The Lauf True Grit has quite a different development story than most gravel bikes. For those unfamiliar with the brand, Lauf actually started out with their carbon leaf spring forks. First for mountain bikes, and then for gravel and fat bikes. Since then, the Lauf forks, the Grit in particular, have gone through quite a few changes and improvements in both performance and looks.

With the fork dialed in to their liking, it was time for the next step. While most bike manufacturers try to figure out what fork to spec on their frames, for Lauf – it was what frame to spec for their forks. That, and the rest of the build. The result is the Lauf True Grit. A carbon gravel bike purpose built for the Grit SL suspension fork.

It may seem like quite a leap for Lauf to jump right into complete bikes, but it’s clear from their suspension forks that they know their way around carbon manufacturing. And what better way to highlight your fork than with a bike that is tailor made to run it? Fortunately, the True Grit turns out to be quite a bit more than just a support structure for the fork.

Upon receiving the True Grit for review, I barely had enough time to build it up, let alone break it in. Fortunately, the build took hardly any time at all – and that’s coming from a guy that was trained to absolutely stress the details of any bike build. I was very impressed with the initial build out of the box on a brand new bike. If Lauf can keep this up for all of the bikes they sell, that alone will be a selling feature. Just a few days after the build up, the bike was on the back of my car as we headed down to Florida for the Rocks, Roads, and Reggae gravel event.

Honestly, the ride wasn’t that strenuous, but any time you jump on a bike you’ve barely ridden for a big event, you’re gonna learn some things. Just shy of 120 miles between two days, the ride took us through plenty of sandy, rough, rocky, wash boarded, and rutted roads to get a good feel for the bike. The ride was immediately impressive. Sure, big tires and a suspension fork will go far in hiding the ride of a bad frame, but you can still tell. Every time I get off the True Grit, I just don’t feel as beat up as I feel like I should.

Review: Lauf True Grit gravel bike is greater than the sum of its parts
D.Fender V4 Gravel fender is just enough to keep sand (and later mud) out of the eyes

About that fork…

When it comes to the fork, I came to a realization on one of my last rides. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t notice it at all. In a good way. It may have taken a while to get to this point, but I’m now barely aware of the fork doing its thing – until you hop back on a bike with a rigid fork and realize just how much those little blades actually do for the ride. Part of this could be due to the improvements made to the Grit SL itself. Still offering 30mm of suspension, the new fork is lighter and stiffer while also getting a sleeker design that is less obtrusive visually. I have to applaud Lauf on this part of the design. Whereas the previous fork stood out like a sore thumb and nearly everyone commented on it, the new fork manages to blend in, only revealing its secrets on the second look. The two tone paint with the frame color match certainly helps.

Review: Lauf True Grit gravel bike is greater than the sum of its parts

Review: Lauf True Grit gravel bike is greater than the sum of its parts

Baggage

The only time I wasn’t completely stoked on the Grit SL fork was when my handlebars were loaded down with bikepacking gear. Placing all that weight out in front of the handlebar made for unwieldy handling at times but it could probably have been solved with better packing. Part of my issue is that as a small guy on a Small-Long bike, there isn’t a lot of room between the bars and the front tire to keep the bag from rubbing thanks to the short head tube. That results in the load being cantilevered out farther over the front hub to keep it from rubbing the front tire. This isn’t a Lauf specific problem, just an issue with small frames and bags in general.

However, the Grit SL fork does lack the ability to carry any extra gear on its fork legs, so in terms of bikepacking you’ll end up packing more weight up high. I wouldn’t pick the True Grit if long distance bikepacking was my main goal, but as a bike to use for the occasional bike packing trip it worked out pretty well.

Review: Lauf True Grit gravel bike is greater than the sum of its parts Review: Lauf True Grit gravel bike is greater than the sum of its parts Review: Lauf True Grit gravel bike is greater than the sum of its parts

In all fairness, this was also the first time that I used a new set up with the Salsa EXP Anything Cradle which means there’s room for improvement in my set up. But overall, the EXP cradle made for a manageable set up with plenty of support for my gear and relatively easy packing.

