EB13: Lauf Leaf Spring Suspension Fork – Actual Weights & First Impressions

Lauf carbon composite leaf spring mtb suspension fork

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…

Lauf carbon composite leaf spring mtb suspension fork

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.

Lauf carbon composite leaf spring mtb suspension fork

Axle to crown is 487mm, about 17mm than Niner’s carbon rigid fork.

Lauf carbon composite leaf spring mtb suspension 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).

Lauf carbon composite leaf spring mtb suspension fork

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.

Comments

Texast - 09/05/13 - 8:30am

Lauf Out Laud

Ripnshread - 09/05/13 - 8:38am

Feel like I just stepped back in time and your talking about a Manitou 2 elastomer fork.

Jon MacKinnon - 09/05/13 - 8:42am

I feel like I’m in the minority camp but I actually like the look and the concept behind it. I’ll definitely be considering one when I get round to changing the rigid forks on my bike.

fayar - 09/05/13 - 8:44am

I “get” the concept from an engineering standpoint, but almost $1k, only non-competitive market, and looks like a foot? Who invested in this? That’s what I don’t get.

Eddie O - 09/05/13 - 8:47am

“Axle to crown is 487mm, about 17mm than Niner’s carbon rigid fork.” …is that more or less?

ah - 09/05/13 - 8:47am

My worry would be that the two sides could move independently and your tyre could end up buzzing the fork leg. Did you try any torsional stiffness tests like clamping the wheel between your legs and trying to turn the bars, or trying to push the tyre sideways into the fork leg?

Sardinian Rider - 09/05/13 - 9:21am

How much of a money pooping person you have to be to spend this kind of cash for a product that is still in it’s testing stage afterall ??

Duder - 09/05/13 - 9:28am

I bet we’ll see a ton of rigid racers switching to this. Sounds like it will be a perfect fork for taking the edge off braking bumps and fire road riding (contintental divide, leadville style riding). I personally wouldn’t ride this as an mtb, but I wonder if there are any cyclocross frames that can work with it’s a2c? I’m currently looking for a cyclocross bike/gravel/fireroad/pavement bike for winter/bad weather training, and that’d be an instant sell for me.

Great Gazoo - 09/05/13 - 9:35am

Give me a Allsop Suspension stem…

Collin - 09/05/13 - 10:01am

At ah’s comment, I would really doubt that would happen at least at the carbon wishbones. That would mean that your producing a huge moment across the nearly inch long specimen (bending it edge wise vs width wise) (looking for examples on my desk) Think of it like a 2×8 pc of wood. Put a really big load in the center if the thing is laying flat (supported by the 8 inch section) the board is going to bow quite a bit. Put the board on its edge and put the same load on it, its probably not going to bow at all.

Bog - 09/05/13 - 10:08am

How does it handle under had braking and cornering? Seems like this would be a weakness and is quite an important consideration when you think about CX and XC racing.

Sevo - 09/05/13 - 10:48am

This is really one of the more unique and brilliant suspension ideas to come around in the last 10 years.

People are funny. Reason most are against it is in all reality, their understand of the components they ride is about 1/2 of what a first year engineering student knows at best. No understanding of the history of cycling components, typically limited experience in any kind of bicycle beyond the mountain bike they owned…which at best is ridden 4-5 hours a week.

Texast - 09/05/13 - 10:52am

Leaf spring suspension works great when accompanied by a damper. How would the rebound and compression be controlled with a fork like this? Thinking of high speed, fire road runs with small braking bumps and small rocks and the amount of chatter that would occour withour a damper

adam - 09/05/13 - 10:57am

Ah and Collin,

Collin you are correct. Thats the beauty of carbon. You can control the direction of fibers and that affects the characteristics . If the fibers run straight front to back, the blades will be highly affected by torque on the wheel but the blades will be very stiff . If you start to lay the fibers at cross angles (45 degree to forward), torsional stiffness will increase but you’ll also soften the vertical stiffness in the blades. What happens when you do a combination of 45 degree and 0 degree fibers in a blade? You got it- a stiff and torsionally, resistant blade!! Heavier rider? More layers. Same science (but much simpler) than may of these fancy road bikes on the market-just easier to see. You didn’t think a $6k carbon road frame was only lighter than a $1k road frame did you?

Topmounter - 09/05/13 - 11:02am

I absolutely love my rigid Air9 for a lot of trails I ride (FS rig in the quiver for the others), but I’d love to try one of these. Considering how niche of a fork this will inevitably be, the price seems pretty reasonable.

dwiz - 09/05/13 - 11:34am

interesting out of the box thinking…but this thing will never see the light of production. it will never be seen on any trail but in this demo/EB situation….the price and availability will be two limiting factors that will keep this thing out of the cycling world…PERIOD!!!!!

