Field Test 2022: Lauf Seigla gravel bike review
It's a gravel race bike from the future.
It's a gravel race bike from the future.
There aren’t too many dropbar bikes so unique that you can spot them from multiple switchbacks away. With its unmistakable Grit leaf spring suspension fork up front, the new Lauf Seigla is a conversation starter and offers plenty to keep that conversation going.
Roughly translating to “perseverance”, the Seigla is the latest model from the gravel-focussed Icelandic brand. It’s a bike that has been designed for racing across challenging mixed surfaces as fast as possible and does that by combining absolutely enormous tyre clearance with geometry closely comparable to Lauf’s True Grit bike. And while it may be built for speed, as it turns out, it’s plenty of fun, too.
Lauf is a relatively small brand that has been making enormous waves in the gravel world. The company is best known for its unique suspension forks, but recent years have seen the brand expand into its own range of performance gravel bikes that benefit from consumer-direct pricing.
The Seigla offers a full carbon frame that’s made with what Lauf’s describes as an “impact-resistant carbon fibre layup.” The frame is packed to the brim with unique and rather clever features that provide clearance for up to mountain-bike-like 700 x 57 mm / (29 x 2.25″) tyres while keeping the chainstay at just 425 mm. How they’ve done this extends well beyond the single-ring-only frame and is unlike any other bike. I’ll return to it in more detail shortly.
That frame has the features you want to hear, such as an English threaded bottom bracket, a round seatpost (in a common 27.2 mm size), an external seat clamp, and a regular IS-standard headset. And, music to my ears: the geometry is designed specifically for 700C wheels fitted with larger off-road width tyres – there are no compromises for smaller wheels here.
Up front, there’s a choice between the company’s JAF 2nd Gen rigid fork or the Grit 3rd Gen suspension fork. To be transparent, we had requested to review the 400-gram-lighter and a few-hundred-dollars-cheaper rigid fork-equipped bike, but wires got crossed, time ran out, and so we only managed to review the suspended version. In the end, it proved a positive error.
That Grit 3 fork is claimed to weigh just 850 g, while a painted frame (medium size) tips the scales at a claimed 1,163 g. All told, our Weekend Warrior Wireless test bike weighed 9.08 kg (9.11 kg claimed) without bottle cages or pedals, and it got a smidge lighter when we ditched the inner tubes and finished the super easy tubeless setup.
Now 9 kg for a carbon gravel bike may not sound super light, but let me tell you another number: US$3,990 (a number so low that I can’t help but say it in a tone akin to what you’d hear on a late-night TV infomercial). That is the cost of our test bike (pre-shipping and potential taxes), which is almost amazingly race-ready with an SRAM Rival AXS XPLR groupset, E*thirteen alloy wheels, a combination of Lauf’s own carbon handlebar and FSA SL-K kit, and a well-padded Fizik Aliante R5 saddle.
But wait, there’s more. The bike also includes a SRAM Rival powermeter (one-sided). And don’t forget there’s that unique suspension fork up front which retails for US$990. Yep, the advantage to buying consumer-direct is blatantly obvious here.
Lauf of course has other models too, all of which share the same frame, choice in fork, cockpit components, and Maxxis Rambler 40 mm tubeless tyres. The Seigla range starts from just US$2,640 for the rigid-forked Weekend Warrior and tops out at US$6,900 for the Ultimate model (shipping and taxes excluded). At the entry level, you get a SRAM Rival 1 mechanical groupset (no powermeter) with matching hydraulic brakes, and what’s otherwise all the same equipment as the model reviewed. Meanwhile, those wanting the best on offer will find that Ultimate has a SRAM Red AXS XPLR groupset, a dual-sided SRAM AXS powermeter spider, and E*thirteen’s supremely light XCX Race Carbon hoops.
I said it in the video review of this bike, and I’ll say it again: the provided spec for the money with this bike is what you’d expect to find when a brand is trying to distract you from a mediocre or simply generic frameset. And the Seigla frameset is anything but generic.
It’s no small feat that Lauf has created clearance for 700 x 57 mm rubber all while keeping the chainstays at a 425 mm length and without dropping the chainstay. And the path taken to such clearance isn’t likely to be loved by all.
The most obvious compromise made is one related to gearing. Not unlike the Open WI.DE or BMC URS (which has far more limited clearance), the Seigla cannot be used with a front derailleur and so is destined to be matched with a wide-range cassette and suitable derailleur. The topic of 1x vs 2x has been covered to death, and it’s not one I’ll repeat here – but it remains an important consideration to make when picking a gravel race bike. Of course, Classified’s Powershift hub (currently in for review) may also present opportunities for even wider gearing without the need for a front derailleur.