Review: Lauf True Grit gravel bike is greater than the sum of its parts Review: Lauf True Grit gravel bike is greater than the sum of its parts

The same goes for the Salsa EXP saddle bag and top tube bag. Both are well constructed, light weight, and fit well on a bike they weren’t specifically designed for. My only critique would be that the top tube bag is a little wide at the end closest  to your knees which led to some rubbing when standing to climb.

Review: Lauf True Grit gravel bike is greater than the sum of its parts

Review: Lauf True Grit gravel bike is greater than the sum of its parts
Not shown is a false floor that covers the bolt heads.

Review: Lauf True Grit gravel bike is greater than the sum of its parts

On that note, I’m honestly surprised at how much I liked having a top tube bag at all. Having a bag in front of you makes it easier to eat while riding, and it also makes for a great spot to stash your phone, a small pump, or other items you don’t want bouncing around in a jersey pocket.

However, I’ve determined that it is critical that a frame have the direct mount bolts on the top tube like the Lauf, for the bags to work. I’ve tried a number of “universal fit” top tube bags which attach with velcro straps but inevitably end up flapping around and generally annoying the shit out of you before you take them off and never install them again. The bolts are so clean, there’s no rubbing of the straps on the paint, and most importantly, the bag stays right where it’s supposed to – no matter what. If I was buying a gravel bike in the immediate future, this is definitely something I would look for.

Review: Lauf True Grit gravel bike is greater than the sum of its parts

For most of my riding, the above is exactly how it was set up. Two bottle cages, the Salsa EXP top tube bag, and the Silca Premio seat roll with an extra tube. With all of the needed tools, pump, tube, and extra room for food and a light jacket, it’s been really nice not having to stuff jersey pockets, even for long rides.

Review: Lauf True Grit gravel bike is greater than the sum of its parts Review: Lauf True Grit gravel bike is greater than the sum of its parts Review: Lauf True Grit gravel bike is greater than the sum of its parts

Frame Details

As far as the critical frame details go, the frame has the usual tapered head tube, internal ‘In-N-Out’ cable routing with fully guided tubes, and 12 x 142 and 15 x 100mm thru axles front and rear. Sticking with the tried and true, the frame runs a threaded BSA 68mm bottom bracket which should be a plus for many riders. Tire clearance is listed at 700c x 45mm which seems on the conservative side. I did however try to install a set of Schwalbe G-One Bite tires in a 650b x 54mm size on wider rims and there was no way. Smaller 650b tires on narrower rims may fit, but don’t count on it. Really though, you get a lot of grip out of the 700c x 40 Maxxis Ramblers on the bike with room to spare.

Review: Lauf True Grit gravel bike is greater than the sum of its parts

Review: Lauf True Grit gravel bike is greater than the sum of its parts
Caught the illusive Gravel Cyclist in the act.

And while it may be a little cheesy, the Beer or Gear bottle opener turned out to be quite a hit at base camp once it was beer:30.

Review: Lauf True Grit gravel bike is greater than the sum of its parts geometry Lauf True Grit geometry chart

In terms of road or gravel bikes, the Lauf also has a fairly progressive geometry which they call “Long 4 Speed”. Like modern mountain bike geometries, the True Grit is based around shorter stems, a low head tube, and slack head tube angle for an aggressive yet stable position. It works. They also have two sub sizes of each main size, a short and a long. In my case I was on the Small-Long which turned out to be an excellent fit at 5’7″-ish.

Review: Lauf True Grit gravel bike is greater than the sum of its parts Review: Lauf True Grit gravel bike is greater than the sum of its parts Review: Lauf True Grit gravel bike is greater than the sum of its parts Review: Lauf True Grit gravel bike is greater than the sum of its parts Review: Lauf True Grit gravel bike is greater than the sum of its partsReview: Lauf True Grit gravel bike is greater than the sum of its parts

Build, weight, and pricing

Weighing in at 17.1 lbs (7.76kg) with sealant in the tires for the Race Edition Small-Long, it’s hard to find fault in the spec. Especially at $4,990. Yes, that’s a lot of money. But this bike is on equal playing field as the Open U.P.P.E.R. which sells for $4,500 for the frameset alone ($3,200 for the Open U.P.). Yes, the U.P.P.E.R. is substantially lighter at 880g compared to the Lauf’s 1,070g frame, but the two compete on squarely on ride quality and only really differ on wheel choice options on the U.P.P.E.R. (650b tires on wide rims will not fit on the Lauf) and suspension.

And for just $490 more than the U.P.P.E.R., you’re getting a complete SRAM Force 1 drivetrain with hydraulic brakes, Easton EC90 SL cranks, an Easton bar and stem set up including the EC70 AX gravel bar, an FSA SLK seatpost, WTB Volt Pro saddle, American Classic Race wheels, Maxxis Rambler 700c x 40mm 120 TPI tubeless tires, and more. Long story short, the Race Edition is speced extremely well, and short of personal sizing or preferences, you won’t need to change a thing out of the box.

If that’s still too steep, you can pick up the Weekend Warrior edition for $3,690. Then there’s the Race Edition Wireless which bumps up to $6,590 for SRAM eTap and a 2×11 drivetrain. Finally, the frameset goes for $2,690.

Review: Lauf True Grit gravel bike is greater than the sum of its parts
Rocks, Roads, Reggae Gravel Bikepacking event in Gainesville, Florida. Clothing by Club Rid, Lake, and Specialized. Photo c. Ian Hylands

Takeaway

Somewhere along the line, to me, gravel bikes became far more exciting than traditional road bikes. With the way I preferred my road builds it was just a matter of time. Comfortable geometry, bigger tires, even 1x gearing – all of which have melted into what seems is the standard formula for a “gravel” bike. But to be fair, gravel bikes are useful for far more than just gravel. To me, the “all road” moniker is better suited to the category. I still find myself riding my favorite road routes, only this time they’re interspersed with sublime ribbons of single track that would have previously been omitted.

For that exact purpose, the True Grit is a stellar bike. If you know the Icelandic crew at Lauf you know that they will ride just about anything on almost any bike, and to me that is the spirit of the True Grit. You may end up in over your head when it comes to your own technical riding abilities, but somehow, the bike always seems composed no matter what the terrain. Comfortable on long road rides, and confident in the dirt, the True Grit seems to strike that perfect balance between on and off road abilities. Do all gravel riders need a bike with a suspension fork? No, I don’t think so. But I wouldn’t turn it down – especially if it’s part of this build.

laufforks.com

30 COMMENTS

  1. I never understand why people hand stuff from the handlebar and then complain about the steering. Of course it changes the steering. It if steered well with the bag of stuff, it would steer poorly without it.

    I’ll be the first guy to ask; What’s wrong with panniers? I think the bottle opener is much cooler than giant saddle bags, and handlebar bags.

    • “It if steered well with the bag of stuff, it would steer poorly without it.”

      Yup. Ask anyone who rides a low-trail bike how it handles with nothing on the front.

    • 1) Panniers put a lot of weight outside the steering axis, making steering much slower. This is critical on single track.
      2) On rough roads or trails, racks will break at the welds, lose their screws, or shake lose the pannier hangars and bungies.

      Bikepacking bags came about after Iditarod and Tour Divide racers saw how inadequate they were.

  2. An insight into why we at Lauf chose not to design our frame for 650b wheels.
    29er mountain bikes (700c wheels have the same diameter as 29ers) have proven to us all that these larger diameter wheels roll faster than 650b on rough surfaces. Also, over the last years we’ve ridden several 650b and 700c gravel setups. We unanimously preferred the 700c setups.
    So naturally, this diameter was the design focus for the True Grit. We wanted to achieve clearance for 45mm wide 700c tires (with a chainstay length of 425mm). Why stop at 700c x 45mm? Because that is a lot of tire. After testing, we simply did not care for more width for a fast gravel bike. Actually we prefer 40mm width in most cases, but liked to have the option of 45mm for the extra gnarly stuff.
    If we’d designed our bike for those tires and ALSO for slightly wider 650b gravel tires, the BB height would have to be compromised. So why compromise our preferred 700c setup for a wheel size we like less (on a bike like this).
    The only potential point would have been enabling fit of huge mtb 650b tires, but on such tires we believe one should rather ride a hardtail. In our opinion a gravel bike should be fast on both rough and smooth roads. Not just either.

      • Hey David, we haven’t tried loading it heavily up front no. We have some bike packing planned for the summer where we will try it. However, personally, when I want to have fast-fun on a bike (i.e. when I want to really enjoy the riding characteristics of the bike) I want to be on a setup as pure and light as possible. If needed, I would aim to use no more than a framebag + saddle bag + top tube bag. If I desperately needed to carry more, I’d put my lightest stuff on the handlebar to minimize weirdness. This is not a Lauf fork specific answer, just my general answer on carrying stuff on my bike. More weight always limits responsiveness and agility, even more so when it’s mounted up high and on the handlebar (that you’d want to response swiftly to your input).
        However for our forks, yes more weight changes suspension characteristics. It’ll make it more “relaxed” (i.e. more softly sprung) in behavior. Therefore, to get the riding characteristics we set out to achieve we’d recommend minimizing this weight.

      • I did a 3000 mile tour on an over tuned TR29 fork (a gravel & travel prototype), with about 15-20lbs on the front bar, using 29×2.0 marathon tires. I never once felt compromised, but wished many times that I had fork blade mounting options for more cargo or better cargo positioning. My bike was a little too heavy on the rear and too light in the front. This fork could have easily taken on 8-12 more lbs before it got too squishy.

        I’d never consider touring (or light touring) with a regular TR29 (for over 65kg) unless I weighed 130lbs or less. I have the regular (for over 80kg) Carbonara on my fattie, and feel the same about it. They would require stronger springs to comfortably ride with bar bags loaded with 15-20lb of gear. So I’d imagine the Grit would be not vastly different for front end loads.

        I hope that Lauf either offers up custom spring tensions (might not hurt to email and ask them), or does some extensive R&D with touring loads and comes out with some touring forks. I love my Lauf, but for future tours with the fork I will only ride a bikepacking rig, and do away with rear panniers, in an attempt to balance out the front and rear weights.

        • A 15-20lb load was probably a bit of an exaggeration. It was probably more like 10-13lbs of gear, On a Lauf 29r fork with 40% more spring tension than the regular TR29. I weighed 170lbs for the tour.

  3. Putting on a 10 mm longer stem does not make a different bike size if you ask me.

    The gravel bike category has merged CX race bikes with wider tire clearance and touring/adventure bikes with wide tire clearance, but they are two very different geometries. This bike has very low stack for the reach, well lower than many endurance bikes that fall somewhere in between these two extremes. This is a gravel racing bike in my opinion, quite different from the touring bike I bought last year that is sold as a gravel bike this year. I wish there were distinct names for the two, as it is you have to look carefully at the geometry specs to tell them apart. Being bent over in an aggressive aero position and then putting on a handlebar bag seems contradictory to me — and the bag would fit better with a taller head tube.

    I really like their fork, but would never buy a frame with this geometry.

    • Agreed, except for the part about not buying a bike with this geometry. That’s why I mentioned that it wouldn’t be my first choice as a bikepacking/touring rig. But the geometry is dialed for unloaded, fast, spirited riding (and racing). My point in even including the loaded part was that it can be done. Not everyone wants a dedicated bikepacking rig. And actually, on that ride with Atomik, we were some of the only riders carrying all our own gear on the first day – in that regard, the True Grit performed admirably, allowing me to keep up with the lead group even when I was fully loaded and they weren’t. This bike is definitely on the more aggressive side of geometry, you are right about that.

  4. > What’s wrong with panniers?

    Panniers are heavy, make the bike much wider, and have poor aerodynamics. (I’m not saying the front bag is aero.)

  5. I like the low geometry and long wheelbase. How much does the front end bob up and down when climbing? (I’ve never even seen a Lauf in real life.)

    • Velo, That is a key question you just asked. Most will not compare the climbing ability of this with a rigid set up, but they should.

  6. Zach, a better comparison is the Open UP ($3200 frame and fork, 1040g for new model) not the UPPER ($4500). The weight comparison between those two is closer.

    • For a weight comparison it’s worth it to mention a few points where we decided not to take the lightest possible solution. Although we’re super focused on minimizing weight, some grams are simply worth keeping. For instance:
      1. We spent about 40g on the super nice cable routing of this bike. Which we think is totally worth it!
      2. It has a threaded BB that adds a few grams.
      3. It is mtb tested, so the strength of this frame is very high. This added some grams.
      4. The frame is longer than competing frames, and will therefore be paired with a shorter stem. This shifts some grams from stem to frame.

  7. Did the handlebar bag make much difference to the performance of the suspension fork? Since you had a top-tube bag, why didn’t you go with a frame bag instead of the handlebar bag, to shift the extra weight back away from the fork?

    I’m thinking about a new bike for a long bike-packing trip and fancied the look of the Lauf, but was unsure about the suitability of the suspension fork on a loaded bike.

    • David- I didn’t have a frame bag that would fit the frame and provide room for water bottles. Also, on this trip we did more riding than just the bikepacking trip and the majority was without the extra bags, so I wanted the cages and the ability to easily install the bags when needed. Bikepacking is pretty new to me so I’m still figuring things out, and when stuff shows up right before a trip sometimes you just have to roll with it! As for the fork, it was hard to tell what was normal weight-on-front induced weirdness, and what was specific to the fork. I do think there was some extra flexing going on in the fork in certain situations as a result of the extra weight, which is why I pointed it out. I think if you were planning to build up the bike specifically for a bikepacking trip that had to be self supported and nothing else, a frame bag would be the way to go with maybe a handlebar roll for just some light stuff up front.

  8. From the geometry chart, the only difference between a “short ” and a “long” is the stem length. The frame geometry is the same.

    • Yes, in “Small long” stem and “Small short” that is the only difference but then they have
      Short and long stem in S-M-L.

  9. Seems like the BB drop could be a little lower and stack a little higher, but otherwise this is pretty dang cool. The black on the springy part of the fork really changed the look for the better. Very impressed by so many colors choices too, just wish that red wasn’t another 400. I would really to demo one of these suckers. 405 reach and 390 stack is identical to my 59 road bike and I definitely would want more stack for all-road/mixed surface duties. Pretty cool bike!

  10. I’ve had this bike for a few months – I got one of the 1st batch. It is far and away my favorite bike. When I want it to be a road bike, it feels fast and comfortable. But somehow when I get on a trail, it morphs into a mountain bike. I am having the most fun on mixed road and dirt rides. I am getting to do rides that I just couldn’t do before. I even have ridden it for a few miles on packed snow. It just seems to take everything I can throw at it.

  11. I love the idea of one bike light enough for fast group rides, with wide 40mm clearance for gravel rides and comfortable commuting on some 32mm slicks. Did you try it with some road tyres on a fast road ride? How is the fork dip on fast road descents?

  12. I love the idea of one bike light enough for fast group rides, with wide 40mm clearance for gravel rides and comfortable commuting. Did you try it with some 28mm slicks on a fast road ride? How is the fork dip on fast road descents, braking into corners?

  13. I get the idea of a longer bike and shorter stem. But personally i think this is partly ment, not load the fork too much. A long stem and more weight over the front, would load the fork more which increase the risk of bobbing.
    A pity the frames are so low (for given length) and the high version is just adding spacers.
    I am also a fan of Di2 2*11, there is no pre-drilled hole for FD cable.
    My current bike is Open UP with standard Lauf Grit.
    Preferred choice of wheels is 650B, 45-50mm.
    IMO, this is way better than 700C, 40mm.

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