Nowadays, it seems every manufacturer has a gravel bike on the market, or at least in the works and on the drawing board. Cyclocross bikes have served well for long excursions onto one’s favorite gravel roads, but manufacturers have taken those designs further with bikes tweaked for gravel cycling; changes to geometry, clearance for bigger tires and the ability to be ridden virtually anywhere. The slacker angles associated with many of these frames provides a measure of stability which instills confidence in the rider, and wider tires with lower air pressure ensure comfort and plenty of grip on loose gravel road surfaces.

Even with all of these design factors taken into account, bumps, potholes, stretches of washboarded roads and rough surfaces eventually fatigue a rider. A relaxed riding style that allows the bike to float over the worst of it certainly helps, but for prolonged time in the saddle, there is no way around the fatigue or discomfort factor. The Lauf Grit promises to take some sting out of the front end of a gravel bike, with it’s unique fork design that offers 30mm of travel and no moving parts.

How does that work? Click on through for more info and our review…

Parlee Chebacco in stock form pre-Grit, after a hard day at the 2016 Bootlegger 100.

Tyler gave his first ride impressions on a preproduction version of the Grit fork early in 2016, whereas this review covers the production version. The Lauf Grit fork features all carbon construction, including the two lower segments, which are attached to the main body of the fork by Lauf’s S2 springs. These springs are made from military grade S2 glass fiber that Lauf claim is resilient and flexible in the direction of travel. Lauf have confidence in their product; they have stress tested the Grit for over 1,000,000 test cycles with at least 20mm of movement during each cycle. They back the fork with a five year warranty to the original owner, and offer a discounted crash replacement policy should the fork be damaged.

Installation of the fork is a relatively easy affair, provided you have the appropriate crown race. The Grit’s 300mm uncut carbon steerer tube tapers from 1 1/8″ to 1 1/4″ and is delivered with a 1 1/2″ crown race. However, my Parlee Chebacco test bike required a 1 1/4″ crown race – once that was sourced, installation could continue.

In the case of the Chebacco, the front hydraulic brake housing was routed internally through the stock fork, but Shimano’s handy hydraulic brake housings and connectors allowed the cable to be split and removed from the fork, saving time unwrapping and wrapping handlebar tape, etc.

The Grit’s steerer was cut to a suitable length and installed, brake housing routed and held in place with zip ties, re-connected and bled. Massive thank you to Martin of Super Cool Bike Shop for assisting with the installation. The Grit weighed 924 grams sans thru-axle before the steerer tube was cut. Compared to the Parlee’s stock fork at 426 grams cut, even with a small reduction in weight due to the reduced steerer length but nullified by the addition of the crown race, an additional 498 grams of weight was added to the bike. Holding the Parlee aloft, it felt noticeably heavier at the front end.

The Grit’s 30mm of travel features a progressive spring rate. In a nutshell, as the fork compresses further, the springs become stiffer. This is intended to prevent the fork from bottoming out while remaining sensitive to small bumps. I had concerns about the fork acting like a pogo stick, bobbing up and down during out of the saddle climbing or hard efforts. There is definitely a small amount of bob going on, but it is negligible and less than a well-behaved regular suspension fork with its lockout activated. Heavier riders may get the fork to bob more than I could – worth mentioning, I weigh between 154 – 158lbs. Rider weight limit is 242lbs / 110kgs.

Above, the thru-bolt axle (15mm in my case) resides between the lowers and moves relative to the upper which provides the suspension effect. On smooth gravel roads, the fork has a relatively neutral feel to it. With an axle to crown measurement of 409mm and 6mm of sag accounted for, the feel of your bike shouldn’t be affected too much. Fork rake is 47mm.

However, aesthetics are affected, and some riders will be unable to get past the unorthodox look of the fork – for some, it doesn’t win any style points, a fact I was constantly reminded of anytime I rode the Parlee / Grit fork in the company of others.

The Grit accepts a 160mm brake rotor at minimum, with options for a 12mm or 15mm thru-axle. Because I had a post-mount Shimano hydraulic brake on the Parlee, I had to install Shimano’s post mount to flat mount adapter in the 140mm size – this sounds incorrect, but that positions the caliper into the right position on the Lauf Grit. See Lauf’s website for installation tips.

