Lauf True Grit Race Edition review

Video review on the full gravel race bike from Icelandic leaf-spring fork maker

BikeRadar score4.5/5

From the early days of its Trail Racer mountain bike fork, Lauf has done things a little differently. The Grit fork in 2016 brought the company much more attention and kudos, and it has followed this up with a gravel specific race bike, the True Grit. 

The Lauf True Grit in a full-on gravel race bike, with a shape broadly similar to an endurance road bike, but with more mud clearance, a 1x drivetrain and Lauf's unique leaf-sprung fork.

The Grit fork launched Lauf's notoriety in the gravel scene; it has been refined on the True Grit
The Grit fork launched Lauf's notoriety in the gravel scene; it has been refined on the True Grit

Longer in the top tube than most bikes, the True Grit is also slack, with a 70.5 degree head angle and 72.5 degree seat. With the tapered head tube and the front wheel axle positioned behind the main fork uppers, it looks even slacker. 

The long geometry, relatively short stems and low height mean the bike is stable at speed on rough ground. Lauf has also kept the back end 425mm short, while still keeping room for 45c tyres, thanks to well-sculpted seat and chainstays.

While many see gravel bikes as an ideal adventure bike, the True Grit's shape and build means this isn't really its forte - the length and low front end mean a relaxed position on the bike isn't readily available unless you chuck a short, steep stem on there, and there are no rack/fender mounts to speak.

Lauf's frame is one of the cleanest we've seen out there. The bikes are designed to be run on a 1x system, with full internal cable routing to the rear derailleur. 

There is front derailleur mount, but it comes with a bottle opener attached. 'Beer or Gear', Lauf calls it. If you want a front derailleur, however, it will have to be a SRAM eTap, as there is no cable routing. 

Bento box mounts on the top tube are there for gravel race feeding - this is a bike built for races such as the Dirty Kanza
Bento box mounts on the top tube are there for gravel race feeding - this is a bike built for races such as the Dirty Kanza

Thanks to the frame's construction technique, both hose and gear cable outer should be easy to route. The front triangle is built as one, all the way through to the first 6cm (there or thereabouts) of the chainstays - both brake and gear cable have fully internally tubed routing to this point. 

There are four bottle bosses on the frame - two inside the main triangle and one under it. The fourth is mounted on the top of the top tube for a food bag, as it sometimes favoured by endurance racers. The rear axle is a 142x12mm design with Lauf's own threaded axle. The bottom bracket is threaded.

All painted up, the frames weigh a claimed 1,100g for a size large, including hardware. The Medium Race Edition spec with a SRAM Force 1 groupset, Easton cranks and American Classic wheels should come in at 7.8kg, claims Lauf.

Since the closure of American Classic Lauf will be shipping the True Grit with DT Swiss wheels - the Race level bikes will get the XR1501 wheelset while the Weekend Warrior builds will get the X1900 wheels.

Beer or Gear? Lauf is better most gravel racers will opt for a 1x and a beer opener over an eTap front derailleur
Beer or Gear? Lauf is better most gravel racers will opt for a 1x and a beer opener over an eTap front derailleur

Lauf True Grit geometry

Lauf offers six size options, based around three frames, the difference being the stem length. There's therefore Short and Long versions of the Small, Medium and Large bikes. The stem sizes versus frame sizes are below:

  • S short: 70mm stem
  • S long: 80mm stem
  • M short (+11mm in frame reach): 80mm stem
  • M long: 90mm stem
  • L short: (+11mm in frame reach): 90mm stem
  • L long: 100mm stem

Taking a Large Short, here's the key geometry figures:

  • Suggested rider height: 182-187cm
  • Stem length: 90mm
  • Reach: 405mm
  • Stack: 590mm
  • Seat tube: 565mm
  • BB drop: 65mm
  • Wheelbase: 1053mm
  • Chainstay: 425mm
  • Headtube: 164mm
  • Top tube: 591mm
  • Front centre: 636mm
  • Axle to crown (assuming 6mm sag of fork): 412mm
  • Fork rake - 47mm

SRAM's Force 1 derailleur with a clutch is an excellent option for gravel, keeping the chain relatively taut
SRAM's Force 1 derailleur with a clutch is an excellent option for gravel, keeping the chain relatively taut

Lauf True Grit pricing and models

Lauf sells the bike direct through its website, and a number of independent dealers.

