Scapin Morgan S1 XTR - first ride £6433

Custom spec 650b full-suspension bike

BikeRadar score 3.5/5

Italian company Scapin have long been revered among the roadie community for their beautifully aspirational carbon fibre and steel frames, but it’s been years since we’ve tested one of their mountain bikes. Luckily, legendary bike pimpers Poshbikes have just been appointed distributors in time to roll us a sample of the brand spanking new Morgan S1 XTR full-suspension bike.

Ride & handling: Smooth riding, lively frame when you have the right kit

Scapin have clearly designed the Morgan to stay quick-witted even with slightly larger, more stable wheels. A head angle the steep side of 70 degrees means it’s always keen to push its nose into corners quickly, and the low slung frame means it flicks from side to side far faster through chicanes than the Niner 29er we were testing at the same time (stay tuned for a review of that).

The stock Morgan S1 XTR comes with a screw-thru Fox fork and Schwalbe tyres, but our sample bike came with Poshbikes’ Race option, which includes a RockShox SID fork and super-light-rimmed Miche wheels. Add the Ritchey 120mm stem and 660mm bar and it’s certainly light, but there’s so much flex – and such a lack of leverage – that the handling wasn’t just lively but overexcited to the point of hysteria.

Thankfully, Poshbikes will make sure your Scapin is built to your exact component-sizing demands for no extra cost. To give the frame a chance to show its full potential, we changed the wheels, tyres and cockpit for something more fun friendly. 

The resulting bigger bar and greater grip only went to prove it’s not the stiffest 100mm machine we’ve ridden, but the sinuous spring of the frame firing you from corner to corner and smearing traction out of sideways slither can’t help make you grin and gun it into the next twisty section even harder. 

Scapin Morgan S1 XTR

Because it feels super quick and lively, you’re more likely to get dynamic with it and drive harder than you would with a more neutral bike that ticks more stiffness and stability geometry boxes.

The RockShox Monarch RL shock is eager to stick the rear wheel to the ground for consistent traction and supple small bump response. It’s also well positioned for a fast flick of the lockout ready for smoother sprint climbs. 

The suspension does tend to choke and hang up on bigger impacts and flat-faced rocks and steps, but that’s true of most 100mm bikes. If you want maximum smoothness and gold-plated rear control, there’s a Fox Float CTD TA shock option for an extra £252.

The Morgan’s light enough to be hopped or flicked over stuff with minimal effort, which means it rarely gets caught out on the natural cross-country terrain it’s been designed for. With the carbon frame and titanium shock hardware giving a claimed sub-1,770g weight for the frame – and a complete bike weight we confirmed at a smidge over 11kg (24lb) – the Morgan takes no prisoners under acceleration.

The Scapin Morgan’s compliant suspension means there’s very little wheel spin despite its skinny Geax tyres losing grip with frightening ease in almost all other situations. Pedalling manners are surprisingly good too, considering the pivots in the seatstay rather than chainstay mean it’s effectively a simple, relatively low-pivot swing arm. 

Spinning from the saddle there’s no obvious bounce or pull back through the pedals, and all this goes to underline its natural flair for racing or just long, luxuriously smooth yet still effervescently lively days in the saddle.

Frame & equipment: Distinctive chassis and full custom component spec

Even if you didn’t spot the tricolor colours in the Scapin head badge, you probably guessed the Morgan was European straight away. Its distinctive S-curve top tube drops and splits either side of the reversed Monarch RL shock, and the chainstays twist, swell and taper more than anything we’ve seen for quite some time on the way to the rear wheel.

The seatstays are moulded into a single U that forms a bridge behind the shock, and it has square-section alloy pivot terminals bonded into the tips. The gear cables run inside the down tube to keep those striking frame lines clean, and that’s not the only neat detail; even the clamshell-welded shock linkage is formed into a ‘Scapin S’ logo, and the paintwork is particularly lustrous. If you don’t like this paint job you can get an identical frame but badged with the livery of Scapin’s parent company Olympia (also courtesy distributed by Poshbikes).

But just because it’s smoothly sculptural doesn’t mean it’s retro. The head tube is tapered, the bottom bracket is super-oversized press-fit 92, the red anodised front mech (direct) mount includes the cable routing, the rear disc is post-mount onto the crook of the chainstay and the rear axle is a 142x12mm screw-thru. 

Gear hangers and dropouts are replaceable 

What’s more, all the gear hangers and dropouts are replaceable in the event of crash/transport damage or if you just want to run a single ring transmission. Perhaps most significantly, the Morgan is built around 650b wheels, making it properly cutting edge in circumference terms.

And that about covers it for tech – oh no wait. There’s a lot going on inside the Morgan frame too. Its ‘Fluid Moulding Technology’ uses a hydraulically expanded former to squeeze the single piece monocoque layup against the outer mould. This gives the always desireable maximum compaction, minimum resin result, adding strength and stiffness to an already extremely carefully created, ultra-high modulus fibre frame.

On the downside, sizing comes up on the small side without a super long stem, and there are only three frame sizes to choose from.

This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

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