The not-so-minor details
Morewood Zula 27.5
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Firm and efficient ride
Cockpit and adjustable post allows some fun and reckless riding
Single pivot simplicity
Rear shock compression mode too firm for anything more than the smoothest trails
Riding this single pivot, aluminium, 100mm travel bike was a refreshing experience, like it would be to ditch your iPhone and revert back to an old Nokia 5165 for a week. The Zula to us was a fun ride, and a whiz bang technology detox.
The simple, no-fuss nature of the Morewood Zula was the overarching element that captured us during our test. We couldn’t get the idea out of our heads that we are just too lucky these days, the fancy 150mm bikes we love are just so good that the trails are becoming too easy, we often feel a little isolated as we pedal along with all the bells and whistles of the latest kit.
So what happens when you grab a short travel bike with great trail geometry, plush suspension, and a confident cockpit? You get a bike that rides efficiently, confidently and feels bloody quick, like you’ve hit fast forward from the back seat.
Morewood, the South African frame builders with a rich heritage in downhill racing and trail riding, craft fine aluminium bikes with a emphasis on single pivot suspension designs. (Although recently a couple new models have appeared in the range using a linkage driven suspension system). When it comes to brands that utilise single pivot designs, they often seem to have a devoted following of fans that appreciate the benefits of simplicity.
There is just one point connecting the rear end to the front end, one set of bearings and one set of hardware to tie it all together. There is no heralded vertical wheel path, no fancy rearward part of the travel, no wild claims of suspension curves from a plethora of unique linkages; the rear wheel will simply follow one simple arc. How can this be a good thing? Well, if simplicity appeals to you, this bike will too.
SPI Lite (stable pivot interface) is Morewood’s take on using a big oversize axle and just two cartridge bearings as the pivot. The axle threads into itself, eliminating the need for any more fixing hardware or pinch bolts around it to fatten into place.
The frame’s finish and graphics are super smart, although to be fair we’ve seen neater welds on some of the original South African built Morewoods in the past. There’s no new-school internal cable routing here, nor provisions for an internally actuated dropper post, but it’s still a very clean and well-thought out frame nonetheless.
The aluminium framed bike rolls on 27.5″/650B wheels, and our test bike came fitted with a RockShox Revelation fork at 120mm of travel to slacken it off slightly. Out the back a Syntace X12 rear hub axle is a nice touch, with the flush axle removed with just one allen key. Water bottle mounts are also a good feature, rounding out this great looking bike.
Morewood, being quite the boutique brand, are more the frame builder type than a supplier of complete bikes, so that is where the Aussie distributor Pushie step in offering the Zula as a frame or a complete bike. You’ll find an Aussie specced Morewood using many of Pushie’s brands that they offer Australian distribution for, such as Loaded for the cockpit components and wheels, a cSIXX chain guide, and the well-loved KS LEV adjustable post.
We swapped the handlebar in favour for one with greater sweep (rearward bend), and converted the wheels to tubeless via the simple, snap-in style Bontrager tubeless rim strip and a dash of Stans sealant. Otherwise all the spec was most excellent, especially the Shimano XT brakes and the LEV seat post.
The use of a 120mm fork helped slacken off the angles, but the more cross country race oriented rider may prefer to stick with 100mm front and back for a razor sharp climber and singletrack sprinter.
A FOX RP2 rear shock is certainly a simple unit, with two modes of compression adjustable via the easily reached magic little blue switch. The two modes did feel so very different to each other, far apart in their tune type. The locked mode was super firm, whilst the open setting was a bit too wallowy at times, perhaps a custom tune for the shock may be a good upgrade down the track.
What we loved most about the way this bike rode was how fast everything felt, and that feeling of speed was only heightened by the fact that we felt confident to push the bike harder and stay off the brakes, but with only 100/120mm of travel we were seriously engaged with the terrain. The suspension may be small in quantity, but it makes up for it with it in quality.
The Zula is super keen to rail a turn, the low bottom bracket and short rear end help to let the rider tip the bike down onto the side of the tyres, biting in to the dirt and holding a tight line without wavering.
The Zula is a confident and entertaining trail bike, capable of pulling out of the other side of a fast section of technical trail without throwing the rider off, but at the same time giving an exciting ride.
100mm of rear travel is as lean as bikes come these days, mated with a 120mm fork the Zula doesn’t bounce and float across the ground like longer travel bikes do, rather it takes the sting out of the trail just right. Stomping on the pedals exhibits just what short travel bikes do best, jump forward with almost hardtail-like efficiency. We found the FOX shock’s Propedal setting to be a bit too firm for our liking, only using it on the smoothest of climbs, wishing it to be slightly lighter to be used in more situations off road.
A sturdy and playful bike like this with short travel can be a great accompaniment to a bigger enduro bike as a training tool. Or if your trails are tight, twisty and not too rough the Zula’s stout frame and poppy nature will be a great option.
Think of what the old ‘hardcore hardtails’ were like to ride with burly ling travel forks and tough components on rigid frames, they were responsive and exciting but capable in the right hands. We got that same vibe riding the Zula.
It’s not going to win over the more serious weight weenies, but on the flip side it will appeal to the aluminium fans amongst us. But in the end, if you love single pivot bikes for all the right reasons, or dig Morewood’s heritage and image, you won’t be disappointed in how it handles the singletrack.