Lauf’s new TR29 Boost fork is a progression of the Lauf Trail Racer 29 fork we reviewed in 2014 – an off-the-wall 29er race fork with leaf-sprung suspension supposed to offer a middle ground between rigid forks and traditional suspension models.
Lauf has developed the fork for 2015, partly in response to some of our questions over performance. It's also releasing a fat bike version – the Lauf Carbonara.
Lauf TR29 Boost
There's no maintenance at all needed
The main evolution of the Lauf TR29 is the move to 110mm hub Boost spacing. While Boost wheels are inherently stiffer, thanks to their widened hub flanges, the fork also benefits a touch from this widening. What’s unseen in the new fork is its updated internal profiling and construction, which Lauf says boosts fore-aft stiffness.
The legs are still carbon, and the leaf springs are a glass fibre material fabricated in Germany. They come in two weights; your choice will depend on where you tip the scales. Sixty millimetres of travel is provided, enough for marathon-based applications, according to Lauf.
We found that the original TR29 wasn’t stiff enough laterally for UK-style XC racing, where the emphasis on more technical courses calls for a fork with accurate, precise steering. The lack of rebound damping also make the Lauf feel a little uncontrolled on rough terrain.
The Carbonara fork modifies Lauf's design for fat bike use
Joining the TR29 Boost is the Carbonara, a fork for the burgeoning fat bike market. Again, light weight and no extra friction are benefits for the fatties, with the springs deadening any unwanted bounce from the fatter rubber.
Again, 60mm of travel is provided, with 150mm hub spacing meaning the fork should work with most fat bikes currently being built. Lauf is partnering with a number of fat bike manufacturers, such as Borealis, to provide it on production bikes.
With the larger treads providing some damping from the trail, Lauf has uprated the springs by 20 percent – also in part down to the average fat biker, plus kit, weighing more than your average XC whippet.
First ride impressions
In many ways the Lauf TR29 Boost's characteristics remain similar to its predecessor. However, we had the opportunity to ride the fork in Iceland, on the trails it was designed around.
The Blue Lagoon Challenge is the biggest race in Iceland, a 60km course along washboard, loose access roads. The Lauf’s leaf springs mean there’s absolutely no loss of feel from sticky moving parts – the Lauf lets the wheel track the ground unhindered by additional friction, resulting in a buttery smooth ride.
The Lauf TR29 Boost starts to make a lot more sense in its native surroundings
I also rode the bike on an Icelandic XC course. It differed to a lot of UK courses as, while twisty with the occasional technical feature, the trails were largely smooth and fast, primed for flat-out traditional XC racing. Big compressions and tight technical corners weren’t present – a feature which caused the Lauf problems in my test of the original fork.
With this in mind, the Lauf is much more at home as a marathon race fork, where light weight and smooth performance on potentially less technical terrain make a lot of sense. Likewise, with no moving parts, maintenance is a non-issue – there’s simply nothing to maintain. As such, Lauf offers a five-year warranty, with no maintenance schedule. Take that, Fox and RockShox.
Lauf has produced a product that is certainly different from the average. Riding the forks in their natural environment and meeting the people behind the product was certainly eye opening. While I still have reservations about using the fork on my own XC race bikes in the UK, were I to tackle a long marathon race on the continent, or craving a bit more control and comfort out of an adventure-based fat bike, the Lauf starts to make more sense.
Lauf forks can be purchased in the UK through velobrands.co.uk for £750 (the Carbonara will retail for US$990; other international pricing is TBC).