Morewood isn't a very well known brand in the UK, which is a shame because this South African bike builder produces some good looking and blisteringly fast machines. The founder of the company is Patrick Morewood who has three South African downhill titles to his name, so he knows a thing or two about what makes a bike feel and ride like a champion's rig. We got ripping on the Shova ST, Morewood's shorter travel all mountain rig (a Shova Factory LT with 180mm travel is also available).
Patrick builds his frames from 6082 T6 aluminium, which is suitably tough for all kinds of freeriding yet easy to work with. He also believes strongly in the single pivot philosophy which is the design principle behind the Shova ST.
Noticeably, the rear end features quite small diameter tubes, which look odd at a time when full sus frames are generally getting fatter. However, we didn't detect any lateral wandering, even when pushing the Shova into hard downhill turns. This is partly thanks to the chunky CNC'd alloy Stable Pivot Interface - a short box section that joins the rear end to the single pivot. The pivot itself is low (between the middle and large chainrings) and causes the Shova to surprise you with its refreshingly sprightly climbing habits. The front end is dominated by the square section down tube and curved top tube that help to connect the Manitou Swinger Air rear shock with the rear end.
When the Shova arrived, work in the office stopped while everyone admired the champagne-coloured rig. Our frame was decked out with Shimano's top-of-the-line XTR parts throughout except for a set of surestopping Hayes El Camino disc brakes. The wheels on all-mountain bikes are tough to spec because they need to climb fast yet still be able to take a beating. Our test bike came with Sun Ringlé SOS rims and Ringlé hubs shod with 2.2in Michelin XCR All Mountain rubber - a combo that helped make the Shova a pleasure to ride whatever direction we were pointing in.
Several other parts warrant a mention. The Launch FR stem and Stealth carbon riser bar, both from Azonic, are tough as nails for the downhill bits, but light enough on the climbs. We also liked the feel of the SDG Bel Air RL saddle.
A very capable RockShox Revelation fork with up to 130mm of buttery-smooth travel handled bump eating up front. We're not sure whether you need the fork's PopLoc feature (a bar-mounted lockout switch) though... When a bike behaves as well as this, do you really want to lock out the fork? No, we didn't either. Still, you've got the option if you want it.
As you've probably already gathered, we like the way the Shova rides. At least three of the testers wanted to keep it for as long as possible. This is probably because it's good at a bit of everything, as an all-mountain bike should be.
We really did try to find the limits of this bike, by hurling it off 5ft drops, hitting up downhill tracks and trying to keep up with cross-country dudes on the climbs. We were expecting a cough and a splutter at some point but never got one; the Shova just kept on rolling.
This bike isn't quite as cross country-capable as the Specialized FSR Pro we tested last month, though it's not far off. And though it'll amble along quite happily, it really shines when shoved into the big ring and hammered. If you like riding all sorts of trails but you've only got the cash and time to ride one bike, the Shova is a rig that'll suit you perfectly.