9-MONTH LONG-TERM REVIEW
CLICK <PLAY> below to start the music, while you read the review
This is a review written on three different dates. The long-term test started in JANUARY 2016. The initial review was written and released in SEPTEMBER 2016.
Three years later, a comprehensive update was added in AUGUST 2019. Questions/comments/concerns from readers were clarified, the test gear and riding parameters were expanded on in more detail, and customer feedback was included for ownership experiences on the LAUF CARBONARA, up to 2019.
This is an independent product test, and RIDEFATBIKES.ca was not paid nor sponsored by any companies in making this review. All products (including bikes, wheelsets, tires, and the suspension forks) were purchased with our own $$$. RIDEFATBIKES.ca tests and races on the same products we sell.
We are not a “pay to play” website. No advertisements anywhere. We carry quality brands, and are always up for testing new and innovative products in the marketplace. In 2016, the newly released LAUF CARBONARA certainly fell into that category.
JANUARY 2016 - PRODUCT TEST BEGINS
Let's start off by saying back in January 2016, we were REALLY excited to try out the LAUF CARBONARA design on several different Fat Bikes, with multiple wheelset options. This was a radically new suspension fork design to hit the market, that claimed to have many advantages over current suspension fork options in 2016, such as the RockShox BLUTO RCT3 and WREN ATK.
We installed this fork on two different Fat bikes, one had a geometry suited more for XC riding, and the other was suited more for technical trail riding and singletrack.
TEST GEAR - BIKES
BIKE #1 : FATBACK RHINO FLT, (pacific blue) w/adjustable rear chainstays providing approximately (440-460mm) of chainstay length. (excelled at singletrack, and technical riding)
BIKE #2 : OEM CARBON FRAME, (orange) with STACK and REACH geometry similar to a FATBACK SKOOKUM, and a rear CHAINSTAY length (465mm) similar to the FATBACK CORVUS or BOREALIS CRESTONE versions of 2016. As a comparison, this (orange) bike rode a little taller than the (blue) FATBACK RHINO FLT test bike, and usually had an extra 10-15mm longer chainstay, depending on how the RHINO FLT was setup on that same day. (excelled at XC riding, sprinting and extended climbs)
TEST GEAR - WHEELSETS
MULEFUT SL80 alloy wheelset w/ MAXXIS MINION EXO TR 26 x 4.8’s
MULEFUT SL80 alloy wheelset w/ MAXXIS MAMMOTH EXO TR 26 x 4.0’s
CARBON 29” wheelset w/ MAXXIS CHRONICLE EXO TR 29 x 3.0’s
CARBON 29” wheelset w/ CONTINENTAL MTN KING 2.4 (FR), XKING 2.2/2.4 (RR)
TEST GEAR - FORK
LAUF CARBONARA 60mm travel (regular spring rate), tuned for riders and gear weighing over 175 lbs combined weight
PRODUCT TEST PERIOD
Nine months (JAN - SEPT of 2016)
We tested the LAUF CARBONARA in a variety of trail environments, including several races. They include :
XC style trails in southern Ontario Canada, some were rolling hardpack, wide open double-track, and some were more challenging courses with technical singletrack sections and obstacles over 75mm (3”) tall, such as rocks, rutts, and fallen trees.
snow, sand, mud, hardpack, loose over hard, and gravel were mostly the terrains we rode.
Our local beach, where each 14km long round trip includes both extended hardpack, and loose sandy sections, with a few paved bike trails in between.
The locally famous Paris-to-Ancaster (P2A) Race, 40km. Half paved roads with lots of fast rollers, and half hardpack trails that also traversed across several farm fields. This course is known for its mud pits, and also for the very steep, long climb at the end of the race - that just happens to be loaded with gravel sections.
Summer Tuesday night MTB race series at the local ski hill, where each course lap included a steep fire road covered in gravel.
