Review: Stif Morf

by
May 2, 2017

stif morf hardtail bikepark wales david hayward steel hardtail

How different is the Stif Morf from every other steel hardtail? David Hayward investigates with his longterm review of the Morf

Brand:
Stif
Product:
Morf
From:
Stif, stif.co.uk
Price:
Frame: £499, Complete Bike: £2199
Tested:
by David Hayward for 5 months

In Issue #110 of Singletrack Magazine, David Hayward delivered us his review of the brilliant Stif Morf

After discovering the joys of full carbon, full bounce machines, I’d fallen out of love with long travel steel hardtails. They were arguably invented here in Yorkshire, and they do make sense in a place where winter is made from component-destroying gritstone paste, the ground often vertical and the rain horizontal. As the nights draw in, my mind turns back to mechanically simpler bikes less vulnerable to weather, and for the past few months, the Morf has been reminding me how good they can be.

stif morf hardtail bikepark wales david hayward steel hardtail
The Morf is the first mountain bike to come from UK company Stif.
stif morf hardtail bikepark wales david hayward steel hardtail
Designed with assistance from Brant Richards of On One frame, the Morf is designed as a do-it-all British trail hardtail.

The temptation when building a bike like this is to go for the longest fork possible, the result generally being an invincible feeling front end tethered to a manic arse. That kind of riding can be fun, but instead of the cartoony or barely controllable feel of some bikes when you let them loose, the Morf gets there in a remarkably balanced way with a 130mm fork.

stif morf hardtail bikepark wales david hayward steel hardtail
The Morf is handbuilt in Taiwan from 4130 cromoly steel.
stif morf hardtail bikepark wales david hayward steel hardtail
The Morf is equipped for a 130mm travel fork.

The Bike

The frame is 4130 cromo, with ovalised stays and top tube to give it a bit of flex. The stays look delicate but terminate at sturdy, 142mm thru-axle dropouts. It’s 1x specific, and sizing is short, medium, long. Even the short is relatively long (24.2in ETT and 425mm reach) and extremely low slung, with the upper tubes drawing an almost straight line from head tube to rear axle. That leaves a lot of seatpost showing, and a quick measure from cable port to seat showed I could probably run a 170mm dropper.

stif morf hardtail bikepark wales david hayward steel hardtail
Nice welded gussets to support the head tube junction.
stif morf hardtail bikepark wales david hayward steel hardtail
The seat tube on the Morf is very stubby. Out 150mm KS LEV dropper post had enough spare room that a 170mm travel dropper would be a welcome addition.

A 42mm bottom bracket drop makes the bike feel super-stable, and despite that it doesn’t pedal strike much either. The headtube junctions are graced with subtle gussets, which like many features of this frame are just there enough to make it feel burly without pushing it into Russian tank territory.

stif morf hardtail bikepark wales david hayward steel hardtail
Bolt-on dropout chips for the 142x12mm Maxle.
stif morf hardtail bikepark wales david hayward steel hardtail
The rear brake calliper is tucked neatly inside the rear triangle. Adjustment is a little trickier, but not impossible.

The brake is tucked neatly inside the stays, as designer Brant Richards has done on a few of his frames before. The oval cross section is oriented horizontally on the seatstays, vertically on the chainstays. There’s probably all sorts of potential waffle about stiffness, compliance, etc., but I run tyres so soft I can’t say I noticed this specifically. Also, the patience of friends on the trail runs remarkably thin when you whip out the dial test gauges. It’s a pleasant feeling ride though, up and down.

stif morf hardtail bikepark wales david hayward steel hardtail
Full external routing for the rear derailleur and brake hose, while the dropper post cable enters into the base of the seat tube for those running a stealth dropper post.
stif morf hardtail bikepark wales david hayward steel hardtail
Clever chainstay yoke allows for clearance for 27.5×2.4in rubber.

Another Brant thing is external cable routing, with bosses on the downtube and chainstays. The only concession to internal routing at all is a port in the seat tube for the dropper post. Downtube routing always makes me wary of rock strikes, though none took anything out on the Morf while I was riding it.

stif morf hardtail bikepark wales david hayward steel hardtail
The Burgtec cockpit is beautifully finished with an 800mm wide riser bar.
stif morf hardtail bikepark wales david hayward steel hardtail
Each Morf frame size is built around a 35mm stem length.
stif morf hardtail bikepark wales david hayward steel hardtail
Shimano delivers braking and shifting with a Deore XT 1×11 drivetrain and M8000 brakes.

