I wrote about the Lauf Trail Racer fork back in September saying, “I really want to test one of these on the trail to see how it compares to a real suspension fork.” Well, at Frostbike I got my chance, though not on the Trail Racer but on an entirely new fork–the Carbonara–designed for fat bikes.
First, a bit of an introduction. Lauf forks are constructed from carbon fiber and use composite “springstacks” that flex to take the harshness out of trail chatter. Both the Trail Racer and Carbonara models offer 60mm of “suspension travel,” and there are two versions of each fork with different spring rates. Basically, there’s a standard version and a version for heavier riders and/or those who like a stiffer fork. Both versions can accommodate riders up to 265 lbs.
The spring rate on the Carbonara is progressive so it gets stiffer as you progress through the travel. Lauf has done extensive durability testing, cycling forks 400,000 times in tests, and offers a 5-year warranty.
Weight savings over a traditional suspension fork are pretty significant with the Lauf Carbonara–just 2.31 lbs with the included thru axle. On paper, the Lauf fork is a good fit for fat biking: most (snow) fat bikers don’t seem to need much suspension plus it’s lightweight which helps keep build weights from getting out of hand. Not only that, with zero moving parts, winter touring riders will have one less part to worry about breaking in the middle of nowhere.
On the trail and in the snow
The Lauf Carbonara I tested was mounted to a Salsa Blackborow with 3.8-inch Nate tires, though the Carbonara should accept tires up to 4.8 inches wide. Admittedly the test track at Frostbike didn’t offer much in the way of technical terrain (or really snow for that matter) but I did get a decent feel for how the Carbonara works.
Unlike a traditional suspension fork, the Carbonara doesn’t cycle up and down–rather, it allows the wheel to sort of flex along an arc. Push down on the fork and it doesn’t really respond but as soon as you hit a bump in the trail, the fork smooths things out. On my test ride, the fork eliminated all the harshness I typically associate with a carbon fork but clearly was not as supple as an air-sprung fork. No big surprise–the stated 60mm suspension travel on the Carbonara is between 0 (rigid) and 100mm (typical XC suspension fork).
I need to put more time in on this fork in a variety of conditions but based on my short test run, the suspension almost feels more natural than what I’m used to with a traditional fork. Maybe it has something to do with the nature of most of the hits I’m used to taking–rooots and rocks–which tend to push back on the bike in a horizontal direction rather than impacting the bike from the bottom up.
The Lauf Carbonara should retail for about $900 when it’s released and will be offered in full white (tested) and matte black.