Back in August, I was looking to throw together a passable ‘cross bike from an old Kona Lava Dome. I had a good, 8 speed XT drive train together, but wanted drop bars and the ease integrated shifters/brake levers. OEM Shimano was hard to come by, Sora was unaccebtably poor, and Campy wouldn’t be compatable. But then I stumbled across these weird Italian things. Alleged to be both Shimano and Campy compatable, 100g lighter and (most importantly, for me) $100 less than the competition, these oddballs seemed worth the chance.
Set-Up: 1. Good lord, this was difficult. And let’s keep in mind that I learned how to work on bikes by making parts work that were never intended to go together. Mechanically, these are pretty straight-forward, but very finicky to get right. Certainly the “English” section of the manual (which calls for a 5mm “Alien Wrench”, among other hideous mistranslations) is no help; best to find a patient, professional, and preferably Italian mechanic to get these guys going.
Weight: 4. 320g. Much lighter than Dura-Ace and Record. I feel guilty about using “weight” as one of my cateories, so I’ll add that they look nice, too, especially if you want every bike geek you meet to be like “crazy-lookin’ levers, man.” Up close, though, you can see they’re put together pretty cheaply.
Function: 3. Bottom line, they work. Once you dial the set up, they shift acceptably well. They come with pre-made settings for Shimano 7, 8 and 9 speed, Campy 8 and 9, and “index” for 5 and 6 speeds. I tried all the Shimano set-ups and the 6 speed index, and they worked well, just not perfectly. Like Deore-level mountain shifting, in that occasionally, you gotta feel around for the index click.
Durability: 4. So far, pretty dang good. After two months, function is as good as ever, and let’s not forget I used these on a ‘cross bike that I packed in a sand-pit as well on pavement. The only bad thing is the faux-carbon-weave paint job is scuffed up easily by each impact.
Ergonomics: 2. The brake pull is great. I love it, and might use these just as brakes someday. The body is also extremely comfortable to simply drape your hand over. And the “thumbs-only” shifting is marginally easier than anything else to use in the drops. But the good points end there. It’s technically impossible to shift from the hoods due to the shifter lever locations, and the action of the shifters does not match the natural movement of your thumb. This, combined with the hard plastic of the lever, can be quite painful if it’s cold.
Final Thoughts: It’s a niche part. If you’ve got a classic road bike and want the ease of integrated shifting without changing anything else, these will be perfect, provided you can get them set up right. They’re even really comfy for just cruising on. Beyond that, though, they’re a novelty. The smooth precision of an all-Campy or all-Shimano drivetrain far outweighs the handful of grams these guys save, not to mention that racing on them is unbelievably frustrating. Yes, I put in a half a ‘cross season on them, but I am cheap and weird. Trust me, you want your race-day shifting to be on reflex, and these shifters simply don’t let you do that.
thoughts on “Modolo Morphos Shifters/Brake Levers – Review”
Any updates on your experiences? I’ve got an early 80’s 6-speed touring bike and would like to out an STI-like shifting system. This seems to be the only game in town that doesn’t require me to change the entire drive train. Worth buying? Or better to stick to my 100% reliable downtube shifters?
Same request as the previous poster: What is your view of Modolo Morphos after more than a year? Have they been reliable? Any deterioration in their functioning?
I have a 12-speed Nishiki with SunTour, and looking at options to upgrade it to brifters or index shifting. Your long term update on Modlo Morphos will help a lot.
My updates, as requested…
After a few geared races on these things, I switched my ‘cross back to single-speed. I needed the other shifty bits for different bikes. The next fall, while battling to dial in the shifters again, I hammered so hard on the upshift thumb lever that the plastic ring holding it onto the shifting mechanism broke.
If you put enough force onto any lever when it’s in a terminal position, it’ll probably snap, too, but there was no real way to tell whether the shifter was at its limit or not. Internally, everything’s still fine, and the actual metal bits are, from what I can see, pretty indestructibly simple.
I am putting together a surly long haul trucker and i want to have STI levers, i want to do this as cost effective as i can with out skimping on the parts. do you think these modolos might be a good solution?
I find these levers to work great on a Shimano 3 x 8 drivetrain. The additional instructions on St. John Cycles web page were a big help. I didn’t find them at all difficult to set. Unlike the reviewer above, I DO find it possible to shift from the hoods. Relatively new to me so I can’t say anything about durability yet….
Jeff, I am a huge Shimano fan. I was on the fence with their nine speed stuff, but the 10-speed groups, all the way down to 105 are clean, crisp, and positive. You still can’t rebuild them, but in terms of performance, they’re tough to beat.
If you’ve got a pile of 8- or 9-speed parts you want to build up that LHT with, I think you’ll be fine with the Morphos shifters, provided you’ve got the patience to dial them in. But if you’re starting from scratch, I’d really recommend seeing what sort of prices you can get on a some 10-speed 105 stuff.
Jason, it’s definitely *possible* to shift from the hoods. But I sure wouldn’t want to have to do it while responding to an attack or cornering hard in a crit.
I’ve had the modolo morphos for two years, running both 9 speed shimano and 7 speed (at different times). The delicate internals require some running in and they’re better than they were when new. They’re very comfortable in the hands and look sexy with hidden cables and campy-esque profile. What they don’t do very well, is shift. I set them up perfectly but you need the thumbs of an orangutan to shift. The ergonomics of the shifters is just all wrong. I love them like a three legged dog, but if you want to shift gears, get shimano or campy, seriously.
Purchased set of Modolos Morphos from Performance Bicycle in June, installed on my frame built up of a Giant TCR Aluxx, had problem with front shifter, probably moved shift levers prior to installing as instructions said not to. Was able to reset shuttle, now working fine. Using with a Shimano 9 speed Ultegra drive train. They are light, look good, seem to shift and brake smoothly. No complaints and they were very economical. I agree, nice to have the cables hidden. I like them!!!!
I have had 5 sets of morphos on 4 different bikes over a period of about 4 years. I agree they look great, brake great, and shift OK. However, even though my riding was split among the 4 bikes, 3 sets of shifters have already failed (they also break great). The first to break has been the left shifter (which doesn’t get shifted that often compared with the right), the internal parts are just not strong enough for the forces required on the front derailleur. Prior to the failures, the shifting function is fine, although as mentioned, they require a fair effort. Also, I have contacted morphos dealers and the modolo factory, and no one will sell spare parts. If the spare parts were available, repair would be comparatively easy. I was able to get one set to work a little longer by switching the internals of the large lever and the small lever (the forces on the internals of the large lever are greater than those on the small lever and that leads to the internals deteriorating sooner on the large lever). I was able to swap the internals without removing the shifter body from the bike.
I contacted the factory a month ago and was able to buy the 4 gears in each shifter so 8 parts for $28.00 and they came in about 10 day. Pretty quick process overall once I emailed firstname.lastname@example.org who passed it off to email@example.com for the ultimate fulfillment.
Could anybody upload the user manual of Modolo Morphos levers. I just buy a new one without this manual.
Thanks in advance
I had contact with Serena Modolo and the answer was : “It passed a lot of time from the date of manufacture. No Manuals” . I had installed without it and discover it´s impossible to fit cables once lever is installed……how do I will change if derailleurs cables suffer a break?…Pathetic…regarding shifting…..comparing with Ergopower, these levers need to come back school (or design center) Comparing STI: STI is in other category.
Conclusions: A waste of money and time.
Modolo still lists the Morphos in their 2016 catalogue, so I’m not sure that’s a valid excuse: https://www.scribd.com/doc/310283658/Modolo-Catalogo-2016