The Lauf True Grit is built for gravel racing: big days, covering long distances, over a multitude of dirt surfaces.
It’s not designed to carry all your bells and whistles, but still manages to blend an element of comfort into its relatively racy demeanour, with generous front end-height adjustment if you don’t have pro-tour-esque flexibility.
While the frameset is nicely finished, with numerous neat touches, it’s the Grit SL fork that steals the show. This leaf-sprung suspension fork offers 30mm of travel, which is enough to take the sting out of the dirt roads, without impacting too much on the bike’s dynamic geometry.
It’s incredibly good at reducing handlebar buzz, too, which over longer distances adds to fatigue, and helps with bigger hits, but with 30mm travel, there’s only so much it can be expected to handle.
This model is the second tier of the four model range, and features DT Swiss alloy hoops wrapped in Maxxis Rambler tyres, a SRAM Force/XX1 AXS wireless 1x groupset with a 10-50t cassette, and a smattering of FSA and Lauf finishing kit.
Lauf True Grit Race AXS specification and details
The True Grit frameset is an all carbon affair, and has fully guided internal cable routing for a 1x drivetrain. Though the frame will take a gear cable, this version of the True Grit uses SRAM’s wireless AXS groupsets – as do the top-level Ultimate (£5,990) and third-tier Weekend Warrior AXS (£3,390).
Force level shifters are joined by an XX1 AXS derailleur and 10-50t cassette, driven by a Force 1 chainset with a 42t ring. SRAM Force calipers, linked to those shifters, pull on 160mm rotors, front and rear.
Lauf’s own Smoothie bar dominates the cockpit. This uses a glass-fibre top blended into carbon-fibre drops. The glass fibre section of the bar is designed to give a little more flex and buzz reduction, while the carbon sections save weight where this buzz reduction isn’t needed.
The Grit SL fork at the front relies on a dozen glass-fibre leaf springs to provide the 30mm of un-damped travel, with a pair of rubber stoppers preventing a super-harsh bottom-out. It relies on a 100 x 15mm axle to secure the front wheel.
Currently, the bike is sold with DT Swiss XR1501 alloy wheels, fitted with 40c wide Maxxis Rambler tyres.
The rear chainstays are reasonably boxy, boosting pedalling stiffness, while the slender seatstays are there to give a little comfort. At the back there’s a 142 x 12mm axle, along with a chainsuck plate to protect the chainstays.
Lauf has equipped the frame with four pairs of bosses: two within the frame triangle for bottles, one under the down tube for either extra water or storage, and a pair in front of the stem for a bento-box, ready for longer races.
Lauf True Grit Race AXS specification
- Sizes (*tested): XS, S, M*, L, XL
- Frame: Carbon
- Fork: Lauf Grit SL 30mm
- Shifters: SRAM Force AXS
- Derailleurs: SRAM XX1 Eagle AXS
- Cranks: SRAM Force 1 cranks (1×12)
- Wheelset: DT Swiss XR1501
- Tyres: Maxxis Rambler 700 x 40c
- Brakes: SRAM Force 160/160 rotors
- Bar: Lauf Smoothie 42cm
- Stem: FSA V-Drive 6-degree,
- Seatpost: FSA SL-K
- Saddle: Ritchey Trail WCS Titanium
Lauf True Grit Race AXS geometry
At 182cm tall I sit between a Medium and Large on Lauf’s sizing guide. Personally, I prefer a slightly more aggressive fit on a bike, and have slightly shorter legs for my height, so chose the Medium. This gives me both extra seatpost extension for comfort and a lower front end.
This means the frame reach is 394mm and reach to handlebar length 456mm. Seat tube length measures 542mm, while the head tube is 133mm and there’s a 65mm bottom bracket drop.
Chainstays are 425mm long and there’s a 1,040mm wheelbase. The head angle, with 6mm of sag, is 70.5 degrees and there’s a 72.5-degree seat angle, designed for use with a zero-layback seatpost.
- Head angle: 70.5 degrees
- Seat angle: 72.5 degrees
- Chainstay: 425mm
- Seat tube: 542mm
- Top tube: 571mm
- Head tube: 133mm
- Bottom bracket drop: 65mm
- Wheelbase: 1,040mm
- Stack: 561mm
- Reach: 394mm
Why did I choose this bike?
I’m not going to sit back and say the True Grit was an unknown quantity – far from it. I’ve known the team at Lauf since its first mountain bike fork came out, and have followed the brand’s growth from a manufacturer of a very niche mountain bike product to a company with a range of products and two bikes in its range – last year Felix rode Lauf’s Anywhere as his long-term bike.
I was also lucky enough to ride the Grit fork when it launched, and later the True Grit on the launch event in Iceland and longer term after the event
So, with the offer of running the latest version of the bike with an updated Grit SL fork and new componentry, I didn’t hesitate to say yes.
I love gravel riding. I ride mountain bikes a lot for work (and adore MTBing too!), but gravel gives me something else that wider tyres can’t – easy, local access to great riding, big miles, and long days in the saddle.