Tyler Benedict - 09/05/13 - 11:58am

All – it cornered sharp with no noticeable flex, pretty much went where I wanted it to go. Braking didn’t seem to affect it either, other than the typical dive you’d get from any suspension fork.

patrik - 09/05/13 - 12:01pm

“Hi, my name is Solution. Has anyone seen my dog, Problem? If you find him, please let me know.”

vectorbug - 09/05/13 - 12:16pm

I think it looks fantastic and like a lot of fun. The price is realistic considering the R&D and start up costs (you think you’re just paying for the materials?).

I hope its adopted well by the XX1 demographic (aka early adopters, aka rich folk (or perhaps shop employees)) and is well supported, if they could get it down between Reba and f29 prices I’d go for it, otherwise I’d just go for a DT Swiss fork.

Ok so they have a cool product developed, I hope their business sense is just as sharp.

Mindless - 09/05/13 - 12:39pm

I am pretty sure I can make my Durin or SID to be under 1 kg if I remove damping cartridges and lower travel a bit. Maybe add some elastomer bumper.

Point – missing.

ant1 - 09/05/13 - 1:05pm

as someone who hasn’t ridden this fork, has no idea of the engineering and testing that went into developing it, does not hold an engineering degree and is not in the market for something like this, i’m pretty sure i’m supremely qualified to say this thing will never work out and anybody with actual knowledge of and experience with the product who proves me wrong is obviously trolling and will be ignored.

Mindless - 09/05/13 - 1:17pm

As somebody who has a very good idea about engineering I am qualified to say that 60mm of stiff, undamped travel at 1kg weight can be achieved with existing technology at a much smaller cost and with no questions about reliability, durability, torsional stiffness, wheel attachment. Durin SL 26″ on my wife’s bike is under 1300g, and it has excellent damping and 100mm travel etc.

chasejj - 09/05/13 - 1:20pm

It may be time for Mert to dustoff the Lawwill Leader and jack it up in carbon fiber.

Dicky - 09/05/13 - 2:12pm

Ahem, I’ll keep beating with my palms… or whatever.

Ham-planet - 09/05/13 - 2:41pm

The tangent the braking force acts along appears to be exactly in line with the path of the suspension travel. This must suffer terribly from brake dive.

wheelguy - 09/05/13 - 2:49pm

All the naysayers on this site crack me up! Love seeing someone thinking outside the box and trying something new. Much respect for those who create!

ah - 09/05/13 - 3:07pm

At Colin

I like your 8 inch plank analogy but you aren’t taking it far enough.

Sure an 8″ plank on its side is stiff in bending… until you bend it the other way as well. It is then relatively easy to deflect it sideways by twisting it along its length.

If we were looking at an 8″ plank then I wouldn’t really be worried, but with a leaf that is maybe 1,1/4″ wide and 1/8″ thick it is a real concern.

JasonK - 09/05/13 - 3:34pm

Ah,

Really, you don’t need to worry about this. Collin had it right. You’re essentially worried about torsional deflection of the leaf springs, but this design addresses that issue. With four sets of triple leaf springs, this design is stiff laterally and in torsion while remaining flexible in the vertical direction–which is just what the designer was trying to achieve.

From an engineering perspective, there’s nothing that’s obviously problematic about this design. Tyler seemed to think it rode well, and while this fork is not for me, I’m kind of pulling for this design. It’s interesting, creative and technically sound; usually, you don’t get all three attributes in one package.

Michael - 09/05/13 - 4:33pm

Put a Knard/Rabbit Hole in it!

ascar_larkinyar - 09/05/13 - 5:54pm

what happens when you bottom out? SNAP??????

and again, how do you adjust for light or heavy riders?

Nony B. - 09/05/13 - 6:09pm

When the dust settles, founder/designer Benedikt Skulason will be lauf-ing all the way to the bank.

aaron - 09/05/13 - 7:36pm

This would also work great for gravel bikes.

Andy R - 09/05/13 - 7:40pm

I’ve decided that modern xc forks are rubbish for what they are designed to do. They simply don’t absorb small bumps, there’s too much stiction. A non-telescopic fork is far more responsive to small bumps, I’ve ridden on some (prototype) linkage forks that absorb the vibration from tread in the tires. I think this fork would work great for most of the xc racing I do – fire roads and 4wd trails.

I’ll have to say that 6in travel forks for trail riding are very good though.

I don’t know why the design is trailing and not leading, I think leading would look better (ie turn his forks around 180deg). He’ll still get the same suspension characteristics with a leading setup.

