Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Gravel, Rocks, Roots, Grass, Corn and the Lauf Grit

Hammering in the drops with the Grit!
About two months ago, I put a Lauf Grit on my cyclocross bike.  During the past two months, I have ridden it on a variety of different surfaces that can be experienced during a cross race.  I've used it on the paved roads, gravel roads, on rock trails, taken it over root covered trails, did extensive testing in the grass and have even ridden it over ears of corn...  I was very excited to try the Grit and see how it rode because I have been very happy with using the Lauf TR29 on my 29" mountain bike for the past three years.  Before I received the Grit, I assumed that it would ride very similarly to the TR29, but with less travel.  I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the ride of the Grit is completely different to that of the TR29. It was clearly evident to me that the Grit was custom designed to be on a cyclocross bike and not for a mountain bike.

Don't get me wrong, I do like the ride of the TR29 on my 29er, but it would have way too much flex to use for racing cross.  The TR29 does a great job at absorbing trail vibration and taking the harshness out of a ride, unlike the rigid forks I have used on my mtb's so often in the past. I like using the TR29 on my mtb because it doesn't add much weight to my bike and it absorbs enough of the trail vibration to give me more control over my bike.  I also find that it reduces the amount of arm fatigue I feel during longer rides. When I initially installed the TR29, I didn't like how it couldn't be locked-out, but I soon found that I got used to the constant flex of the fork when I was out of the saddle and that this flex didn't negatively affect my speed.  Some of the TR29 reviews that I have read say that the Lauf TR29 doesn't do a good job at absorbing big hits.  While it might not do the best job at sucking up big impacts, I do know that it does a better job at absorbing these hits than a rigid fork does and I think this is a better comparison to use rather than comparing it to a fork with 120mm of travel.  The Lauf is meant to be a light weight, maintenance free suspension fork a rider can use to enjoy and have fun on the trail without adding all the weight and mechanical wear experienced when using a standard mtb suspension fork. 
No flexing from the Grit on this steep climb!

When composing this post, I thought giving my opinion about the TR29 first would help the reader better understand how the Lauf Grit compares to the TR29 and would also give the reader a better understanding of my overall view on the use of suspension on mtb's and cross bikes.  Simply put, I am a minimalist who likes to keep my bike simple, but I can definitely see the value of using suspension to increase the speed, control and comfort of a bike.  I believe all of the Lauf forks do a fine job at making a bike ride smoother and they are absolutely more maintenance free than any other suspension fork out there. And, like all the other Lauf forks, the Grit seems to do an almost perfect job for its intended type of riding. I am 100% convinced that the Lauf Grit has made my cyclocross and gravel rides faster and more comfortable. 
As I mentioned above, the Grit does not ride like the TR29.  It is much stiffer and also has less flex: 30mm compared to 60mm. When I get out of the saddle to sprint, or climb a hill, I can hardly feel any flex at all coming from the Grit.  This was a very welcomed surprise to me and once I experienced it, I knew it would be a great fork for cyclocross racing.  To me, a suspension fork used on a cyclocross bike doesn't need to have the ability to give a super plush ride.  Instead, it needs to be light, nimble, and to give the rider more comfort/control when riding high-speed over variety of rough terrains.  Even though it is stiffer than the TR29, the Lauf Grit does an amazing job at absorbing front end vibration when riding over gravel, grass and other terrains.  It almost makes these surfaces feel like a paved road instead of the rough surfaces they are. I have also noticed how well the fork corners in and out of tight turns.  Again, this is another important aspect of racing cyclocross and the Lauf Grit is very good at carving precise turns. It even does a better job at going through turns than a rigid cross fork does if those turns happen to have roots, ruts, or corn to go over.  Yes, I said corn.  The first two cross races I did this year actually had a few ears of corn fall onto the course and the Grit absorbed the impact from those big ears of corn very well.
Corning through the roots of Granogue.

I'm sure there are many cyclocross racers out there who think that using a suspension fork in a cx race is not necessary. Some may even say that using a suspension fork for CX takes away from the tradition of the sport. I heard both of these arguments back in the early nineties also when front suspension was first added to mtb's.  It is now hard to find a mountain bike that does not have front suspension included on it. For the most part, I will say that innovation is good for bikes in general if it can help a rider be faster, smoother and not add a significant amount of weight to a bike.  The Grit does just this for me and after spending a couple of months riding with it, I'm not sure I could go back to racing on a rigid cross bike again. When I ride my singlespeed cross bike, which does not have a Grit, the vibration I feel while riding off road seems so much more intense now.  I'm actually to the point where I think adding a Grit to my singlespeed CX bike would also be a good idea.  Yes, I do like it that much!
Going over the barriers.

The Grit does add about 400 grams to my cross bike, but I do not feel like riding with this extra weight slows me down in any way.  I also found that this extra weight on the front of my cross bike helps to balance the weight of my bike between the front and rear end. This balanced weight seems to be helpful in keeping the front and rear wheel level when I dismount and carry the bike over barriers.

I may be the first CX racer you have seen using the Lauf Grit, but I guarantee you that as more riders try this fork, more will be realizing the benefits of using the Grit on a cyclocross bike.  If you're interested in trying the fork sometime, please feel free to give mine a try when you see me at one of the many cross races I will be attending this season.  I know you will like the ride of it as much as I do!

Happy Trails - Gerry!

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