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Tested: LaPierre Aircode 500

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August 17, 2015 – Grab your beret and hum the Marseilles because this is about as French as bikes get. It’s from LaPierre, a French brand, ridden by FDJ, the de-facto French national team and it won the French National championship under Arnaud Demare. Yeah, it’s made in Asia, we know. Don’t be a buzz kill. It’s called the LaPierre Aircode 500 and it wears a stunning red, white a blue paint job, like a French slap in the face to the matte black still paraded out every model year.

peloton

The Details
The Aircode is LaPierre’s answer to aero road, we know that because it says ‘Aero Carbon Frame’ on the side, in case you thought it was, you know, a cardboard hat box or something. We won’t hold that against them, they aren’t the first brand to slap painfully obvious statements on the side of a bike. We first saw hints of the Aircode when FDJ riders began using the new fork on the Xelius frames. Its straight blades and direct mount brake made it easy to spot. We knew a sprinter like Demare would be on the new bike, but we were surprised to see last year’s third place in the Tour, Thibaut Pinot, riding the Aircode. Our interest piqued.

LapierreAircode_1

When LaPierre developed its Aerostorm TT bike with a consulting group founded by two F1 engineers they focused on the package – bike and rider. That same philosophy and data was critical during Aircode development, and the result is actually pretty similar to what other manufacturers found. Rather than pure airfoils, Kamm tails – or truncated airfoils – offer better all around aero performance and just happen to provide a stiffer platform and better ride quality. In addition to the Kamm tail tubes the bike has a lot of interesting shapes, from a semi-integrated head tube to a flaring top tube at the seat cluster. How much of this is styling versus engineering we can’t say, but it sure looks good. How it stacks up against other bikes in the wind tunnel we don’t know. LaPierre didn’t share that info.

LapierreAircode_2

LaPierre, knowing its sprinters would be on the bike, pumped up the tube diameters to help create a stiff and stable platform. The fork crown is huge, the head tube is deep and the stays are tall. We applaud all of this. The Xelius was just not stiff enough for a big rider in our opinion. We had high hopes for the Aircode.

RELATED: Read our review of the LaPierre Sensium.

The Aircode 500 may have FDJ colors, but it’s not the team bike. The Aircode Ultimate uses a higher modulus carbon frame and the Aircode 700 has a better build. The 500 is a curious mixture – Ultegra shifters, brakes and front derailleur meet a Dura Ace rear and crank set. The cockpit is Zipp alloy, a great choice, but the wheels are shallow and heavy Ksyrium Equipe’s. An odd choice for an aero bike. Why not skip the Dura Ace upgrade, which provides no noticeable difference, and spec deeper, lighter wheels that would provide a huge benefit at the same price? And that price is $4700 with our 58cm hitting 16.73Lbs on the scale. Both price and weight won’t make the Aircode 500 standout from the crowd.

The Ride
Where the Aircode does indeed standout is on the road. Its immediately obvious that this bike is much, much stiffer than the Xelius. Where that bike would twist and groan under big efforts the Aircode smartly responds with rigidity and velocity. It’s livelier all around than the Xelius and livelier than all but the best aero road bikes.

The Aircode’s angles, stack and reach are almost identical to the Xelius, but it provides a much more stable and composed feel when descending, navigating a tight bunch or when on the gas. It’s plenty quick and nimble, but much more precise and confidence inspiring at the bars. Again, we would credit the bike’s stiffness with providing this, but it is finely tuned stiffness. The bike is in no way harsh, despite the massive 31.6mm seat post, straight blade forks and robust seat cluster. The narrow 23mm Mavic Yksion tires do the bike no favors, but a quick swap to 25mm tires makes a big difference.

LapierreAircode_3

Riders wanting a truly low and aerodynamic position will find the head tubes rather tall for an aero bike. Pulling the spacers and running a -17 stem is critical to ensuring you don’t give up any aero gains with an upright position. Could we ask for a touch more stiffness at the head tube? Sure. Would a 27.2 seat post make the bike a real magic carpet? Yes. But these are quibbles. What LaPierre has done is produce one of the best, true all-rounders on the road. We agree with Thibaut Pinot, the Aircode is too good to leave to the sprinters.

The Rider
You have an affinity for all things French but don’t want that to get in the way of riding an aero bike with a ride quality that would make any bike jealous. You want a bike with one of the best paint schemes in the peloton.

Bottomline
lapierrebicycles.com
Price: $4700
Weight: 16.73lbs 58cm w/o pedals or cages
Build: Shimano Dura Ace Cranks and Rear Derailleur, Ultegra shift levers, brakes and front derailleur. Zip Service Course SL alloy bar and stem. LaPierre carbon post with FIZIK Antares saddle. Mavic Ksyrium Equipe wheels with Yksion Comp tires.