Interbike 2017: MORF Tech Aerobar
Sep 22, 2017
article & images by Nick Salazar
Lots of people will have an "aha!" moment in their lives, when they think of a unique and novel product idea, intended to solve an old problem in a brand new way. Frank Springett is one of the rare few who doggedly pursued his "aha!" moment, to bring it to fruition. The result is the MORF Technology aerobar, a set of articulating arms that transforms from base bar to aero extensions, and back.
In a nutshell, MORF is a basebar that transforms into aero extensions. You keep hold of the brake/shifter area at all times, and the bar follows your arms as you go into the aero tuck and back.
I absolutely love seeing novel and innovative ideas. So when Frank invited me to come check it out, I told him that I was delighted to do so. Both of us are aware of TriRig's conflict, since TriRig sells our own aerobars, but the gearhead in me just wants to see these things. Below are my observations, which I try to keep as objective as possible. My criticisms take up a bit more of the page, mostly because I want to justify them. Dear readers, please draw your own conclusions. I think Frank's invention is more than deserving of a look, and so I'm more than happy to give him the press.
With that said, here are my hot takes on the bar, based on my time with it at Interbike:
- Shifting from any position, even with mechanical shifters. I absolutely love the multi-position shifting that electronic shifting offers, and MORF brings that advantage to mechanical shifters.
- With MORF, you never let of of the shifters OR the brakes. You always have access to both, so you never have to worry about where your hands are. I didn't get to ride with the bars, but I expect that going from the aero to base bar position is fluid and easy, and would soon become second nature.
- My favorite feature is that these are SO easy to pack for travel. With the bar in the aero position, you just swivel it down. Nothing to take off. The bike becomes very narrow and easy to pack.
- The bike looks amazing with the extensions forward - the bars just disappear. However, MORF has not actually measured an aero benefit compared to traditional aerobars. In their own test, MORF chose to compare their bar to Alpha X, and found Alpha X to be faster. Frank's note on the testing: "we tested against Alpha X it because we felt the Alpha X is gold standard by which to compare, I believe that genuinely. One thing to note is that the test excluded brake levers on the Alpha and included brake levers on the MORF. There will be more testing to come."
- The articulating mechanism works fluidly and reliably, at least in my limited time with it. It does take a minute to figure out, but I expect it would take less than one ride to master.
- Stack adjust - This is my biggest gripe with the system. The bar offers no appreciable stack adjustment. You can potentially raise the pads with spacers (up to 30mm), but the extensions don't go up with it, so that's a bit of a non-starter. That means the only real stack adjust you get is at the stem level. I know from experience that our customers use all 120mm of the stack adjust that our own Alpha X offers. Shifting ALL of that range to the steerer tube or stem angle is not totally workable in my opinion. Take a look at the demo bike here. What if the rider needed another 50mm of stack on top of the slammed position this bike is in? Well, they'd be totally out of luck. No real way to get that stack on the PRSix with the MORF bar as shown. But there are LOTS of customers who will need that.
- Reach adjust - This is my second biggest gripe. In the current form of the bar, you must commit to an extension reach, but to length, and stick to it. Once you're done, that's it. Zero adjustment after that, unless you cut the extension again (if you went too long), or buy a whole new extension (if you went too short). I discussed this with Frank, and possibilities to address it.
- Ergonomic mismatch - the best hand position in aero is not necessarily what you want at the base bar, but MORF requires you to commit to the same one in both spots. Maybe not a deal-breaker, since base bar position is less important in tri. But something to consider.
- Play in the system. The vertical play (movement when pulling up on the bars) is actually pretty small. The system is tight, and works well. But it's still a little more play than you'd get on a standard aerobar setup. However, lateral play is more significant. Even in the locked base bar position, there's a significant amount of lateral play (the shifters can wiggle about 5-6mm from left to right). I'd really like to see this tighten up, but it may be an unavoidable artifact of the hinge. Perhaps it doesn't matter much, but it definitely feels weird, at least in the time I spent with it. Frank's note on the play: "have a solution to reduce that play significantly. We are changing the geometry such that there is a mechanical stop in the upright position to alleviate a large part of the play. There will always be some, but it should be greatly reduced."
As mentioned up top, I'm biased, and therefore I really encourage readers to consider and weigh all the pros and cons for themselves. But I'm genuinely excited to see this kind of innovation come into the tri space. And I hope Frank sticks around for a long time to come. Check out the full gallery below for more details on the bar.