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Talking True Grit with Lauf's Gudberg Björnsson

Words by @peteskilebowski Photos by @laufcycling

Eagle-eyed riders visiting the Quoc site and social pages may have sighted a custom Stanforth bicycle in amongst the photos shot during our recent bikepacking trip to Wales. This beautiful bicycle is a story in itself, and one we’ll explore in a forthcoming interview with Simon Stanforth on The Pedaler. But, after a cursory glance at its smooth lines and svelte tubes, your eyes might be drawn back to the fork; yes, there's definitely something out of the ordinary there.

To say Iceland is a bit rocky is to say Mars is a bit far away. Brought to the surface of the North Atlantic Ocean by the Iceland Plume some 16-18 million years ago, this geologically volatile island is home to lava formations, volcanoes and mountains - a lot of them, as it turns out. For Lauf, a manufacturer of leaf spring gravel bike suspension forks, that’s probably a very good thing.

We’ve been friends with founders Gudberg and Benedikt from Lauf for quite some time, brought together by a shared love of noodles and black sesame tofu, bikes, and a snug cycling community that tends to thrust likeminded people together before too long. So, when it came to speccing the build for the Quoc Stanforth, there could be only one choice for the front end: a Lauf Grit fork.

Quoc Stanforth Bike Lauf Fork

Perhaps it should have been obvious, but not long after the release of their suspension line, we started to hear industry rumours of a Lauf-made frame and a complete bike. Sure enough, rumour became a reality with the announcement of the True Grit in August 2017. As Gudberg, co-founder and chief designer, said at the time, “In the beginning, it was a question of ‘How could our Lauf forks best complement gravel bikes?’ That question soon developed into ‘What are the optimal parameters for our forks and gravel bikes to work together?’ Which then eventually became, 'What would be the ultimate gravel bike?'"

We sat down with a cheery Gudberg in late February to pose a few questions of our own about the development, details and design of the True Grit gravel bike.

 

First impressions…It’s beautifully smooth. How’s it made?

Thanks! The frame is made of carbon, so smooth curves are a benefit for optimal flow of the fibres. However, we have also utilised the most advanced way of moulding the frame as it is only made of 4 pieces. The front triangle and about 10cm into the rear triangle is a single structure. This way we can lay fibres more strategically and play with shapes more than before. Then we have the seat stays in one piece, and the chainstays in two different sections. To achieve the desired appearance and geometry while thinking of the fibre-flow and production processes can be a hard nut to crack. But we’ve gotten a lot of experience making the forks so we kind of know beforehand what works and what not. That doesn’t mean you’re trying to push the envelope though. In the end, it’s good workflow between engineering and product design that wins.

 

How much did the (Lauf) fork contribute to the design journey? Did you always have it in mind to make a frame once you’d nailed the suspension?

The fork is what sparked the journey, and the slow change of current gravel geometries to accommodate suspension. So we felt that there was more to get out of the fork than what was possible through most other frames. Patience and Lauf are rarely found in the same sentence in regards to product development, so naturally, we made a frame that complements the suspension to its full extent. We didn’t plan on this from the start, but here we are. You never know what’s going to happen next in the grand scheme of things.

 

 

 

 

 

Those wafer-thin stays and wheel-scooped seat tube hint at long nights spent on the CAD machine…

Compared to how product development usually works the process was very short for us. But there were indeed long nights on the CAD, as well as many frustrations and endless coffee. We are stubborn and solution-minded, so we usually find ways to achieve the desired combination of product attributes and appearance. Most time was spent on the bottom bracket area - joining all the ends together in an efficient way without creating an overly bulky junction. I think it turned out superbly. I might be slightly biased though.

 

What’s the idea behind the Long 4 Speed geometry?

The idea was to create a very stable bike for the long gravel haul. As you know, most gravel adventures or races are quite long, so stability is key. To that end, we made the frame long and low with a slack head angle, which makes the wheelbase quite long and thus stable (borrowing from mtb geometry). We didn’t want to lose the playfulness though so we paired the frame geometry with a short stem to keep things nimble when jumping off the gravel onto the singletrack. You got to have fun!

Lauf True Grit Bicycle 

Where are the cables? Oh, found them; are they difficult to replace?

Like many new carbon frames, the cables run inside the frame. That’s only half the story though. Usually, the cables roam free inside the frame, and that can make them rattle on rougher terrain. Plus, it can be very frustrating to route from the entry hole to the exit hole as there is nothing to guide the cable inside. We decided to create closed tubes from the entry to the exit, so replacing is a breeze. You can do it with a beer in one hand while pushing in with the other. The cables magically pop out in the correct place, and they don’t rattle.

 

Is the beer opener / no front derailleur configuration fixed?

The beer opener can be removed to put a front derailleur instead (eTap only though) but who wants a front derailleur when you can have a beer opener!

 

Did getting the ISO standard for mountain bike frames involve spraying it with a pressure washer for 30 minutes while wearing a plaid shirt and camper van-roomy shorts?

Yes, after passing all the testing we got to the most important part - high-pressure washing; although we did take regular breaks to open beers.

 

Have you had any complaints about the lack of mudguard eyelets?

No complaints on the choice of no mudguard eyelets. There are so many options out there today that clip-on in some way and endless clothing options so you should be able to ride without being covered. That said, mud is a big part of the gravel look.

Lauf, Icelandic Cycling

Something is going on near the front of the top tube…

The mounts on the top tube are for a gas tank/bento box - very useful for gravel races as you can put some snacks in there for easy access while storing other stuff in your pockets. A lot of people use straps, but bolting the bag on is much cleaner and more stable. The mounts are originally from time-trial bikes, but it’s becoming more common in the gravel scene. It also protects the frame from scratches to pin things down instead of relying on straps.

 

The threaded BSA bottom bracket is a nice touch.

Thanks, we are really happy with that one. We’ve used a lot of bikes over the years, and somehow the press-fit bottom brackets are not as nice. Harder to install properly and you get the creaky sound making your bike sound like crap.

 

Where can riders interested in finding out more see/buy the frame and builds?

We are setting up dealers across the US that can be found on our website www.laufcycling.com under the section “Where to buy”. At the dealers, you can go for a proper demo, not just on the parking lot. In other countries, we sell through our online store shop.laufforks.com. More info can, of course, be found on our website laufcycling.com

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To see and shop the Lauf forks and True Grit, visit:

http://www.laufforks.com/