UNBOXING THE LAUF CARBONARA
The LAUF CARBONARA arrived double-boxed and well protected. It utilized thoughtful packaging, and included a top cap and expander plug. The fork was constructed of high quality manufacturing.
The LAUF CARBONARA is lightweight, weighing in at about 2.4 lbs (1100gr), roughly only about a pound heavier than a carbon cargo fork (700-750gr). The CARBONARA looks like no other suspension fork on the market, and is made entirely out of carbon. The fork uses a carbon spring leaf design, to get its suspension travel. It comes in two spring rates, “light” or “regular”, for riders under or over 175 lbs. There is no rebound damping feature.
LAUF originally designed this fork for gravel bikes (LAUF GRIT), and then adapted to MTB (LAUF TR BOOST) and FAT bike use (LAUF CARBONARA). The main differences between the models is the travel (30 or 60mm) and the max tire widths it accepts. LAUF’s main design goal was to create a fork that could be used in the volcanic regions of Iceland, and not have the volcanic ash wear away at suspension fork seals, while still offering some suspension relief for the rider. LAUF accomplished this goal, and then started marketing the forks outside of their home base in Iceland, to the rest of the world.
The installation was straight forward, with no issues. The minimum front rotor size must be at least 180mm. The LAUF CARBONARA supports a 150x15mm (bolt-on) TA thru-axle, which is supplied with the fork. The AC (Axle to Crown) height is 495mm, and is roughly the same number as a 100mm suspension fork (511mm AC) set with a sag setting of 5-6%, so the LAUF CARBONARA made our test bikes sit a bit higher than normal, as most Fat bikes in 2016 traditionally used 100mm full-travel suspension forks with 20-30% pre-set sag.
A few Fat bikes in 2016 used 120mm suspension forks, so those models experienced less of a difference in cockpit ride height, when installing the LAUF. That is probably why LAUF used the FATBACK SKOOKUM for a lot of their own testing on the CARBONARA, and used that bike in their marketing media photos, as the SKOOKUM is a 120mm suspension-corrected frame.
TEST RESULTS - SEPTEMBER 2016
After 9 months of testing LAUF Carbonara Forks, between JAN-SEP 2016, RIDEFATBIKES.ca gathered information from :
our real-world observations riding both bikes :
during winter, spring and summer months
during race days
during inclement weather
lots of adventure riding on local trails with differing and increasing technical terrain, to test at what point this fork because a challenge to ride.
conversations with the LAUF CEO and Marketing department
gathering and comparing all published LAUF Marketing material, with real-world test results and customer feedback
Now it’s time to compare the LAUF CARBONARA on its ride quality vs both a rigid carbon fork, and a 100mm suspension fork.
LAUF vs RIGID FORK
Keep in mind, that with a rigid fork, tire pressure on a Fat bike is adjusted to add in float and damping for the rider, so the tires can effectively eat up some of the trail chatter. The rider lowers tire pressure until an equilibrium is reached where the rider has the traction they need, and at the same time, the tires have as much inflation as possible to roll with the least amount of effort and sidewall flex. This all falls somewhere inbetween about 5 PSI and 15 PSI, depending on rider weight, trail conditions, the season, and of course, the wheelset and tire combination being used.
REAR WHEEL TRACKING
The LAUF CARBONARA was at home on fast, hardpack, XC terrain. In general, its performance shined when ridden at faster speeds, and suffered when ridden at slower speeds. The most noticeable immediate difference in ride quality over a rigid fork, was that the CARBONARA helped the rear wheel track wheel in sprints and climbs. Yes, you read that correctly, it improved rear wheel traction.
Also immediately noticeable, was the lack of rebound control and damping, if comparing the LAUF CARBONARA to a traditional suspension fork.
HOW MUCH TRAVEL IS REALLY AVAILABLE ON A LAUF?
