After we rode the radical Cannondale Slate with its high-tech suspension fork, and got down and dirty with the Lauf leaf spring suspension fork on a fat bike, it only seemed like a matter of time before the two concepts came together.
Adventure riding is all about taking your bike places that you didn’t think it would go and having the freedom to explore. A suspension fork lets you push just that extra little bit harder and rip down that fire road or pothole street without worrying about every little bump.
Lauf has embraced that concept with its new Grit suspension fork for gravel and adventure bikes. Designed much like the brand’s mountain bike and fat bike forks, it uses a dozen glass fiber leaf springs to provide 30 mm of travel—just enough to take the edge off without changing the nature of the handling.
It’s available with either a 15 mm thru axle or the new 12 mm road standard, and can fit up to a 700×42 tire or 27.5 x 2.1. The 409 mm axle-to-crown and 47 mm offset pair with a tiny amount of sag to create a geometry that closely matches that of a traditional cyclocross or gravel fork. At 900 grams there is a small weight penalty over a standard fork, but being able to rip any descent should more than make up for it.
We have a Lauf Grit on the way and we’ll be putting it through its paces so keep an eye out for more. Consumer deliveries should begin in August and it will retail for $790.
Let me tell you, few things make quite an impression as seeing one of these in person. The Carbonara fat bike fork is the second major product release from Lauf, after the Trail Racer mountain bike fork, first for 29ers and then for 27.5. Hailing from Iceland, Lauf is a small company dedicated to bringing its radical design to market, and so far these suspension forks are its only product.
The very sight of the Lauf design usually results in the peanut gallery unloading in the comments section of its favorite social media network or making jokes about the brand’s name.* Mountain biking wouldn’t exist without experimentation, so hat’s off to Lauf for trying something new.
My first impression after taking it out of the (exceptionally nice) packaging is that it resembles something Ripley blasted out of the airlock at the end of “Alien.” The fork weighs 1,144 grams with the included, bolt-on axle and tapered steerer tube. It has a 494 mm axle-to-crown measurement and uses a 150 mm hub. It retails for $990 and is available stock in white or matte carbon (pictured). For $100 extra, you can order one custom painted in one of eight Pantone colors.
It works by using a dozen S2 glassfiber plates that flex to allow the axle to move vertically. The Carbonara has 60 mm of travel, and there are bumpstops integrated into the design so you can’t overdo it. I haven’t been able to bottom it out in normal riding. Lauf says the resistance is progressive, meaning it moves more easily through the first third of its travel than the last third. The springs slot into the carbon fiber chassis and are bonded in place, and Lauf says it took thousands of trial-and-error samples until they got the desired flex just right.
The Carbonara is available in two stiffness tunes for the leaf springs: one for riders under 187 pounds and one for riders over 175 pounds. Yes, they overlap. It’s not a weight limit, but more of a guide for how you want the fork to perform. The benefit of such a design? Zero maintenance for one, and no performance degradation from the cold. I’m led to believe it gets cold in Iceland.
I’ve mounted it up to my trusty Salsa Mukluk (which has had approximately 258 different build setups at this point) and we’re headed out to see what it can do.
*If you’re still making puns substituting this brand’s name for “laugh,” please stop. That joke is over. It’s the bike industry equivalent of people making “Seinfeld” references in regards to my last name.
RockShox has updated its 700c “trekking” fork, the Paragon Gold RL. This fork is designed to take the edge off light trail riding and rough roads by offering 50 or 65 mm of air-sprung suspension.
The Paragon features a light mount on the fork brace plus integrated fender mounts and an integrated cover on the fork leg to accommodate dynamo hub wiring.
The Paragon utilizes many technologies that mountain bikers will recognize, including RockShox’s Motion Control damping, an available lockout for the smoothest roads and remote-control compatibility.
The upper tubes are 30 mm straight wall aluminum; the lowers are magnesium with a 9 mm quick release. Options are disc only (max 180 mm rotor) or rim brake only with a straight or tapered aluminum steerer.
The Paragon weighs 1,827 grams, will retail for $255 and is estimated to be available in May.
The era of carbon fiber bikes has pushed bicycle frame design beyond simply making them lighter and stiffer. Sure that might get you up the mountain faster, but for races like the legendary cobbled spring classics, comfort and control is an even bigger factor. Pinarello supplies bikes for the Tour de France-winning Team Sky and has partnered with co-sponsor Jaguar to develop a new model with a built-in suspension system.
The new Dogma K8-S is still as light and stiff as a race bike needs to be, but the “game-changer” as Pinarello says, is in the elastomer-based shock mounted above the seatstays. It offers 10 mm of cushioning thanks to the flexible flat chainstays that allow the rear triangle to move. Team Sky has been testing the bike for a few months and it will make its race debut this weekend at the Tour of Flanders.
Building special bikes for these races, especially the gnarly Paris – Roubaix, is nothing new. One-off creations are less common now, but in the past the likes of George Hincapie, Johann Museeuw and Greg Lemond have raced some interesting bikes.
Lemond debuted the RockShox Ruby suspension fork in 1991 and despite the weight penalty it offered 30 mm of travel from an air spring, just like modern mountain bike forks. Though it generated a lot of laughs at the time, it would ultimately take home victory at the race in 1992, 1993 and 1994.
Steve Bauer had a Ruby fork on his far out Merckx in 1993 and while he didn’t win he did finish a respectable 21st.
In 1994 things went extra wild with Lemond on a soft-tail design not unlike the new Pinarello, but it was Museeuw’s full suspension Bianchi that really got everyone’s attention. Derived from a mountain bike design, it unfortunately wasn’t quite up to the task and broke with only miles remaining in the race.
Things were quiet for about a decade until 2005 when George Hincapie took to the starting line at Paris-Roubaix with a modified Trek. It too had a soft-tail design with 13 mm of travel with an advanced elastomer. He would go on to finish second. The design stuck around for a few years but disappeared when the next generation bikes were released.
The idea was again resurrected by Trek in modified form in 2012. The team’s spring classics specialist Fabian Cancellara gave the Trek Domane its first win in its first race at the Strade Bianche.
The Domane has a pivot and a bearing at the junction of the seat tube and the top tube that allows it to bow and flex. It seems like a strange concept but it works extremely well. We’ve ridden three different versions of this bike and loved them all. Read our reviews here and here.
Will the new Pinarello K8-S give Team Sky the edge over the competition this spring? We’ll have to wait and see. While there’s no doubt the latest iteration of the concept is packed full of the latest technology, the more things change the more they stay the same.Tweet Print