By: Troy Templin
When it comes to incredible places to ride your gravel bike, Iceland has always been at the top of my list since I first discovered it back in 2015. I have been lucky enough to make many trips to pedal a bike on the island, and it is without a doubt the perfect environment for a gravel bike. It also happens to be the home of one of the most proactive and innovative bike brands in modern gravel, Lauf. As many of you have probably read, the Lauf Grit fork and True Grit bike have been on my personal must-have list for years. With all of the new technology, research and developments in the gravel world, the Lauf products have always been ahead of the curve and stood the test of time.
So when I got an invite from Lauf to travel to Iceland to see something new, I was hoping it was a finalized version of one of the three patents they had teased back in late 2019 that featured lightweight and tuneable rear suspension. They were pretty tight-lipped before landing on the island but as it turns out we were there for something else.
Being that it was late March and most of the country is still deep in snow, I wondered why Lauf would bring us so early in the year to ride bikes, and prayed it wasn’t for a fat bike. On the day of our arrival, it was indeed snowing and this was my first time there when even the normally green coastline was covered in a blanket of white. I’m always up for an adventure, and with 20-50mph winds in the forecast across most of the region, I knew this could be an eventful trip.
For those not familiar with Lauf, the once MTB suspension company turned to gravel as well in 2016 with the launch of the Grit suspension fork. In 2017 they launched the True Grit gravel bike and were now a bicycle brand that only a year later added the Anywhere model as well. In 2019 they launched the first Rift event, which challenges riders to race into the highlands of Iceland, the area of Iceland that is uninhabitable for most of the year due to its extreme weather and limited resources. Then in 2020, Lauf made a big move and went consumer direct, allowing them to pass the savings onto the consumer. This move was big for such a small company and put a lot of stress on the intimate yet humble team.
The original office in the center of downtown Reykjavik was no longer ideal for handling the new staffing needs that come with a consumer-direct platform. The company moved only a few minutes down the street to a new HQ that would give them the room they needed to grow while also allowing for a retail space to sell and display products.
Yes, since 2016, this small company of once four dedicated lads has yearly pumped out some sort of new product that hasn’t disappointed. Benedikt Skúlason is the founder and of the four original members of the Lauf team, the last man standing. He has however formulated a solid team of help to maintain the company’s accelerated growth while staying true to their roots.
Now the real reason we traveled all the way to Iceland, The Seigla. In Icelandic, Seigla means “true grit” and the new bike is the next evolution of the original gravel bike that really put Lauf on the map. No, it’s not the full-suspension bike that we had hoped for but we were told that the Seigla was the combination of findings while working on the rear suspension.
In an effort to produce room for the suspension and rear compliance, Lauf realized that they could vastly improve the already solid offering in their line fairly quickly. More room for tires, added compliance while in the saddle and further refinement of the 1x drivetrain. Using the proven geometry from the True Grit with the new refinements and alterations, Lauf was able to quickly pivot their focus and produce a gravel bike that surpasses what most of the industry is offering without compromise to their core mauto, stay ahead comfortably.
It is pretty simple, Lauf has made small alterations and improvements that result in significant upgrades. First and probably the most dramatic, the Seigla is able to fit a 700x57mm tire or as many might know as 29×2.25. This is without lengthening the rear end and maintaining a 42.5cm chainstay length. But how did they make it all fit? The Seigla is 1x specific and has a solid carbon drivetrain-side chainstay that is slim, very slim but tall. The bottom bracket is also a BSA 73 which is normally a mountain bike standard. The 5mm wider bottom bracket shell and slim chainstay design allow the large tire to squeeze between the frame and chainring.
Along with the help of SRAM, Lauf was able to help develop a 1x crankset that maintained the narrower q-factor that road cranksets provide. Upfront, the Grit for is now in its third generation and has finally moved away from the 15mm axle and uses the road and gravel industry standard of 12mm. The fork crown now has broader shoulders but has also been refined and the legs slightly lengthened to accommodate the larger tire. The fork maintains the 30mm of travel and with all the changes remains the same weight, even though it esthetically looks bulkier.
The next and probably most striking change is the use of dropped seat stays. Lauf is all about saving weight and going fast. They also believe that you don’t need to compromise comfort to achieve this and the rear of the True Grit didn’t match what the Grit fork offered for compliance. With the dropped chainstays and four other modifications, the Seigla is what Lauf says in an almost perfect balance front to rear.