It became apparent rather quickly, that the CARBONARA didn’t really have full use of that 60mm of claimed travel. The spring rate increased, as more travel was used, making the ride stiffer, and the fork more jarring, the large the obstacle you tried to traverse. The LAUF CARBONARA was good at isolating small bumps and trail chatter of 15mm or less, but the fork became unstable at slow speeds if trail obstacles went past 30mm in height.
Steering became difficult to handle as the XC trails became progressively more technical with taller obstacles and features. The spring rate of the LAUF was something that took awhile to get used to. It absorbed the travel, but it was also going to throw it back at you, since it was a leaf spring. Once you get a feel for how this happens, you tend to dodge trail features that would normally invite riding over with traditional 100 to 120mm suspension fork to keep that line. With a LAUF, you need to watch out, or it will throw you off your line, and possibly off the trail.
Using a LAUF on a FAT bike limits where you can ride. It is a leaf-spring design, that really does need certain terrain to ride on, or it quickly gets out of its element. For this reason, if you install a LAUF CARBONARA on a fat bike, you might need to then own two Fat bikes. One for easy-going, fast-riding XC terrain and race days, and then another Fat bike setup for everything else.
THE BATTLE BETWEEN TIRE PSI, SELF-STEER, AND CONTROLLING REBOUND ENERGY
The LAUF CARBONARA works well in snow, but so does a rigid fork with proper tire pressure. With a LAUF, you need to keep the front tire up around 10 PSI on a typical 26 x4.8 setup, whereas you can drop the tire pressure down to about 5 PSI with a rigid fork, if needed for traction. Because the LAUF requires the front tire to maintain a reasonably high tire PSI, it can be tricky to deal with some tires’ tread design with respect to self-steer. With a Fat bike, modifying tire PSI can alleviate self steer. With a rigid fork, you have more room to play with this PSI fluctuation, than with a LAUF, so some tires might not work for some riders when switching from rigid suspension, to a LAUF.
In general, tire PSI for a front tire is highest on a Fat bike when using a traditional suspension fork, as that fork will absorb the travel, and also provides damping and rebound control, mitigating low and high speed chatter. This higher tire PSI usually wipes out any self-steer inherent in the tire design itself. Conversely, with a LAUF, you can’t keep that higher pressure in the front tire, because you need the tire to absorb some of that rebound energy that comes off the CARBONARA fork, otherwise, its like a springboard, rattling away at the rider.
(We tabled this observation, and later asked the LAUF CEO about it. You can see his comments below.)
WHERE DOES A LAUF CARBONARA SHINE?
The LAUF CARBONARA worked best on the beach. It was the fastest fork by far on both hardpack and loose sand. If you are going to create a dedicated beach-cruising Fat bike, a LAUF should be on it. You can ride the beach with a LAUF and not feel that rebound energy chattering your teeth, because its being dissipated through the tires and into the sand.
The LAUF works well in snow, or in loose hardpack, or on gravel too. Catching the commonality here? If the terrain under that front tire can absorb that rebound energy coming off the fork, then the ride “feels” much smoother. The LAUF absorbs the initial trail chatter, so the bike’s cockpit maintains the same (or similar) AC height, giving the appearance of a smooth ride, while at the same time (well a few milliseconds later), the LAUF is discharging its energy back into the ground. If the ground under the front tire is forgiving and can absorb dissipated energy from the CARBONARA’s leaf-spring, like on loose dirt, gravel, sand, and snow - then the rider doesn’t feel as much rebound energy coming off the LAUF fork. The same result can be accomplished, using a rigid fork and lower PSI tires… but the bike will require more watts of energy from the rider, to maintain the same speed as a LAUF on the same course.
There is no maintenance required for a LAUF CARBONARA. Either it works, or it breaks. All you need to do is wash it off, and lightly grease the thru-axle once in a while.
BOTTOMING OUT THE LAUF CARBONARA
If you blow through the travel on this fork and bottom it out, it will certainly let you know it. It will feel like your frame cracked and give off a loud sickly sound which will make you back right off on your riding pace and wonder what the heck just happened… and if it happens often, then you know the LAUF isn’t the right fork for your riding habits.
