The Lapierre Xelius SL 9.0 is the French brand’s take on the jack of all trades road bike.
With a balance of low weight, aerodynamic efficiency and comfort, it’s the bike of choice for Lapierre’s sponsored Grand Tour contenders, Groupama-FDJ’s Thibaut Pinot and David Gaudu.
Now in its third generation, this latest evolution of the Xelius SL follows a similar formula to the previous iteration, but learns lessons from the Aircode DRS, Lapierre’s aero road bike.
The product is an exciting, fast road bike that will suit riders looking to maximise their speeds across all terrains.
What’s more, in an age when bike and component prices are rising across the board, the Lapierre Xelius SL 9.0 stands out as a bike that offers excellent value relative to the competition.
Waiting for Gaudu
While France’s wait for another Tour de France winner looks set to continue for the foreseeable future, it won’t be for the lack of a decent road bike.
The likes of Gaudu, Pinot and Frédéric Grappe (head of the Groupama-FDJ performance unit) were, according to Lapierrre, heavily involved in the development of the new Xelius SL frameset.
As well as the de rigeur wave of the aero wand over the frameset, the Xelius SL is now disc brake only and features fully integrated cable routing at the front end.
These changes are said to make the Xelius SL 7 watts more aerodynamically efficient at 40kph, compared to the previous version.
At the same time, Lapierre has cut around 100g from the frame compared to the previous version, with a size M frame claimed to weigh 845g. Combined with a 392g fork, and a WorldTour-worthy build specification, and you have a complete bike weight of 7.45kg (size L), on my scales.
The Xelius SL also retains Lapierre’s signature ‘3D tubular concept’ seatstays, which connect to the top tube around 9cm in front of the seat tube, and lend the bike a unique look.
The paintjob on this model is also very handsome. It’s a navy blue fade, but uses a glitter paint that looks stunning when it catches the sunlight. Pictures don’t do it justice.
Lapierre Xelius SL 9.0 geometry and ride feel
When it launched, Lapierre said the 2022 Xelius SL also had revised geometry that offers a “more aggressive” fit and faster handling.
With its 557mm stack and 403mm reach, it’s up (down?) there with other notoriously long and low bikes such as the Merida Scultura and Specialized Tarmac SL7.
The seat tube angle is, at 73.5 degrees on our size L test bike, now also a degree steeper than previously.
Combined with a zero-offset seatpost, which puts you in a higher, more forward position over the bottom bracket, the Lapierre is a real head-down racer.
Up front, the head tube angle sits at 73 degrees. With a fork offset of 50mm, that gives a trail figure of 52mm with the Xelius SL’s 700 x 25c tyres. That’s 3mm less than a size 56cm Specialized Tarmac SL7, and 6mm less than a 56cm Cervélo R5.
Broadly speaking then, the Xelius SL is a fast-handling bike. It reacts quickly to your inputs and encourages you to adopt a racy riding position.
On exceptionally windy days, that can translate into a certain amount of twitchiness when the front rim catches a sudden gust of crosswind. It isn’t unmanageable, but the Xelius SL is a bike that requires more concentration on such days.
In terms of comfort, the Xelius SL does a very good job of dissipating road buzz on standard roads, especially at the rear end, but with its 700 x 25c tyres you feel more feedback from bigger bumps.
It’s worth noting the Xelius SL is only available in five sizes, from XS to XL (52-58cm).
While this won’t be an issue for riders whose physiology falls around the centre part of the bell curve, those at the extremes might find there isn’t an option small or large enough for their ideal bike fit.
This may partly explain why Lapierre is able to offer the Xelius SL range at such competitive prices. A larger size range means increased development costs, plus more moulds (which can be very expensive) and inventory, and vice versa.
In contrast, the Pinarello Dogma F is available in 11 sizes, but costs £12,200 for a similar build.
Lapierre Xelius SL 9.0 finishing kit
The Xelius SL 9.0 is an exceptionally well specced bike for the money, rivalling direct to consumer brands such as Canyon for value.
For £6,999 / €7,799, you get a Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 R9200 groupset, a set of Lapierre’s own carbon wheels, Continental GP5000 clincher tyres, a Fizik Vento Argo R5 saddle and a Lapierre carbon handlebar and stem.
Up front, the carbon stem and handlebar are both Lapierre-branded parts. The parts work together as a system to integrate both gear cables (where present) and brake hoses.
These pass through a port in the rear of the handlebar clamping area, through the inside of the stem, and then route into the frame in front of the round, 1 1/8in steerer tube, via the integrated headset spacers.
It’s a slick system, which still allows the stem length and handlebar width to be set independently.
