REVIEW: Lauf Trail Racer 275
This is my current whip.
It is a Giant XTC Advanced SL 1. It is a pretty sweet bike. I get a lot of questions about it every time I have it out at the trail. It does have some unique stuff on it, but today I'm focusing on the Lauf fork. The above pic is from the day I built it up. I have 5 months of solid riding on the fork now, and I am ready to give an honest review about it. Here's what's up. . .
I've been riding the Lauf Trail Racer 275. The Trail Racer is available in a 29" or a 27.5" version. Lauf has 2 different spring rates for the fork, a light spring for riders up to 154 pounds or a heavy spring for riders above 143 pounds. I weighed 142 pounds and change this morning. I'm rolling with the light spring. I would recommend the light spring for riders under 150 pounds in Michigan type riding. Lauf lists the weight at "sub 990g." Mine weighed 997 grams. Close. Still lighter than any suspension fork out there. For comparison, a Niner RDO fork weighs about 630 grams with the axle, a RockShox RS1 weighs in at 1666 grams sans axle, and a RockShox SID XX World Cup tips the scales at 1350 grams in a 275/100mm version. The point is that the Lauf is lighter than any suspension fork out there, but still heavier than the rigid forks out there. The fork also features a 15mm thru axle, post mount disc brakes, and requires the use of a 180mm disc rotor. The price is $990. It is priced right in line with the other "Premium" forks on the market. The Enve rigid carbon fork is $625, a Ritchey WCS rigid fork is $550, and the Niner RDO fork is $550. The Lauf slots in right between those and the premium suspension forks like the RockShox RS1 ($1865), SID XX World Cup ($1225), and the Fox Float 32 IRD ($1525). Yes, it is expensive, but in line with the other high end parts on the market.
Set up for the Lauf was pretty standard issue. I did notice that the brake caliper mount is really close to the rotor position on certain hubs. I was not able to use Clarks floating rotors on the Giant factory hubs, because the floating part of the rotor would hit the fork. Not a big deal, I just wouldn't recommend floating rotors with Laufs. I have set up the XT RT86 6 bolt rotors without issues on another bike. Also, the cable routing is kind of weird, but after 5 months of riding, I haven't noticed any cable rub, so I guess it doesn't matter that it is a little weird. If you buy a Lauf, you'll see what I mean. For headset preload, they use a compression plug because it is a carbon steerer tube. All compression plugs suck for mountain bikes and seem to develop a little bit of play after a few weeks of riding. Minor issues aside, set up was very easy.
Reviews of the Lauf on the internetz are all over the place. I will start the ride review by saying this. . .The Lauf is the perfect fork for Michigan! If you live in Michigan, you know what our trails are like. If you don't live in Michigan, our trails are perfect, well groomed, smooth singletrack, that snake through the woods. Some of our trails are rougher than others, but they are smooth for the most part. We do not have monster climbs or epic decent in the lower peninsula of Michigan, we just have some of the smoothest, flowy, awesomest singletrack around. This is where the Lauf slays. The short travel Lauf is tailor made for Michigan XC. I admit that I am a fan of rigid forks on 29ers, and the Lauf on a 27.5 is just enough to take the edge off, but handle better. Admittedly, when I first started riding the Trail Racer, there was about a 1 month learning curve to figure out how the fork works. Yes, there are no settings, no air pressure, no adjustments, but you need to develop a "feel" for the fork. I did notice that in rough sections of trail, the fork seemed to get "wild" feeling. This "wild" feeling was almost out of control, but I quickly realized that the Lauf would go where I pointed it. The Lauf is also not a fork for big drops or super aggressive riders. The Lauf is a straight up XC fork. If you are the type of rider that likes to get air off of every log pile, the Lauf is not for you. Even getting a little air off of a 1 foot drop at speed, the Lauf will bottom out. When the Lauf bottom outs, it's not a big deal, it just makes a loud "clunk." Bottoming out the Lauf will happen. It ain't no thang. For the XC rider who wants something just to take the edge off of riding, the Lauf is where it is at. At first when I started riding it, I wasn't even sure if it was working, because the actuation is so smooth. The Lauf is definitely NOT as plush as a suspension fork though. I like to think of the Trail Racer as a really plush rigid fork. After riding on the Lauf fork for the summer, I am really confident with it. I would absolutely recommend it for the rider who wants a light fork that can just take the edge off. I've ridden the Lauf at the Lumberjack 100 and it was the perfect weapon of choice for the 100 miles of single track. I have yet to find a trail in Michigan that I would not recommend using the Lauf for. I've read reviews online that the Lauf feels "whippy" or the undamped travel is too "springy," but I have not had these issues at all. I reiterate again, for Michigan XC riding, the Lauf is where it's at.
Buy a Lauf. If you are a cross country racer, this is the fork for you. Yes, the looks are very polarizing, some people love it, some people hate it, but the performance is spot on. They are not hype, Laufs are the real deal. At just under $1000, the Lauf Trail Racer is a worthy upgrade for your steed for something that will really change the ride of your bike. It handles great, it climbs awesome, and the weight is spot on. Laufs rock.