Stif Morf XT Bike Review
November 9th, 2016
Product Full Name | Stif Cycles Morf XT Bike
Retail Price | £1999 (frame only £499)
Available From | Stif Performance Mountain Bikes
Stif Morf XT Bike – UK designed Hardtail Shredder
Back in the eighties, a Windsurfing shop called Stif Sailboards started selling the mountain bikes that top windsurfers kept seeing overseas.
Bit by bit, the sail boards started moving aside as mountain biking in the UK boomed – and Stif made the move to become a dedicated MTB specialist. Many products that we see today were championed by Stif in the early days – like the Camelbak that so many chortled at.
With 30years experience in the mountain bike scene, the Stif team joined forces with renowned frame designer Brant Richards to produce the Stif Morf hardtail frame – which takes it’s name from company founder Paul Morphet.
The Stif Morf is an aggressive trail hard tail frame made from 4130 chromoly, and designed for 27.5in wheels.
The frame is offered in 3 sizes – short, medium and long – and features aggressive geometry designed to tackle technical climbs as enthusiastically as flat out descents.
Our size medium demo bike weighed in just under 13.5kg/29.7lbs with pedals on – though certainly feels lighter when you saddle up.
Up front there is a 65degree head angle designed around a 130mm Rockshox Pike – we like this as fork dive doesn’t affect the geometry as much as longer forks.
Top tube length is roomy on all three bikes – ours had a 630mm effective length and a 435mm reach – and is designed around a 35mm stem for a stable ride with responsive handling.
Out back a tight 420mm chainstay makes for an agile feel; and heavily ovalised seat stays add compliance to what could be a harsh ride if the back end was too stiff. An internally mounted 180mm rear disc mount is neat and stays out of harms way – and looks great along with the neat 142mm bolt on drop outs.
The complete bike has a very well considered spec, based on a Shimano XT 11speed transmission. Hope hubs laced on WTB rims with Maxxis Minion DHF show the intention of the bike, and Burgtec bars; stem; grips and a saddle make for a nice UK finishing package.
The Stif Morf frame comes with a 3 year warranty, and a 5 year crash replacement pricing scheme too.
Everywhere you look on the Stif Morf, you see nice detailing that has been thought about – from the butted tubing and external transfer plate gussets to the simple cable guides and internal dropper post routing.
Our favourite part of the Stif Morf is the chainstay bridge – which is shaped like the end of a 12 bore shot gun. This allows for adequate clearance with a tight back end and keeps a nice bit of Yorkshire about the bike.
Out on The Trail
When I swung my leg over the cross bar for the first time I felt instantly at home on the Stif Morf – although it’s a hardtail, it has a familiar feel that I normally associate with full suspension bikes.
A blast around a local disused Bath stone quarry, got me acquainted the second I dropped the saddle – it normally takes me a couple of rides to get in sync with a new bike, so I knew I was going to get on with the Morf.
As expected the short back end means the bike has that point and shoot feel to it, but unlike the harsh feel of other hard tails I’ve ridden, the Morf feels a lot more settled off road.
Without even considering I was on a hard tail I found myself gunning it down a short technical downhill line, that needs some cranking to get up to speed.
Pedalling on a hard tail is something you have to think about as the bike can skip about as the back end bounces off the ground. But the Stif Morf feels surprisingly planted – there is a definite ‘give’ to the ride that really helps this, and it’s way more forgiving than many hard tails I’ve ridden.
Once pointed downhill, the long front end and combo of short stem with classic Burgtec Ride Wide bars makes the bike want to charge. The stiff wheels, wide rims and burly Maxxis Minion DHF tyres definitely help too – and sharp Shimano XT brakes with 180mm rotors are ample for speed control.
The Morf isn’t just designed to smash it down hills though – it handles exceptionally well on all elements of a typical trail ride. Undulating single track can be hammered in the saddle thanks to the forgiving ride, and the steep seat angle puts you in a great position for climbing. I did think I’d end up wheel-spinning on steeper stuff, but the combo of the tight back end and the steel frame really helped.
During the testing period I never wanted to switch to my usual full susser – even on the rootiest rides that scare many hard tails, the Morf just wanted more. I genuinely miss this bike already!
Whilst full suspension bikes will always cover ground better than a hard tail, there’s still something very pure about a good hard tail.
The Stif Morf is very simple; well designed and rides excellently. The very compact back end gives the frame all the playful pop you could want, but those flattened oval stays really tame the handling. There’s no harsh pin-balling on the Morf – just great point and shoot off road handling that rewards what you put in.
The Stif boys have nailed it with this frame – it’s really well balanced, has a great spec and most importantly it rides excellently out on the trails it was designed for.
Whilst the £2K build offers a very good spec with plenty of UK components, the £500 frame price is very enticing for those looking to build a second bike. The Stif Morf would make a perfect winter thrasher – there’s no issues with mud clearance and the handling is on point.