Very recently, as in like three days ago, I recapped the last portion of the journey Dirty and I made to Iceland last summer. During our last days in Reykjavik we did some riding with a few local followers. And they all rode these funky suspension forks. Like nothing I’d seen before. They’re from a company called Lauf Forks. Naturally we gawked, took pictures, and asked questions. We learned that the design is based on some of the engineering behind certain prosthetic limbs. I considered touching on the design in the recap of the trip, but decided that wouldn’t do it justice. So I caught up with the owner via email. His name is Benedikt Skúlason, and he was more than willing to answer some questions for me.
1.) Benedikt, first question. Why?
Probably because I love engineering driven design. I love coming up with innovative solutions that turn things a bit up side down. It‘s just how I‘m wired. If it wasn’t this, it would probably be something else. Lauf comes extra naturally to me though, as I also have always been a mountain biking fanatic. At the age of 13 I spent all my money on a racy hardtail, that I upgraded one year later (spending all my money again) with an awesome Rock Shox Judy T2. Then it took me additional 15 years to replace my series of Rock Shox and Fox forks with the first proper Lauf. When I got the idea of the Lauf, I immediately knew that I was on to something. It simply had to be done. As with all good designs or innovations, nothing comes out of nothing though. This is not an idea that I just came up with while watching TV. The components of a Lauf fork are too foreign to most of us to ever think of something remotely similar. The thing is, I was in the rare position of being a mountain biker and an R&D engineer for the worlds largest prosthetic feet companies in the world. All day long I was designing carbon fiber prosthetic feet, that are able to provide the user with composites sprung suspension, while withstanding enormous forces for extensive periods of time. At a very low weight and high energy efficiency. Being an XC rider, these properties obviously intrigued me. I did some simple prototypes with a good friend of mine (Gudberg Bjornsson who later founded Lauf with me), realized that they actually worked in real life (just like they had done on the drawing board and in my head), and then decided to quit my job and go for this full time.
2.) Have you received any criticism? How have you answered your critics?
Oh yesss. Just read any of the comment threads or forums out there. It has never bothered us though, we know Lauf is a lot to swallow at first and we know that none of the people commenting negatively have actually tried one out. However, what we find very satisfying is watching how things have started to turn around. Now that there are more Lauf riders out there, we see them stepping into the discussions and clarifying how it actually works to people. We‘re also very thankful for all those Lauf riders who frequently send us e-mails just to let us know how happy they are with their fork! They really keep us motivated.
3.) I know you don’t have strip clubs in Iceland, (we learned the hard way), but if you were an exotic dancer, what would your stage name be?
I‘ve been called a “motherforker“. I think that would be a pretty good one.
4.) What about rebound damping?
Everything has its place. If you are riding a long stroke fork in 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 all the energy charged into the long stroke fork during the big hits of AM riding. However, with the limited suspension travel of a Lauf fork you are not charging that much energy into the suspension so that it needs to be absorbed (wasted) by dampening in the rebound. Therefore there is no need for lockout to conserve your energy and as a result you can filter out all those small bumps you frequently encounter, without wasting your energy! One thing people tend to miss out on as well, is that even though the suspension system of a Lauf does not have (nor should it have) any dampening, the whole system of a bike + rider does have a fair bit of dampening built into it. The Lauf concept would not work for heavy rigid lumps, such as cars, but a bike + rider is something completely different.
5.) If something were to happen to one of your forks, what are the repair options? Would it need to be sent back to Iceland?
There are no repair options. There is no maintenance. There is nothing to fiddle with. Just ride. If something “happens“, it would just be the result of your crash or something similar. Then you just contact us and we determine if you get a replacement fork shipped out (immediately by DHL) or if we should offer you our crash replacement deal (half price). We have a 5 year warranty on them. The design is by nature very robust so they should last you significantly longer than that. Look at it like a bike frame. There are no “moving“ parts, so it‘s going to last. We are constantly performing cyclic tests on forks and springs in our lab to ensure that the materials sustain their properties. The results of these tests are consequently used to make even longer lasting forks than before.
6.) What is the life expectancy of a Lauf fork?
We have a 5 year warranty on them. The design is by nature very robust so they should last you significantly longer than that. Look at it like a bike frame. There are no “moving“ parts, so it‘s going to last. We are constantly performing cyclic tests on forks and springs in our lab to ensure that the materials sustain their properties. The results of these tests are consequently used to make even longer lasting forks than before.
7.) You developed the Lauf idea over beers, what other things have you done (good or bad) while drinking beers?
Some of them I wish to not talk about here and some of them I simply wish I‘d remember. I answered your questions after having a few (so cut me some slack on typos!), whether that‘s good or bad I don‘t know at this time.
And there you have it. The specifics behind a wildly innovative design. In the market for an ultra low maintenance suspension fork? Give Lauf a gander. We hope to get our hands on a demo to test out in the near future.by
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Real men are rigid.
We’re done here.
Here at the bike shop/bike mechanic school on Quadra Island in British Columbia, we had the first Lauf fork on the wet wast coast that we are aware of. I built it on a demo bike for the Canada Day picnic (July 1) last summer.
I don’t know where you are located, but if you want to try one – this is the place to do it. The Europeans are smoking the races with the Lauf. It weighs 2 pounds one ounce & it lets your front wheel dance through the turns like a ballerina. I think it’s the future of XC riding. My next build will be one on a 27.5″ frame. – Smokey
1) Undamped suspension forks have been tried any number of times over the last four or five decades. Riders seem to have migrated towards a damped design.
2) To wit, an undamped design could be prone to “pumping.” I’ll bet a lockout or maybe even a “stiffness” adjustment could be engineered in.
3) The low mass is cool. Long-travel air forks are heavy as fuck or stupid-expensive. Or both.
4) Specialized will litigate a hostile acquisition of the relevant IP and vigorously prosecute its patent rights. They will sue German-speaking nations for their use of the verb, “lauf.”
5) I thought Quadra Island BC was only used as an artillery range and to hide alien corpses. I nearly died on a 32′ sailboat in gale just outside there one time. We had three lads on the foredeck to reef the main in 6′ (2m) chop and the wind ripping the tops off the waves. If you go overboard in that, you die. Then a spreader stay failed and the boat’s deck was warping like a bucking bronco. These are the kinds of stories that end badly. Pretty much my most terrifying maritime moment.
Today I got to release a full-grown stanimal into the wild. Be free, lil feller, to romp rubberly through the trailside wildflowers.
Joe, old men a rigid. That said, my go to ride is a Surley Straggler for road to singletrack. Mikey, why were guys on the foredeck to reef the main? We’re you sailing backwards?
The foredeck was where the mains’l was. I was damned glad to be back at the helm, heading up as best I could, pinching my sphincter as tight as she’d go.
Boy, you don’t know the half of it. Now get off my lawn.