Let me tell you, few things make quite an impression as seeing one of these in person. The Carbonara fat bike fork is the second major product release from Lauf, after the Trail Racer mountain bike fork, first for 29ers and then for 27.5. Hailing from Iceland, Lauf is a small company dedicated to bringing its radical design to market, and so far these suspension forks are its only product.
The very sight of the Lauf design usually results in the peanut gallery unloading in the comments section of its favorite social media network or making jokes about the brand’s name.* Mountain biking wouldn’t exist without experimentation, so hat’s off to Lauf for trying something new.
My first impression after taking it out of the (exceptionally nice) packaging is that it resembles something Ripley blasted out of the airlock at the end of “Alien.” The fork weighs 1,144 grams with the included, bolt-on axle and tapered steerer tube. It has a 494 mm axle-to-crown measurement and uses a 150 mm hub. It retails for $990 and is available stock in white or matte carbon (pictured). For $100 extra, you can order one custom painted in one of eight Pantone colors.
It works by using a dozen S2 glassfiber plates that flex to allow the axle to move vertically. The Carbonara has 60 mm of travel, and there are bumpstops integrated into the design so you can’t overdo it. I haven’t been able to bottom it out in normal riding. Lauf says the resistance is progressive, meaning it moves more easily through the first third of its travel than the last third. The springs slot into the carbon fiber chassis and are bonded in place, and Lauf says it took thousands of trial-and-error samples until they got the desired flex just right.
The Carbonara is available in two stiffness tunes for the leaf springs: one for riders under 187 pounds and one for riders over 175 pounds. Yes, they overlap. It’s not a weight limit, but more of a guide for how you want the fork to perform. The benefit of such a design? Zero maintenance for one, and no performance degradation from the cold. I’m led to believe it gets cold in Iceland.
I’ve mounted it up to my trusty Salsa Mukluk (which has had approximately 258 different build setups at this point) and we’re headed out to see what it can do. Watch for the long-term review in Issue #191. Subscribe now so you don’t miss it.
*If you’re still making puns substituting this brand’s name for “laugh,” please stop. That joke is over. It’s the bike industry equivalent of people making “Seinfeld” references in regards to my last name.
I’m not sure about camping these days. I used to camp in the desert a lot on dirt bike trips but more often than not it was in a tent or the back of my pickup next to my parent’s motorhome so, while I could say I was roughing it, I had all the necessities like meals cooked by mom 20 paces from my tent. Really the only thing lacking was good coffee—my folks didn’t like the strong stuff so while the coffeemaker was always full in the morning it seemed to contain a watered down mix of cheap supermarket brew.
Once I moved away without the luxury of what amounted to a house on wheels I stopped camping completely. Heck, I live in the country so every day is camping, sorta. But then something changed three years ago when I joined the Dirt Rag family. These guys love a good campout and are ready to go at the drop of a hat. As such I’ve been forced back into it.
The problem is they’re seasoned campers with all the necessities. Sure, I have the bare essentials and can rely on past experiences to make it and have fun but there is one thing that seems to bother the troops about my presence: a lack of coffee making. I’ve tried various forms, including a nice glass press pot which I broke immediately so ultimately, during events like our famous Dirt Fest I’ve simple made cowboy coffee. While not always pretty it gets the job done and I’m pretty good at making it at this point.
But that changed a few weeks ago when I found a new favorite product. As I was gathering up stuff for a camping trip to a race in the Arizona desert Brian Siebert, owner of Canyon Coffee asked me if I wanted to try his Press-Bot, an ingenious way to get amazing coffee, save carrying space and not have to worry about filters or glass containers by making any 32 oz large mouth Nalgene bottle into a press pot.
The press consists of a thread on lid with a hinged plunger shaft and a winged aluminum filter. You start by putting ground coffee in the bottom of the Nalgene bottle. Then, fold up the wings on the filter and insert it into the top of the bottle. Lightly pull up to lock open the wings and then tighten the lock ring. Heat 32 oz of water (I used a Jetboil) to almost a boil then angle the filter so you can pour it in easily. Shake it up a bit, let steep for about four minutes and then press like any other press pot. Bam! A lot of coffee for me to share or hoard.