I like a racier bike, too. When I ride road bikes, I gravitate towards the racy, more aggressive end of the spectrum. So, even without prior knowledge of Lauf’s bikes, the True Grit would naturally sit towards the top of my shortlist.
Furthermore, I really believe suspension has a place on a gravel bike. It’s as much about comfort as it is about control. And, coming from the mountain bike side of things, it feels utterly natural to have a springy front end.
Personally, I prefer the concept of a suspension system that isolates (to some extent) the front wheel from the frame. Less vibration is transmitted through the frame, so the overall bike rides smoother, and thus (in my eyes, at least) faster.
I don’t think the Grit SL is a perfect fork, though, and will cover this in more detail in my impressions below, but I do think it’s got a lot going for it – and it’s certainly a subject of debate within the BikeRadar office. However, we’ll leave those arguments for another day.
Lauf True Grit Race AXS initial set up
Given I know the True Grit fairly well, set up has been easy. There’s no adjustment needed on the fork and, in terms of bar and saddle height, I’ve set the bar low-ish, but not quite slammed, and the saddle at my preferred pedalling height.
I’ve got the brake hoods angled in slightly, as is my preferred feel.
Tyre pressures are set to the low 40s of PSI – high enough to avoid feeling sluggish on tarmac, but low enough to give grip and an element of comfort on dirt.
I’m currently running some Ritchey pedals, but often swap between pedals for a set of Shimano XT Race pedals and something else I can’t talk about right now. But they all use Shimano’s SPD cleat system.
Lauf True Grit Race AXS ride impressions
The initial photos for this bike were taken a couple of days after I received the bike, back when the sun was shining and the bales were still in the fields. Since then we’ve had a long British winter that’s only just on the wane.
Fortunately, in between my Trail Bike of the Year testing, I’ve been able to get out on the Lauf a fair bit and have continued to explore Bristol’s surroundings, taking in all the local sights – from stately homes to south-west England’s most popular fly tipping sites.
I’m getting to grips with Komoot, too, using it as a tool to search out alternative routes to the main roads in and out of the city, whether that’s via cycle tracks, single tracks or dirt tracks.
The True Grit has, largely, worked as expected. The shape of the bike works well for my needs, proving comfortable in sizing and allowing me to adequately get into those more aero shapes that work well on road sections.
Off road I’ve found the handling to be sharp enough to navigate over or around rocks, roots and pot-holes, and still give me the confidence to let loose on the brake levers and carry speed on descents.
I do think the longer geometry and the fork contribute here. There’s inherent stability from the length, while the front wheel is better able to track the ground, with both the tyre’s volume and the fork’s suspension keeping the whole bike calmer.
In future updates, I’ll talk more about the geometry and handling.
The Maxxis Rambler tyres seem to be a decent all-rounder. On the road, they don’t feel too sluggish and their relatively continuous central tread rolls fast, while the carcass seems supple.
In deep or slippery mud it’s inevitable that they don’t always hold traction particularly well, but that’s a trade-off I’ve been happy to make all winter. My only complaint with the tyres is that their bead seems fairly baggy on a number of wheels I’ve tried, and getting them to pop into the rim’s bead tubeless can be a frustrating exercise.
I’ve also been very impressed with the Force/XX1 AXS drivetrain, and more so than I have in a mountain bike context. The sequential, flappy-paddle shifting setup is incredibly intuitive and, thus far, shifting performance has been faultless.
My only criticism of the drivetrain/brakes has been that the shift paddle can sometimes squash my 4th and 5th fingers if I’m braking on the hoods and my brake pads are a touch worn.
While I very much like the True Grit, I do have a couple of complaints. In a few situations, the fork’s architecture can lead to some unwanted twist, which is especially noticeable on steep, rough corners where you need to brake.
Here, the fork sometimes twists and twangs, which can be unnerving. It’s not a common enough occurrence for me to feel the fork is a compromise on the bike, though.
Also, when it comes to comfort, because the front end is suspended it’s more obvious that the rear isn’t.
While Lauf quotes a 45c tyre clearance at the back, I think that’s more applicable for ‘true’ mid-western gravel. In the UK, where mud is a regular feature of a ‘gravel’ ride, the 40c standard width tyres can get clogged up around the chainstays. A little more clearance would be no bad thing here.
It would be good to see some provision for internal dropper post cable routing, too. Personally I don’t use a dropper on a gravel bike, but I know many do. With no internal cable routing, you’re stuck to either using a non-existent wireless 27.2mm post or an externally routed option, which never looks tidy.
Lauf True Grit Race AXS upgrades
Having ridden the bike for quite a while already, I’ve made a few changes, which I’ll talk more about in future updates.
One item that has been a revelation is the Mudhugger Gravel Hugger rear mudguard. No, aesthetically, it’s not to my taste, but it’s excellent and I would thoroughly recommend it after a winter with no soggy bottoms.
I’ve also been using a number of 76Projects items, including the excellent Modular Computer Mount to hold my Garmin and Magicshine front light.
Future upgrade plans include some new wheels, as well as a couple of items to boost long-distance comfort.