Lauf True Grit Weekend Warrior

The Weekend Warrior is the base-spec bike for now. It comes with a SRAM Rival 1 groupset and brakes, American Classic AM28/Terrain wheels which are tubeless ready with the Maxxis Rambler 40c tyres. The bars are Easton EC70 AX Carbon, while the stem is an EA70 model. a FSA SL-K post holds either a WTB Volt Pro or Diva Pro saddle.

The Weekend Warrior is priced at $3,690 (exc tax), or with a custom colour, it's $4,090.

Wide American Classic wheels with 40c Maxxis Rambler tyres provide decent grip and comfort without compromising rolling speed
Wide American Classic wheels with 40c Maxxis Rambler tyres provide decent grip and comfort without compromising rolling speed

Lauf True Grit Race Edition

The Race Edition is the bike we rode. It comes with a Force 1 drivetrain and brakes, and American Classic Race wheels, with the same Rambler tyres. added into the mix is a RaceFace EC90 SL crankset with 42t ring. As Lauf's own bar is yet to be finalised, it's not yet on the spec list.

For the less patient the Race Edition will cost US$5,390, or US$4,990 for those wanting non-standard colours.

Lauf True Grit Race Wireless 2x11

The wireless version of the True Grit has the same spec as the Race Edition, though with a SRAM Red eTap drivetrain. You also don't get the Lauf bottle opener!

You'll pay US$6,590, plus an up-charge for different colours.

Lauf True Grit frame/fork only

A frame/fork only option is also offered, which comes with the frame and fork, along with both axles, a seat collar, mech hangers, bottle opener and headset. It's priced at $2690 or £2400 in the UK for the standard colours (add £300 for fancier colours)

Lauf True Grit Review

We’ll ignore the elephant in the room, the Grit fork, for now. The True Grit itself is an interesting bike when you jump on it. 

The long and low position gives the feel of a race bike, with its stretched out feel you’re not shoving your upper body straight into the wind. However, while some thoroughbred race bikes can feel nervous at low speeds and you need your wits about you when things get rough, the True grit is calm and reassuring.This is a combination of the length, low BB and slack head angle.

While the relaxed head gives that stability and security when descending (and the True Grit is great at descending), Lauf has avoided it feeling like a barge thanks to the shorter stem lengths, which brings handling and sizing back to more normal levels.

The True Grit is designed as a racey gravel bike, and here it excelled
The True Grit is designed as a racey gravel bike, and here it excelled

There’s ample clearance for the 40c Maxxis Rambler tyres on the True Grit. On gravel roads they roll fast, offering ample bite into the dirt, and though the tread is comparatively low profile and closely spaced, there's still confidence on offer in loose corners. 

On more muddy terrain though, this lack of aggression from the tread means there's less grip on offer than some gravel tyres, especially those that err on the side of CX. We suggest having a number of tyre options at home would help get the best out of the bike, especially if you are likely to ride the True Grit on a wide range of surfaces, throughout the year.

Durability of the Rambler is still up in the air also - we've heard of a number of surprising punctures - mostly linked to damage to the carcass, rather than pinches, in our group of gravel riders.

Like any tire, opinions on the 40mm Rambler vary based on who you ask. Ben, riding in the desert, likes it. Tom, riding in wetter conditions, wasn't completely sold on it
Like any tire, opinions on the 40mm Rambler vary based on who you ask. Ben, riding in the desert, likes it. Tom, riding in wetter conditions, wasn't completely sold on it

Much is said about a frame’s compliance, but when you add in the wide tyres and reasonably soft wheels, the guys at Lauf argue that a frame’s compliance only makes up a tiny proportion of a bike’s comfort. Initially we're inclined to agree to a point. 

However, for a bike designed for the gravel race course, the True Grit never felt overly harsh, while sill maintaining that all important pedalling stiffness.