Yes, there is some noticeable lateral flex, when you push the LAUF CARBONARA towards its operational limits. If riding on easy-going rolling terrain, this lateral flex is not as noticeable, when compared to a rigid carbon fork.
TRADE-OFFS and cost
So there are definitely trade-offs to consider… do you want your body to absorb rebound energy in order to go faster when using a LAUF? Or do you want to expend more watts of energy to go the same speed when using a rigid carbon fork with lower tire PSI?
(Note : here is an add-in for 2019 :) And the third option, do you want to add another 2.5 lbs of bike weight, for a competent suspension fork like the WREN ATK or MASTODON PRO, which will solve the rideability trade-off altogether?
Let’s summarize that, and add in current 2019 pricing :
LAUF CARBONARA ($990 USD) - lack of damping forces rider to absorb rebound energy released from the fork, at the expense of this being the fastest riding fork option if terrain is of the same type that a LAUF is designed to perform best on (as noted above)
RIGID CARBON CARGO FORK ($450 USD) - adjusting tire PSI so that the tire itself becomes the suspension and damping, at the expense of the rider being required to exert more watts of energy to maintain the same speed on the same trails, as an identically equipped LAUF bike.
WREN ATK or MASTODON PRO ($700-800 USD) - add 2.5 lbs of bike weight, and all the debating is settled. Problem is, on lightweight race Fat bikes, that run 22 lbs with a rigid fork, adding 2.5 lbs, is adding 10% more weight to the bike, and you certainly feel the difference.
Now which option would you pick..? That price tag changes things a bit, doesn’t it?
WHEELSET AND TIRE OPTIONS
The LAUF CARBONARA works well with all common MTB PLUS+ and FAT tire and wheelset combinations ranging between 26x4/4.8, 27.5x3.5/4.5, 29x2.0/3.0. We had the wheelsets and tires in stock, so we tried them all out in this product review. (except the 27.5 option - not really any point in trying them on XC trails, when you have 29ers. (Note: the massive 27.5x4.5 tires did not come out until the winter of 2018, or we would have tried them too)
In 26x4.0 and 26x4.8 mode, at the right air pressures, the LAUF was well controlled, manageable and made the bike pretty darn fast if you tailered the riding conditions to where the fork was designed to perform best - like in the P2A, Paris-to-Ancaster race. We had two bikes enter, with both of the 26” tire configurations noted above. If you want faster acceleration, go 4.0’s. If you want higher top end speed or more float, go 4.8’s. As we got into more technical terrain, the large volume tires were saving the LAUF from most of its work. Again, there is a limit to how much the LAUF can handle, before it becomes overwhelmed. For snow and winter riding, the tires selected were MAXXIS MINION 4.8’s, and then they were studded with about 120 GRIPSTUDS in each tire when it got icy. The bikes handled the winter just fine with that tire setup, regardless if a LAUF was used on the bike or not.
In 29er mode, we tried both the staggered 2.4FR / 2.2 RR option (CONTINENTAL tire), and the 29 x 3.0 option (MAXXIS tires). The test bikes were very fast, for Fat bikes! The Fat bikes felt more like hardtail MTBs with wider “Q’s” on the cranksets. You had to stick to more of a “roadie” type of terrain, (versus riding wherever you want with a beefy tire and suspension setup) because this 29er setup was not very good for challenging XC courses and required a higher tire PSI. If you stuck to rolling hardpack (nice easy stuff), and could keep a pace of at least 18-25 kph, it was fun to use this configuration. It could probably work out well for summer bikepacking. We tried to enter the bikes in a local XC race called the “Kelso Tuesday night MTB Series” with this tire setup, but it was not enjoyable… it was actually painful. You needed true suspension, or larger volume Fat tires. So we entered the race with the 26x4.8’s and it was easier to manage the LAUF. There is lots of climbing on this course, including gravel fire roads up a ski slope. Saving 2.5 lbs on bike weight by not putting on a WREN or MASTODON PRO helped with the climbs. The climbs are where you made up the most time on the other competitors in this race, and had room to pass them, so you tuned the bike to take advantage of that fact.
