Pat Morewood on Bouncing Back After a Horror Crash

Pat Morewood, 52, is a proudly South African bike builder and horror crash survivor.


Mountain biking has always attracted the mavericks. You could argue the sport has been built on them – the need to break out of the mainstream, get out into nature and escape the trappings of what is seen as ‘normal’. And yet, even within all this lack of convention a system has grown – a way of doing and consuming things, a convention of its own.

KZN biker Pat Morewood has been bucking these restrictions since he home-built his first dual-suspension DH rig, in 2000 – in the process creating two legendary bike brands, in the shapes of Morewood and then Pyga, which he still produces today. Along the road, he’s kept his finger on the pulse of what mountain biking wants and needs by staying at the forefront of riding his bikes too. There isn’t a DH track in KZN he doesn’t have skin in, in one form or another. Last July, that ‘investment’ grew significantly…

Tell us about the crash!
Pat Morewood: Well, last year in July I was riding in Karkloof with [former Springbok and national champ] Fritz Pienaar and his boys, when I headed towards a rock feature I’ve done loads of times before. A small misjudgement on the entry sent me into a rock at low speed, and I ended up on my head. I was airlifted to hospital, where they did scans and X-rays and found that I’d compressed and fractured 2 thoracic vertebrae, which required a fusion of T3-T7.

Ouch! That must have been frightening, too?
PM: My time lying in bed wasn’t easy, but was made a lot easier by my family. And in particular Karen’s understanding, love and help – we’ve been married for 24 years, and have a 17-year-old and a 13-year-old. There’s plenty to think about, when you have nothing else to do! Many people have asked if I’ll ride again, or whether I’m scared to do Enduro or DH again. And my way of dealing with this kind of thing may be different to others’, but I don’t think of the bad – only the good. So it becomes a lot easier. Not to say I disregard what happened; but [I look at] why, and what can be done differently – it’s much the same as what I do with bike design.

My recovery wasn’t easy, obviously; but now, six months later, I’m back to about 90%, I think. I’m back on the bike, and doing regular trail riding. I’ve done a bit of DH stuff, but cautiously, since I’m not physically strong enough to go hard.

This will happen in good time, but I wouldn’t say I’m scared. You need to be sensible about things and still enjoy bike riding; unfortunately, I find most enjoyment while pushing my technical ability! Which will always mean I’m going have some offs.

You’ve been making bikes for two decades – what have you learned?
PM: What I’ve learned most is that there’s a lot of marketing bull out there. There are many ways to skin a cat. Many brands tend to overcomplicate the look of a bike in order to mask what it actually does. I design bikes that I want to ride; at the same time I try to keep them as simple as possible, but without ignoring the most important aspects.

As a brand, Pyga is seen by many as quite popular in South Africa, especially in the enduro race scene. But we’re a lot smaller than most people would expect, with five staff members and a 400-square-metre factory/office/warehouse. We’re very involved in the race scene – possibly to the detriment of marketing and sales; we’re working on improving this. But racing is our DNA, and it’s what allows us to make some of the best-performing bikes around.

“ I was dead against e-bikes until I rode one, when I realised its potential for training and having fun.”

The Pyga e-bike came out of the blue…
PM: Well, our e-bike was an interesting project. I was dead against them until I rode one, when I realised its potential for training and having fun. The hard part was deciding what type of bike to start with.  We decided on a longer-travel bike that would be more forgiving. But once it was prototyped I realised this machine could do a lot with ease, including XC laps, and this was due to the added power, a slacker head angle and gravity-
focused design that had far less effect on tight tracks and uphill switchbacks than I thought it would.

What’s next in MTB?
PM: It’s hard to say what the next big thing is. But it seems auto gearbox transmission is something that’s starting to be developed; and if well executed, and combined with e-power… it’s quite interesting, and the whole experience is starting to feel normal. It’s taken really long.

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