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All-new Lauf Úthald Road Bike Brings Real-World Speed

lauf uthald road bike
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The Icelandic brand that started off with a wacky leaf-spring fork has come a long way, and the new Lauf Úthald road bike takes everything they learned about making a fast-yet-stable gravel bike and brings it to the tarmac.

The goal was to make a bike that didn’t just feel fast, but was, actually, fast. More precisely, helped you ride faster, not just feel like it was fast.

angle view of lauf uthald road bike

What’s the distinction? They say most road bikes are built for pro riders who, as much as we hate to say out loud, are very different than you and I. Their needs and wants are different. The razor-sharp handling pros tolerate doesn’t work as well for most riders, and Lauf argues that the sometimes twitchy handling actually makes you slower because it’s not confidence inspiring. It “feels” fast, but it doesn’t make you fast.

So they decided to do something different, as they always do.

Lauf’s problem with road bikes

closeup details of lauf uthald road bike front triangle
The logo is only on the drive side, because we all know that’s the most photogenic side.

Bear with me, this is a lot of text…pictures come later. Lauf’s top priority was a bike that had ultra-stable handling. It still needed to steer quickly enough, but without the nervous handling that comes from a steeper head angle. Looking at the current road bike market, they found three things:

  1. Traditional road bikes’ head angles were steep, with larger frame sizes getting even steeper.
  2. Fork trail was short, especially compared to gravel and MTB.
  3. No one could really explain why this was the case.

What they found was that these “standard” geometries and designs were done seemingly because that’s just the way it had always been. The steeper angle and shorter trail makes the bike steer quickly, which makes it feel like a quick bike. But it didn’t actually translate to real-world speed, especially as you tried to go faster.

“Why wouldn’t you make race bikes more stable?” asks Lauf co-founder and chief designer Benedikt Skullason. “It descends better, and there’s no downside to all-around handling or performance. The only “downside” (and those are intentionally sarcastic “air quotes”) would be the slow speed parking lot steering test.”

“I think the reason other brands use such steep steering angles on their bikes is because they want them to “feel” fast by having quick, twitchy steering. That gives people the perception that their bike is quick, but in reality it’s making them slower because they feel less confident on the descents.”

Indeed, Lauf says a steeper head angle makes a bike that takes more concentration to hold a line and keep steady as you go faster and faster. In contrast, look at the slacker head angles of gravel bikes (and MTB), which create a longer trail figure. The longer your fork’s trail, the more stable a bike is at speed.

The problem with typical road bikes’ steeper angles gets worse with larger frame sizes. Most brands’ smaller sizes use slacker head angles to push the front wheel forward to reduce toe overlap, but get steeper as sizes increase. Which means taller riders with higher centers of gravity get the least-stable bikes. With the Úthald, Lauf keeps the head angle constant across all frame sizes.

Slacker head angle versus less fork offset

closeup details of lauf uthald road bike fork and head tube

Improved stability is mostly about the fork’s trail. So, technically they could have kept a more traditional head angle and given the fork less offset (or rake) to achieve the desired trail. But that would have put the front wheel too close to the cranks and created toe overlap issues. And it would have created a shorter wheelbase, which would have hurt overall stability.

Why not go even slacker?

Because, and it’s marginal, as you increase the wheelbase, the bike gets longer, so you have more total turbulence and drag. Also, a too-long wheelbase would have too-slow handling.

Ultimately, they wanted to create a bike that fits like a race bike, because it’s meant to be a fast bike, but is stable and comfortable like an endurance bike, except even better. The Úthald will have UCI certification, and they hinted that there’s a good reason for that.

Lauf Úthald design philosophy

closeup details of lauf uthald road bike front profile

When the Seigla gravel bike debuted, it took a more aggressive design tone than the original True Grit. The Úthald sticks with that design language but adds road-specific shapes and details.

The front triangle has some aero nods (though it hasn’t been wind tunnel tested). The headtube is elongated, and the downtube dips slightly behind the front wheel to follow its curve, then flares to send air around the water bottles. That latter shaping is a big departure from their gravel bikes, and it adds some sophistication to the design.

closeup details of lauf uthald road bike seat tube junction

The rear end is shaped for comfort, though the dropped seatstays are more aerodynamic than if they went all the way up to the seat clamp junction.

But that dropped seatstay design is really there for comfort. By driving rear wheel impact forces into the middle of the seat tube, that junction acts like a pivot point, letting the seat tube and 27.2 seatpost flex. And because of the seat tube’s offset and angle, it flexes more downward, so it feels more like suspension. It doesn’t flex as much as the Seigla, but enough to gently mute imperfections in the road and damp vibrations.

rear frame and seatpost flex comparison chart for lauf uthald road bike versus competition
All graphics and numbers provided by Lauf.

They claim it provides ~4.5mm of “sag” under a 75kg (165lb) rider, and can flex up to ~15mm total. With the same test, it shows more ability to sag than competitor’s bikes that add heavier pivot and other hardware. That’s about the same compliance you get from your tires, so it adds up to a lot of comfort. Bonus points for using a standard seat clamp, too. Here’s how that comparison looks as percentages:

rear frame and seatpost flex comparison chart for lauf uthald road bike versus competition, shown as percentages

Up front, it has a traditional rigid fork, but gets a new Road Smoothie carbon handlebar with 2.5mm of “sag” with a 40kg (88lb) load. Like their Smoothie gravel bar, which is excellent, it uses impact-resistant S2 glass fibers in the central portion to allow some flex and better vibration damping.

The Road Smoothie handlebar (270g for 40cm) is shaped differently, with rounded sections creating an ergonomic platform. For now, it only comes in 38/40/42cm widths, which some may consider narrow, but many brands are running narrower bars now to boost aerodynamic claims. Speaking of…

Is it Aero?

closeup details of lauf uthald road bike drivetrain
Note the downtube shaping and its multi-position water bottle mount.

Yes, basically, but not for the reasons other brands are spouting. They’re not using stealth routing. The brake lines run internally, but enter on the downtube and fork crown, so there’s a tiny bit of hose exposed to the wind, but they can run a narrower upper headset and keep the head tube slimmer than on bikes needing a 1.5″ upper bearing to make room for hoses, so that’s a wash. It also makes the bike easier to adjust if you need to swap stems or change stack height.

Lauf is only spec’ing SRAM wireless groups, though there are ports for Shimano Di2 wires leading to the derailleurs. You could also run Campy’s new Super Record Wireless group. So, no added drag here. And, by eliminating extra ports and cable housing tunnels inside the frame, they saved 50g. There are tunnels for the brake hoses, though, so they won’t rattle.

closeup details of lauf uthald road bike seat tube

There’s also the aforementioned “generally aerodynamic” shapes of the fork legs and head- and downtubes, too. The bigger picture Lauf looked at was the credibility of aero claims from others, mainly that the claimed reductions in drag occur at superhuman speeds. How many of us actually sustain 45km/h (28mph), even when drafting?

Yet that’s the number frequently used. Since drag increases by a multiple of three as speed increases, a claimed 8w savings is more like 2w at speeds most of us are riding. So, Lauf opted out of extreme shaping and internal routing to focus on ride quality and ease of ownership. And if it’s easier to adjust your fit to get you in a more aero position, you’re more likely to do it, which will likely save more watts.

Lauf Úthald tech details and specs

While a lot of road bikes are adding more tire clearance, many are only upping the spec to 28mm tires. The Úthald comes with 700×32 tires but will fit 35mm tires, and it’s tubeless ready. That lets you run lower pressures for more comfort and traction, and puts more rubber on the road for better grip.

closeup details of lauf uthald road bike crankset

It also comes with crank-based power meters on every build.

While they built the front for stability, the rear end keeps ultra-short chainstays, just 405mm. The seat tube lets the rear wheel tuck in, and that gives the bike snappy acceleration and keeps the wheelbase in the right zone for high performance handling.

They stick with a proven BSA threaded bottom bracket. Like the standard internal brake routing, this makes the bike easier to service and more reliable.

closeup details of lauf uthald road bike rear derailleur

Like the Seigla, the frame uses standard modulus fibers. Lauf says high-mod fibers are lighter and stiffer, but they’re also extremely brittle. The standard modulus fibers handle impacts and stresses better, and flex better, which lets them make the bike more comfortable.

The frame is 985g (claimed, size M), and the fork is 365g (claimed), both fully painted without hardware. So, they’re not heavy, especially considering the paint adds ~130g (their claim) to the frame and ~20g to the fork. So, really, it’s a ~860g frame, which is pretty darn good.

