Never, ever, not even once did I ever imagine I’d arrive at the Moots HQ in Steamboat Springs, Colorado at 11pm, and find a key to the guest apartment of said HQ waiting for us under a cinder block.
But that’s exactly what happened. And I still have a hard time believing it to be true.
A few months ago, we received the invitation to spend a few days with Moots crew in September to see how they do what they do where they do it. We couldn’t say no. Our relationship with Moots was/is still just getting going, so we were A) honored, B) flattered, C) humbled, and D) stunned that we’d have the chance to visit.
We made our plans and arranged for two good friends and Moots owners, Dean and Aaron, to join us out there. We also called our buddy Bobby from District Cycles in Stillwater, OK to drop everything and join us.
I am going to split my recap into two posts: Culture & Pedigree and Riding the Clouds.
The itinerary was intimidating at first glance. The “Dealer Camp” consisted of sessions with Jon Cariveau, (Marketing Manager), Cathy Wiedemer (PR Manager), Butch Boucher (PD Engineer), and our inside rep and babysitter Jason Coble. We were humbled that these folks were taking the time to meet with just us. The sessions turned out to be wonderfully relaxed, yet engaging and inspiring. The people behind the brand are what really inspires us to partner with a vendor, and the vibe at Moots was downright familial. This culture is what makes Moots make sense in our little store in DeKalb, IL.
From a distance, one might garner a sense of elitism around a brand like Moots because, at first glance, they are prohibitively expensive. They may exclude a large number of people by only offering the highest caliber product, but the desire for a Moots is not just a status symbol. Everyone we’ve had come in for a Moots has been interested in the legacy, the craft, the invincibility, and above all, the sublime ride quality of the product. And, everyone has been a joy to work with. Our experience is that Moots is a magnet for savvy, amiable riders. There is no pretense, no superciliousness, and no elitism. And that’s true for the people behind the brand as well.
When you get close to any of the folks at Moots, any specter of pretense evaporates immediately. The doors are open, the vibe inside is pure Colorado, and everyone is smiling. We were given an extensive tour of the factory by Jon Cariveau, and everyone was cool – from the miter shop to the welding stations to the finishing dept. Everyone gave us a smile or nod and took a few minutes to show us what they were doing. It was not hard to gather that people loved their job and were passionate about the product.
After the tour, the relatively high price for Moots frames made clear sense. It was a mathematical equation that was no longer subject to opinion. If you take top-tier U.S. made titanium and add 30 years experience plus meticulous tolerances multiplied by a true passion for excellence from every hand involved in the process and you get a Moots. The equation is simple:
USA3/2.5 Ti +30@365+.01%v x 100%p(25)= Moots = worth it = take my money.
I’d recommend taking the tour if you ever find yourself in Steamboat. They offer it MWF at 10am for free. It’s stunning to see the detail that goes into every frame. Dean has prolix posts about the tour here and here, and will probably post more soon.
There are very few entities in the bike world that are on par with Moots. And I say that not just because they’ve been around a long time. This industry has no lack of old dudes who know everything (or think they do).
The bike industry can appear like a torrent. New products, new materials, new fashions, and new developments are always rushing in and out of style and function. As a spectator and conduit of that momentum, it can be exhausting to keep up and stay on top of it. I’ve respected Moots for years for the very reason that they don’t play that game. That’s not to say they don’t keep innovating, they just don’t feel the need to reinvent and redesign their bikes every year for the sake of keeping up with the industry. They don’t change for changes’ sake. They exclusively make frames out of MUSA titanium. They have one finish on all of their bikes, and none of their bikes are painted. The blasted Ti look is one of the most singularly recognizable finishes in the industry. And, until last week, the only decal option was white.
So how can they do it? How can they make what looks like the same thing, year after year, that looks almost the same as it did 20 years ago? It really does look similar – we looked at catalogs from the nineties while we were there. That simply cannot be said of other brands and other materials. If you were to take any carbon bike from 20, 10, or even 5 years ago, it would look comically outdated. So what’s the magic? How does Moots endure like that?
I think the answer has to do with Pedigree.
The ancestry of the line is pure.
In the same way Moots is unwavering about the quality of their titanium, they are unwavering about the quality of their entire finished product. They have put the geometries, the designs, the trends, and the materials through the hammering process and what exists now stands proven and sure.
Chad and I spent a morning with Butch Boucher, Moots’ lead design engineer and legendary bike-brain. Butch started Co-Motion Cycles in ’88 and moved to Moots in ’96. As we flipped through old catalogs, he could “read” the welds and name the welder of each frame pictured – as if he was reading their handwriting.
His perspective was refreshing. He seems to overlook the industry with a knowing eye and curl at the end of his lips. Moots’ sensible style has no doubt been shaped by Butch’s influence. They have a method by which they wait out the trends, watch the fashions sift through the harsh reality of the market, and test the innovations in which they see value. We talked at length about the trend of disc brakes on road bikes. Moots has the Vamoots DR (Disc Road), so I asked if that was created due to customer demand or if it was created as a solution to a problem. Butch’s answer was interesting. In just a few sentences, he somehow said “both” and “neither”. Butch and the Moots team saw that they could create a great riding bike that featured disc brakes, but his Butch’s words, “the technology [in the calipers, hubs, forks, etc] isn’t there yet, but in the next couple years, it will be, and that is going to be an incredible bike.”
So, in a way, Moots evolved, but in a sense, they stayed the same.
But Moots isn’t without flaws, though. It’s not that they haven’t made mistakes. That’s just part of growing. Sometimes you just have to hang your mistakes out the window so you never forget where you come from.
Overall, the current models have not changed drastically over time. They can stick to their designs because they are making some of the best bikes, designed by some of the best minds, out of the very best material, using some of the best processes, so there simply doesn’t exist the need to change. When the need arises, or if they see room for improvement, they respond. They are such a nimble company, these changes, albeit rare, can happen with great rapidity. And in real time, we were lucky enough to see it happen in front of our eyes.
When we started our relationship with Moots a couple years ago, we did so by ordering a couple of their Psychlo-X model. The PX is a classic cyclocross bike. I bought one myself to ride as my all-around gravel/cross bike.
As time went on, we wanted a more gravel-oriented bike, so we worked with Moots on a collaboration we called the Minotaur. It was different from the PX in that it had wider tire clearance, different cable routing/style, an over-sized headtube, and slightly different geometry (lower BB, longer wheelbase, etc). We wanted to make it look different, too, so we had all black decals made up just for the project. The result was one mean-looking mama-jama.
Over the last year, Moots has been getting calls from all over the country, not just from us, for a gravel/adventure bike, so they took all the feedback and created a new model in the vacuum between their mountain bikes and their cross bikes and introduced it into their line a few weeks ago at Interbike. They featured it on their blog while we there. It is called the Routt/Routt 45. The Routt replaces the PX (but the PX RSL is still there for cx racers) and the Routt 45 is most similar to the Minotaur, with 45cm chainstays to accommodate larger tires and increase stability.
This isn’t the death knoll for the Minotaur, though. We want to continue promoting our little project locally. The Minotaur still stands apart from the Routt by having full-housing cable routing under the top-tube, post-mount disc brakes, and the option of thru-axles front and rear. And it will feature the decal one can only get here at NCC:
Starting now, Moots will offer the option of an all black decal set on all of their models. That is a 100% increase in decal color options!
Stay tuned for the next post, Riding the Clouds, soon.
Photos by Bobby Wintle, Josh Arends, Moots, Eric Sucharski, and NCC.