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The name Moots has always conjured up a certain reverential aura amongst the cycling fraternity. Founded by MTB Hall of Famer Kent Eriksen in 1981, the company has long been fabled for its premium titanium bicycles, their clean, elegant lines, and their butter-smooth welds…
UPDATED January, 2021: Originally posted in April, 2016, we decided to republish this piece for MOOTS’ 40th birthday anniversary. Enjoy!
We took a tour around the factory in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and asked Jon Cariveau, Moots’s marketing manager, a few questions: how Moots came to be, plans for the future, and the story behind the new bikepacking-friendly Mountaineer, a modern homage to their very first mountain bike…
Can you tell us a little about Moots. How did it come to be, what it stands for and where it sees itself in the future?
Moots was founded in 1981 from the back of a bike shop in Steamboat Springs, Colorado… Those early days – the first 10 years – we built out of steel, as it was the material of choice at the time in the bicycle world. The first bike was a road bike, but by 1983 the first Moots mountain bike was rolling in the remote animal trails of the area – the Mountaineer. In 1991 we switched to titanium and never looked back. We stand for quality and precision in everything we do. Our feeling is that we source the best tubing in the world (which is US made only), then use the best processes possible to create the finest riding bikes in the world, without compromise. We see ourselves continuing to lead the titanium world of bikes; innovating along the way, using new technologies such as 3d printed pieces, and pushing tubing technology to its limit when possible, all while keeping the soul of this amazing company in tact. There are 24 full time employees at Moots and we all have a say in the product that our dedicated customers ride.”
How long have you been at Moots, and what’s your role been over the years?
I have been at Moots for almost 20 years, which is unheard of in the bike industry … which just shows how much I love this company and the crew we have. I started out in January of 1997 outfitting a new space that we were in at that time. I built out work benches, ran air compressor lines and really got the shop ready to manufacture. Once up and running I worked hands on with finishing frames, machining and final finishing. After two years I started to help sales out, traveling to events to promote our bikes. From there I moved into the Sales Director position and ran our national and international sales programs, traveling a ton, and helping produce all of our catalogs over the years. These days my title says ‘marketing’ and within that I produce content for our web site, social media and advertising. O travel to the major shows/events, and I also get to ride with Moots dealers and owners… which is nice.”
What Moots bikes do you have in your quiver?
At the moment, I have the following…
VAMOOTS R Basically a road bike with 32mm tire clearance I made to ride the dirt roads that span our area… a classics bike… longer chain stays, slacker angles than a normal road bike.
PSYCHLO X My newest cyclocross rig with modern disc brakes, thru axles… my race and gravel machine.
PSYCHLO X RSL Full racer dork bike… no bottle cage options, 1x Sram set up…light stiff fast…
MOOTO X RSL Hardtail 29er… no fuss, easy.
MOUNTANIEER YBB 27.5 + This bike will soon be my only mountain bike i have… it’s so versatile and fun. I plan on racing it this summer and doing some nice bikepacking routes around our area.”
Briefly, can you talk us through the Moots process: from a customer’s order to choosing tubing, mitering, welding, finishing and fitting?
Our process for the customer is to first guide them to one of our authorized dealers, to decide on which model they are interested in, based on what they will use the bike for. Once they hone in on a model we want them to go through a fitting in person with the dealer. This really sets the stage for getting the customer on the correct size, weather that is one of our many stock sizes in each model, or a stock model with add ons for their specific use needs, or full custom. At that point we look over all the riders fit details and recommend a build. Based on our history of building bikesm we have a great idea if a stock size will fit the bill, if not we go custom. Tubing choices even in our stock line are based on rider weight, riding style and needs of this specific bike. We use size specific tubing, which means that the diameter and wall thickness changes as the size of bike changes, on each of our stock bikes as well as custom. If they want a stiff frame, we can address that, if they want a compliant ride, we can address that as well. Carrying a load? We can address that as well. Once the bike model and size are determined, we account for cable routing needs and can either pull from our stock program (which can deliver in about 4 weeks) or go custom, which is a 6-8 week turn. Then the frame is built and shipped to the dealer, for assembly and final fitting.”