TECHTALK VIDEOS - LAUF FORK DESIGN
At this point, it had been 9 months of riding and testing the LAUF CARBONARA fork. We collected all our data, and spoke to our customers that had bought the LAUF fork, and now it was time to have a conversation with the LAUF CEO on the development of this product. (Note : since that initial conversation in 2016, LAUF released several informative Youtube videos covering some of the topics we had questions about, so they will be posted first, followed by the conversation text.
(if the music playlist is in autoplay mode, best to go back up to the top of the page and pause it, before running these LAUF TechTalk videos)
CONVERSATION WITH LAUF CEO
in 2016, LAUF CEO and MSc of Industrial Engineering, Benedikt Skulason kindly responded to our questions, over an 8-page conversation, where the following information was confirmed (and condensed):
The Constant Operating Region (COR) for the LAUF CARBONARA is between 0-40mm travel.
The LAUF Carbonara operates with the most efficiency as two (2) conditions are met:
The bike is ridden at an increased rate of speed.
The suspension travel needed is closer to 0mm, rather than 40mm (about 1.5in)
The 60mm suspension travel limit is the emergency stop feature, and the fork is not designed to be used constantly, or efficiently near this region. (It will operate to the 60mm travel limit, but not efficiently)
If the suspension travel needed by the rider is above 40mm (1.5in), or under slower operating speeds, LAUF suggested the rider switch to a conventional, fully-adjustable suspension system (such as Cannondale Lefty or a Rock Shox Bluto RCT3).
"Efficiency" is described as the LAUF fork leaf-spring's ability to mitigate the stored rebound energy (accumulated by the leaf spring as the bike travels over obstacles) and how this energy is later released by the spring (milliseconds later) and transmitted back into the bike.
LAUF confirms that almost 100% of the energy charged into the Leaf-Spring remains there undamped, before it is released back into the bike. Therefore, it must be transferred somewhere useful, or it will be transmitted up the fork, into the stem/handlebar, and into the rider and bike frame.
NOTE : As mentioned by LAUF, The rebound energy is BEST dissipated if one or both wheels of the bike are not touching the ground. How is this accomplished? The faster the rider travels on the bike, the greater the chance for one or both wheels will not touch the ground, even for milliseconds, while the bike is tracking and reacting to its suspension system, and quickly riding over the terrain. If the wheels leave the ground, while the LAUF fork is discharging its rebound energy, then LAUF claims this stored energy is dissipated efficiently.
AKA - if the wheels don't leave the ground, the rebound energy stored in the LAUF fork is discharged into the opposite ends of the LAUF fork : the wheelset (tires) and the handlebar/stem (the rider's arms). If the tires (which are on the ground) cannot absorb this rebound energy on their own, the majority of this rebound energy is absorbed by the rider themselves.
Our conversation ended at this point, and waiting to hear back from LAUF for further clarification on long-term affects of this rebound energy on the rider. (12 OCT 2016). UPDATE : there was no response back from LAUF after this point in the conversation. Instead, they released the 3 Techtalk videos, that are linked above.
LAUF MARKETING MATERIAL IN 2016
After 9 months of riding a LAUF CARBONARA on two different test bikes, it was time to sift through the LAUF marketing material again, and focus specifically on a few key statements by LAUF in describing their own product.
These quotes were taken word-for-word from their website in 2016 :
“Why a Lauf Fork? What is its intended use?”
A Lauf fork is aimed at a specific purpose; to absorb small bumps faster and smoother than any conventional suspension fork, while being almost as light as a rigid fork and completely maintenance-free.
