We first spied the Lauf leaf spring fork in July, but got our first hands on one to play with at Eurobike’s demo day.
Quick background: Founder Benedikt Skulason is also the designer. He used to work on composite prosthetics, where he learned the materials, but has been working on Lauf full time for two years. Original prototypes were alloy test mules with 100mm of travel and weighed about 6kg. The did originally plan on having hydraulic damping in some form, but as the design was refined and travel dropped to 60mm, they found they really didn’t need the added weight or complexity of damping. And after riding one, I’d actually agree.
Skulason said weight could go as light as 900g, but they’ll launch with a 990g weight. A prototype has passed EN testing at 1070g, but they’ve already identified ways to pull out a lot of weight out of the unsprung section (the part the holds the axle/brakes) without affecting performance.
Bounce past the break for details, actual weights and first impressions…
The small tab on the back of the leg is the bump stop. Good luck hitting it. There’s only 60mm of travel, but it’s far stiffer than a traditionally sprung fork. I’m 185lbs without clothes and I put all my weight on the bars and bounced and maybe -maybe- was able to get it through about half of its travel. They can tune the stiffness of the leafs to suit rider weights, and my bounce test was on a fork Skulason said was made for my weight.
Theoretically, they could produce one with more than 100mm travel, but it would need damping.
Axle to crown is 487mm, about 17mm than Niner’s carbon rigid fork.
Shipping in July 2014, preorders will be taken in October. It’s not cheap, look for a price around a dollar a gram ($990).
A preproduction model weighs in exactly at the target weight of 990g.
My little test ride consisted of a few loops around the grassy field and over small (3″ or so) drops, curbs and a small log that I hit straight on without lifting the front end. What I noticed on the grass, which simulated a normally groomed XC trail or fire road, was that all vibrations were gone. Looking down at the front axle shows just how much vibration the leaf springs are soaking up – they’re buzzing around like bees, removing all of that from getting to your hands. For weight weenie rigid riders that are tired of beating their palms to death (ahem, Dickie) but don’t want to fiddle, the Lauf Trail Racer fork could be the solution.
While roaming around talking to people that hadn’t ridden it, everyone’s opinion was that a fork without damping was stupid. Normally, yes, it’s probably going to be a pogo stick, but when the heavily used travel range hovers at about 30mm, it seems to be a non issue. I wasn’t bouncing uncontrollably, and even when I jumped or tried to hit something big, it didn’t buck back so forcefully that it’d throw control off. Yes, it bounced back rapidly, but just a tiny bit.
It’s certainly not for everyone, but neither is a long travel fork with dual compression and rebound adjustments. After riding it, I think they’re onto something and can fill a niche in the XC scene.
Check ’em out at Laufforks.com.