First Ride: Morewood Mbuzi £1150

Tough single pivot

BikeRadar score 4/5

Going up against single pivot swingarm legends like the Santa Cruz Bullit and the Orange Patriot is tough, but the Morewood Mbuzi has enough going on to put it in the running.

This South African all-rounder has a downhill heritage but careful design and detailing makes it a versatile, rock-solid playbike.

Ride & handling: playful & ready for anything

The best thing about the Mbuzi’s ride is that it just doesn’t care where you take it or what you do with it. The head angle is slack enough to stop it feeling like a shopping trolley at speed and the seat angle puts you far enough forward to keep the front anchored.

While it’s relatively compact in wheelbase terms (at 109cm), there’s more than enough out back to stop it fishtailing badly while braking. ‘Really well balanced’ is the term we’re looking for.

Compared to linkage bikes, it won’t trump the smoothest or stickiest ground connection, particularly under hard acceleration or braking. But the swingarm’s intuitive ‘stand up firm and sit down soft’ character gives you continual trail communication.

It also lets you squeeze and pop the bike around between your legs, making for a really agile ride. Then flick the pro pedal lever and it’ll stomp up climbs quite well for a bike of this bulk and ballistic capability.

Come uphill or down, the Mbuzi is playful and wants to please – whatever you feel like doing. Compare it to the obvious competition and it doesn’t demand a long, heavy fork like the cheaper Bullit, or make the racket of the soundbox swingarm on the more expensive Patriot.

It’s a worthy alternative to stick on the recommended playlist.

Frame: tough, simple & well detailed

Built by three-time South African national downhill champion and one-time jeweller Patrick Morewood, this all-rounder mixes pure speed with diamond-hard detail.

There’s no swoopy stuff here, just locally mined and sourced South African alloy formed into a big square section down tube and seatstays, a round top and seat tube and CNC-machined head tube, bottom bracket, swingarm front, dropouts, rear hanger and shock mounts.

Gorgeous welds and gussets keep it all together – even when you lose it – while the bolt-through rear axle limits twang to perfectly acceptable levels.

The forward-facing seat slot, sealed bearings and masses of mudroom keep it weatherproof, and the shock length is fixed at 200mm for simplicity and strength.

Our only concern is that the rear mech cable under the chainstay is really vulnerable to chain damage unless you sheathe it.

Equipment: take your choice

The Mbuzi comes with the latest Fox DHX Air 3.0 shock – the best yet. It’s a lot more controlled through the mid-stroke, so you can take rock runs or pushed corners without over-travel delaying your exits.

After that, it’s your choice. The ISCG mounts, 12mm through-axle rear end and a 1.5in head tube let you fit big downhill/freeride kit, but it’s also possible to build a sub-30lb all-rounder with a triple chainset – the Mbuzi won’t mind.

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