- A Carbon fiber, All Mountain, limited edition (70th anniversary), electric mountain bike with Bosch CX drive system (now featuring eMTB mode for click-free riding)
- Battery and motor integration are as low and center as I have ever seen delivering a balanced and stable feel, 150 mm adjustable air suspension, three frame sizes
- Powerful 200 mm hydraulic disc brakes, e-bike specific eight-speed SRAM EX1 drivetrain, plus sized Schwalbe Nobby Nic tires, Boost hubs with thru axles for stiffness
- More expensive because it's Carbon and limited (99 made), fatter downtube with a tray type section that could collect debris, limited availability in the US
Lapierre is a French bicycle brand based in Dijon France, it was founded all the way back in 1946 and became part of the Accell Group between 1993 and 1996, along with Haibike, Raleigh, and Diamondback. This transition has led to increased global distribution and I reviewed some of their first electric bikes to reach America in 2014 at a special media event in New Jersey. The Overvolt HT (hard tail) and Overvolt FS (full suspension) were some of the lightest Bosch powered e-bikes I had seen at that time, with tight and clean battery + motor integration. I rarely saw these models for sale in person as I visited shops around the US but I admired the quality engineering and unique curving frame design style. I also enjoyed getting to meet one of the family members, Stephane Lapierre, at the NJ event to hear about their company history and race design focus. And so, I suppose it’s only fitting that I stumble across one of the newest Overvolt models at yet another media event, this time in Sedona, Arizona. Stephane was not present but I remembered our conversation and recognized the same emphasis on frame stiffness, balance, and reduced weight. The Lapierre Overvolt AM 70th Carbon is an All Mountain, Carbon fiber, 70th anniversary special edition model with only 99 being built. I believe it was released in Europe in late 2016 because the math (2016-70=1946) checks out and Europe regularly gets the cool stuff first in this industry. The Overvolt AM 70th Carbon is an electric bike that really pushes the limits of what’s possible with the current gen Bosch Powerpack design, positioning it as low and center as possible. It feels incredibly stable and nimble for a longer travel full suspension design but the frame does have a unique “pregnant” look and the top of the battery and motor casing do stand out a bit which could generate curiosity and interest from fellow mountain bikers. While the Overvolt AM 70th Carbon is roughly 2.5 lbs lighter than the Cannondale Moterra mentioned earlier, it does not include bottle cage provisions, and only comes in three sizes vs. four. Frankly, I’m amazed to see a limited run, special edition electric bicycle available in more than just one or two frame sizes. The Carbon frame provides increased stiffness and power transfer along with some vibration dampening qualities. I found that the bulging bottom bracket and downtube didn’t get in the way of my feet and the top tube was narrower so my knees felt safe and free. The longer 150 mm air suspension allows this bike to travel down rough hills quickly while still providing some uphill riding support (and you do get rebound and compression clickers on both suspension elements). The Overvolt AM 70th Carbon shares the same linkage driven single pivot suspension design as the Cannondale Moterra mentioned earlier, which offers good bump compliance but does bob when starting and climbing.