Thanks to split headset spacers, the stack height can be adjusted without cutting the steerer tube or disconnecting any cables or hoses (round spacers can be run above the stem until you settle on a position).
If you do want to customise the front end, the stem is available in lengths of 90 to 120mm (in a -5.7-degree angle) and the handlebar in widths of 380-420mm.
While these parts aren’t listed for sale on its website, Lapierre nevertheless confirmed riders can access them via official dealers.
The Fizik Vento Argo R5 saddle is perhaps the only area where Lapierre has made a concession to price.
It’s perfectly comfortable, with a great shape and generous central cut-out, but at 225g (140mm width) it is the heaviest and cheapest version in Fizik’s Vento Argo range.
Upgrading to the lightest Vento Argo 00 saddle only saves a meagre 91g, though, so it likely won’t be worth the expense for most people.
The saddle sits atop a Lapierre carbon seatpost. It’s a 27.2mm round seatpost that’s easy to adjust and gets on with its job without any fanfare.
As noted, you get a zero-offset seatpost, but given its standard dimensions, replacements will be easy to source should you prefer something different.
Lapierre Xelius SL 9.0 groupset, wheels and tyres
Shimano’s latest Dura-Ace Di2 groupset continues to impress with its slick performance and quiet running.
Befitting the bike’s racy nature, you get 52/36-tooth chainrings up front with an 11-30 tooth cassette out back.
The extra gear isn’t life-changing if you’re coming from an 11-speed drivetrain, but it is undoubtedly nice to have – especially as there are no noticeable downsides.
The only thing missing is a power meter, which rivals such as the Merida Scultura Team and Canyon Ultimate CF SLX 9 Disc Di2 do include (albeit at slightly higher prices of £7,750 and £7,499, respectively).
At this price point, though, it would be possible to purchase a power meter separately and still have a net spend less than required for many other similarly specced road bikes from mainstream brands.
The Lapierre Road Disc 42 carbon wheelset has 42mm deep rims, with a 21mm internal width and a 30mm maximum external width.
The claimed weight is 1,540g, including tubeless rim tape, which is competitive for a wheelset with rims of this depth (Zipp’s 303 S wheelset is also said to weigh 1,540g).
Lapierre says the 2022 versions also feature a new U-shaped rim profile, which is said to offer more stable handling in crosswinds and at high speed compared to the 2021 versions.
In testing, that held true, with the wheels offering excellent handling on all but the windiest days (which will generally trip up even the best road bike wheels with deep-section rims).
My test bike came with Continental’s GP5000 clincher tyres, which are a top clincher choice, with a fantastic balance of speed, grip and puncture resistance.
Once availability improves, 2022 Xelius SL 9.0 builds will ship with the latest Continental GP5000S TR tyres, though, which are tubeless-ready.
Lapierre has specced the tyres in a 700 x 25c size, and while they measure 27mm wide when inflated to 70psi / 4.8bar on these rims, that could be narrower than some riders prefer these days.
The Xelius SL frameset has clearance for tyres up to 700 x 32c, though, so it is possible to use tyres with greater volume if you wish to.
Lapierre Xelius SL 9.0 bottom line
The Lapierre Xelius SL 9.0 is a road bike with a distinct style and galvanising ride feel.
Its combination of low weight, aerodynamic efficiency and nimble handling makes it a bike that rewards riders with attacking styles.
Beyond the omission of a power meter, it’s near impossible to fault the build specification, especially at this price.
With its racy geometry and relatively narrow tyres, it may be too performance-focused for some, but those who like to ride with panache will find the Xelius SL to be an ideal machine.
Performance Bike of the Year 2022 | How we tested
Whether you’re riding up or down hills, in a straight line or through tight corners, jostling for positions in a bunch or simply going for that KOM you’ve always dreamt of, the best performance road bikes are wicked-fast and inspire confidence. They should make you feel a little bit like Tadej Pogačar, even if your legs can’t back it up.
With that in mind, we challenged the contenders primarily to an onslaught of technical, hilly routes and fast-paced rides around south Bristol.
Given most riders don’t have a fleet of bikes or a professional mechanic at their beck and call, we also considered how easy each bike is to live with and service.
Can you customise the fit or are you stuck with what comes as stock? Are the deep-section wheels usable in all conditions, or will windy days have you questioning how much you want to go out on a ride? Is it comfortable enough for a long day in the saddle when the roads are less than perfect?
All of the bikes featured in this year’s Performance Bike of the Year test are at the upper end of the pricing scale, with premium groupsets and parts showcasing the best contemporary equipment, but most are also available in cheaper specs if your budget doesn’t stretch as far.
Our Performance Bike of the Year contenders are: