What is it
Gravel bikes are all the rage in the drop-bar world right now, and where a lot of new ideas — or new takes on old ones — are being entertained. Intended use, geometry, component specs, and wheel/tire compatibility are all on the drawing board to be challenged. Instead of design by numbers, product developers are playing with a box of crayons and blank sheets of paper.
While some of the big name brands are waiting to see what the market dictates these bikes to be, smaller companies are taking chances. Hailing from Reykjavik, Iceland, Lauf Forks is one of those companies offering day-dreaming gravel riders exciting possibilities with their latest offering, the Grit gravel fork.
The Grit is a gravel specific suspension fork that relies on leaf springs to deliver 30mm of travel to any CX or drop-bar adventure bike. Based on their XC and fat bike fork designs, the Grit is made entirely of carbon fiber keeping weight to a minimum while maximizing strength. The military spec S2 glass fiber springs that serve as the suspension are extremely tough, yet flexible where needed. Lauf has tuned the springs to deliver a progressive feel, preventing the fork from easily bottoming out without sacrificing small bump compliance. The result is a buzz-killing short travel fork that can be installed on almost any gravel bike frame.
- Increased comfort and control
- Zero maintenance
- Massive tire clearance
- Flat-mount disc brake compatibility
- Easy to install
- Unique look
- 5-year warranty
- Added weight
- May need to tweak rider fit after install
- Reduced lateral stiffness
- Unique look
Install and Setup
One of the main benefits of the Grit is its ease of frame compatibility and install. Hub spacing is 100mm only, and you choose between a 12mm or 15mm thru-axle configuration. It features a fairly common 1-⅛” – 1-¼” steerer and Lauf ships it with a crown race for an 1.5” lower bearing if necessary. Measure twice, cut once, press on the race, and throw it in your frame. It’s that easy.
The Grit features the newer flat-mount disc standard for the brake. For post mount disc brakes, adaptors are readily available from SRAM and Shimano. A 160mm rotor is the minimum size disc allowed on the fork. Due to the construction of the fork lowers, there is a 20mm offset which requires a 140mm post mount adaptor to fit the caliper properly. Fortunately, this information is listed in the fork manual online and applied directly to the fork for easy reference.
The Grit scores bonus points on wheel compatibility and tire clearance as well. It pulls double duty, capable of running 700x42c or 27.5×2.1 rubber, while still maintaining enough clearance for the 30mm of travel. Combining either wheel size with a tubeless tire setup and the appropriate low pressure results in a very smooth ride on any terrain.
Since you are replacing a rigid fork with a suspension fork, Lauf’s engineers spent many hours dialing in the specs for the Grit so that it has a minimal impact on your bike’s fit and handling. Accounting for 6mm of sag, the Grit is designed to approximately replicate a rigid fork with a rake of 45mm and an axle-crown measurement of 395mm. Although it felt very close to our original setup once installed, we did have to drop our stem 2.5mm(one spacer) to get back to a comfortable fit.
Does it work?
In short, yes. The Grit excels at smoothing out uneven gravel roads and mitigating washboard surfaces. It does a decent job of soaking up small potholes and roots commonly found on backroads and relatively tame singletrack. However, you are quickly reminded of its limited travel as you bottom out rolling over larger square-edged obstacles. Luckily the Grit features integrated rubber bump stops to prevent any damage to the fork legs.
In terms of handling, the Grit feels fairly neutral on pavement, disappearing underneath you as you ride. There is minimal bob while seated, and lateral flex is only really felt when wrenching on the bars out of the saddle. Off pavement, the Grit’s subtle flex invokes confidence, challenging you to brake later, as it keeps the front tire in contact with the ground. As a result, front brake feel and performance is improved, especially when paired with hydraulic set-ups.
So far, there are only two significant drawbacks to the Grit. With a weight of 956g, the Grit is roughly 400g heavier than our stock rigid carbon fork with a 12mm thru-axle. That added heft is felt as soon as the trail pitches upward or the bike is shouldered. Second, is cornering. In aggressive turns or tight technical terrain, the twisting force applied to the fork through the bars results in lateral flex at the wheel. This manifests in the form of slightly slowed steering response. It’s minimal, but it’s there. A minor adjustment to steering and cornering technique has made this less of an issue. Ok, so there is a third thing — the price. At $790, the Grit is anywhere from $200 to $400 more expensive than a comparable full carbon rigid fork. But hey, can you really put a price on comfortable adventuring?
If it ain’t broke, why fix it?
So who is the Grit for? Why choose this fork over a well designed rigid fork? It’s a good question. Purists or diehard gravel racers might take a pass, as weight, simplicity, sharp handling, and/or aesthetics are high priority. But if you are a rider looking for added comfort or an upgrade to your bike’s all-terrain capabilities, the Lauf Grit might just need to be on your parts list before you take on your next all-day gravel epic.
Rating: 4 out of 5
More info: www.laufforks.com