For this review, I got some deeper insights and feedback from the Chief Technical Manager of Intense Cycles, Chappy (Chad Peterson) who is a high-level rider. Intense is a premium non-electric mountain bike brand based in Southern California and their bikes were also present at the event. So, Chappy rode the Lapierre Overvolt AM 70th Carbon during a relay race across the Sedona golf course and he and his teammate won which was pretty cool. They rotated between this ebike and one of their own non-electric models… both being some of the lightest platforms at the show. But 49.8 lbs is still quite heavy, so motor design and power delivery are still very important and I’m going to expand on those properties a bit. The Bosch Performance Line CX is a high-torque version of the standard Performance Line motor, producing up to 75 Newton meters of torque force vs. 63 Nm. It delivers between 250 watts and 600 watts, assisting riders at speeds up to 20 mph. This motor weighs roughly 8.8 lbs on its own and is surrounded by minimalist plastic shielding, with a beveled skid plate along the bottom. Physically, it blends into the downtube and chainstays but the black color does stand out against the matte green paint. As you pedal, the Bosch motor controller listens for pedal torque, cadence, and rear wheel speed to determine when to activate the motor and how much power to send. It’s one of the most responsive electric bicycle systems that I have tested to date because these signals are measured 1,000 times per second and the chainring (which is turned by your pedaling and the motor) spins at 2.5 times for each crank arm revolution. The sprocket is a 16 tooth design with narrow-wide pattern for increased chain grab and is roughly equivalent to a 40 tooth traditionally sized chainring. In the video review above, you can see just how quickly it starts and stops as I pedal. And now, the Bosch CX motor offers one additional feature which is useful and relevant to electric mountain bikes. It’s called eMTB mode, and it modifies the old Eco, Tour, Sport, and Turbo power levels from being four steps into three steps (Eco, Tour, Turbo) with Sport transforming into an “all-range” mode which relies more on torque signals alone. If you’re in Sport mode and pedal gently, the motor may respond as if you were in Eco mode… but then, as you push harder, it will jump up to Turbo support levels and speed. This special mode is perfect for trail and mountain riding because your hands and fingers may not be as free to reach over and click up or down on the control pad. You’ll probably be braking and holding on tight, laser focused on the trail. All of the marketing hype aside, the mode really does work and it never felt under or overpowered to me. Bosch did a great job turning an idea into a reality and I am told that older CX driven ebikes can also get eMTB mode with a software update from your local dealer.
The centerdrive motor works great but can only accomplish as much as the drivetrain allows, and the Overvolt AM 70th Carbon has a seemingly limited eight-speed cassette. I’m teasing a bit here because this is an e-bike specific drivetrain from SRAM called the EX1 which foregoes sprocket numbers to reduce the need for shifting clicks and multi-shifts that many riders end up executing because of increased motor support. You get a wide 11 to 48 tooth range on this cassette, the jumps are just bigger. Shifting felt crisp and fast during my ride test and I wasn’t so concerned about the large jumps because Bosch drive systems incorporate shift detection. The motor listens for gaps in pressure and eases back slightly so the chain, sprockets, and derailleur won’t take as much force… but I still tend to pedal hard and then ease off a bit before shifting just to keep it smooth.
Despite all of this cool motor/drivetrain talk, I feel like battery placement and integration is the real innovation point on this e-bike. Most of the time, Bosch Powerpack hardware is mounted on top of the downtube, further up and forward to make room for the seat tube, maybe a bottle cage mount, and occasionally, a four bar rear suspension which places the shock vertically vs. horizontally. Lapierre cleared the lower section of downtube and completely opened up the seat tube on their new Overvolt so that the battery could slide all the way down and back. And I do mean “all the way” back, they put it so far back that an additional plastic fender had to be added for protection against dirt and water splattering off the back tire! In so doing, they also seated the pack down into the downtube, butting the battery mounting plate up against the motor casing, and therefore, had to wrap the frame around the pack on both sides. This design choice gave me pause at first because the lower downtube sections are as wide as the motor casing, much wider than the top tube. It made me wonder whether my calfs, feet, or knees would somehow collide with the frame or scratch up the carbon tubing? In practice, the bike pedaled fine for me and Chappy didn’t express any concern. It does look “unique” but the performance gains around handling are clear. the battery can be charged on or off the frame as usual, uses the same charging plug in both locations so you don’t need a dongle adapter, and the LED charge level indicator is visible from the left side. The pack locks securely to the frame and has been slightly modified with a removable piece of plastic along the upper looped section to make it easier to pull up (especially if you’re wearing gloves). Perhaps my biggest complaint about the battery interface is that the inset “dish” area where it mounts could collect dirt and tiny rocks which would rattle around or possibly get wedged beneath the battery pack over time. You can see this clearly by looking down at the downtube from above, there’s this big open area with a flat bottom just waiting to catch stuff.