Those from a road background might find the 1x drivetrain frustrating at first, with larger gaps between the gears, and potentially a smaller range overall of ratios. However those from a mountain bike background are likely to be used to what's on offer. Through testing we rarely found the range lacking, whether that be on shorter, steep muddy UK rides, or on longer gravel grinds in the US.

On longer, flatter gravel races, perhaps there would be more of an argument for a more traditional 2x drivetrain, and if that is the case, the True Grit is compatible with SRAM's wireless eTap groupsets.

SRAM's hydro brakes proved reliable during the test
SRAM's hydro brakes proved reliable during the test

Now, the Grit. Our review of the original grit can be found here, however there’s a slight update to the fork that comes with the True Grit bike (and will at some point be available after market). 

The Grit SL's legs are straighter, thanks to the use of 7mm shorter springs. These springs have taken a little longer to develop and test, however they’re here now, and we reckon make the Grit look much less awkward. The fork is around 50g lighter than the previous model, and comes with an integrated 1.5" crown race (as opposed to the 1 1/4" on the original).

The performance advantages remain – there’s absolutely no friction in their movement, there’s no service interval, and they’re still sub 1 kilo. The lack of damping adjustment may put some off, but in use, with only 30mm of travel, we still don’t feel it’s totally necessary.

It's only 30mm of maximum suspension in the leaves, but it's just about perfect for gravel
It's only 30mm of maximum suspension in the leaves, but it's just about perfect for gravel

The benefits are clear to feel. The fork takes the edge off stutter bumps, gravel and washboard sections of the road, allowing a more comfortable, more controlled ride. 30mm of travel is enough to do this, but it doesn't mean the bike can be thrown off drops and slammed into rocks - it's still definitely a road/gravel bike, as opposed to a gravel focussed MTB.

While Lauf were early to the gravel suspension game, we feel their fork is still one of the top performers in this segment (though we're in the process of writing a full grouptest of gravel suspension products). It's lighter than the likes of the Fox AX fork, and suspends the bike, as opposed to just the rider, like the Specialized FutureShock does. 

You can still catch the fork out a little, on steep corners with heavy braking, but Lauf says that overall the new Grit design is a little stiffer than the original. 

The monocoque frame allows for easy cable routing, and very smooth lines
The monocoque frame allows for easy cable routing, and very smooth lines

So who's it for?

We've tested the True Grit both in the UK through winter, and in Arizona and Colorado in the spring, and our testers have come out impressed.

For Tom, a UK-based tester who comes from mountain bikes, the True Grit has taken the place of the fancy road bikes as his go-to drop bar bike. It's fast and fun to ride, allows him to get the miles in over winter without venturing out too much on to wet, slippy, traffic filled roads. 

For Ben, a US-based tester who comes from the road, the True Grit is one of the best gravel race bikes he's tried. A road bike it most certainly is not, but the stability at speed on gravel roads and the softening effect of the Lauf fork make it shine for gravel racing. Frankly, after having a little suspension up front, it's hard to go back to a rigid gravel bike.

For both testers, the True Grit bought back the fun of old-school XC mountain biking, re-energizing tame trails, offering a great way to link together fun dirt stretches on pavement without feeling anchored in a heavy MTB, and, perhaps most importantly, illuminating how good a bike can feel on gravel when it's designated specifically for the task. 

www.laufforks.com

Tom Marvin

Technical Editor, Tech Hub, UK
Tom's been riding for 15 years, and has always chopped and changed bikes as soon as his budget allowed. He's most at home in the big mountains, having spent nigh on 30 weeks riding the Alps, as well as having lived a stone's throw from the Scottish Highlands for four years. Tom also enjoys racing events like the Strathpuffer and the Trans Nepal.
  • Age: 29
  • Height: 182cm / 5'11"
  • Weight: 82kg / 180lb
  • Waist: 81cm / 32in
  • Chest: 97cm / 38in
  • Discipline: Mountain
  • Preferred Terrain: Steep and super tech or fast and flowy
  • Current Bikes: Canyon Spectral, Pivot Mach 429SL, Mondraker Vantage R +
  • Dream Bike: Transition Scout
  • Beer of Choice: Gin & tonic
  • Location: Bristol, UK

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