| WORDS: Myles Kelsey | IMAGES: Rob Ward |
It’s been eight years since I last rode one of Patrick Morewood’s bikes and in that time, I’ve forgotten just how good they are.
Since 2005, I have owned five of his handmade machines. In one way or another, each brought an undeniable special sauce to the ride experience. With his latest release, the Pyga Tig, the wizardry continues. Suffice it to say, after one short afternoon of riding the prototype version, I’m convinced the Tig will become the brand’s best seller. Why? Because it’s so versatile, so good and is coming to market at exactly the right time.
Before digging into the new all-aluminum Pyga Tig, here’s a little insight into this Patrick Morewood ‘Cat’ who hails from Pietermaritzburg. You need to know that the guy has decades of experience designing, building and tweaking bikes. Next to the legend Tom Ritchey, Pat Morewood is likely [and shoot me down here if I missed anyone] the second most experienced guy in the entire mountain bike design game – period.
For decades, Pat has created high-performance machines for consumers and World Cup racers alike. Quite incredibly he is still designing, welding and testing bikes! As a result and to put it rather simply, Pat knows where to put the pivots. Pat knows where to shave material for weight or compliance reasons. Pat knows where to add material for strength and stiffness. Pat knows what the travel should be, what the angles should be and how long the bike should be.
Pat is a bloody wizard. Funny enough, as I recall, he never really set out to be this genius bike builder and innovator that he is today. Originally, he just wanted to build bikes that rode well. XC bikes, Trail bikes and DH bikes. He just wanted to build good bikes and to constantly improve on the ride experience. I don’t think he even realizes (or certainly chooses to pay no attention to the fact) that he is a genius of the trade.
I’ve known Pat since the 80’s when we raced BMX together and I’ve seen he’s also a pretty good trend-spotter. Here are just a couple of examples: Pat was one of the first bike designers to identify the need for a ‘trail bike’ over 15 years ago and then promptly put one into the market before most brands. He was one of the first to relax the geometry on XC bikes – something that all bike brands now do. He was also one of the first to release a longer travel XC race bike designed with shorter stems in mind, again, something all the brands are now doing. Some legends are born. Others are made. Pat is the epitome of what I can only describe as an unintentional self-made legend.
So to the Tig then, it’s a 29er specific, 120 or 135mm rear travel bike in 6066 aluminum chassis trail bike that is designed to run with a 120 or 140mm fork respectively. You can run a 150mm fork with it, when running it as a 135mm rear bike. Its intended application is for down-country and trail riding. The frame and shock weigh around 3.4kg and in an ‘XC build’ Pat tells me it will easily get in under 11.5kg. At a versatile 65 degrees, the head-angle screams “Gimme all you got!” buddy. Reach on the large is around 478mm and the XL will be up around 500mm. There’ll be a small and medium size too. Chainstays are 438mm and the BB height is around 340mm.
The suspension layout is a Horst Link with a rocker arm driving the trunion mount shock. Pat has positioned the pivots to deliver high anti-squat numbers ensuring the Tig is responsive and efficient under power. He also stressed a key feature in the design is a lot of progression, meaning at the right sag (I ran 30%) there’ll be great small bump compliance with an endless feel. The finer details are covered too, like the grommets that hug the cabling as they dip inside the frame, keeping things quiet on the trail.
Pat smiles when I ask where the special sauce is, replying: “There’s a little bit everywhere but by designing the rocker arm as two separate pieces [with no bridge] we were able to get the weight down, improve compliance and grip on off cambers and rough trails, yet keep the bike stiff under pedaling.” He goes on to explain there is a whole lot more to it than just the two-piece rocker arm but I also got a distinct impression – like with any Chef who develops an award-winning dish – he didn’t quite want to share too many of the intricacies and design IP. Wisely so.
Now, I never tinkered with a single setting on the suspension – in the car park, Pat asked me what I weighed and he set the sag at 30%. I think I may have gone one click faster on the fork and left it at that – deliberating sag percentages with the wizard who built the bike would be nothing short of dof, right?
