When Icelandic innovators Lauf launched their Carbonara fatbike fork they caused quite a stir.
Some people couldn’t get past the ‘unconventional’ looks, others were more accepting and willing to give this new idea a chance.
I like to think of us fatbikers as a little less fashion conscious and set in our ways than members of some of the other sub-cultures of the cycling community, more open to new ideas and different ways of doing things.
That being said the Carbonara still divides a group like no other piece of kit I’ve ever seen!
See what I mean? It’s no ordinary fork.
The use of “military spec S2 glassfiber” as opposed to the more traditional air/oil/coil to create the required bounce is certainly a unique solution and one that’s enabled them to create the lightest suspension fork on the market.
Another feature that could be of particular interest to those of us in cold and/or sandy places is that it is free of moving parts and therefore won’t suffer in extreme cold or when covered in sand. It is truly maintenance free which is no small thing when you think about how much fork servicing costs and how often it needs doing.
So far so good but it’s not all plain sailing…..it’s expensive and with only 60mm of travel it is likely to appeal more to those at the spendy racing end of the spectrum.
That’s not to say that everyone couldn’t benefit from the bump-reduction it provides but the cost and travel factor make it less appealing to the regular folk who just want someting to play on when riding the local woods/beaches.
We’ve been riding one on one of our test bikes for almost a year (as well as testing them on other bikes) which we think is sufficient to figure out if we like it or not, no?
So does it work? Is it too whacky looking to live with? What about the lack of damping on both the compression and rebound? How does it ride? Any lateral flex? What about under braking? Big hits? Etc…
Let’s find out…..
The first thing you notice is just how light the front end is when compared to a Bluto (or other fat-compatible fork).
It’s a world of difference and is really noticeable on the trails.
I was always of the opinion that fatbikes don’t need suspension as, for the most part, they’re not not subject to the sorts of stresses and strains that regular MTB’s are but as time has gone on this is less and less true.
People now expect to be able to do everything with a fatbike that they can with any other mountain bike.
The Carbonara definitely takes the sting out of the trail and is more than enough for most of the riding most fatties are ever going to encounter.
For high speed, technical mountain biking there are certainly advantages to a softer front-end on a fatty but I still maintain that for most of us the Lauf is more than enough bounce!
60mm doesn’t sound like a lot!
But…..when you consider just how much give and take there is in a 4-5 inch tyre as well as the fact that the ‘natural terrain’ for many fatbikes is sand or snow then we think it’s often plenty.
We had it out a few months ago on the downhill track in Les Houches and yes, its limits were felt, but that’s a one-off and quite extreme use to put it to and so it’d be unfair to say that it didn’t have sufficient travel simply due to one (mis)use on an Alpine downhill trail.
For regular everyday use we are more than happy with the amount of travel.
Lack of damping:
As with the travel analysis above, you’re realistically not going to notice the lack of damping in all but a few conditions and situations.
On fast rutted singletrack there was sometimes some light chatter from the front-end which can only really be attributed to the lack of damping but we’re talking mild discomfort twice in a year for the duration of one or two corners – not a deal breaker!
In every other way and on every other day it’s simply not a factor.
Lateral movement and brake-dip:
Yes, the fork experiences both of these things.
No, it’s not an issue.
When climbing out of the saddle you can discern some slight give in the fork and just about notice that the wheel is moving left to right but after noticing it once I’ve never thought about it again as it simply doesn’t affect the ride at all.
Likewise under hard braking on a flat surface you can detect a dip at the front as the leaf springs compress. Take it onto the trail and you’ll never notice it and so I wouldn’t worry about it.
Yes, one gripe and one bonus that I feel I should mention.
Gripe – In keeping with the Arctic-friendly extreme cold-compliant features of the Carbonara I tried to fit some Avid BB7’s to my Lauf forks and they wouldn’t fit. No real loss as I didn’t end up taking the bike to northern Finland after all but I imagine a lot of people who might buy the fork for its ability to go cold might also find this a problem.
Bonus – As much as riding a regular fatty can get you some stares and attention out in the hills, you ain’t seen ’nuffink until you’ve gone out riding a Carbonara. For the most past people just stop and stare but if you stand still long enough you’ll have people crowding round wanting to touch it and ask silly questions which can be a lot of fun.
In a word: great!
They remove the chatter from the trail, weigh nowt and are funkier than James Brown.
We found them particularly good on groomed icy trails which can be a nightmare without anything up front.
Spendy and of limited use for big-hit riding but they’re space-aged technology and downhill is not their intended use and so no complaints there either really.
If you’re looking for something to ease the long miles and provide a lifetime of hassle free bounce on your fatty then look no further, the Carbonara is perfect.