With Maxxis Rambler 700c x 40mm tires mounted on an American Classic Argent disc brake wheelset, there is a stack of tire clearance beneath the fork. Lauf recommend a 700c x 42mm tire at max, but a 45mm tire will fit without any trouble. For 650B / 27.5″ wheels, the fork will accommodate a 2.1″ wide tire.

Regardless of looks, the Grit works. Riding over a consistent smattering of surface gravel, the fork is kept busy, nullifying fine bumps and taking the edge off. For bigger impacts such as potholes, the Grit doesn’t completely soak up the entire hit, but enough that the impact is reduced, helping the rider maintain control of the bike. This feature definitely helps for rough and tricky descents – you may notice the added weight of the fork on a long climb, but most riders will forget about that and appreciate the extra comfort and control on the descent. I could envisage this fork being very useful on courses like the original Iron Cross through the Michaux State Forest of Pennsylvania – where there are plenty of rocky descents!

Lateral stiffness – this has been a question for many riders considering these forks. I haven’t ridden the MTB versions, this is a task better suited for Bikerumor editors such as Zach. However, with just 30mm of travel, I didn’t notice any shift or sway in the wheel side to side. To further explore this potential issue, I took the Lauf and Parlee down some reasonably CX-bike friendly MTB trails; the Lauf Grit fork never skipped a beat, and continued taking an edge off the bumpy stuff.

In my video above, the fork’s main shortcoming is highlighted – the inability to deal with heavily washboarded roads. However, this issue also affects mountain bike suspension, hardtail or full. Suspension of any kind simply cannot rebound fast enough to offer any relief from the uncomfortable pounding of washboarded roads. In my experience, riding bigger, 2″ wide tires with low pressure at speed on a rigid gravel bike with big tire clearance, is the only way to feel any sort of relief from these road conditions. Washboard just isn’t any fun.

Update, May 2, 2017

Above, the Lauf engineers rode the Lauf Grit fork across a milder set of washboard road. It definitely performed better in this scenario.

The Grit fork isn’t for everyone, but it will appeal to riders looking to calm some of the harsher gravel roads out there, or those who desire a measure of comfort as they rack up the big gravel miles, training or racing. The zero maintenance aspect of the fork is another bonus – no seals or fluid to worry about, and no friction between moving parts either.

However, I’ll be switching the Parlee Chebacco back to its original, rigid carbon fork. I prefer the free suspension option of lower tire pressure and lower weight of the Chebacco’s stock fork – and I really need to return the Chebacco to Parlee soon – in stock form! If I had the physical storage space available, I would consider adding at least one Lauf-equipped gravel bike to my collection – cue the N+1 rule!

The Lauf Grit fork is priced at $US 790.00 and available directly from Lauf through their website.

Lauf Forks


Article, video and photos by Gravel Cyclist. Jayson O’Mahoney is the Gravel Cyclist: A website about the Gravel Cycling Experience.

28 COMMENTS

  1. ” inability to deal with heavily washboarded roads. However, this issue also affects mountain bike suspension”

    Looking at the video, my “classic” fork deals with that much, much better. This started to become okay for me around 2014-2015 when most high end forks had a better negative chamber (for ex: “fox evol”, and “fit4″). Mtbs tends to have slightly wider tires which helps too, though (which you mention as well – and I would agree, 2” minimum at the right pressure is necessary). Still I’m surprised how much the bike jerks around on the lauf in the video.

  2. These guys do a great job of hyping up ancient tech as new and taking money from the sheep.
    Seriously? A leaf spring in CF is still a leaf spring. No damping is still no damping.
    The Forest Gump of the fork world.

    • All of this tech is ridiculous. If you want to be 7 years ahead of the game just put a drop bar on a 29″ mountain bike with 2″ tires. Boom. Give me your money.

    • @sad – You sound just like the average-at-best people that only called Forrest “STUPID”. Forrest Gump won an NCAA football championship, started a successful business, was a MEDAL OF HONOR recipient, national ambassador to China in a Pino-Pong coalition, and united the nation as he ran across it.

      What exactly have you done with your life that compares to that?

  3. That washboard bit did not look good. I think my wide rims, 40c Nano’s and my good quality carbon fork would work better. And look a lot better…..

    • Exactly what I was going to write, Stu. I also run Nano 40c tubeless on wide rims and they do great in every respect including comfort and maintaining traction This Lauf thing seems like over-invention.

