Frame: 2010 Morewood Makulu, size “long” – 24″ top tube
Intended Use: DH Race
Rider: 6’2”, 205 lbs., athletic, technically proficient, modestly fast and relatively fluid.
Geometry Chart: Morewood Makulu frame
CURRENT PART SPEC:
2010 AVALANCHE WOODIE REAR SHOCK, 10.5 X 3.5, 250 LB TI SPRING
E13 SRS+ CHAINGUIDE
CANE CREEK 100 REDUCER HEADSET
2010 MARZOCCHI 888 EVO TI FORK, STOCK TI SPRING, CUSTOM VALVE
RACEFACE ATLAS FR HANDLEBARS, UNCUT
ODI RUFFIAN LOCKON GRIPS
FORMULA THE ONE BRAKES, 203MM F & R
2010 SHIMANO XTR REAR SHIFTER
SHIMANO SAINT REAR DERAILLEUR, SHORT CAGE
SHIMANO ULTEGRA 6500 9SPD 11-23 CASSETTE
SHIMANO HG93 CHAIN
2011 SHIMANO XTR TRAIL M985 PEDALS
DEITY TIBIA SEATPOST, 30.9 SHIM
WTB SILVERADO TEAM SADDLE
2011 FULCRUM RED FIRE UST WHEELSET, 20MM FRONT, 150MM X 12MM REAR
MAXXIS MINION DHF 2.7 3C TIRES, TUBELESS WITH STANS SEALANT
Test Location: Colorado Front Range. Steep, fast, rough, rocky trails, with plenty of small and large jumps. Generally rode in dry, dusty, loose over hardpack, pebbly terrain, but this spring has been full of melting snow and tacky awesomeness, mixed with muck and mud.
Duration of test: 50+ days of riding.
The Morewood Makulu debuted in the summer/fall of 2009 with a ton of hype and Internet speculation. Top riders raced it on the world cup over the 2009 summer season, but not a lot of real world feedback has come out on this bike over the last year. So here’s my take.
This bike was built with a top end build kit of proven downhill parts (Saint drivetrain, E13 srs+ chainguide, Formula THE ONE brakes, Avalanche Downhill Racing Woodie rear shock, Marzocchi 888 evo fork, DT 440 / Mavic 729 wheelset, Maxxis Minion DHF tires + tubes), and comes in at a respectable 38.5 pounds.
Fit: The 2010 version of the Makulu features a two-size scheme, Short and Long. The Long size is built with a 24″ top tube, which at 6’2” I find to fit me perfectly. For 2011, the Makulu has gone to a three-size scheme of Small, Medium, and Large. With the 24″ top tube, I find I keep just enough weight on the front wheel for it to stay planted in the dirt, with a nice, balanced feel through my feet. I could not ask for a more comfortable cockpit. The stack and reach are exactly what I am looking for, everything is spot on.
Suspension: The Morewood Makulu breaks the norm slightly by designing the frame around a lower leverage ratio (2.28:1) compared to most 8″ travel frames (2.67:1). This low leverage ratio dictates that the frame uses a longer than normal stroke shock (10.5 x 3.5) and quite a low spring weight (250# spring for a 205# rider). All of these details add up to the Morewood requiring a custom-valved shock to correctly compliment the bike. You can order the bike with a stock low leverage ratio Fox RC4, and to be honest, that shock simply does not do this bike justice.
I have also ridden the bike with a BOS S*toy for a few runs, and currently run an Avalanche Downhill Racing Woodie rear shock. Both the BOS and Avalanche rear shocks take the plush, smooth, responsive and active ride of the Morewood to a whole new level. I would strongly suggest something along these lines (or perhaps an X-fusion Vector HLR or Cane Creek Double Barrel) and not bother with the Fox RC4. The Makulu has been optimized to run 40% sag on the rear, as it is quite progressive in the final quarter of the travel. This relatively high amount of sag – coupled with the custom rear shocks – is still able to deliver a great pedaling platform and a very responsive rear end, but is also able to really tune out the chatter from the trail and smooth what would normally produce deflection and bouncing on a bike with 33% sag. In all, the Makulu delivers a very rare suspension feel that is exceptionally smooth and plush, but is still very active, responsive, and engaged. I could not be more pleased with the overall quality of suspension that results from either of the custom valved shocks.
Geometry: When looking at the Morewood Makulu on paper, the geometry specifications look a bit traditional and uninspired: 14″ bottom bracket height and 65 degree head-angle. But that only seems traditional if you fail to keep in mind the unique suspension design of the Makulu, and that it has been optimized around a 40% sag. With the increased sag, the bike feels more comparable to a bike built around, say, a 63.5 degree head-angle, a 13.6″ bottom bracket, and a 33-35% sag.
On trail, the Makulu rides very much like a sleek, modern, long and low race bike. This geometry is complimented by a 17.5″ static chain stay length, with a main pivot location that allows for a modest amount of chain stay growth into the travel. The bike is exceptionally stable and confidence inspiring at speed. The bike simply feels perfectly dialed and immaculately designed. While it does not have all of the fancy adjustable bits of a Commencal Supreme DH, for example (you can find my review of the Supreme DHv2 here), I just don’t feel they are needed on this bike. The Makulu feels perfect straight lining through chundery / sketchy rocks, it feels perfect working its way through jump lines and buffed out berms, it just feels perfect all of the time. If it had adjustable geometry, I would find what the bike is set at now, and never adjust it again.
Trail Feel and Braking: The Morewood Makulu suspension and geometry is all designed to offer a neutral, responsive and smooth riding experience, and the braking performance echoes this. Because of this feel, you can really open the bike up and stay off the brakes in a much more confidence inspiring manner than most DH bikes on the market. And if you do get over your head, the bike quickly and efficiently sheds speed without pitching the bike forward or firming the suspension.
Finish: My 2010 Morewood Makulu has proven to be painted in an exceptionally durable manner. After 40+ days of shuttling in the back of pickup trucks, the paint shows some wear certainly, but is for sure no worse for the wear. The decals, however, were applied in 2010 above the clear coat, and are getting rather haggard. For 2011, the decals are now under the paint and should offer a nice, long lifespan. Aesthetically, the bike is a true eye catcher, even in the black with subtle red, gold and white highlights. It’s a classically styled bike with modern flair.
Summary: I kept putting off writing this review because I kept looking for something that I didn’t love about this bike. But I just really didn’t ever seem to find it. Other than the bike under-performing and feeling rather “ho-hum” with a Fox RC4 (and fortunately, the frames can be purchased with just about any shock on them), I honestly have nothing bad to say, other than the random, cosmetic nit-picking that Morewood already addressed for 2011.
The Morewood Makulu proves that you don’t need a complicated swing link bike to deliver an exceptionally plush, responsive, reactive, and efficient ride. I would strongly recommend this frame to any and all downhill riders who appreciate the simplicity and durability that single pivot bikes offer.