Operating the electronic systems on the Overvolt AM is quick and intuitive. Once the battery pack has been charged and mounted on the frame, just press the power button at the lower left corner of the Bosch Intuvia display panel. Please keep in mind that for this review, I was given a modified bike with the smaller Bosch Purion display/button pad combination. The Purion doesn’t offer as many readouts (like motor power output) and doesn’t click as easily or reliably in my experience. I like the smaller size (which might avoid trail damage during a crash) but was bummed out that it doesn’t have a functional 5 Volt Micro USB charging port like the larger Intuvia. The good news is, you can pick whichever system you want. I appreciate how easily the Intuvia’s remote button pad clicks and how easy it is to cycle through trip stats like max speed, average speed, clock, trip distance, and range. Range is very cool because it dynamically updates based on the last mile of use, selected assist level, and battery capacity remaining. Given that the Lapierre Overvolt AM 70th Carbon comes with the latest Bosch Powerpack 500, which has a 25% higher capacity than the older Powerpack 400, you should get excellent range. I truly enjoyed the eMTB mode but occasionally switched to Tour for more of a leg workout and then up to Turbo when I needed a break or was climbing a very steep section. Even when you do have to reach over with your left thumb to click the up and down arrow buttons, they produce a tactile clicky feel so you don’t have to look down to confirm the selection on the display. And the display is backlit with a light blue glow for use in early morning and late night conditions.
Other highlights of this particular model include integrated Supernova lights that feel sturdy and stay out of the way. I especially love the 165 Lumen Alloy-encased headlight that points where you steer and is aimable vertically. The three-LED backlight is positioned near the disc brake rotor and goes almost unnoticed until you turn it on (using the light button on the right side of the Intuvia display). You get excellent braking power on this platform thanks to SRAM Guide hydraulic disc brakes with extra large 200 mm rotors front and rear. The demo model I was given to test had been changed to Magura brakes because they were a sponsor of the event. It seems like dropper seat posts are becoming the norm for any sort of All Mountain and Trail bikes these days and the Overvolt AM has a good one from RockShox. The Fizik Gobi saddle felt fine and has some orange accents to match the frame and shifter cable housing. You get locking flat rubber grips, a nice allow chainring guard to prevent drops and fend off debris, and possibly no pedals? I’m a big fan of plus sized tires for e-mountain bikes and the wider 2.8″ Schwalbe Nobby Nics here worked great, providing increased traction thanks to larger knobs. The tires are tubeless ready and can be deflated to 17 PSI for use in soft terrain. Priced at $7,500 this electric bike does not come cheap and it does not have provisions for mounting a bottle cage… but it does handle well and might have given Chappy and his teammate an edge in their win at the golf course race. I like the feel of carbon fiber and appreciate the lengths that Lapierre went to in order to achieve the balance on their special edition 70th anniversary bike here. For a bit more information on this model, check out Bikerumor here.
- One of the only Carbon fiber electric mountain bikes I have ever seen, this reduces weight while improving power transfer through stiffness, Carbon fiber is also known for vibration dampening qualities
- The Overvolt AM 70th Carbon is running an ebike specific drivetrain from SRAM that’s designed to handle additional chain force and reduce shifting clicks (since you have motor support and can handle larger jumps) the EX1 is an eight-speed setup offering 11 to 48 teeth for a huge range of climbing and high-speed operation
- One thing that really sets the Bosch electric bike motor and controller system apart from other mid-drive systems is that it offers shift detection and that really comes in handy with the larger jumps between sprockets on the SRAM EX1 so you don’t mash as much
- I’m amazed that they produced the limited edition model in three different sizes… I guess they can reuse the molding for future bikes (cheaper and lower specced I’d assume), it means you can get a top of the line product that actually fits your body size
- The plus sized Schwalbe Nobby Nic tires offer better traction than some other 2.8″ designs because the knobs are so large, you still get float and cushion but they grab a bit better
- Extra long, heavy duty rubber chainstay protector… as you might expect on a carbon frame, keeps the right chainstay from taking chain slaps and hits as you navigate bumpy terrain at high speed
- The plus sized tires demand wider rims and wider hubs so Lapierre opted for the Bost standard (110 mm front and 148 mm rear) which the spoke bracing angle and you also get thru axles (15 mm front and 12 mm rear) for increased stiffness