    • Just curious how often a drone has filmed you riding your bike over washboard? Methinks you would not look good either – its the nature of the beast. The Lauf (or any suspension system) may look worse because it is moving against the rider.

  4. So I’m going to approach my post unlike many of you…I’ve actually ridden the Grit. A lot! I have a Grit on my Moots Routt and it’s awesome. I’ve ridden everything with it. It sucks up washboard, ruts, super coarse gravel and wrong lines like it’s designed to. No downside ever. Let’s keep it above the line boys. Your speculation means nothing. Take your Nanos down to 12 psi and still get your teeth rattled out of your head. But hey, you know…
    Hate Jealousy.

    • And does the rider even notice the “funny” look of the Lauf? I’ve only sat on one bike with a Lauf and when looking down (which I wouldn’t doing while actually riding) the spring mechanism was pretty much hidden by the fork. Is this just a case of the product failing the “mirror test”?

    • It seems like your experience is the opposite to the reviewer who feels like it was worse then a rigid on washboards. I have a Lauf MTB fork that is waiting to go on a 29er drop bar bike. I’m hoping it works well on washboards as thats really the only reason I bought it.

  5. And I’m waiting for first full suspension CX bike with great fanfare that Holy Grail has been discovered.
    Ugly, expensive and unnecessary solution for non-existing problem.

    Cheers!
    I.

  6. Seems like a lot of riders have been successfully conditioned to not even open their minds to other ideas. It’s simple lads, unless you’ve tried one, you can’t really comment on its function, aesthetics yes, but not how it performs.

  7. “but not how it performs.”

    Point only valid for performance forks.

    This un-dampened, over-priced pogo-stick will “perform” the same way my old RST Gila with “mighty” 63mm of travel did. Crap…

    The only improvement over Gila would be – I assume – better rigidity of the whole design.

    I haven’t tried this particular one, only the one in MTB gusto.
    Wasn’t impressed at all…

    Cheers!
    I.

  8. Love how committed the naysayers are. Because they stand to gain so much!!!

    I love my Laufs, I feel the difference. I ride my own ride.

  9. The only thing that ever bothers me on gravel is washboard and the lauf apparently does nothing to dampen that out. Due to this I will just stick with rigid fork and save my money.

  10. I also have Lauf Grit on my Open UP. First off, all of you who word-up here from what you think or guess, you are most likely making a mistake in your assessment. If you compare an unsprung fork like 3T Luteus II with a Grit, there is a huge difference.
    When you assume running a wider tire, is giving about same ride feel or behaviour it’s not really all. I have tires ranging from 30mm 700c to 54mm 650B which i have all tested with Grit and ofcourse with 3T Luteus II. First off is that traction increase when you use Grit compared to a stiff fork. The front tire will be in much more contact at all time. The front will help and iron out bumps, roots or loose over hard, side roll aso.
    Largest technical benefit is cornering and descending with higher speed.

    If you are not fast enough moving weight balance on bike when things get rough, Grit will also help you maintaining traction.
    Blows that is transmitted from tire up through stem, handlebar, top and down tube is drastically reduced. Actually, the worser terrain your ride the more use you have of Grit.
    If you would pull the minus out of the hat, it would be sprinting. However, you will most likely adapt to this and learn how to make best of it. Riding a road bike i have noted i sometimes lean more forward while sprinting. When you use Grit, you should try to alter your posture and keep body mass more to the rear instead of leaning more body mass over to the front of the bike. You will clearly notice that almost all stress (hand, arm, shoulder, neck) you notice or perhaps stress you are not even are aware of, will decrease. That means you will feel much fresher both during and after a ride.
    For ALL guys here having even slight issues with the back/ lower back, you should really consider Grit.
    For data, an Open UP size large will have a stack increase of 14mm and a reduced reach of 4mm. In theory, this difference may seem more pronounced, than what it is in real world usage. On paper this would translate your 6 – stem should be swapped for a -12 stem.

  11. Great review as always. Can anyone confirm in the second video with the rider on the 3T bike closeup, if the rider is standing/hovering over the front of the bike rather than remaining seated as in JOM’s Gravel Cyclist video? It’s looks as though the 3T rider starts off standing but then the camera gets in close to the suspension going over the washboards. My assumption based on how MTB forks handle washboards is that they tend to “work better” when the fork is weighted a bit more as opposed to an unweighted/seated position.

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