Geometry

lauf uthald geometry chart

The 71.5º head angle carries across all five frame sizes, as does the 64mm trail figure. To put that into perspective, here are a couple of popular models specs (lower head tube angle is slacker, higher trail is more stable):

  • Specialized Tarmac SL8: 70.5º to 73.5º range, 71mm to 55mm trail
  • Specialized Roubaix SL8: 69.3º to 73º range, 76mm to 57mm trail
  • Trek Madone Gen7: 72.1º to 73º range, 68mm to 56mm trail
  • Trek Domane Gen4: 71º to 72º range, 61mm to 59mm trail
  • Scott Addict RC: 70.5º to 73.3º range, trail not listed
  • Cannondale Synapse 2022: 71.3º to 73.4º range, 59mm to 56mm trail

Some brand’s smaller frame sizes are slacker, with more trail, sometimes a lot more. What’s impressive about the Úthald is that Lauf could keep it consistent across a range of frames that will fit riders from about 5’1″ up to 6’6″, and that it’s slacker and with more trail even than some brand’s endurance-oriented bikes.

Pricing & options

closeup details of lauf uthald road bike handlebar

The Lauf Úthald comes in three builds ranging from $3,490 to ~$7,500, with the lower two available to order now and shipping in January, and the top end model available in Summer 2024. All three get the Road Smoothie handlebar.

The Weekend Warrior ($3,490) comes with SRAM Rival AXS w/ spindle power meter, DT Swiss E1800 Spline 23 wheels, Fizik Aliante R5 saddle, and Maxxis High-Road 170tpi tires. Claimed weight is 8.78kg (19.36lb) for size medium.

The Race ($4,690) upgrades to Force AXS with spider (dual leg) power meter, Zipp 303 S wheels. Claimed weight is 7.95kg (17.53lb).

The Ultimate model will get, um, what comes after Force and hasn’t been updated for several years and can’t be listed until next summer? Yeah, it’ll get that.

All bikes will be assembled in and shipped from their US HQ in Virginia. Standard paint is Obsidian Black, and Rubus Red adds $190 and Borealis and Thingvellir Sky adds $390.

Stay tuned for a first ride review…

LaufCycles.com

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31 Comments
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Paco
Paco
7 months ago

Why are we supposed to be impressed that they kept the same headtube angle and fork for all bikes? That just tells me only one size is optimized and the rest are compromised handling-wise. Bike designs have more recently favored different headtube angles, if not different fork rakes (and chainstay lengths now on MTBs) to accommodate how weight distribution changes across the rider landscape, this seems like a step backwards.

Benedikt
Benedikt
7 months ago
Reply to  Paco

Because steepening head angles on larger frames is done in an effort to keep wheelbase more similar between sizes. Which is a fundamental misunderstanding. Head angles, and the resulting trail, have a larger impact on bike’s handling than similarly sized changes in wheelbase.
Realizing that taller riders require a more stable ride (because of their higher center of gravity) means that one should not make head angles on larger frames steeper. If anything, it should be the contrary. However, that might be a step too far from convention, plus, the increased wheelbase on Lauf’s larger sizes will make the larger sizes slightly more stable, as they should be.

Veganpotter
Veganpotter
7 months ago
Reply to  Benedikt

Some of those geometry concessions are due to UCI rules which are obviously a non-factor to most people. Also keep in mind that bigger riders don’t have roads that have bigger turns built for them just as smaller riders don’t have tighter turns built for them.

Antoine
Antoine
7 months ago
Reply to  Veganpotter

Are you telling me some bike are too long tu turn around hairpins ? MTBs are way longer and used on much tighter turn radius than road bikes.

Rolf
Rolf
7 months ago
Reply to  Antoine

Cornering an mtb is really different, plus tyre slide is manageable or part of technique. There is a point where road bike wheelbase and trail number combination make a bike hard to get through tight hairpins ime but most road bikes are not at that sort of wheelbase / geometry.

Angstrom
Angstrom
7 months ago
Reply to  Rolf

I’ve ridden my road bike and gravel bike(with more”stable” geometry) down the same roads. The gravel bike requires more input on tight corners, but it’s not difficult to turn — it’s just a slightly different technique.
Everything’s a tradeoff. The hip-flick responsiveness of the road bike can be fun. The stability of the gravel bike is reassuring. I enjoy them both, but as I grow older the stability becomes more attractive.

Rolf
Rolf
7 months ago
Reply to  Benedikt

“Realizing that taller riders require a more stable ride (because of their higher center of gravity)”
Ever tried balancing a pencil on your finger tip Vs balancing a longer pole? Which is easier and which has the higher center of gravity? I don’t think tall riders need a more stable geometry simply because of height and CoM location, the logic there doesn’t line up.
That said I’m with you on HTA adjustment through a size range not being a requirement. A convenience for brands maybe. And if it helps maintain a good FC-RC ratio then it’s no bad thing. There’s a reason why some Italian road bikes did it and why they can be exceptionally well balanced bikes. There’s a reason why some pros size down too, to bring FC back into balance rather than ride a larger bike with a longer FC due to the constant HTA.

Benedikt Skulason
7 months ago
Reply to  Rolf

Thanks Rolf, I appreciate this discussion!
When balancing short vs long pole, yes the shorter is less stable. With its lower rotational inertia, due to the lower CoM. Thus making it possible to make quicker angle changes to it.
Turning on a bike, and how quickly we can initiate a turn, is all about how quickly we can lean into the bend.
A rider with a higher CoM is not able to lean as quickly as a shorter one. Therefore, his steering speed should be adjusted for this.
However, I’ll be the first one to point out that we are talking small differences here. And, we can get used to / adjust to different bikes. But, the fundamental physics remain. A higher CoM rider cannot lean as quickly, and is therefore better paired with a touch more stable steering.

Rolf
Rolf
7 months ago

Me too! Thinking about how quickly we can lean in, I don’t think we initiate the corner by moving our bodyweight first so how high our CoM is isn’t a significant influence there. To corner, first we move the bike relative to where our CoM acts. Via counter steering we move the bike (the centreline between the tyre contacts) to the outside of the corner relative to our CoM, this puts our CoM to the inside of the corner and it moves to the side, so we turn in to balance at the right lean angle. I believe cornering begins with this bike or steer-initiated shift of balance because our body has much more inertia than the bike so it’s faster and easier to move the bike to the outside than move our body to the inside.
Gong back to taller and shorter riders. If wheelbase and speed is the same a higher CoM can slalom along left to right through some fixed close points on the ground with lower lean angles than a lower CoM. Trail and lean angle limit are linked so I’m thinking that the classic variable angle, short wheelbase road geometry is valid and also that a fixed angles geometry with variable wheelbase can work well if the FC:RC is in balance.

Small differences though, you’re right. And we can adjust to bikes over a wide range of geometries so it’s subjective or debateable how much change really matters. I prefer a slightly longer trail road bike than the road racing norm and I’m fairly tall so however this design is worked out I’m more in favour of the geometry on this bike than a 74 angle crit bike.

Grarick
Grarick
7 months ago
Reply to  Benedikt

Small road frames are typically the most compromised in terms of fit and handling. I’m not sure drawing the small HTa of a small across the sizes is the move.
Stem length adds to stability.
Increasing FC moves the weight bias to the rear.
Interesting to see ST angles change across sizes; is there an expectation that riders will be positioned differently across the frame sizes?
Also interesting to see BB height as a constant, despite expected crank length changes.
I assume “No one could really explain why this was the case.” is not the statement from their product devs.
Nice to see some chart number shifts; I look forward to ride reviews and seeing what gen2 looks like.

Benedikt Skulason
7 months ago
Reply to  Grarick

Thanks Grarick! Here’s how we arrived at this:

Our HT angles are not derived from the small frames. They are more derived from our Seigla gravel bike experience vs road bikes we’ve ridden. How we ride faster when stable enough. Then, at this 71.5° HA we had the luxury of not needing to slacken out the XS to get the required toe clearance.

ST angles vary a bit to better approach anatomy. Most road bikes do this. Basically, if we clipped in at our heel, then the seat position would be determined by length of calf and thigh. Resulting in a fairly consistent ST angle across sizes. However, you know what they say. Big feet… tall person. This shifts the seat angle back for taller people.

BB height: Yes, here the tradeoff being balanced is risk of pedal strike vs benefits of having a lower center of mass. Keeping in mind we are only talking of a very few mm here… We feel like smaller riders, with their already low “enough” CoM, benefit from getting a touch more ground clearance.

Greg Holder
Greg Holder
7 months ago
Reply to  Benedikt

What is that head tube? Yikes

Jake
Jake
7 months ago

Absolute stunner!

Veganpotter
Veganpotter
7 months ago
Reply to  Jake

That paint is great

Iron Eddie
Iron Eddie
7 months ago

You don’t need to go that slack for stability especially on today’s larger tyres. Nothing against slack but neutral-stable comes before you back off to that sort of geometry, where side to side flop starts to come in on narrow higher pressure tyres. It’ll ride fine but this isn’t a reinvention of road bike design.

Antoine
Antoine
7 months ago

The only great reason for road bikes to have super short front end is better drafting.

Rolf
Rolf
7 months ago
Reply to  Antoine

If you go longer, say 30, 50mm longer on your front centre and keep everything else the same then bung it into a fast corner you might see another reason for it.

DaveJ
DaveJ
7 months ago

Everything about this bike is refreshingly well considered. Kudos to Lauf for bucking the trends that have been forced down our throats by the big brands. If this was released a year ago, I would have ordered one in a heartbeat. To get something similar, I had had to go custom, and spend a lot more.

will
will
7 months ago

thats actually not so bad. i mean, they’re not wrong on geo and aero. the prices dont even look crazy, wtf. its just missing the hotdog box in the frame and fender mounts. ./me clicks.

c c
c c
7 months ago

We won’t see “deR wen” until next year and now a UDH equipped road bike? Seems like SRAM is doing a good job in preping for the next new groupset.

stm
stm
7 months ago
Reply to  c c

The question is, are they going UDH only for a road groupset? Is it smart? Maybe, maybe not.Could piss off some Roadies who are planning to upgrade their groupsets.
Well, we’ll get the answer next year.

Andrew
Andrew
7 months ago
Reply to  stm

Who says its ‘only’ UDH? My guess is it’ll be a new groupset, possibly with two versions of the dear Derailleur (one UDH, one not)….or some sort of adapter?

Andy
Andy
7 months ago

The geometry seems similar to the Fezzari Empire (which I have), especially the slack front end. Those accustomed to a quick crit bike will be disappointed but I can understand, from experience, as to how this bike will feel predictable and stable.

ShopMechanic
ShopMechanic
7 months ago

The super short stays for all sizes seems to fly in the face of the whole concept of adding stability for taller riders in a larger effort to keep handling consistent for riders of all heights. But, everyone has their own philosophy on bike geometry and there isn’t one right answer…

Benedikt Skulason
7 months ago
Reply to  ShopMechanic

Hey Shop Mechanic. We do the chainstays short, so we can then turn around and inject more stability to the front. Where the stability “return on investment” is higher.

Oliver
Oliver
7 months ago

IMO they should have gone further, and slackened HTA in the larger sizes, rather than keeping it constant, and kept STA constant across all sizes – slackening STA in larger sizes is another commercial rather than ergonomic or handling decision, which they themselves rightly criticize re: HTAs. Taller, longer legged riders need steeper, not slacker seat angles …

Benedikt Skulason
7 months ago
Reply to  Oliver

Hey Oliver, thanks.
This was largely a question of “how far is too far?” for us. Keeping in mind that the growth in wheelbase for larger sizes is making them more stable, at a given HA, we feel like this is the appropriate stability increase for larger sizes.
The STA is changed to better approach anatomy, as I discuss in a comment here above.

Oliver
Oliver
7 months ago

In the larger sizes, the incidence of people high up the ape index drops way off, and rather the opposite – very long legs and shorter torso – becomes much more common. Slackening the seat angle makes this a nightmare for anyone with long legs, and usually results in slammed forward saddles and very short stems, both of which undermine or completely eliminate improved stability from slacker HTA. Your ‘better approach to anatomy’ doesn’t seem to allow for different distributions of morphology in the largest sizes.

Patrick
Patrick
7 months ago

The blue green color is amazing, the Force AXS build is a great price, and a large with a 120 stem looks almost exactly the geometry I would have chosen for myself after having owned a dozen drop bar bikes in the last decade. Maybe I’m biased because I have a True Grit I really enjoy, but I’m impressed. I thought the big announcement was just going to be new colors for the Seigla!

Dan
Dan
7 months ago

Frameset only option?

Robert
Robert
21 days ago

What’s so cool is that Lauf’s Virginia location is only 7 miles from my home .The picture of bike leaning against guardrail is on Reddish Knob just west of Harrisonburg. The Uthald will be in my garage soon hopefully!

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