Instead of dropping the driveside chainstay, Lauf sought to just simply make it thinner by using a 6 mm-thick carbon layup sandwich. It’s a surprisingly simple approach that, when compared to a dropped chainstay, aims to save weight and retain strength by keeping the tube paths straight.
The seat tube is also unusually relaxed in its angle as it arcs over that huge open space. It’s a design decision that Lauf says has the added benefit of placing the seatpost in a more flex-prone angle that then helps with seated ride comfort. The downside is an obviously slack seat tube that many will need to overcome by making full use of the zero setback seatpost and length of the saddle rails.
A look through the range will reveal only SRAM-equipped bikes on offer, and that’s partly because Lauf has equipped a somewhat unique version of SRAM’s DUB crankset with each bike. And that brings me to what I consider to be the most polarising compromise. Here the frame uses a 73 mm wide English threaded bottom bracket shell, the same shell you’ll commonly find on most mountain bikes. However Lauf isn’t using mountain bike cranks, and rather uses a wider axle format from SRAM that the company hopes others will follow.
It’s worth noting that the English threaded bottom bracket itself is as normal and standard as it gets. And it’s a similar story for the chainrings used. However future crankset replacements will require one with this somewhat unique longer spindle arrangement. You can fit an older pre-Boost mountain bike crank or a modular road crank that offers an axle that is 5 mm longer than usual (such as what Praxis, Easton, Rotor or Cane Creek may be able to provide), but currently, you cannot fit a Shimano GRX, off-the-shelf SRAM, or a Campagnolo Ekar crankset.
That wider bottom bracket also means the Q-factor (width between the cranks) is 5 mm wider than the norm. That’s just 2.5 mm on either side and wasn’t something that we found to be an obvious issue in our testing, but it’s still worth noting for the rare few who are hyper-sensitive to pedal stance width.
Meanwhile catering to such clearance at the front wheel seemingly presents far fewer compromises. Of course, the head tube length has been greatly shortened to accommodate the lengthened fork, but it doesn’t get any quirkier than that.
You’d think all that tyre clearance would leave plenty of room for fenders with smaller tyres, but no such option exists here. Lauf has kept this one pared back for the racers and as a result, there are no provisions of any kind for racks or fenders. Though of course, there are mounts for a bento bag on the top tube, capacity for three bottles, and plenty of room within the main triangle for a frame bag (at the expense of standover clearance).
The Seigla divided opinions in our test team, and seemingly so much of that came down to the fact that this bike isn’t quite as soft or smooth as you may expect; at least not at cruising speeds. However once it’s at speed, oh wow, does it like to stay there!
The combination of the Seigla’s Grit 3 fork and modern geometry sure had me pushing this bike harder than any other on test, and by a fair margin. The Grit 3 fork offers up to 30 mm of wheel travel via a series of glass-fibre composite leaf springs, and while you’ll almost surely never get that full 30 mm out of it, it still does enough to let the front wheel hold traction where a rigid fork would be skipping out of control while your arms flailed about as if you’re performing the chicken dance. And of course, that means your hands are also taking less of a beating.
Now, that Grit 3 fork is a somewhat odd duckling. On smooth tarmac it really just feels like you have a flat front tyre but without the vague handling that comes with that, and there’s no way to lock-out such a feeling. And it’s this feeling that perhaps sets you up to believe you’re in for a magic carpet-like ride — a ride that doesn’t wholly present once off-road. Keeping in mind this bike is made for racing, it’s easy to forgive the fact the fork does little at low speeds and increasingly more as your pace rises.
You’ll still feel the bumps when the terrain is rough, it’s just a little more subdued, controlled and willing you to go faster than you realise you’re going. The newly torsionally stiffened fork design means there’s no longer any unusual feeling when pushing the bike into rough corners. You’re simply treated to more traction without an obvious downside. And it’s this increased traction, not the comfort, where the Grit 3 offers a benefit over something like a Redshift or CaneCreek suspension stem.
I only recently returned BMC’s URS LT and the way its front suspension behaves remains fresh in my mind. The BMC’s 20 mm hydraulic-sprung suspension does better on the smooth chatter, while the Lauf Grit 3 feels lessy bouncy when climbing and far more controlled when pushed really hard (as noted in the review, the URS LT can get a little funky at times). It also doesn’t hurt that Lauf’s approach is significantly lighter and free of maintenance.
That subdued smoothness is less present at the back of the bike, and here the Seigla reminds you that it’s still a racing machine. All stiffness you could wish for is present when you stamp on the pedals, but that same stiffness is also there when you’re descending out of the saddle or grinding away up a rocky climb and feeling the terrain through the saddle. And on occasion, I felt a slight harshness that occasionally forced my bum from the saddle or caused the rear wheel to break traction.
