Bike Test: The Morpheus Oracle World Cup

Wandering the new-exhibitor section of the annual Interbike trade show, we discovered a 10×10 booth manned by Michael Schwartz, who was showing off his creation?the Morpheus Bikes Oracle World Cup. The bike was a real eye-catcher because it was loaded with everything but a giant price tag. While the $5000 neighborhood is not low rent, considering the amenities of the Oracle World Cup, it looked like the show’s value leader. And speaking of neighborhoods, Morpheus Bikes is based in the Bronx, New York City?a highly unlikely place for a mountain bike company.

The Oracle World Cup is a cross-country race bike. It is built for speed, not comfort. Still, the bike could be pressed into service as a trail rager on groomed trails where traction is plentiful and bunnyhopping is about the biggest air required.

The Oracle World Cup uses a carbon fiber frame with a cosmetic weave that is anything but subtle. The Oracle tells the world that it is a carbon fiber advocate. The bike uses full carbon stays, and the single-pivot rear suspension uses massive machined aluminum rocker arms that have been red-anodized and rock on six oversized sealed bearings. The asymmetrical chainstay uses a replaceable derailleur hanger.

The Race Face Deus seatpost gets a five-star rating for its micro adjustability and proven durability. Same goes for the Race Face Evolve stem that clamps to the comfortable-yet-rigid Race Face Next SL handlebar.
The RockShox SID World Cup is a proven performer, and the addition of the remote Floodgate lever sweetens the deal. Finally, the Industry Nine wheelset gives the Oracle World Cup the air of a custom-built race bike. 

The Oracle World Cup puts its rider in an updated  cross-country riding position. This means that the width  of the bar is more comfortable than the chest-pinching widths of old, and the WTB Devo saddle actually offers a measure of comfort to riders who might not be able to log 300 miles a week. The rider does end up in an aggressive, flat-backed riding position, and weight is biased towards the rear wheel.

Off the line : The Truvativ cranks, SRAM drivetrain, Industry Nine wheels and Continental tubeless tires all add up to help this bike rocket out of the blocks. We found it necessary to keep the shock’s Floodgate on to limit unwanted rear suspension movement.

Hammering : The Oracle World Cup likes its rider to get on top of the gear (instead of torquing it) and spin along with the Floodgate (on both the fork and shock) engaged. The tires look too skinny to be hooking up as well as they do. Our advice is not to look at the tires and just power away. Some riders commented on their calves making contact with the suspension’s rocker arms when seated and hammering.

Cornering : The Oracle World Cup is a quick-handling package that expects its rider to pay attention. The steering isn’t slack, so rider input is critical. If you don’t want to change directions, relax that grip. The tires offer impressive traction and control for a true two-inch width.

Climbing : We kept the shock’s Floodgate engaged, opened up the fork, and took advantage of the bike’s light weight and quick handling to hop or steer around trail obstacles while climbing. The Oracle World Cup responds best if you stay planted in the saddle and keep your torso low. It was easy to slip the tire on out-of-the-saddle attacks if you didn’t concentrate on keeping your weight back.

Descending : This was the only situation where we opened up the shock and allowed it to do its job, which is just a part-time job anyway when you consider that the bike only offers 3.9 inches of rear wheel travel and that it never really feels like that much. Hey, it is a cross-country racer, not a trailbike. You make time on the climbs and try to cover your losses on the descents. The Formula RX brakes are perfectly suited for this application.
We never noticed fading, and they offered plenty of stopping power without getting grabby. Incidentally, the Industry Nine hubs make the coolest sound when gliding downhill.

The valve stems that came with our bike blew through the rim hole when we were trying to get the tubeless tires to bead to the rim. Replacing them with a better-quality valve eliminated the problem. The cable routing down the top of the top tube may not look as clean as an internally routed cable (a trick of many carbon fiber frames), but it is far easier to service and never got in our way.

Some Southern California riders laughed at the size of the bike’s rocker arms and the sealed bearings, but Morpheus may get the last laugh. The bike’s designer is used to the sloppy conditions that East Coast riders have to contend with, and this bike is designed to withstand those harsh conditions without requiring its rider to rebuild the rear suspension a few times a year.    

Riding the Oracle World Cup reminded us of the importance of scouting out the back aisles of Interbike, because there are discoveries to be made. Morpheus doesn’t have Trek or Specialized worried, but the Oracle World Cup proves that a guy from the Bronx can make a capable bike at a good price that will appeal to the rider who wants something a little different and is tired of equipment that doesn’t hold up well in harsh conditions. You won’t get the backing of a large dealer network or a by-the-numbers cross-country racer, but you will get a unique ride that gets the job done.