Not All Gravel Bikes Are the Same: Lauf True Grit vs OPEN U.P.
The OPEN U.P. has been a bit of a revelation to us in the cycling world, not unlike that of the endurance road bike. Maligned when it first came out, endurance road bikes have slowly gained appreciation and traction due to their user-friendliness. Similarly, we see the OPEN U.P. as the start of the modern gravel bike trend, or better yet the renaissance man of road bikes. It’s promise of road bike handling and performance with the ability to run a knobby 27.5” MTB tire was and is still a unique proposition. As time as gone on, more entrants have entered the ring, but with a compromise of one sort or another. Between not-quite-there tire clearance, unnecessarily upright geometry, and questionable gimmickry, the U.P. has dominated the gravel bike scene for good reason. At least, until the Lauf True Grit gravel bike came out. Lauf came to our shop at the beginning of this year, and left us with one of the most impressive bikes we’ve seen this year, with one polarizing point: it's fork. Despite the fork, the Lauf and OPEN make for our two most popular gravel bikes. There are plenty of similarities between the two. Both are made of carbon fiber. Both frames weigh about the same, depending on what iteration of the OPEN U.P. you choose. Both fit a 400 x 40c tire with plenty of room (we’ve seen up to a 42c tire in the OPEN, and 45c in the Lauf). Both offer three bottle cage mounts, plus a top tube mount to secure a top tube bag. We’re consistently asked which bike to buy and why; let’s break it down. No Lauf’ing Matter The Lauf True Grit, borne of the ever-changing conditions of Iceland and the technological feat of a leaf spring fork, is very much a unique animal. Compared to the OPEN, it’s geometry is as progressive of gravel bike geometry as it gets. It’s longer reach and shorter stack pair to a headtube angle that’s slacker than normal as well. Lauf pairs this to a shorter stem, similar to the phenomenon found in the MTB world. Translation? The bike is designed to easily track straight over rough gravel and terrain, and it does a good job of doing so. Unlike any other drop-bar bicycle on the market, the True Grit was designed around finding the best way to take advantage of the fork. The Grit SL fork offers 30 mm travel, and is 50g lighter than standard Grit fork. While this suspension fork weighs in at just under 1 lb over a standard carbon fork, the True Grit feels exceptionally planted with good directional control. But it’s value is best understood when you hop back on a bike with a rigid fork, and realize how much the carbon leaf springs make a difference in regards to control and comfort. It’s an excellent proposition as an all-road bike. Among other things, the Lauf is predominantly a 1x-specific bike. The only option we’ve seen is Lauf’s Race Edition Wireless, which used a SRAM RED eTap wireless front derailleur (there is no routing for a cable much less electronic wiring). This leads most people who buy the True Grit to see it specifically as a gravel bike and use it as such. Lauf sees it the same way, a bike built to go fast over gravel, work well over asphalt, and feel more capable than the average gravel bike through sweeping singletrack. Prices start at $3700 for a complete bike; not a bad deal for all the tech this comes with. OPEN’ing UP a Versatile Can of Worms The OPEN U.P. was designed predominantly simply as a road bike that could fit a far wider tire than the road bikes on the market. OPEN worked hard to maintain road positioning and geometry, and that's what he got; it really feels like your standard carbon road bike when paired to a 28c tire. However, the ability to run a 700 x 40c tire, a 650 x 47b slick, or a 27.5 x 2.1” knobby tire transform the bike’s personality dramatically, whereas the Lauf is comparatively static. It’s stack and reach numbers strike a balance between aggressive road and endurance positioning. The U.P. is offered in three frame variations, with the lightest frame known as the U.P.P.E.R. weighing just 880g (and fork weighing 370g). These weights beat most road bikes, and destroys nearly every other gravel bike. Build it up as light or aggressive as you want, and the U.P. is ready. We’ve seen these built as endurance road bikes, gravel bikes, flat bar hybrids, and with multiple wheelsets to tackle any ride. OPEN sells this as a frame only, meaning each and every build is unique to the rider’s needs. Between the Ready to Paint option, ala carte builds, and the ability to run both a 2x or 1x drivetrain allows the U.P. to be more versatile than the Lauf, as well as most of the competition. Our complete builds with Shimano Ultegra start at $4199. That’s a lot for any bike, but most don’t see the U.P. solely as a gravel bike, but a replacement for their road bike, cyclocross bike, and sometimes even their hardtail mountain bike. In that case, replacing three bikes with one makes much more sense. Which One is Your Next Choice? Between the True Grit and the U.P., both bikes allow you to ride just about whatever you want, whenever you’d want it. The True Grit offers some of the best technology found in cycling to achieve the best performance possible on the dirt. OPEN’s U.P. is similarly cutting-edge in it’s ability to run a wide tire without sacrificing typical road bike handling. Both bikes are available at Contender Bicycles for demo. Try them out and see what fits your needs the best. Will there be situations where a mountain bike or a road bike is the better option on a ride? Always. Few bikes can be as engaging throughout an entire ride. Whatever you choose, you'll be sure to have a willing adventure companion over dirt, gravel, singletrack, and anything in between. If you have any questions about the Lauf True Grit or the OPEN Cycle U.P. please give us a call during business hours or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is worth noting that the True Grit has a threaded bottom bracket for those who care about this.
Randall Smith on