I’ll agree with everyone else here that the design is not aesthetically pleasing!

Burnt-Orange - 09/05/13 - 7:49pm

the only thing that concerns me is what they are using to limit travel to 60mm
the bump stop looks small on the black one
I didn’t notice a stop on the red one
would like to give one a go

JimmyZ - 09/06/13 - 12:03am

I’d like to see this system on the rear axle of a carbon frame. I think it might be better applied where there isn’t steering involved. You can still use a truss fork up front, which looks cooler. On the rear, the leaf springs could be oriented like they are on a truck, or in other ways to optimize performance. I don’t think flex stays are desirable for a long term use, and small leaf springs near the dropouts could be less costly to replace.

Peter - 09/06/13 - 4:39am

You can get a nice damped fork around 1300g. So you save apr. 300g with that fork.

Erla - 09/06/13 - 5:51am

Race report from Erik Kay who just placed 6th in the Elite Class of the Birkebeiner 2013 race in Norway:

“As usually, the elite-class started out at a fairly low tempo from the city center of Rena as racers are preparing for the long and lactic-acid inducing climb towards Skramstad right around the corner. When approaching Djuposet I lost focus for a minute and suddenly found myself a bit behind. I was determined to remedy this, so I biked like crazy up the rough section and came out to the gravel road in a group of ten, a bit behind a group of 6 that had just broken away. There was never any team-work in the group I was in and other groups weren’t far behind. We biked at the pace of a snail the whole way up to Kvarstad, where the tempo was gradually raised a bit.
I had been pushing the tempo from Djuposet, but noticed that my legs just got better and better.
In the Rosinbakke-climb I noticed that this was the day I could dig really deep. I tried to break away on the climb towards Storåsen, but didn’t get far enough from the pack. With approximately 16 km to go, in the the narrow gravel/rough-terrain part, myself and one other guy finally managed to break away. In Kjelleren I managed to maintain high speed through the technical sections towards the finish line. I was extremely happy keeping the distance towards those chasing me.

Today the Niner with the Lauf TrailRacer 29 made a big difference. The bike was light and had great response as if it had a rigid fork, but filtered out all the bumps that would have slowed me down and worn me out. It also gave me great traction in the turns. The weight is incredible at 980grams. In other words, the perfect fork for a race like the Birkebeiner.

Go onto Lauf’s website for more info on the fork that will be on the market in 2014!

laufforks.com”

freewheeler - 09/06/13 - 11:20am

I say give the kid some credit for actually making something. Aesthetics aside, if it works then give it some respect. Who truthfully thought that C-dale’s Lefty would still be around after all these years? I hope it is successful and safe for everyone’s sake.

Topmounter - 09/06/13 - 11:29am

Funny how people that actually ride it, like it.

Different = Scary ∴ MUST HATE

Androo - 09/06/13 - 3:06pm

Saying that it’s “undamped” while true in that it doesn’t have a damper, might not necessarily be true if the material has a high hysteresis (that is, if the spring material is an inefficient energy storage medium because it loses energy due to internal friction).

It might be that the carbon fiber layup that they’ve produced is not very good at returning energy within its elastic range so that it is, in fact, damped, but doesn’t require an external damper to do that job.

If that’s the case, I’d be pretty impressed. I don’t know enough about the hysteresis curve of carbon fiber to even pretend to make an educated guess about it, though.

(As an addendum, I’m quite confident that the people who are completely dismissing the idea can’t possibly know enough about how it actually works to be justified in dismissing it).

nerd1 - 09/11/13 - 1:55am

It’s funny – basically ALL carbon road bikes nowadays are using leaf spring design for seatstays so they can flex quite a bit to absorb road vibration. And those whole frame weigh less than 1kg.

I don’t think we can apply the exactly same principle for the front end for the same purpose.

Turveyd - 10/27/13 - 5:14pm

I didn’t think the Leafs where made of Carbon Fibre firstly some other material, which takes the constant flexing better.

Damping wise, if you built into the material a damping effect, it would also create a compression effect which would lower the small bump compliance so sounds like it hasn’t.

Yes it’s ugly, there is no doubting that at all.

I love riding Rigid, but beats me up to much mainly the small vibrations just wreck me, small vibrations gone completely and bigger hits seriously reduced, maybe not to the level of my 100mm forks.

Buying a tapered frame soon, so I can fit this, got to get saving ready, will have a 2nd bike with a 100mm normal fork for different riding styles though.

AC is approx the same as an 80mm fork static, if you allow for reduced sag it’ll be very close to a 100mm work.

They’ll sell different forks for different rider weights, going upto 105kg’s I read, I’m just over that so close enough :)

I WANT!!! pls bring them into the UK!!

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