Lauf's brand new gravel racing bike - True Grit first ride review

From quirky forks to a full bike, we ride the Icelandic gravel road racer

From the early days of its Trail Racer mountain bike fork, Lauf has always done things a little differently. The Grit fork last year brought the company much more attention and kudos, and it has followed this up with a gravel specific race bike - not what we expected to see when we flew out to Iceland a couple of weeks ago.

The True Grit is Lauf's latest product, dreamt up last November - it's available to pre-order right now, a remarkably short period of time from inception to availability. Lauf makes no apologies for its specific nature - this is a gravel bike, and one designed to go fast.

The True Grit frame is joined by a re-worked Grit fork, with a slightly less pronounced shape, and also a new (as yet to be finalised) handlebar.

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 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, short stems (our group were riding stems as short as 60mm) and low height add together to make a bike built for speed and stability 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 of.

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 mech. Keen eyes will spot a front mech mount, hidden by a natty bottle opener (Beer or Gear, as Lauf calls it), however the True Grit is only compatible with SRAM's wireless eTap front mechs (there's no front mech cable routing) - Lauf feels that most gravel racers will prefer the simplicity of a 1x system over the close gear ratios 2x, although those that really want the 2x will be happy to get the benefits SRAM's electronic group brings (and, Lauf claims, are less likely to have a post-ride beer, anyway!)

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. 

As such, the brake hose exits at this point in the chainstay before routing to the calliper, while the gear outer pushes through the chainstay to an internally funnelled exit port at the end of the stay. Lauf calls this its In-N-Out Cabling. Building the frame in this monocoque way, as opposed to a bonded structure, means longer fibres, less overlap and less material is needed.

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, and is there to hold feed boxes favoured by endurance racers. The rear axle is a 142x12mm design with Lauf's own threaded axle. The bottom bracket is a standard threaded one for ease of maintenance.

All painted up, the frames weigh 1100g 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.

Mounting bolts for three sets of bottle cages are present, as is this natty bottle opener (or SRAM wireless front mechs)
Mounting bolts for three sets of bottle cages are present, as is this natty bottle opener (or SRAM wireless front mechs)

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

A short back end and 1x drivetrain
A short back end and 1x drivetrain

Lauf True Grit pricing and models

Lauf will be selling the bike direct through its website, and is looking to set up a number of independent dealers (the first will be in Kansas). 

What’s unique is the company's surge-pricing like structure. If you want the bike delivered soon (dispatched from Taiwan immediately via air freight) you’ll pay the full price. If, however, you are happy to wait up to 12 weeks, you can get a roughly 10% discount. This saves Lauf from having to hold too much stock, and none in Iceland. 

At the time of writing, only US prices were available, which we have listed below.

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.

If you want the Weekend Warrior immediately, it'll cost you US$3,690, however if you're happy to wait up to 12 weeks, it's US$3,290. Should you wish to have an optional 'Premium Colour' it'll be US$3,690 with the up-to 12 week wait.

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$4,990, or US$4,490 for those happy to wait. It's US$4,890 if you want a fancy colour, though.

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$6390 / US$5790 / US$6190 depending on how fast and what colour you want.

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.

Lauf True Grit ride impressions

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. 

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 length, which brings handling 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, which impressed us on our test ride, with decent levels of grip, without feeling too draggy. We ran them at 35psi, on relatively wide American Classic XXX wheels.

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 I’m inclined to agree to a point. What I’ll say for now is that at no point did I feel battered by the end of our rides – the tyres, seat post wheel and (yep I’ll go there) frame, all help keep you comfy.

Coming from a predominantly mountain bike background I’m more than used to 1x drivetrains, relying on the range of the rear cassette for my gearing needs. The 10-42t cassette from SRAM is what I’m used to off-road, and works well here, too. 

I definitely spent some time in the lowest gear, and maybe once or twice reached for a 12th gear, but this was more for comfort rather than necessity. The 440mm bars give plenty of width to muscle upon anyway. 

Some will argue that having a greater range of gears from a 2x set-up will help, and maybe in some flatter or longer gravel races this could be the case. For now, though, I didn’t find the range unacceptable, and if you are set on running a heavier, more complex 2x drivetrain, the True Grit will support the SRAM eTap drivetrains.

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

The bars are Lauf’s own too, however I wasn’t totally sold on them. The tops have a touch of backsweep to aid comfort and run wider than normal thanks to a tighter radius towards the hoods. 

This gives plenty of room on top, which I liked, but they currently have a 4 degree flare. This meant that while I was on the drops and using the brakes or gears, the inside of my wrist would jam up against the angle at the ends of the tops. A greater degree of flare would push the hands a touch further outwards, potentially negating this issue, and leading to a comfortable, very shallow set of drops.

Lauf's own handlebar allows a really wide hand position on the tops, but can compromise comfort on the drops
Lauf's own handlebar allows a really wide hand position on the tops, but can compromise comfort on the drops

Now, the Grit. My 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 I 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, I still don’t feel it’s totally necessary.

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

Lauf is going to send us a full production bike for a full review in the future, but from my initial rides, I came away impressed. If you want a bike for covering gravelly ground very fast, without the need to carry loads of luggage, take a look.

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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