July 18, 2014
A truly light, ugly-ducking of a fork. But is it a functional swan?
In the same way that a fat bike is not a machine for the shy, so this unique fork from Iceland is not for the shrinking violets among us.
The Lauf Trail Racer 29 is, as it sounds, a super-light cross-country fork; its trailing link, parallelogram design is a departure from established suspension norms that we’ve not seen since the Lefty and USE’s Sub fork. ‘But why would you make something so ugly/distinctive?’ you cry. Because it weighs so very little, tipping the scale at a kilo – and that’s very important to cross-country racers. The reason for the odd look is down to the unique design. The Lauf is completely made from carbon: the steerer and main legs, the 12 carbon leaf springs (leaf – lauf, you see where the name comes from) and the remote dropout sections are all carbon. The only bits of metal are the two 180mm-only disc bolt tabs and the thread for the 15mm Maxle. With a favourable dollar exchange rate, it’ll cost about the same as most cross-country ‘race’ forks, even with customs and shipping included – and it will weigh less than any of them.
There are two ‘weights’ of spring for the fork: for riders over 65kg and for riders under 70kg. There’s no adjustment and you have to plan not to gain or lose loads of weight, but with 5kg of overlap at the cusp, you probably clearly know where you sit on the scale. Travel is 60mm for both versions – and both forks are guaranteed for riders up to 110kg. Lauf makes no bones about this fork being aimed at cross-country racers and fast trail riders who aren’t planning on taking on any big rock gardens or dirt jumps on their regular rides.
The axle trails the main fork blades, supported by two pairs of three carbon leaf springs on each side. The vertical flex of the leaves combines with the trailing axle to give a very, very supple ride. Smaller bumps like cobbles and rail ballast are simply absorbed. Bigger roots, rocks and steps are soaked up well too.
While there’s no physical damping, the 60mm travel is short enough to not need that much control on rebound and the set-up of the leaf springs does a good job of being progressive in compression and rebound. While you can hit bigger steps and drops, the fork does start getting less controlled in its movements but – as endurance racer Terrahawk pointed out – it’s still way more controlled than a fat bike tyre. You can’t lock it out (or do anything to it, really) but again, it only has 60mm of travel, so bobbing is minimal. Tracking in corners is stable and you can really whip the front end around.
In the six months we’ve had this fork on test, it’s not made a single untoward creak, groan or cracking noise. It’s as supple as the day we got it and temperature makes little difference to its performance. It’s not needed a service, and nor will it. It’s hugely//ITS// Marmite in its looks and purpose, but that’s soon forgotten if you’re on a suitable bike and suitable terrain. Among 24-hour racers, elite cross-country racers and Great Divide contenders it’s going to find many fans. I hope it’ll find more in regular trail riders too, because it’s truly impressive in its performance. It’s truly ugly in its looks too, but who cares?