April 14, 2010

Lapierre has been an established French bicycle maker since 1948. The marquis has earned its most recent headlines under the team colors of ProTour team Française des Jeux. The Sensium 400 is Lapierre’s most versatile high-performance racing machine, with a conservatively designed carbon fiber frame that is intended to deliver energetic power output combined with well-mannered handling and a smooth ride.

Lapierre markets the $3500 Sensium 400 to devoted enthusiasts who live for Grand Fondos, club centuries and benefit events – a role that the French beauty joyously fulfills. Its compact frame design keeps the handlebar and controls high enough to boost comfort, but not so tall that the Lapierre could not be raced in earnest. SRAM Force components are a major performance plus at this price, and the wide-range 50/34 compact gearing of its carbon crankset, paired with a closely spaced 11/25 cassette, gives it an edge in the mountains as well as the flats. Fulcrum Racing 5 wheels and Ritchey cockpit items further boost the credibility of the Lapierre among the performance-minded. We tested the 52-centimeter model, which works out closer to a 55-centimeter conventional road frame. The 400 weighed 16.9 pounds – a bit heavy for a racing machine, but well within the sweet spot for a performance bicycle. Colors are in blue or black with tasteful metallic graphics.

Lapierre delivers on its promises; the Sensium 400 accelerates without flex at high-watt outputs, and its frame geometry and Michelin Pro 3 tires can make angry pavement feel like a purring cat. Balanced steering with a good measure of responsiveness make it easy to keep out of trouble in city traffic and also encourages its pilot to let loose when downhilling in the mountains. The 400’s confidence-inspiring balance and smooth ride come at a small price, however, and those who demand crack-the-whip sprinting response and a direct-drive feel when climbing will have to search elsewhere. The Lapierre is not designed to feed the egos of explosive competitors. Instead, the Sensium 400 is a supremely efficient machine that will leave you with a lot of power in the bank for the latter stages of a tough ride.

PRICE: $3500
WEIGHT: 16.9 pounds
INFO: www.lapierrebikes.com

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