135mm strikes me as a bit of a nowhere bike. I mean these days things are mostly 130, 140 or 150 when it comes to mid-travel trail. 135 is not [by any means] a big-hitting trail bike – nor is it an XC race bike – but I know Pat and he has never done things just for the sake of doing things. As I’m rolling onto the trail I’m thinking, “ok, just forget about what type of bike you think you want it to be – and go ride it.”
The hardpack and rocky trail climbs gently and I’m looking down at the tyre pressures thinking they feel a little soft. They aren’t. I mean we just set them and I went to a real hard 30psi on the back as we didn’t have much time and were riding some rocky stuff and I just didn’t want to deal with a flat. The bike is feeling buttery, not wallowing at all, just very smooth. I look down at the back wheel again – no, it’s not flat. Why is the trail feeling so smooth – it’s rough here!
Up and out of the saddle, I smack a few watts into the pedals to see what happens and the Tig reacts immediately and pounces forward – not up and down and wallowing all-over-the-shop – just forward. That’s impressive. Acceleration, even with a middle-of-the-line alloy wheelset, is snappy.
Onto the singletrack climb, it’s really rocky now, medium-sized loose rocks litter the trail yet the traction is constant. I’m now being an idiot and unweighting the saddle, attempting to get the rear wheel to spin so I stall, instead it’s just biting in and driving me forward and up the trail. What the?
Into the first switchback climb and I can feel the length of the bike but it’s not a truck on tight turns – it’s coping well here. Now I’m moving in and out of the saddle as I roll up the climb, again, being a bit of a chjop to see if I can shift my weight around intentionally to unsettle the Tig. No dice. It’s calm and composed and continues to roll up and up and up.
We are up on the Belgian Waffle Trail now, traversing on some mildly techy singletrack that I regularly ride XC, Trail and eMTB’s on and I’m puzzling. Is it the Pike fork, the Super Deluxe piggy-back shock, the kinematics or the ‘tuned’ compliance in the frame that is making the ride so smooth? I mean, there’s 30psi in the tyre and there should be more feedback, more trail chatter and the odd traction loss on this trail, but there’s no such thing. We turn around and rally back down the trail and in less than a minute I’ve adapted to the longer wheelbase and as the speed picks up I’m loving the stability of the bike. This is where the Tig is unreal – singletrack at pace – it feels safe, is easy to stay online and is easy to carry speed through technical sections. I’ve completely forgotten about which marketing pigeonhole this bike slots into and I’m just rallying, having fun, getting air, shooting gaps and railing turns.
There’s a few small rollers on the trail now and as I pump through them I can feel the progressive kinematic – there’s a platform of support to push into the face of jumps to get the pop. This is fun. Drop-off, double jump then two small step downs on the trail and there’s no end of travel feel or bottom out. I turn and head up for more trail. The Tig is a more-ish kind of bike.
Who is it for?
In Europe, the UK and America, the trail bike rider isn’t [so] carbon befok anymore and I’m noticing that shift to alloy frames happening here too. The reasons are many. The weight ‘penalty’ on an aluminum frame is often as little as 300grams – it’s inconsequential. Trail riders are not overly concerned with outright climbing speed – they prioritize the bike’s ability in the techy stuff and descents. The affordability of aluminum framed bikes is a big pull too. Then there’s the smooth ride and added traction that a compliant [in the right direction] aluminum chassis offers. Lastly, amongst the trail fashionistas, an aluminum bike is current, cool and classy nowadays.
With a SRAM GX build, the Tig will sell for around R80k. You can of course order just the frame and build it as you wish and this is perhaps a good route to go as you’ll be able to dress it up to suit the trail you ride. Spec a light wheelset and you’ll be more than okay on a social marathon day hanging in with your mates on their XC whips. Riding rougher trails? Well, it’s already been proven at SA Enduro Champs where Willie van Eck placed 3rd (on this very bike) in Elite Men.
The Tig is a highly versatile mountain bike. The kinematics, geometry and engineering inside this aluminum chassis deliver a world-class ride feel in an affordable package. Chapeau Pat and to everyone involved.