I like it because it’s based on a Nalgene bottle, which I can’t break and once it’s cleaned it doubles as my campsite water bottle (and carry on bottle if I’m flying somewhere). Canyon Coffee sells just the press for $25 or you can get a “gift pack” with the press, a Canyon Nalgene bottle and an insulating cozy for $45.
This year camping at Dirt Fest I won’t have to be a coffee thief anymore.
Race season is here
Our “sponsored” SoCal racer Lance Nicholls kicked off the season with a singlespeed class win at the first round of the Kenda Cup West. Congratulations my friend and here’s the report.
“Last weekend’s first round of the Kenda Cup West series presented by Sho-Air Cycling Group at Vail Lake in Temecula, California, was one to remember in not-so-sunny Southern California. With rain throughout Saturday evening and all day Sunday it made even the smallest obstacles challenging. This felt more like a ‘cross race than a cross-country mountain bike competition. The course was shortened to 7.2 mile per lap of mostly single track with the climbs being on access roads. The Cat 1/Pro field went off at 1:30 p.m. —I ride Cat 1 Singlespeed on an Ibis Cycles Tranny 29 with a Lauf fork and the Gates belt drive system.
My class went off six minutes after the pros, up a wide access road with some of the younger Cat 1 groups and after about 500 yards it funneled into a left hand turn into singletrack for the next mile or so. The next small climb we hit was a hike-a-bike and that set the theme for the day. I was the first singlespeed, running as much as I could to gap the others. With all the mud it was really taking a toll quickly on the chain driven bikes and they were dropping like flies everywhere. Not to say I didn’t have my issues either.
At about mile four I lost my belt due to extreme mud. After using what water I had to clean up the cog and belt to get it reinstalled I was down around nine minutes on the leader at the end of the first lap. Now knowing I was better off running the extreme muddy sections to preserve the belt, I only lost it once on the second lap but I was still five minutes back in fourth place overall.
Going into the third and final lap the rain was dumping and I was now able to ride through the lake-sized puddles to keep my belt somewhat clean but still running quite a bit. I caught third place about two miles into the lap. The way the course ran up and down the canyons I was able to spot second going down the canyon as I was going up. I continued to push harder on the descents through the parts that I could ride and with about a mile and a half to go my wife yelled, “One minute ahead!”
That gave me even more drive to hammer out the last section and I caught second place up the climb and kept my pace high through the next small valley.
Over a rise I found the first place rider and went by him as hard as I could, hoping he wouldn’t notice I was on an singlespeed. He did and it was on. I hit the last long hike-a-bike uphill, running as fast as I could get my tree stump legs to move. I glanced back and no one was there, riding the last bit praying nothing would happen and crossed the finish line with about a 35 second gap on second place.
This was by far the hardest test for me and the most rewarding at the same time. My wife played a big part by giving me split times every lap to keep me pushing.
Quality Bicycle Components is the largest bicycle products distributor in the U.S. and is the brand that supports nearly every bike shop in America. It owns several of its own brands and distributes dozens of others. We traveled to QBP’s home office and distribution warehouse in Bloomington, Minnesota, for FrostBike, its annual dealer show, to see what was new.
We first saw the new Salsa Warbird and Powderkeg at their official unveiling, then toured the halls. Here is what we saw:
Belgian helmet brand Lazer was showing off the new Magma and Blade cross-country helmets, which are essentially the same thing with and without a visor, respectively. The both use the latest version of Lazer’s Rollsys fit system which adjusts 360 degrees around your head. It’s available in three sizes for $95 or $100.
Wolf Tooth Components
Based right down the road in Minneapolis, Wolf Tooth Components is expanding rapidly and had several new products in the works. The first is a stainless steel version of its SRAM direct mount chainring in tiny 24t and 26t sizes. Designed primarily with fat bikes in mind, the stainless steel should last longer in super terrible conditions.
They were also teasing this 3D printing of a new ovalized chainring, which should be available soon. Unlike the BioPace chainrings of old, the current oval designs help to redistribute your pedal stroke’s natural surges into a smoother motion. Many claim it also increases your power. Wolf Tooth says there will be a direct mount version of this oval ring as well.
Other variations include this 64 BCD chainring ($64) to mount to your crankset’s granny gear position, and there’s a nice bash guard ring that can go with it.