A Lauf fork doesn’t have friction or a damping mechanism. To keep the suspension from feeling bouncy we set the spring rate of Lauf forks fairly high (hence only 60mm of travel are needed).
“A suspension fork without damping is a terrible idea!”
If you are doing rough AM riding, yes, then you want dampening in your suspension. You need it to stay in control. You need the dampening to effectively kill the energy charged into the fork in the big hits during AM riding. With the limited suspension travel of a Lauf fork you are not charging (as) much energy into the suspension so that it needs to be absorbed by dampening in the rebound.
“What if I take a Lauf for some rough and gnarly riding?”
If it really is rough and gnarly, a longer travel dampened fork will give you better control.
“What about lateral flex?”
The only rigid connection between the right and left sides of the fork is the axle and hub. This is a source of lateral flex with our fork, like on all up-side-down forks.
“What happens if I “bottom out” the Lauf Fork?”
The Lauf forks come with rubber bump stops on its fork legs specifically made to take the out-of-the-ordinary-hits.
RIDEFATBIKES.ca responds to LAUF's marketing claims with :
"If all the energy is stored into the LAUF fork (upon absorbing a bump or "hit"), where does this energy go, when it's time to be released? Does 100% of this accumulated energy get transferred back into the Bike and the Rider? Is it like pulling back on an elastic band, and then letting it go?"
It seemed to us, that the only bike components dissipating energy in this closed system, were the Fat Bike tires. After-all, the LAUF design is not an actual "shock", it is really just a "spring". Leaf-springs require something to dampen their rebound energy...or else they will release this built-up energy with intensity! ... so the only two "elastic" variables left are the tires, and the rider themselves. Unless you were on terrain that could dissipate this rebound energy (like sand, snow or gravel), then the rebound energy was transferred back into the bike and the rider. This was especially true for hardpack, rocks, rutts and pavement.
LACK OF REBOUND DAMPING
The lack of any rebound damping control mechanism was ultimately the main reason why all 100% of our customers that bought the LAUF CARBONARA, eventually sold it, and went back to a rigid carbon fork, or a more traditional suspension fork with damping and rebound control.
The lack of rebound control on the LAUF creates two main drawbacks :
once installed, the LAUF actually limits where and how you can ride your Fat Bike. The LAUF forces a higher tire pressure on the front wheel, increasing feedback from the terrain, because the fat tire is no longer acting as part of the suspension system. If you keep a low tire PSI with a LAUF installed, steering ability is significantly affected. Said another way, if you are used to riding low PSI tires in the winter for extra grip, you can’t do it for the front tire, once the LAUF is installed, or it can get difficult to control and steer the bike. You have to increase tire PSI to help control the steering, and conversely, you lose some of the inherent grip designed into wide fat tires during winter use. Inbetween all this, you also have to find the right PSI to reduce any self-steer inherent in the tire tread design.
when used for an extended period of time, (several months) and ridden at slower speeds on technical terrain, the LAUF CARBONARA can literally wear you out. Many riders experienced increased discomfort in their wrists, shoulders and neck. This phenomena increased as the winter season ended, and the bikes were ridden in non-snow, hardpack environments.
On local trails, LAUF Carbonara ownership approval ratings were above 80% for the 1st month, then dropped to around 50% approval rating after 3-4 months, and further decreased after that point.
Dissatisfied Fat Bike owners using LAUF CARBONARA leaf-spring forks mainly complained about three key things :
Limited Suspension Travel (it was nowhere near the claimed 60mm)
Long-term fatigue to hand/wrists/fingers/joints by absorbing the constant rebound energy released by the undamped LAUF design.
Slower, bigger impacts caused rider control issues.
Basically, due to the inherent design of the LAUF fork, if you can maintain a fast enough constant speed, on smooth enough terrain, the last two issues above, tend to be mitigated. If those riding conditions cannot be met, then physical fatigue increases to the point you start surfing the Internet to rethink your current suspension options.
