Our Technical Field Agent, Marc Basiliere, reports on this latest suspension fork innovation from… Iceland?
Slotting in somewhere between the natural compliance of a modern rigid fork and the complexity and weight of a full-blown suspension fork, Lauf’s Trail Racer is one of the more interesting designs we’ve seen since the go-go days of the early ’90s. Using two sets of three carbon fibre leaf springs per side, the Icelandic fork suspends the front hub behind its forward-swept carbon fiber legs. The result? A 980g, 29er fork with 60mm of travel and – if only on a technicality – no moving parts.
In the case of the Trail Racer 29in, spring force and damping are non-adjustable. The fork will come in three different leaf stiffnesses for riders of different weights. Oh, and there’s no compression and rebound damping apart from that inherent in the carbon leaf springs. The way in which the Leaf Spring System flexes provides a rising spring rate, running from “stiff” through “stiffer” to “stiffest.” Not a plush trail fork, then. The initially rearward axle path should aid in small bump sensitivity, however, and should “stiffest” not prove stiff enough, there is a built-in bump stop to prevent the sprung dropouts from crashing into the back of the fork leg.
Conceived just over two years ago, the Lauf Trail Racer 29in is the brainchild of composite prosthetic engineer Benedikt Skulason and his friend and industrial designer Gudberg Bjornsson. Within a year, the duo had quit their day jobs to pursue the concept and since then the company has grown to a staff of five. In its first competitive outing, the Lauf fork took first place at an XC race in Heidmork (near Reyjkavik) under Helgi Berg. While Berg’s riding no doubt played a big part, his 8kg XX1- and Lauf-equipped Focus Raven hardtail couldn’t have hurt.
We could see a fork such as the Trail Racer 29in appealing to riders who like the simplicity and light weight of a rigid fork – but not the sometimes harsh reality. The lack of required maintenance should also appeal to those of us who don’t stop for mud. A total of six color schemes are shown on the Lauf website- some quite handsome. While this first fork is clearly aimed at the XC racing set, there are a number of trail and all-mountain riders on the Lauf staff- and if the Trail Racer takes off they’re going to want to ride something.
In order to build confidence in the design, Lauf’s prototype units have seen over 140,000 cycles in the laboratory, apparently without signs of wear. A five year warranty will accompany all Lauf forks when they begin shipping next summer. Price will be US$1220. UK/Euro pricing will put it in line with an XX World Cup SID.
And finally, perhaps this video will help explain things a little better.
And, as if to answer some of the unbelievers. Here’s a freshly shot video showing the fork handling a 4ft dropoff in downtown Reykjavik