Earlier this year, we built the Project XC Race Bike in preparation for the True Grit Epic, a 50 mile NUE race in St. George, UT. While this hardtail may not have been the best choice for that particular event, it is nonetheless a formidable option for racers seeking a fast, stiff and ruthlessly efficient mountain bike to win XC races. And depending on the course, the Lauf TR Boost is a light, equally efficient suspension fork to tame the trails on smoother dirt. Here’s my final review on the frame and fork…

Pivot LES Hardtail Mountain Bike Review

2018 Pivot LES 29er hardtail mountain bike review tech specs and actual weights

For the 2018 True Grit Epic, I decided to humor my friends at Lauf and race one of their forks. It’s not that I don’t like their forks and wouldn’t run them, quite the contrary. But it meant that I’d have to run a hardtail, which is something I just don’t do anymore. I like suspension. But if their rep could ride the Lauf True Grit gravel bike for a notoriously rough and tough 50 mile mountain bike race, I figured surely I could do it on a mountain bike, right?

So, I chose the Pivot LES and matched it with the Lauf TR Boost fork, which gets a whopping 60mm of travel under full extension. Let’s start with the bike.

The Pivot LES hardtail is, like every Pivot, a nearly perfectly engineered piece of ridable machinery. This particular model was their first hardtail and the name is a play on the fact that it actually has no pivots, a first for the brand when it came out.

2018 Pivot LES 29er hardtail mountain bike review tech specs and actual weights

What it does have is a swappable dropout system that lets you run it geared or singlespeed and adjust your chainstay length slightly to accommodate either setup. That’s both a pro and a con here. If you want to run a single speed setup, then it’s a very big pro because it’s a well designed part with 18mm of stepless adjustment. But if you’re planning to add gears, it’s a con because it also adds a lot of weight.

Frame weight on our scales was 1,559g with all hardware, excluding the thru axle. That’s NOT light for an XC race bike. Comparable high end offerings are often at or well under 1kg, which puts the Pivot at a big disadvantage in the weight war.

That said, as far as sliding dropouts go, this is probably the most beautiful and stealthy system out there, and one of few on a production carbon fiber frame. And THAT being said, knowing Pivot, our hunch is it’s only a matter of time before they either commit to making this a single speed frame, or offer a race-tuned, geared-specific hardtail that comes in at a more competitive weight.

Barring a slight brake hose routing hiccup during assembly, I really have only one other complaint about the LES. And that’s Cable Rattle. The dropper seatpost cable rattled incessantly, exacerbated by the generous gap at the entry port. While this makes for easier installation, it gives the cable plenty of room to move. My electrical tape fix didn’t really solve the problem because it wiggled its way out, and most of the noise was coming from the housing ratting around inside the downtube.

This is an easy enough fix…there’s an entry port under the downtube that would allow you to slide a foam insulation tube over the housing, but I didn’t have time to do this before my race. Or, I could have used the front shifter cable port, which has a bolt-on cover plate that would help secure the housing and allow it to be pulled tight inside the frame. Which might have reduced the rattle some, but you can’t pull most mechanical seatpost cables too tight or it can interfere with their function. Thus, I think the best option would be to sleeve the hose inside the frame regardless of which port you use.

2018 Pivot LES 29er hardtail mountain bike review tech specs and actual weights

As a whole, the Pivot LES lives up to their reputation for a stiff, high performance bike. Founder Chris Cocalis has always erred on the side of frame stiffness, safety and durability over gram counting, and it shows. This bike takes everything you’ve got and transfers it straight to the trail. And it transfers whatever the trail is dishing out right back to you…it’s that stiff. Handling is snappy, sprints are strong. If there’s a weak link in your race bike, this won’t be it.

Lauf TR Boost Fork Review

Lauf TR Boost leaf spring suspension fork review and actual weights

Honestly, this was the wrong fork for this race. I love Lauf. I love their forks. But this thing was outgunned at the True Grit Epic. It’s 60mm of travel simply wasn’t enough to tame those trails.

Functionally, the fork performed flawlessly, soaking up as much of the big hits and chatter as it could. It’s laterally stiff and kept the bike tracking exactly where I pointed it. For smoother courses, it’s a great lightweight alternative. The TR Boost fork weighs in at 1,042g, which is more than 300g lighter than the next lightest mass market XC suspension fork we’ve weighed.

Lauf TR Boost leaf spring suspension fork review and actual weights

It’s also a much simpler, maintenance free option than those forks. Which means it takes away a lot of the excuses anyone riding full rigid bikes have for not doing a little something to save their wrists. The composite leaf springs are good for millions of cycles, and there’s a bottom out bumper to prevent damage in the rare instances when you hit something hard enough to reach it. The most common question revolves around damping, and the lack of it. Yes, this fork will bounce just a little when you’re out of the saddle screaming toward the finish line. But that’s about the only time you’ll notice it, and even then it’s minimal. The working travel range for this fork is really only 40mm. It takes a LOT to get much past that. So the light compressions from standing to pedal aren’t moving it that much. That also means it’s not rebounding very far, so the lack of damping is simply not an issue.

Here’s what it boils down to: For the right trails, the Lauf Trail fork can be the right choice. For the True Grit Epic, not so much.

Check out the original post about the frame and fork for full tech details and actual weights.

13 COMMENTS

  1. The Lauf fork must be the most overhyped piece of crap this industry has dumped on us. I had the opotof testing one briefly, and unless your tracks include just pavement, IMBA tamed tracks or going to the grocery store, itsi completely pointless. It deflects with every single rock/root/pothole and on top of that it bobs bike crazy.

    It’s just useful to brag about your bike’s weight.

    • What Luix said. I rode a Lauf at a gravel event earlier this year. Absolutely pointless piece of crap, the bobbing out of the saddle is utterly annoying. For the gravel bike koolaid people who ride these contraptions, you are better off lowering tire pressure for free suspension!

  2. This has to be an all time stupid build. Get a guy that doesn’t like hardtails. Put him on a stiff hardtail. Add a heavy dropper post. Then remove any proper suspension at the front. Then complain about the stiffness and harshness.

    Leave the dropper off and add either a Fox 32 or 34 stepcast depending on the course or your travel (100 vs 120) preference. Then remove the guy that doesn’t like hardtails, and you would have a proper bike.

    A bike with proper dampening and some real travel will easily allow you to ride faster down hill than a dropper post will. Hell, a decent hardtail rider will be faster through real tech on a ridged bike than one with an undampened fork! At least then it is predictable when you send it through tech.

    • FTR, I was only noting the stiffness and harshness, not complaining about it. I fully expected it. And I prefer more suspension, front and and rear. But sometimes it’s fun to see what can be done or try products outside of their ideal conditions. And that’s the point of some of our special builds, to see what works and what doesn’t. In our opinion, that doesn’t make them stupid any more than any other science experiment is stupid. We test, and we report back, then riders can make their own opinions based on our experience.

  3. I’ve raced a Lauf fork for several years for marathon racing on my full sus (mainly a Rocky Mountain Element RSL), its been a superlight utterly maintenance free piece of kit. I run it on my steel single speeder for muddy races as well. Like most things you just have to know where and how to use it to gain maximum benefit.

  4. Why is everyone so focused on the bike weight? It’s more about the rider weight and strength. The stronger rider is going to beat the weight weenie everyday. All forks bob to some extent unless you lock them out then they just plain suck on a trail. The faster rider through the tech is also just the faster more skilled rider no matter what bike they ride.

    • Lighter bikes, up to a point, are more fun. Also from an engineering standpoint, it’s about making efficient structure. If there’s material hanging out doing nothing, it should be removed. If it’s there for extra tolerance against mishandling, that’s okay. Frankly, I think Pivot doesn’t try hard enough and gets by on undeserved reputation, just like Chis Cocalis’s prior company Titus.

  5. FWIW, An earlier XC Project bike build I did with the original Lauf TR fork (non Boost spaced) on a Niner AIR 9 RDO worked perfectly for the particular race I planned it for – the 6 Hours of Warrior Creek. That course has some technical sections and a few rock gardens, but is mostly smooth, fast and well bermed. It’s extremely fun, but also a ~13 mile lap, so you’re out there for a while between pit stops. On that course, the hardtail and Lauf fork were a perfect setup that kept the overall bike weight extremely light.

    Like anything, if you haven’t ridden it, don’t knock it based on visual impressions or preconceived notions. The lack of damping wasn’t the issue with this fork, it simply wasn’t enough travel for the True Grit Epic course. To its credit, though, it took the beating and didn’t show any signs of wear or damage. I’ve also ridden their fork in Pisgah, where it was also overpowered by the terrain, but still helped keep the bike under control.

    Is it for everyone? No. Is it worth a try if you’re looking for a lightweight, maintenance free bike for fast XC courses? Absolutely. And the gravel version is definitely worth checking out, it tames those rough roads extremely well.

  6. I’m not trying to be difficult in any way… but this is nothing that an actual XC racer would EVER build to race on! Please please please… build something that we would actually be interested in!

  7. Give me an expedition fork variant and I’ll buy two.

    No way I’m going to buy those Two Fish cage adapters for even their Regular spring rate fork. Way too much bobbing to handle any cargo.

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