Our ultimate decision was to stop selling LAUF CARBONARA forks for use on Fat Bikes.
The original selling points as marketed by LAUF in 2016 were :
Cold weather performance - there was no limiting factor to how cold it could be outside, and the CARBONARA fork still performed at its intended operating levels.
Zero maintenance - just hose down the fork after each ride, and you are good to go.
Lightweight - at only 2.5 lbs, it was 1.4 lbs lighter than a ROCKSHOX BLUTO RCT3, or about 2.5 lbs lighter than a WREN ATK, and only about 1.50 lbs heavier than the average 450gr rigid carbon fork (circa 2016).
LAUF claimed the CARBONARA improved handling in snow, over a rigid carbon fork.
The results after testing were :
The ROCKSHOX BLUTO RCT3 could usually handle temps down to about -18c to -22c, and the WREN ATK suspension fork could go down to -30c (when its seals worked as designed). Note that in 2018, we repeatedly tested the MASTODON PRO fork down to -30c without issue, and its performance was superior to any LAUF design.
Additionally, not many knew how to do this, but a WREN ATK could be fine-tuned with specific PSI ratios to the top and bottom air chambers for very dialed in XC-style small bump compliance with its “Twin Air” chamber damping system and totally outperform a LAUF. (word of caution, when you did this, the fork could bottom out if you went technical AM riding, without recalibrating the “Twin-Air” chambers - no biggie as it only takes a few minutes to do). The WREN ATK forks weigh about 2.5 lbs more than a LAUF CARBONARA, but the WREN performance improvement is quite substantial. (The ROCKSHOX BLUTO RCT3 was surpassed in performance by all these newer forks and the RCT3 quietly faded away, and can now be had for about $200-300 USD online - which makes it about $700 USD cheaper than a LAUF CARBONARA).
By 2019, the average carbon fork has increased in weight, as they are redesigned to carry cargo with “Anything” cage mount attachments and are stronger and stiffer than previous designs in 2016. Weight has increased on average from 450gr up to 750gr. There is now very little flex in a modern rigid carbon cargo fork, and they are quite compliant and absorb some trail chatter all on their own. Their weight difference is now only about 1 lb difference from a LAUF, and half the price. The LAUF CARBONARA operates with a COR of 15mm, so a modern carbon cargo fork can outperform it, when PSI is tuned on large volume fat tires. The ride on a carbon cargo fork is actually better than on a LAUF in all but a few environments, like the beach.
A rigid carbon cargo fork is zero maintenance, just like a LAUF.
A rigid carbon cargo fork now outperforms a LAUF CARBONARA in the snow.
The end result in 2019 is choosing a rigid carbon cargo fork, or a WREN ATK, or a MASTODON PRO are all better performance choices than getting a LAUF CARBONARA, and cost less $$.
During the time span between 2016 and 2019, Fat bikes dropped in weight on average by about 2 lbs, due to component manufacturers really stepping up and producing ever more reliable and lighter parts. It used to be a challenge to build a suspension equipped fat bike down to under 30 lbs back in 2016… now it’s quite easy to hit 25 lbs build weight, with 120mm travel, using a FATBACK SKOOKUM FLT frameset, and the heaviest Fat bike suspension forks on the market, the WREN ATK and MASTODON PRO.
The only places a LAUF CARBONARA still excels in competitive Fat bike performance, is at beach racing, or on some XC gravel races. If you are going to enter in the 2019/20 US Open Fat Bike Beach Championships, and race on the Wrightsville beach in North Carolina, it might be worth training on a LAUF-equipped rig built just for that race. (A quick check on their website shows half the Fat Bikes on their cover page are using LAUFS !).