“The bike should feel like a couch, but it doesn’t,” remarked CyclingTips head of tech James Huang of the ride he, too, found firmer than expected. Just don’t forget all that available tyre clearance waiting for you to add some real cush, and as I’ll return to, Lauf has since added a little more seated comfort compared to what we reviewed.
As mentioned earlier, our plans to also test the rigid fork version didn’t come to fruition. That said, I’d expect the rigid fork to be a closer match in comfort to the rear end, especially when you consider that Lauf’s own carbon handlebar is also assisting with the comfort at the palms.
Lauf’s approach to tilting the seatpost (72.7° seat angle on the size tested) does help to provide a little more flex when seated, but not nearly as much as we had initially expected based on the brand’s claims. The seated comfort was in a different category to the Giant Revolt with its flexible post or a Canyon with the superb VCLS 2.0 seatpost (also sold by Ergon). And as it turns out, Lauf has literally softened this issue by changing the bike to now come with an FSA carbon seatpost versus the noticeably rigid FSA alloy post equipped on our test bike.
OK, so the latest batches of the Seigla are certainly going to offer to be a touch more comfortable in the saddle than what we tested. However prior experience tells us that the now-specified FSA SL-K carbon post still isn’t a super comfy item and that more comfort (if desired) could be earned by swapping to a more flexible 27.2 mm item. Just be aware that introducing a highly flexible post to such a slack seat angle may introduce variance in your saddle height (imagine the post flexing with your pedalling motion).
That slackened seat tube angle is also something to pay attention to if you like to sit forward of the bottom bracket (as is increasingly common in mountain biking). It’s also worth noting that the more exposed seatpost you have, the more rearward you are, and that was the case for me. With the saddle slammed forward I was only just able to get an approximate 50 mm setback figure, enough to be comfortable, but that may not be enough for some (or even achievable with some saddles).
All five frame sizes on offer feature the same 70.5° head angle and 47 mm fork rake, something that creates a 77 mm trail figure with the stock 41 mm (measured size) tyres. These are well-proven numbers for conquering a variety of gravel-ish terrain, and the Seigla manages a nice balance of confident stability and easy reactivity.
It’s a bike I felt super comfortable just opening up, and the playful handling means you’re able to lightly work the bike through rough sections rather than being forced to roughly plough ahead – although it feels just fine doing that, too.
That geometry is something that stood out most to Velonews senior editor Betsy Welch.
“The suspension is nice, although that’s really not the selling point for me. I like the geometry – this is not a beginner’s bike. Rather it’s for someone who really rides a ton and likes to take their bike to unconventional places.”
It’s also worth noting that Betsy’s saddle height is a good 50 mm lower than mine, making the slack seat tube angle a non-issue.
From a fit perspective, the Seigla tends to run slightly big (as is common of many European brands) for a given size and sits tall in its standover height, too. We found Lauf’s recommended rider heights to be fairly accurate.
The positioning of the Seigla is more at the performance end without being overly aggressive. In this sense, those coming from a road bike or other performance-centric gravel bike will feel right at home (and can get quite aggressive in stem height), while those coming off a bikepacking bike or trail mountain bike will likely end up needing the generous stack of provided headset spacers and may even feel compelled to flip the stem upright.
Despite its quirks, the Seigla’s frame package stands strongly on its merit, making the value-packed build kit all the more remarkable.
As covered, the relatively low asking prices across the range are largely due to Lauf’s recent move to a consumer-direct business model. And that new business model means you’ll most likely receive the Seigla in a cardboard box like we did.
Our test sample arrived safely but with enough plastic bubble wrap and foam to safely move a TV and a complete dinner set. Lauf could take a leaf from the likes of Canyon who’ve taken great strides in even more secure, easier to unpack, and reusable packaging that also happens to be recyclable – although the unfortunate reality is that such packaging likely comes at a premium to a small brand like Lauf. (Update: Lauf has informed us that it is moving to paper-based packaging).
The build quality itself was pretty good but not excellent. The gears and brakes were aligned perfectly, but the same couldn’t be said for the stem. Meanwhile, Lauf provides a small torque tool to assist with installing the carbon handlebars and seatpost. And as mentioned, the bike also comes with pre-taped tubeless rims and valves in the box; you just need to bring your favourite sealant to the party.
That seatpost on our early production sample proved to be a little bit annoying. The common-sized external seatpost collar tended to work its way up the seat tube while it was tightened, so a hand was needed to keep it secure while tightening the bolt. And the seatpost continued to slip until I added a heap of carbon paste and torqued that clumsy seat clamp 1 Nm above the recommended maximum. The good news is that Lauf is well aware of the issue, and has seemingly remedied it.
