People look to custom frame builders for a variety of personal reasons, whether it’s to have a truly unique mountain bike, they can’t find bikes that fit their bodies, or they want to try a geometry configuration that doesn’t exist. Morph Cycles owner, Tom Bugler, has heard all of those stories and says that some folks simply love the look of his steel frames with their timeless black sparkle paint.
Bugler started creating his dream bike frame company in 2017, wanting to design more versatile frames than what he could find on the market. He was looking for a frame that could have a 140mm fork mounted up for lighter local use, and that could also squish a 160mm fork with some added shock pressure for fast days in the bike park. He wanted all of that goodness with a side of sugary frosting that would allow him to maintain BB height between fork lengths. There are plenty of models that brands say will accept different fork lengths, but Bugler says that the BB height often suffers.
He solved this shoe-height conundrum by throwing a flip-chip in his single-pivot platform right where the swingarm and shock meet up. There are three different chips that allow Morph frame owners to choose between 140, 150, and 160mm of fork travel while maintaining consistent BB height. Forks like the Cane Creek Helm, Manitou Mezzer Pro, or X-Fusion Trace 36 that offer quick internal travel adjustment could make an adaptable bike like this the ideal option for gravity enthusiasts who want to own one frame for multiple riding situations. That adjustability comes at a price of £2,200 for a frame with every angle your heart desires.
Bugler recently had a customer pick up a frame who is a towering 197cm (6’5.5″) tall. The 29er has a 530mm reach balanced by 457mm chainstays, a party ready 64° head angle and a roughly 77° seat tube angle. It’s designed around 148mm of rear wheel travel and the client mounted up a 160mm fork and 210mm OneUp dropper post. While most of the Morph frames use a sleek looking parallel top tube and seat stay line, the top tube on this big bike had to be raised slightly to make sure there was enough seat tube to brace the massive dropper.
This is just one of the situations where custom frame builders can create the ideal bike for someone’s body and riding needs. Bugler will design whatever bike you want, even if the geometry isn’t something he would personally recommend. He does however have a clear philosophy and vision for his bikes and works to balance the front and rear triangles for a well-measured and fun ride character. He often makes suggestions for geometry elements that may work better based on what a client is trying to achieve, and he can also design around a certain reach or head tube measurement that someone has in mind. Modern riding styles are at the forefront of Bugler’s design process, drawing up geometry that favors an aggressive position where plenty of rider weight is leaned forward to maintain maximum front tire traction.
Morph frames are built up using Reynolds 853 DZB tubing, all hand-welded by a builder named Gael in Fenouillet, France. Gael owns a bike shop outside Toulouse, France, where he builds all sorts of unique bikes like those used to deliver ice cream and go on long dirt road tours. Bugler reached out to Gael to create their partnership after seeing the unique work that the Frenchman is involved in, and the two have created a great partnership around their love of steel bike construction. Prior to opening the bike shop Gael was working as an F1 engineer, designing parts for road racing machines. Bugler mentioned that, as a one-man band, it’s nice to have someone to discuss frame designs with. They go over the frame spec with each other and it sounds like both of the young engineers have learned a lot through their collaboration. All of the smaller parts like linkage axles are made in Bugler’s garage in the UK.
Another recent build that Bugler was excited to share is that of his first 27.5″ wheeled frame. The owner was transitioning from many years on 26″ bikes, and knew that jumping the full three inches to a wagon bike wouldn’t provide the same playful ride he wanted. The little party bike has a 460mm reach measurement, a 64.5° head tube angle, 77° seat tube angle, 345mm BB height, and average 445mm-long chainstays. Once the frame is complete Bugler works with the pilot to put together a component build that will best suit their bike and riding preferences, with options from a wide variety of brands.
While there is a Morph Cycles in the wild that uses an EXT Storia coil shock, the single pivot design is fairly linear, generally best paired with an air spring that can be tuned with all of the necessary mid-stroke and bottom-out support. The Storia works thanks to its hydraulic bottom-out, and a special tune that helps it ramp up through the stroke. Bugler says that his favorite setup for the bike is with an air shock with three-volume spacers to give it ample support and spring in its step.
Like any company worth its carbon, Morph Cycles is looking toward the future with the question of brand and bike sustainability in mind. Part of the reason Bugler loves steel is that it lasts a long while, and he wants to keep his frames as clean and timeless as possible to avoid any annual-upgrade urge. He’s always hunting for ways to make his frames last longer, including studying different tube treatments to prevent corrosion.
One other element Bugler is excited to announce is that they are now offering tube-to-tube internal cable routing, with lightweight guide tubes welded inside the frames to keep things tidy and quiet.
Head over to Morph Cycles for further info, or follow their social channels to check out new custom builds as they come out.