*** If you are a competing athlete needing a 19-21 lb carbon race rig with 26 x 4.8’s custom built for you - just for this race - please get in touch with us, and we can make it happen ***
The physical side effects and rideability limiting factors of using the LAUF fork long-term, along with its high cost (about $900 USD in 2016, and now $990 USD in 2019), were its primary detractors. There are better (Fat Bike) suspension options out there for less $$, especially considering the LAUF CARBONARA was priced higher than any other suspension fork option on the market. Its significant cost could not be translated into a comparable boost in everyday performance.
In 2019, the LAUF CARBONARA has completely dropped off the radar for the average Fat bike owner. Some riders are still interested in the novelty of the LAUF fork design, and if you can find one used for about $250 USD, its worth the chance to test out and experience the unique LAUF handling characteristics on a Fat bike.
Better yet, don’t spend the money on a LAUF CARBONARA for your Fat bike, instead, if you really want to try one, get it for your dedicated gravel bike, so you can enjoy it for the fork’s original intended use.
BEST USE FOR A LAUF
If you are looking at long-term installation of the fork on a bike, the LAUF leaf spring design is best utilized on XC MTBs for RACE DAY events, or adventure riding on CX/gravel bikes. From our riding experience, and the data reinforced by the LAUF CEO, this is confirmed because the LAUF design needs a fairly quick overall sustained speed to operate at optimum design capability, with terrain obstacles of 15mm or less (COR - constant operating region).
We found the LAUF to perform best on a sandy beach, or rolling hardpack that was nearly obstacle free. The LAUF Carbonara was also very good for the P2A Paris-to-Ancaster Race, as a one-day race-specific setup. By racing that course for several years with differing setups on the same Fat Bike, it was confirmed that that LAUF was the fastest suspension fork on that particular course, if you had to pick between a rigid carbon fork, and a traditional suspension fork. Mind you, Fat Bikes were also racing against MTB, Gravel and CX bikes on the same course - and the CX bikes won the fastest overall times by a significant margin.
There really is no point in needing a LAUF CARBONARA in the winter, as a rigid carbon cargo fork and decreased tire PSI in large volume Fat bike tires actually works better than a LAUF up front. The LAUF requires a higher PSI in the front tire, which can actually detract from its traction capability.
The LAUF design works better in non-snow conditions, than in the snow. Why? Because you need to maintain a relatively high speed for the LAUF to even work properly, and when in snow, you tend to go a lot slower. Front tire traction trumps the LAUF’s small bump compliance in low speed winter conditions. Hence, no need for the LAUF in winter,on a Fat bike, unless you are at a specific race-day event. even so, save over a pound in weight at about $400 USD and go with a rigid carbon cargo fork instead. (I keep saying a “cargo” fork because they are built to take abuse and are very rigid, yet still compliant, with very little lateral flex. If you go with a cheap carbon fork, except there to be more lateral flex.)
The LAUF CARBONARA was most helpful during steep climbs and long sprints on obstacle free courses - the CARBONARA really helped “plant” the rear wheel and keep traction on the roads and trails (like an anti-roll bar does for a car), even when the rider leaves the saddle on steep ascents, shifting their weight forward.
Bikepackers might like using a LAUF instead of a rigid carbon fork, because the added pack weight on the bike, would act as a damper, and flatten out the ride feel, and absorb some of the “chop” in the ride. These riders would also require higher tire PSI, which the LAUF requires in order to operate. Again, the LAUF design is best suited for a GRAVEL bike, not a FAT bike.
The LAUF is best utilized on faster rolling bikes, such as XC race-day hardtails (or even some re-tuned full-suspension setups to accomodate the LAUF), or on dedicated gravel bikes. This was our opinion in 2016, and since that time, LAUF focused on gravel bike development, and released their own frameset called the LAUF TRUE GRIT, which they claim is the ultimate gravel bike, and it uses the LAUF GRIT SL leaf-spring fork, tuned for 30mm or less travel.
SUSPENSION FORK SHOOTOUT
If you would like to learn more about our other suspension fork reviews of the ROCKSHOX BLUTO RCT3, WREN ATK and MASTODON PRO, please click this link.