So I’ve got to start this review with an admission of guilt, I’ve held the Lauf Carbonara hostage for the last few months. I’ve found reason after reason to hold onto this Iclandic Native.
Sure this started innocent enough, A product review of the Lauf in late winter conditions. Well, with a little help from my cohort El Nino, winter break up struck early. It deteriorated the trails, and swept away the river ice in the middle of April. Surely I couldn’t send Fat-bike.com headquarters an incomplete report while I still had so much to learn about this one of a kind fork.
I got solid miles on it before the snow went away, but I had to wait several weeks until trails firmed up for riding on the Terra Firma. The Lauf became my best friend I met at summer camp, I couldn’t say goodbye. So I sort of stole it.
The website, Laufforks.com has all sorts of useful info regarding the engineering and specs of the Carbonara. They also have cool vidoes, One showing a Toyota Land Cruiser suspended from a Lauf. You should check it out.
The Carbonara is based on a simple Leaf spring design. It’s essentially the simplest form of suspension. Leaf springs have been around for centuries.
The glass fiber leaf springs give 60mm of progressive travel. Meaning that the lauf stiffens up as it travels through the full 60mm. In translation. It felt responsive and supple to soak up the small inconsistencies of the trail, the things you would typically depend on lower tire pressure otherwise. Moose prints, post holes by a silly runner, ruts in the snow from over anxious ATV riders, all things that would cause a rough ride on winter trails, smoothed away while still maintaining normal air pressures around 8-10 psi but once you’re up to speed on a long and fast decent, the fork stiffens as the terrain hits harder and puts more of a demand on the Fork. It results in a very smooth feeling of travel. I never once bottomed the Lauf out. I never felt like I was close.
The spring rates come in two different settings; regular, for riders over 175 lbs. and the light spring is for riders weighing less. The unit I was testing was a regular spring setting, I’m only 150 lbs. so I’m sure I experienced a stiffer ride than what’s intended.
The Lauf Carbonara is 1096 grams, that’s 700 grams less than a Bluto. It’s light enough that it’s hard to tell you’re riding a suspension fork. It slackened the geometry of my Fatback a bit, but my front end remained light and responsive.
It has 150 mm spacing, and easily has clearance for 4.8” tires. It’s compatible to all framesets with a tapered tube even if it’s not suspension corrected.
I after 8 weeks of riding, April and May, from hard pack winter trails, to beautiful warm sunny days on the Carbonara. The first thing to report; it always feels the same. It felt the same at -20 as it did at 70 above. I have a feeling I could ride it in 8 years and it would still feel the same.
There’s ZERO maintenance, just keep it clean. There’s zero setup, just install and go. There’s no figuring out SAG, or pressure rates in the positive and negative chambers. No adjusting rebound or dampening. Just ride.
Fatbikes can be fun to roll around the local single track, but for me they’re built for exploring. They’re built for your imagination. They’re built to conjure up rides looking at topo maps and satellite images. They’re built to go places that seem a little bit intimidating. They’re built to get you as far away from help as possible. The Lauf Carbonara is built for just the same reasons.
The farther my imagination takes me, the less I find a place for a traditional suspension fork and the 4 lbs. of liability they create. I’m concerned enough about losing air from my tires deep in the middle of the winter, let alone my fork.
I’ve dreamed about suspension in the winter. Exhausted and sleep deprived, riding through rough and dry sections of the Iditarod trail, Anything to take the pounding edge off of endless miles of barren, tussock covered remote trail, but I would never consider taking a Bluto hundreds of miles from the road. I don’t care how much testing is done on it in the winter. A lot of stuff fails when it’s abused long enough in marginal places. The possibility of failure has never been worth the reward of a smooth ride.
Through all of my riding, the Lauf never felt like a liability. I’m attempting to go the full 1,000 miles to Nome next year in the Iditarod Trail Invitational, and i would take the Lauf without a doubt. I love how it smooths out so many of jarring characteristics of a trail, while still maintaining a weight that is close to a rigid fork.
In fact, The Lauf is such a great tool for the job that, Jill Homer, set the women’s course record in the 1,000 mile race riding a Lauf Carbonara.
That’s what’s so cool about the Lauf, the longer the journey, the more it makes sense to ride a Lauf. The complete opposite is true of any typical suspension fork. In my opinion the longer journey are why fatbikes exists.
I didn’t find the Lauf to be perfect for all conditions. It’s really a Jack of all trades. It does everything, but it has limitations. With the spring setting relatively stiff, I found the fork could rebound hard especially when absorbing a lot of large roots at high speeds.
I’ve always been a fan of rigid bikes, I love to climb hills hard and any suspension fork costs some efficiency while climbing. The Lauf is no different. I had the opportunity to race the White Mountains 100 with the Lauf, but with such little time on it before the race, I was skeptical that it would be the tool I was looking for. It would have smoothed out some sections but with around 8000 feet of climbing throughout the course I was happy to have my rigid fork.
The one time I felt like I reached its limits and it left me wanting more was its lateral stiffness. Riding single track and getting the bike horizontal through banked turns leaves the front end feeling soft and it didn’t have the stability I would have liked. I found myself backing off a bit more than I normally would have. But then again, this was terrain I would rather ride my 29er.
The Lauf doesn’t change where or the way I rode a fatbike, but it did enhance it. In the winter it just felt really good, it made nice trails buttery. Fast trails felt faster, rough trail felt smoother.
In the summer The Lauf gobbled up scree slopes and erratic rocks along ridgelines. I love to ride my fatbike like a tundra buggy, just bouncing along wide open terrain above treeline. The Lauf took away a lot of the bounce while the tires let me explore areas that skinny tires can’t go.
If I was along the coast, sea water could do nothing to hinder the performance of the Lauf. Leaving me to ride with the tides, across sandy beaches and rocky coves. The Carbonara cares not for NaCl.
I think it really shines in all the places that fatbikes really shine. It suffers a bit more in places that fatbikes suffer. The Carbonara takes on all sorts of terrain in any conditions all without moving parts fittings or seals. In the heat, the extreme cold, or along the coasts, it will always be the same.
In the end, I found the Lauf Carbonara to be an amazingly versatile carbon fork, more than I thought of it as a suspension fork with limitations. It really is a beast all its own, and worth anyone’s consideration that likes to take fatbikes to places that only fatbikes can go.