The bike tests are flying thick and fast this week … I don’t know if it’s chance or design but each bike seems to be heavily aimed at smiles rather than miles. All are designed to put a grin on your face rather than to beat a clock. Maybe it’s a sign of the times? Jim’s Orange Four, Joel’s Marin Nail Trail and Jamie’s DMR Trailstar have all been fun to ride, tough, reliable and aimed at razzing, not racing. We like that a lot. It’s where we’re at now the race season is over and autumn is here.
Today’s bike is Ollie’s Stif Morf. British born, tough, dripping with great kit and very, very fun to ride. Read on …
3 months in: the Stif Morf long term review.
Review by Olly Morris / photos by Jacob Gibbins
Need to know:
Designed in partnership with Brant Richards
65d head angle, built around 130mm fork
4130 chromo tubing
clearance for up to 2.4″ tyres with 32t chain ring
Stealth dropper routing, bottle bosses and ISCG03
142 x 12mm rear axle.
I’ve just got in from an evening ride on Stif Morf. When I say ‘evening ride’, I mean a piss around in the streets and through my local park. I didn’t have much time so was only out for 45 minutes but had a smile on my face the whole time. I am 31 years old and devote my life to racing DH which I love. Taking it so seriously, I often miss the ‘play’ part of riding. The sort of riding you did when you were 14, wheelies, cutties, stoppies, I even tried a few 180 hops. Not clipped in. It felt great.
Why have I started a review of the Morf in this way? Well, I feel that my 45 minute ride is what the Morf is all about… Being playful on a mountain bike.
I’ve had the bike a few months now and have to say I didn’t jump on it and feel great. One of the first rides I did was on a rocky track and after not riding a hardtail (for anything other than dirt jumps) in over 10 years, I felt a little clueless. I found I was bouncing off everything but a friend said ‘you just need to find the Zen’. So I took a few steps back to try and find whatever that is.
Morf by name Morph by nature
Since that day, I’ve ridden it at the BMX track, dirt jumps, a trail centre, some local single track and now playing around near my house. That shows you the versatility of the bike, if it was the only bike you owned, you could pretty much turn up anywhere and have some fun on it. No it’s not the fastest bike round the BMX track, no it’s not the smoothest bike on the DH’s and no it’s not the most nimble bike on the dirt jumps but you can guarantee you will be smiling when you ride it and that it can more than do the job in all of those disciplines. Not everyone can have three different bikes!
So I guess it is Morf by name and morph by nature, it really can mould into anything you want it to be.
Long on the front
As mentioned in the first look, the Morf is short on the back (420mm chainstays), nice and long on the front (425mm, 435mm, 455mm reach) and has a super slack head angle (65d with a 130mm fork). This ticks all the right boxes in terms of the customer requests and is just what I am after in a bike. But how does this geometry translate to actually riding the bike?
It’s short on the back. If you want a playful bike, it needs to be short at the back and this bike feels playful (even with the super long front end). It makes it easy to pop into a manual and super fun in the turns. Just drop those heels and lean it in. I normally ride clipped in but have been enjoying flats on the Morf to make playing around even easier.
And it’s long on the front. On the dirt jumps the bike feels really stable in the air. A bit more like jumping a DH bike. It didn’t feel like a short dirt jump bike where you were pointing the nose into a steep landing. It felt slower in the air and very controlled. If you are newer to jumping, this would be perfect for you as it doesn’t do anything unusual meaning you can trust the bike will stay level.
The long front was also great for DH sections as there is plenty of room to move around and it makes you forget (sometimes) that you are on a hard tail as the front end feels a similar length to a full suss trail bike.
The long front also makes climbing comfortable. I personally don’t like the bars to be on my lap when climbing so it suited me. The only thing I noticed when climbing is the fact the back end bounced around a little more than I am used to as there was no suspension to suck up the small bumps.
And it has a slack, 65d head angle. This took me a little longer to get used to. As you may well know, the head angle on a hardtail actually gets steeper when the forks compress. In effect the bike is pivoting on the rear axle rather than like on a full sus bike where the suspension stays balanced. So at first I felt like the front wheel was tucking when I was cornering.
To overcome this, I have set up the Rockshox pike forks quite hard and that has really helped remove the feeling of the bike diving when you don’t want it to. Now I am used to the head angle, I think it is a great idea to have it slack. It is the main thing that differentiates this bike from a more conventional, steeper angled hard tail. It’s the thing that gives it aggression and the ability to ride the bike at high speeds without it feeling twitchy.
Long travel ride, short travel bike.
The best way to look at this bike is that it basically has the parts and geometry that you’d typically find on a 160mm trail bike but instead of a bouncy frame they chuck a steel hardtail frame in there.
Every bike has a certain noise and rattle to it but the difference with this is that noise doesn’t get worse. On a full bouncer you need to spend time maintaining pivots but on this you can pretty much ride it and leave it. The frame will just do its thing and the kit is tough and dependable enough to last.
I have a 160mm trail bike but I’ve found I’m more likely to take this bike out if I have less time, if I know I may not be able to wash it after or if I just want to go and have a play around.
The £2000 price tag puts the Morf firmly in the ‘premium’ hardtail camp – but it’s by no means the priciest of its kind out there.
What I really like is the fact that Stif have chosen quality, reliable and where possible even British parts such as Burgtec and Hope. Nice work Stif.
Another nice touch is that it comes set up with tubeless. Keeping with the times. Other than set up, I haven’t had to touch the bike. It turns up ready to do what you want it to do … ride!
Nothing obvious. The chain line in first gear isn’t perfect, I think that’s why they have that cut out section to the chainstay to improve this. Then again with these large 40 something tooth cassettes we now use that is understandable. Otherwise, nothing whatsoever!
The bike I have is yellow. They also do a grey one if you prefer a more conservative look.
Since the Morf turned up it hasn’t skipped a beat … mainly because there’s nothing to actually to go wrong. It’s simple, tough, reliable and the kit that it comes with gives it a really top-end, very cool, British feel. If you want a bike that is a cracking spec, low maintenance and bang on current geometry then you’d do well to check this out.