“We have made a rolling change to Seigla seat clamps to improve their grab,” said Lauf Cycling’s Benedikt Skúlason. “[We] adjusted them slightly, reducing the seat clamp diameter for a tighter and better fit. For most bikes, the clamps were good, but when tolerances stacked against our favour some didn’t work as well as they should have. So, we adjusted.”
Even if Lauf hadn’t adjusted, the use of a standard round seatpost and clamp means there are plenty of aftermarket seat clamps and even seatpost clamp rings (the style that clamps around the seatpost to provide an additional layer of security) to solve such problems.
Sticking with the seatpost, the Seigla can accept a dropper post, although Lauf ideally wants it to be the new Reverb AXS XPLR version. In other words, wireless. A cable-operated dropper can be fitted on the assumption that the front cable port isn’t being used (all but the cheapest Seigla complete bikes keep this port unused), but there’s then a super weird expectation to drill a guiding hole so that the cable housing can get into the seat tube. Sure, drilling frames is fun and all, but it’s unclear why Lauf hasn’t just requested its contracted frame manufacturer do this modification from the get-go.
Lauf’s own Smoothie handlebar features across the full Seigla line-up, and it was unoffensive in all the right ways. The unusually back-swept but longer reach bar is designed to smooth the ride; something it does, just only subtly. Meanwhile, the compact shape, 16° flare drops, and sharp bend that earns more width across the tops, all proved to be comfortable without complaint from any of the testers. And at 250 grams, it’s a far nicer bar than you’d normally find on bikes of this price.
The rolling stock of this bike is commendable, just a little heavy. Those E*thirteen XCX Aluminium hoops offer a good tubeless fitment, a modern 24 mm internal width, easily serviceable hubs, and common spokes. However, they also tip the scales at over 1,800 grams, so there is room for improvement. Meanwhile, the provided Maxxis Ramblers are one of my favourite all-around gravel treads and offer a healthy middle-ground between rolling speed and traction in the rough stuff.
Of course tyres should be high on your list for parts to customise for your local terrain or event pursuits. The provided 40 mm width is good for riding a mix of road, smoother gravel, and a bit of under-biking, but is also a touch small for just how capable this bike is. Those 40s with some tyre inserts, or a set of 45s would only open this bike up more, and of course there’s plentiful room to grow the air volume from there. This is one bike that won’t be getting dated as a result of its available tyre clearance.
However, I do have a single warning related to that tyre clearance: toe overlap. Those stock tyres cleared the edges of my shoes just fine, but that gap is sure to narrow as your tyre grows. And that’s just something to be aware of on the smaller frame sizes because the only situations where you’ll want to make full use of the available tyre clearance and where you’ll also want the freedom to swing your front wheel in whichever direction you choose.
And then we come to the SRAM Rival AXS XPLR groupset. It functions just like the more expensive Force and Red options, it just weighs more. In this sense, the hydraulic brakes offer a confident amount of power balanced with easily controllable modulation. The wireless shift action, controlled with the separate left and right shifters, is reliable in its task. And that power meter – it may only be one-sided, but at this price, it’s a wonderful addition.
The only gearing-related complaint is of the overall range, with the 10-44T XPLR 12-speed cassette and 42T chainring leaving both James and me hunting for a slightly lower gear on steep and loose rocky climbs and as our fitness failed. However, much like tyre choice, single-ring gearing selection is hugely dependent on where you live and your riding ambitions, and so Lauf’s selected range may be ideal for you – as it was for Betsy.
And if you’re a beast like Kiel Reijnen, who races on the same cassette range but with a 48T chainring up front, it may even be too low. And on the flipside of that, it’s almost surely going to be too tall for those looking to explore with big tyres. Thankfully in most cases, a simple chainring swap should suffice, while a move to an Eagle rear derailleur and 10-50/52T cassette is also an option with SRAM’s AXS system.
Given the fast and fun ride, plus the sheer amount of bike on offer here for the asking dollar, I would indeed buy one myself (if I were in the market for a go-fast gravel bike). Despite its quirks, the Lauf Seigla is one of the most enjoyable off-road-leaning gravel bikes I’ve ridden in recent memory and it’ll offer a competitive advantage when the going gets rough. It just does so many things right, and it even manages to do a number of things better.
And I’m not alone in this opinion. “For the gravel rider I am now (occasional race, all-day adventure, multi-terrain linkups), this is probably the bike I would choose,” said Betsy. “It’s capable of all of the above, and the ride quality is superb.”
If it were my own, I’d be looking to take better advantage of its off-road prowess. I’d add some tyre inserts, change out the seat clamp to something more sturdy-feeling, and perhaps soften the gearing for conquering technical steeps. My biggest hesitation is simply related to the fact you’ll get asked a whole lot of questions about this intriguing race machine.