It may take a while to get accustomed to the Lauf Grit SL and its radical looking suspension fork. The fork hangs from the front of the frame like the claws of a praying mantis. For our tester, it only took about five hours of rough roads and trails in the Arizona desert to learn to love this bike — fork and all.
The True Grit feels much more like a mountain bike than other gravel bikes, and we mean that in the best possible way. The fork and geometry contribute equally to a confident feel on all terrain.
Though it looks unusual, the Grit SL suspension fork ads ample versatility to this do-anything rig. The linkage design rests on carbon leaf springs. These afford a progressive suspension action. It’s slightly bouncy on smooth pavement, but hardly noticeable given its short, 30 millimeters of travel.
The suspension is not a comfort feature — it is there for control. As soon as rubber meets dirt, it is apparent how this 900-gram fork contributes to the True Grit’s steering precision. On loose, stutter-bump corners, the bike had more grip than we would expect. (We ran low-profile, 40-millimeter Maxxis Ramblers.) The bike feels eager to drive through corners. You rarely get any front-end deflection or under-steer with the Grit SL out front.
If the fork doesn’t convince you that the True Grit is part of the mountain bike family tree, the geometry will.
The 1,120-gram carbon frame is designed with a longer cockpit to pair with a shorter stem — 394 millimeters of reach with a 90-millimeter stem on the Medium Long model we rode. Plus, the head tube angle is very laid back at 70.5 degrees. Sounds a bit like a cross-country hardtail, doesn’t it?
As such, Lauf’s geometry is excellent for all types of terrain. The bike navigates rough fire roads and high-speed corners with steady confidence. It’s also willing to dive through loose corners on mellow singletrack. Put the maximum tire size of 45 millimeters on this bike and it would be unstoppable.
The True Grit surprised us with its speed on pavement. Our test bike was moderately light at just over 17 pounds, and the short, 133-millimeter head tube allowed us to get the bars a bit closer to an ordinary road position.
The look might turn off traditionalists, but the True Grit’s versatility and capability make it one of our favorite gravel bikes.