22/02/09: Oui!

It was the second demo day of the year, and this one was the big one – the Bike Radar Demo Day.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I’d booked a Lapierre Zesty 514L, a Santa Cruz Juliana, and a Yeti 575 – with a mind to demo a Trek Fuel 9 as well.

First up was the Lapierre.  Now, what I’m about to write is very difficult for me.  You see, me and French engineering?  We don’t go well together.  I’ve never had a particularly high regard for it ever since my mate Dez bought a Peugeot, and had nothing but trouble with it.  This view was reinforced when another friend bought a Renault…which was also plagued with problems.    And, just to add a delicious layer of bitter icing to the cake of disgruntlement, I’ve had to fork out god knows how much money on my Nissan Micra.

“But that’s Japanese!”, I hear you cry!  Alas, dear reader, that’s also what I assumed.  That’s why I bought it – because Japanese cars are traditionally very reliable.  Which is why I was puzzled when I started having so many engine problems with my car over the past year – my car, incidentally, wasn’t even three years old when it started playing up.  And recently, after having to replace the EGR valve, I learnt the source of my woes.

Nissan Micras are Japanese designed…but the UK Micras with the current body shape (launched in 2003) have French engines.  Renault engines, to be exact.  So yeah, me and French engineering? Generally, I’d be screaming “NON!” right about now.

So, I was viewing the Zesty with some suspicion.  Sure, I’d read glowing reviews, but that wasn’t really enough to overcome my innate prejudice or casual racism.  Baguettes ahoy!  Plus it had a fairly uninspired paint job…

To ride, however, the Zesty 514 was the best bike I’ve ever ridden.  It just felt…right.  Solid, stable, but light and nimble.  It inspired confidence on descents, and climbed nicely too.  Everything was pretty much perfect – geometry suited me to a T, the brakes were set up with just the right amount of bite, and the gears were perfectly smooth.  MMmmmm….Zesty!


Unfortunately, the women’s version of the Zesty only seems to be available in the 514, not the slightly lower specced 314…which means it tips in at a mighty £2399.


I don’t suppose anyone could offer any information on the organ black market, I have a spare kidney sitting around.  One careful lady owner…

Next up was the Trek Fuel 8 WSD, which is infamously brown.  Well, to be fair, it’s actually more like bronze and gold in the flesh, but that’s still dangerously close to brown in my book.  The Trek, sadly, disappointed slightly, but I feel that was more down to the set-up rather than being down to the bike itself.

Trek Fuel

The gears were a bit crunchy, and the brakes kept rubbing, leading to a quiet ghostly wail as I rode, which transformed into what can only be described as the honking of an angry goose when I actually applied the brakes.  The brakes also felt a little spongey, with the lever needing to be pulled back to its full extent to get any bite.  On the plus side, noisy brakes are awesome for startling nearby walkers….

There was also the pedals – I didn’t take my own flats to the demo day, so I was using the manufacturers own.  Unfortunately Trek were using dual platform flat/spd pedals on their demo fleet.  Today I discovered that, in my eyes, dual platform/spd pedals are the worst idea ever. Try and do two things at once, and you end up doing neither very well.  Like trying to pedal up a technical ascent whilst trying to get the pedals the right way around, for example…

Geometry wasn’t too bad, but I think I would have benefitted going to the 15.5″ instead of the 14.5″ – despite having the same top tube length as its male counterparts, the bike I was on still felt a little short.

Again, like the Safire, I’m not going to completely write off the Trek until I’ve given it a fair chance.  Despite the problems, it was still an enjoyable ride, and all of those problems aren’t inherent to the bike itself.  Brakes can be bled and discs adjusted, gears can be cleaned and oiled.  It’s just a shame that the bike wasn’t at its best on the demo day – which is possibly the one day it really needs to be!  I think I’ll try and demo the next size up from Swinnertons at some point, and see if it impresses then.

After stuffing a bacon sandwich into my face,  the Santa Cruz Juliana was up to bat.  First…


I think we’ll all agree that that is a very, very green bike.  Traditionally I’ve not been a huge fan of the garish mono-coloured bikes, but recently I’ve been softening to them.  And there is something compelling about riding a bike that screams “LOOK AT ME!!”…also something terrifying if, like me, you’re not actually very good…

The Juliana was a nice ride, again, solid and stable.  I felt confident enough to take her down Section 13, which I haven’t ridden since…*checks previous blog entries*…August!  Unfortuantely, I don’t think it was quite what I was after – it was a really nice bike, and I’d be happy to take one out for a more extended spin, but it felt slightly off (but annoyingly not in any way I can quite explain), and it didn’t tackle climbs with the same…er, zest as the Zesty.

I never got to try the Yeti, but the guy at the tent told me that Yetis “come up large”, and that the small would be too big for me.  Apparently they’ve just started making extra small 575s, but they have none in the demo fleet sadly.  Still, have a picture of a Yeti anyway.


It's a Yeti off Google image search


Ride: Cannock Chase

Trail: A little bit of Follow the Dog (including Section 13), some green routes

Highlights: The Lapierre Zesty.

Bad bits: Dual platform pedals on the Trek.  Yes, I know I should have taken my own 🙁

Post ride food snaffled: Bacon sandwich, oaty choc chip cookie, Gray’s Herbal Tablets

Good dogs seen: Border Terrier, labrador pups, little airedale terrier type dogs

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