- I love the little fender at the base of the seat tube that protects the battery mount from water and debris, I have seen this on some other full suspension bikes but it was used to shield the stanchion
- These limited edition models are all numbered and feature some graphical highlights, I was looking at model 78 out of 99 that were produced
- Both suspension components have rebound and compression adjust, they can be sagged to suit your weight because they are air vs. coil and you can add tokens to the fork to improve stiffness by reducing air capacity
- The battery and motor are both positioned as low and center as possible to improve handling and balance front to rear, the battery has an extra plastic grip piece on the handle to make it easier to get out of the unique embedded mount
- Minimalist chainring protector keeps the chain on track, reduces drops, and protects your pants if you have long loose clothing for some crazy reason (perhaps it’s cold)
- Internally routed shifter cables, brake lines, and electrical wires keep the frame looking beautiful and reduce the potential for snags and bends
- Bosch reps have told me that one of the reasons they use a smaller chainring is to improve grab, and Lapierre has furthered that characteristic by implementing a narrow-wide tooth pattern on the chainring so you shouldn’t get any slip and power transfer should be immediate
- Apparently the Overvolt All Mountain 70th Carbon model comes with a Supernova V6s E-Bike 165 Lumen headlight and a 3-led Supernova rear light! Both are sleek, tough (Aluminum housing for the headlight) and aimable, they are powered by the main battery and would come in very handy for evening or early morning rides or street riding on your way to the trail
- Even though the demo model I was looking at had a Bosch Purion display, it typically comes with the Bosch Intuvia which is easier to read, easier to navigate, and has a 5 Volt 600 milliamp Micro-USB charging port in the side… if you prefer the Purion, Bosch dealers can retrofit that display for you which is cool
- Extra-powerful 200 mm hydraulic disc brakes help you navigate steep terrain, this is an all-mountain ebike with longer travel 150 mm suspension, so with the additional weight (the bike weighs ~50 lbs) it’s important to be able to stop smoothly and quickly
- RockShox Reverb dropper seat post is critical for smooth transitions from climbing to descending, the cabling is internally routed, it works great
- Even though it looks like the downtube is really bulged out on the sides (and wider than a traditional ebike downtube) it didn’t get in the way because it’s so low, my knees had plenty of room up high… and I liked how the battery mount left room on the side for the LED charge level indicator and on-bike charging (of course, you can also remove the battery and charge off bike)
- Bosch includes a high-speed four-amp battery charger with most of their electric bikes and it comes in handy for the high capacity Powerpack 500 battery that comes stock on the Overvolt here
- The CX motor system now offers eMTB mode which changes the Sport level into a full-range assist level so you don’t have to click up or down when riding, it mainly focuses on torque and doesn’t cap output like Eco and Tour mode but also doesn’t jump to the highest level if you’re not pushing hard
- The linkage driven single pivot suspension design offers decent bump compliance, is less expensive to implement because it is not proprietary, and creates space for the battery pack along the bottom portion of the downtube, but it isn’t as efficient for pedaling so you get a little bob and it produces some braking feedback compared to the four bar Horst-link design on some other bikes
- With a smaller chainring and larger motor interface (compared to a non-ebike bottom bracket) it’s possible to have chain suck (where mud piles up and the chain sticks to the chainring vs. flowing out towards the cassette), this only seems to happen in very muddy conditions as I’ve heard you can experience in parts of the UK
- The downtube on this electric bike looks… unique, and there’s a wide open space just in front of the battery where sand and dirt could collect and rattle around if you don’t keep it clean, it wasn’t my favorite look and had me concerned before the ride but the bike performed very well and the downtube wasn’t as wide and didn’t get in the way as I initially thought it might
- The Bosch Performance Line motors produce a bit of whirring noise, kind of a high pitched whine, when operated at high RPM in the higher levels of assist, you don’t notice it as much when riding with the large knobby tires off road
- I like how integrated the motor and battery are but the bike still looks a bit funky and might attract unwanted attention when mountain biking compared to the Brose system with fully integrated battery as we see on the Specialized Turbo Levo and Bulls models