Road test: Morati SC 1.2 Pro Race

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Morati: Low flying Czech

By Jeff Jones

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The Morati SC 1.2 Pro Race
Photo: © Cyclingnews

Titanium (Ti, atomic number 22) is perhaps best known in the aerospace industry, where it has been used to manufacture high strength, lightweight components for many years. Although titanium is not as common as aluminium, the cost of making titanium parts has come down considerably with improvements in extraction methods. Its strength to weight ratio and resistance to corrosion have made it a very attractive metal to work with, although welding titanium bicycle frames requires a more care than steel.

The subject of this review is the SC 1.2 Ti Pro Race frame. It's a new road frame made by Morati, a Czech company founded in 1995 as an offshoot of the Mora Aerospace company. Mora has over 49 years experience in making titanium parts for the aviation industry, specialising in stationary parts for turbine engines. Time will tell if the crossover to bicycle frames and parts is a worthwhile endeavour, but they have already gained a lot of popularity in the Czech Republic.

The Czech MTB professional cycling team, Ceska Sporitelna, has been using Morati frames and components since 1996, including Czech Republic champion Radim Korinek. In cyclo-cross, four time world champion Radomir Simunek rode to victory on a Morati frame, as did this year's U23 World Champion Sven Vanthourenhout. The podium of the junior race was entirely comprised of riders on Morati frames...and that's just this year's results.

Given the success of Morati off-road, one would think that their road frames should be able to cop a battering. They do not currently sponsor a professional road trade team, so the ultimate test in a cobbled classic may have to wait a little. My road test of the SC 1.2 Ti Pro Race was done in Perth, one of the most cycling friendly cities in Australia - it's hard to find a decent pothole on the hotmix here.

A quick spin around Perry Lakes

I did at least choose a circuit with a climb in it, located north of the city in the suburb of City Beach. Approximately 9 kilometres long, the loop starts in Stephenson Av, travels along Underwood Av, left into Brookdale St, left into Alderbury St, and again into Oceanic Dr. A detour to the left up Reabold Hill got the heart rate up, before a quick descent into Oceanic Dr and left onto the West Coast Hwy (nearly always a headwind). After battling this for a couple of kilometres, the final part of the circuit is left along Rochdale Rd, then back onto Stephenson Av.

My first impressions of the bike were good. As expected, it accelerated very well, felt very stiff and of course climbed well. I could handle one gear higher up Reabold Hill quite comfortably, and my lap times were 30 seconds to a minute faster than normal. The fact that the Morati, weighing in at around 8 kg, was about 1.5 kg lighter than my GT may have had something to do with it...

For doing anything in a straight line (sprinting, time trialing, climbing), the bike felt rock solid. It was a real pleasure to stomp on the pedals, in or out of the saddle, and get a good response.

The only problem I had with the bike was cornering. I'm used to a fairly relaxed position on my GT, with a set back seat post. I couldn't get that far back on the Morati, and found that the 73.2 degree seat angle didn't help my confidence around corners at all, by far my worst technical skill. This is a minor and fairly personal point, as most riders are quite comfortable with a 73 seat angle with no special seat set back.

Technical notes

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Photo: © Cyclingnews

The test bike belonged to Australian Paralympic representative, Paul O'Neill, who competes in the LC1 amputee class. Morati has recently signed him as a sponsored rider, and he is looking forward to the 2002 World Championships and 2004 Paralympics. He recently won the European Disabled Cycling championships road race over 87.4km after an injury interrupted season.

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No nonsense stem
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The bike was equipped with the solid, light and dependable Dura-Ace 9 speed groupset. The wheels were Mavic Ksyriums with Vittoria Open Corsa CX tires, also an excellent combination and used by many professional cyclists. The stem, seatpost and fork were all Morati titanium, while the saddle was a F'izi:k pav. The pedals were my own Time Equipe Magnesiums, and as mentioned before, the whole bike weighed approximately 8 kilos.

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The S-Bend rear stays
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The frame is the most interesting part of the Morati SC 1.2 Ti Pro Race. It is constructed of oversized tubing made out of titanium/aluminium/vanadium alloys (Ti 3Al 2.5V and Ti 6Al 4V). The top tube slopes backward slightly, designed to decrease the size of the rear triangle and provide more lateral stiffness. The weight of a 54 cm centre to centre frame is 1485 grams, according to the manufacturers.

The seat stays have an S-bend in them, meeting at a single point above the brakes. It's similar to a wishbone design, but the monostay coming down from the seat extends further than the fork of the wishbone, looking more like a pitchfork. According to Morati, these S-bends are to "absorb vibrations from the rear wheel," while the monostay is to "stop the vibrations from the S-bends transferring to the basic triangle of the frame."

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Platform-style BB
Photo: © Cyclingnews

There was no way I could test this without a few decent stretches of pavé, pitifully lacking from the streets of Perth.

The other main curiosity is the bottom bracket construction. Instead of the chainstays joining the BB, there's a 5 mm platform of titanium sandwiched in between. It is designed to minimize power loss through the bottom bracket, and looks odd but feels strong enough. But if the design has survived the rigours of MTB and cyclo-cross, then there shouldn't be too many problems on the road.

Finally, the price of the SC 1.2 frame is around AU$3,480 (US$1,800). This is towards the lower end of the titanium frame price range. For those with smaller budgets, Morati also makes the SC 1.1 for AU$2,600. This was its first titanium road frame and is without the novel design of the SC 1.2.

Full specification: Morati SC 1.2 Pro Race

Frame: Morati SC 1.2 Pro Race
Fork: Morati
Material: Titanium alloys (Ti 3Al 2.5V and Ti 6Al 4)
Natural titanium
Weight: 8.0 kg/17.6lb (with pedals)
Sizes: 52/54/56/58/60 cm

Cranks: Shimano Dura-Ace, 39/53T
Bottom bracket: Shimano Dura-Ace hollow splined
Chain: Shimano Dura-Ace
Front derailleur: Shimano Dura-Ace
Rear derailleur: Shimano Dura-Ace
Brakes & levers: Shimano Dura-Ace Dual Pivot
Rear cogs: Shimano 9-speed, 12-21

RRP (frame only): AU$3,480/2,046 Euro/US$1800

Wheels: Mavic Ksyrium SSC
Spokes: Mavic Ksyrium SSC, Zicral bladed
Rim: Mavic Ksyrium SSC
Skewers: Mavic
Tires: Vittoria Open Corsa CX 700x23c w/Kevlar bead

Stem: Morati
Bar: 3T
Tape: Cinelli Original cork
Head set: Ritchey Logic Pro

Pedals: Not included
Seat post: Morati
Saddle: F'izi:k pave

More information: Morati's website

Geometry (56 cm)

Head tube         155mm (6.2in)
Top tube         560mm (22.3in)
Chainstay        406mm (16.0in)
Wheelbase        990mm (38.9in)
Head angle                72.5°
Seat angle                73.2