THE FIVE REAR END UPGRADES
To start the slim rear portion of the top tube transforms the junction to the seat tube into a virtual pivot. To maximize the effect, the use of a standard seat-clamp for the 27.2mm seatpost means that the virtual pivot is not overbuilt and negated with internal wedge retention systems. Next the horizontally wide but vertically thin seat stays allow flex up and down while resisting lateral flex. The dropped seat stays channel the forces so that it slightly flexes the seat tube resulting in movement of the saddle rearward and down as well as a small amount of rear axle travel. The last and more common is also implemented with a more exposed seatpost when compared to the True Grit and Anywhere, between 14-20mm depending on frame size. On the geometry chart, the seat tube is far more setback, but as long as the correct size bike is chosen, the resulting geometry puts the rider with the same stack and reach as the True Grit.
THE ICELAND TEST
On paper and the way the Lauf team explained the Seigla is great, but the real test is behind the bars. As many of you know, RBA is located in the seemingly always warm and dry Southern Califonia. So to ride in the rain is rare, the snow is almost unheard of, but we do have wind. Since the weather was worse than expected and we had a few flight delays, Lauf ended up shuttling us out to a pretty elaborate fishing compound that was off the beaten path and the perfect location to host our gravel rides. The truth is, almost anywhere outside of the main city of Reykjavik is a stellar place to set off for a gravel adventure.
As the weather report promised, over our trip we got horizontal rain, winds strong enough to keep the pace in the single digits and a constant dose of rain to keep the ground and everything else drenched. There were moments when the wind was a helping hand on our backs, but with such waterlogged roads, the assistance was not maximized. The roads were so wet and physically demanding all the time that it made it hard to truly focus on the bike and its new improvements.
To be honest, everything felt different, was it the new supple rear-end compliance or the spongelike road that was enhancing the compliance? The one true test that was clear from the adverse weather and very wet and muddy conditions, the big tires with a massive amount of added clearance was golden. It didn’t matter if we had 40mm tires or the absolutely massive 29 2.25 tires, there was still room for the mud and debris to pass. For those that went big, the increased surface area of the larger tire also offered an advantage in the soft conditions. When we were riding through fresh snow, everyone wished they had chosen 45mm tires or more.
THE HONEST TRUTH
Looking back on the trip and the conditions, those are not what most of us have to ride on the daily. Sure we might have one or two events or a few rides that entail some of that each year, but overall it’s not a representation of the masses. That’s exactly why the True Grit and now Seigla are so good. They are designed to take on far more than most of us will ever need. The Lauf team does this without compromising on weight and speed.
Do we need to run mountain bike trail tires, no, but the fact that we can without compromise in my view is a win. Can you still run a 32mm all-road tire, sure, but you can also run a 45mm tire and have plenty of room for when the weather turns moments before a big event and you know it’s going to be a muddy mess.
Is the Seigla perfect, absolutely not but it is ahead of the curve. Most other brands are only able to accommodate this sort of clearance and compliance on a 650b wheel system. Our biggest disappointment is that Lauf overlooked the demand for a dropper seat post. They are so focused on speed with compliance that they almost completely dismissed the crowd that loves to get low. Sure you can use the wireless AXS seat post that will set you back nearly $700, but for a bike that is so capable, in our mind, this is a big miss.
So while we can’t give you an honest assessment of the Seigla yet, you know that as soon as we get it home and on familiar terrain, we will. The first impressions of the bike are solid and the versatility will reach from podium racer to casual adventure seeker. If we have learned anything from our trips to Iceland, it’s that these folks are a different breed of humans. To live and ride in these beautiful but challenging conditions daily, gives you a very unique outlook on what a bike and human body can endure. This is perfectly represented by Lauf and the new Seigla.
As we were getting ready to head home Benedikt got word that a deal he had been working on was finally coming to fruition. Lauf is heading to the United States. No, not the entire company, but they are opening a US headquarters. The US has been Lauf’s largest market for bicycle sales and without a warehouse in the states, shipping has been their biggest hurdle. Lauf is going to head to Harrisonburg, Va. Between the great riding, proximity to ports and shorter flights back to Iceland, Lauf hopes that this will offer their customers a better customer experience as well as a huge step in the growth of the company.
For now, Benedikt and his family will temporarily relocate to ensure the transition goes off without a hitch. Once the team and facility are up and running, he will head back to Iceland and continue to keep the industry and gravel segment on their toes. Until then, keep an eye out for a full review of the Seigla and to get the full breakdown of the bike.