If you’ve got your hands on the latest 11-speed XTR and you’re looking for an aftermarket chainring, Wolf Tooth is one of your few choices ($75) so far that matches the XTR’s 96 BCD.
Is 11 speeds 10 too many? Wolf Tooth has your singlespeed needs covered with a growing collection of cogs.
QBP created Cogburn for hunters and other outdoors enthusiasts as a way to get further into the backcountry than they ever could on foot.
The 2015 edition of the CB4 ($1,999) is available in two new camouflage patterns: a safety orange version of RealTree camo and the new Verde camo pattern from the outdoor brand Kuiu.
The Saris Bones was first launched in 1996 and has since sold more than a million units, making it likely the most popular bike rack ever. While the shape looks good and is easy to use, the one complaint Saris wanted to address was keeping track of all those straps. The new Super Bones was designed with this in mind, and features ratcheting, retractable straps that store inside the arms themselves, leading to a cleaner look and easier storage when not in use. Also included is a theft-deterrent system that locks the bikes to the rack and the rack to the car. Even the straps have steel cables inside them that make them harder to cut through with a knife.
The Super Bones isn’t on sale yet, as Saris wants to thoroughly test its real-world durability before its release, but expect to see it on store shelves later this summer. The price will be “less than $500.”
Lauf is expanding its line of carbon leaf-spring forks with a new fat bike model. It looks similar to the 29er version but is completely new, with much larger legs. Lauf says it should be on sale this summer for about $900.
Spotted in the Panaracer booth were the new line of Fat-B-Nimble tires that include 26×4, 27.5×3.5 and 29×3.0 versions. They will be available soon in both wire and folding bead versions with very competitive pricing: $50-$60 for the wire bead and $80-$90 for the folding. Because of the west coast port slowdown shipping has been delayed, but Panaracer is hoping they will be available in March.
When Shimano stopped selling its pedals through QBP, the distributor saw an opportunity to create its own line of high quality clipless pedals aimed at Shimano XT level. Introduced last year, the iSSi (pronounced “eee-see”) design has already been updated with a new release point that results in a more positive snap when disengaged. They’re also available with a standard spindle or with wider spindles—pictured at the left—in +6 mm or +12 mm for riders looking for extra clearance for big shoes (read: fat bikes in winter).
The Trail version has a larger pedal body, and both standard and Trail versions are available with upgraded sealed bearings.
Like many bike components these days, they are available in a range of colors to personalize your ride, including this limited-edition Radiant Gold.
One of the largest and most well-respected wheel brands is getting into the fat bike market as well, with the introduction of the Big Ride series of hubs and rims. The hubs are only available in 190/197 mm versions for now, though we were told 170 mm is coming. The front hub is only 150 mm with a thru axle. They use the 350 level ratcheting internals. Retail price is $270 for the rear hub and $90 for the front.
The BR710 rims are a single wall fat bike rim with a 76mm internal width. The name is derived from its 710 gram claimed weight. They aren’t tubeless ready out of the box, but DT Swiss said it is working on an aftermarket tubeless kit.
Because DT Swiss also makes spokes, naturally they offer the hub and rim combo as a complete wheelset, laced with straight-gauge Champion spokes. The BR2250 tips the scales at 2,250 grams (natch) and will retail for $1,250 when they hit stores in May.
Watch for Part 2 of our tech roundup tomorrow.Tweet Print
I’ve always been drawn to unusual products and technologies. When the strangest gear shows up at Dirt Rag HQ I’m always first to raise my hand to try it. After all, that’s how cycling journalists like myself earn the big bucks. When I saw the Lauf forks at the Sea Otter expo I knew we had to get one in the pages of Dirt Rag.
Like countless great ideas, the genesis of the Lauf came over post-ride beers. The goal was to create the lightest possible racing suspension fork. Using the latest composite materials, the engineering team made it a reality, with the prototype winning its first race in June 2013.
Now, I’m not going to be winning any races any time soon, but I’ve been riding with a rigid carbon fork for a few years now, and the concept of the leaf spring Lauf didn’t seem so crazy to me. While it looks outrageous, the 60mm of suspension travel is accomplished by flexing the six composite leaf springs per leg.Tweet Print