The Burgtec finishing kit is solid and lends to a quality build, with 800mm bars, 35mm stem, and a saddle that looks flatter than it feels. It also has XT M8000 1×11, Hope Pro 4 hubs laced to 25mm internal width WTB rims, and a 150mm KS Lev Integra dropper complete with Southpaw remote. In all, there’s no componentry on it that screams to be upgraded; everything is well chosen and it even arrived tubeless.

stif morf hardtail bikepark wales david hayward steel hardtail
2.3in wide Maxxis Minion tyres, with a 3C EXO casing up front, and a dual-compound EXO version out back.
stif morf hardtail bikepark wales david hayward steel hardtail
Braking power with the 180mm rotors is excellent, though heavier riders may long for four-pot stoppers.

The tyres are the only thing I’ll pick on: Maxxis Minion DHF front and back seem a weird choice for UK conditions, particularly when riders here tend to use hardtails as winter bikes. They don’t shed mud brilliantly, and are infuriatingly draggy on grass climbs. They weren’t so inconvenient I couldn’t bear to keep them on for the test, but if I bought a Morf they’d be the first thing I changed. I might throw four pot brakes on too, but that’s very much personal preference and the 180/180mm XT brakes did just fine.

stif morf hardtail bikepark wales david hayward steel hardtail
The Morf combines a high quality frameset with sorted geometry to deliver exceptional handling.

The Ride

The first ride felt harsh, until I found our review bike had shipped with two bottomless tokens in the fork, so I took one out. I did also put rim protection in the back, after destroying a tyre jumping like an idiot. Apart from that, I left everything at spec for the entire test.

stif morf hardtail bikepark wales david hayward steel hardtail
With chunky 2.3in tyres and the RockShox Pike fork, the Morf is surprisingly comfortable for a hardtail.

I’m not the kind of person who pores over geometry diagrams before riding a bike. After a few months on the Morf, I went back to the spec sheet and was surprised to see it has a relatively conservative 130mm Pike up front. I’d been assuming it was slightly longer, and the Morf did nothing to disillusion me. Coupled with the slack 65° head angle and short chainstays, it’ll happily fly down most descents, and feels like more bike than it looks on paper.

stif morf hardtail bikepark wales david hayward steel hardtail
Excellent chain retention from the Shimano narrow-wide chainring.
stif morf hardtail bikepark wales david hayward steel hardtail
The 1×11 shifting was flawless, though an 11-46t cassette would be preferable for riding steeper and longer climbs.

Overall

Avoiding cartoony extremes, the Stif Morf is a good all-rounder with a slight bias to descending. The low-slung frame begs you to slam the seat, and when you do, this bike rips. I’m slightly embarrassed that I’ve built worse-riding hardtails than this, with cheaper frames, for more money. The Morf is a lovely refinement that, while pushing modern geometry, doesn’t overcook it.

stif morf hardtail bikepark wales david hayward steel hardtail
The Morf is a brilliant piece of kit that’s available as either a standalone frame or as a complete bike.

Stif Morf XT Build Specifications

  • Frame // 4130 cromoly steel tubing
  • Fork // RockShox Pike RC, 130mm Travel
  • Hubs // Hope Pro4, 100x15mm Front & 142x12mm Rear
  • Rims // WTB Frequency Team i25, Tubeless Ready
  • Tyres // Maxxis Minion DHF 3C EXO 2.3in Front & Minion DHF EXO 2.3in Rear
  • Chainset // Shimano Deore XT, 32t Direct Mount Chainring
  • Front Mech // N/A
  • Rear Mech // Shimano Deore XT, 11-Speed
  • Shifters // Shimano Deore XT, 11-Speed
  • Cassette // Shimano Deore XT, 11-42t, 11-Speed
  • Brakes // Shimano Deore XT, 180mm Front & Rear
  • Stem // Burgtec Enduro MK2, 35mm Long
  • Bars // Burgtec RideWide, 800mm Wide, 30mm Rise
  • Grips // Burgtec Lock-On
  • Seatpost // KS LEV Si, 30.9mm, 150mm Travel, Southpaw Lever
  • Saddle // Burgtec The Cloud
  • Size Tested // Medium
  • Sizes available // Short, Medium, Long

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