I did not expect the big guy by the front door of the shop to be the Lauf rep. Lauf Dave’s like, 6’ 4” with crazy brown hair and glasses, and later he’d tell me he’s pushing 300 pounds. Big guy. I shook his hand and it reminded me of shaking hands with adults when I was a kid.
He drug me outside the shop to one of the Lauf True Grit bikes leaning against the garage door.
“Put your armpit on the seat and touch the middle of the bottom bracket.”
I did. He adjusted the seat height, said, “There. That should fit you. Go find some crap to ride through.” He didn’t say crap. He said the s-word, and he said it in some strange accent. So I went and found crap to ride through.
There are probably four or five patches of gravel within 20 seconds of the shop on a bicycle. They’re not gravel roads, but there’s enough to give you some flavor. I found one, rode across it four or five times. My first thought was, “There’s no vibration.” And then it occurred to me what that meant on gravel. I usually ride a Surly Straggler. All steel. Steel fork. Knobby tires. When I ride it on gravel, there’s always this sense that the tire is bouncing but maintaining just enough contact to give you a semblance of control. It's a bit like floating.
The Lauf didn’t feel that way. The Lauf didn’t feel much different than riding on a paved road. All I wanted to do was take it down a gravel hill at 30 mph. I may have been smiling when I got back, which was when Dave started to talk about the bikes. Not just the fork, mind you, but the bike.
Lauf only released a bicycle in August of 2017. Up until then, it’d just been the leaf spring forks. Dave calls their bikes “gravel racing bikes,” which given the weight is kinda accurate. The “weekend warrior” version of the True Grit comes in at just under 18 lbs for $3690. There’s also a race version for $4990 and an E-Tap version for $6500, both of which come in right around 16 lbs. It’s a whole different arena than my steel gravel bike. The bikes will fit a 45 mm tire.
They come in two standard colors, one a gray blue, the other a cream, but for $400 you can do orange, lime green, black and red, and for $800, you can pick your color.
Dave was also excited about the rake angle of the headtube, 70.5 degrees, which is closer to that of a mountain bike. The angle makes the bike very stable and comfortable, but retains enough stiffness that in a pinch, you can ride it with the roadies on a shop ride.
Dave smiled the whole time he talked about it. You see, he was in the Lauf fan club for two-and-a-half years before he joined the company. He’s a zealot.
“Lauf is very casual,” he said. “It’s a fun loving place to work. We’re small, so we can do things very fast.”
Not thirty minutes before I rode the demo bike, Jake had signed the dealership deal. Dave called the Lauf CEO in Iceland, where it was 11 pm, and the CEO put up a Facebook post welcoming the shop to the family.
While I talked to Dave, a couple of the other shop regulars rolled through, and Dave encouraged all of them to take the demo bikes for a ride. Everyone came back smiling. One of the guys wanted to know more about the leaf spring forks, and specifically asked about the durability of them as they’re constructed entirely of carbon and fiberglass.
“How long will they last?”
“We’ve put it through the machine and haven’t broken one,” Dave said. “So we can’t tell you how long they last.”
Then he said, “I’m a big guy. I exceed the recommended allowances. If I can’t break one, no one can.” And then he laughed about it.
The whole experience left me … considering. Considering how I’d pay for one, whether or not I wanted one of the standard colors or something custom, whether I should just get one of those forks for my Surly in the meantime.
Next week, we’ll have a couple Lauf True Grit demo bikes in the shop. Bring your helmet and then go find some of those gravel patches. I'm going to bet you'll come back considering, too.