innovative electric products is also long and illustrious, and includes 2012’s groundbreaking e:i shock system – an electronic suspension system that adjusts the level of dampening based on real-time feedback from the trail.

In 2021, Lapierre continues to light up the world of enduro and e-enduro thanks to young starlets like Isabeau Courdurier and Adrian Dailly. With many roadies heading off-road during the winter months, Lapierre’s a proven world-beater at all levels, and in all environments.

• Explore the Lapierre range