Given its low weight, lack of oxidization, and stiffness, titanium seems like a great material for an adventure bike. In the realm of long distance international travel, one might be concerned with frame repair; is this ever a factor?
We don’t have too much concern customers going deep off the grid on our products. The part of the frame that is most likely to be damaged is the rear derailleur hanger – and those are replaceable units on all of our frames… So if you travel, always carry a spare. We’ve had people circle the globe on a Moots frames and had zero issues.”
Where do you think bikepacking and adventure fit in to Moots’ future, or the bike industry’s future, for that matter?
For Moots, adventure has been part of our DNA since we started. Our first mountain bikes were tools for exploring the deep reaches of the forest. Those bikes took the name MOUNTAINEER, which is why the new bike is named as such. We think the bikepacking movement in the industry is right on target. Getting people out and unplugged is what it’s all about. The development of the bags we are now using lets anyone, with any bike experience, the freedom of being self contained… no matter if it’s a local overnighter or a massive cruise across a continent. Not everyone is a racer type. The need to slow down and enjoy the view. Bikepacking comes at a great time when everyone is glued to technology. As humans, we are not really set up for that… we need to be out in our environment experiencing and learn from it.”
What bikes in the Moots range would you say are best suited bikepacking? The Routt 45/The Mountaineer/The Frosthammer. Anything else? Presumably, almost any Moots frames can be customized with extra brazeons, and even rack mounts where appropriate?
I would say that list is on target. I’d add in the PSYCHLO X & PX RSL, as they are cross bikes for sure, but will do just fine on gravel and bikepacking trips.”
I’ve always been a YBB fan. Right now, my dream Moots is probably the Mountaineer YBB 27.5 Plus. Can you tell us about the motivating factors behind its creation? Anything you can tell us about the frame? Availability, weight and cost?
The motivation for creating the Mountaineer came from years of riding our other models, pushing the limits of tire size we could stuff into them. Thanks to Boost 148, now we can set the stays wider, and expand tire clearances through nice curves in the chain stays. For hand built frame makers this really opens up some room. Over a year ago, we experimented with 29+ and found it to be too much wheel and tire. The 27.5+ is much better suited to riding loaded or unloaded. We pulled from our long history, namely those first mountain bikes that were focused on adventure – the idea of not always knowing the kind of trail or sub trail you might find yourself on. Tubing wise, we went with a nice selection of oversized top and down tubes, and seat tube too. Paired with our 7/8″ chain stays, Breezer-style drop outs, thru-axle and the legendary YBB, this bike can tackle pretty much anything. With the development of the 27.5+ tires & wheels it really makes hardtail and soft tail mountain bikes legitimate again. The Mountaineer has been available since January 1st 2016… we can ship now! A frame weighs 4.25 pounds, in a large, and costs $3999. The bike on our site comes in at 26 pounds, and costs $7899.00.”
And can you tell us a bit about the YBB platform in general?
You bet… we first produced the YBB in 1987 in the form of a steel mountain bike. It was revolutionary at the time. When we switched to titanium in 1991, it soon become the legendary cross country bike of choice. It’s a simple system that has been copied by others, but not perfected like the original from Moots (i’m biased). No compressed air or oil to leak, just over an inch of rear axle travel – just enough to take the edge off. Add that to 2.8 or 3.0in ‘plus’ tires and it’s a match made in heaven.”
27+ seems to be picking up momentum – a lot faster than 29+, or even fat bikes. Any thoughts on this?
In our opinion the 29+ wheel size is too much – it’s not worth chasing, as the 27.5+ performs much better.”
We noticed your show bikes at NAHBS often features soft bags by Porcelain Rocket. Will the bolt-on framebags that we’ve seen be available as well?
Yes, we have a warm spot in our heart for anything Scott at Porcelain Rocket makes. He really knows his stuff and makes his products in a similar fashion as we make ours. Using the best materials and the best process yields the best end product. He is also out there riding and innovating as he sees the need. The bolt on bags were fun to do, but for practical reasons they’re not something we’ll be offering.”
During your 20 years with Moots, what’s changed, and what’s remained the same?
There’ve been several changes. Our in house CNC department is a big one. We prototype and then produce a huge number of our weld-ons in house, which really has brought our quality up and lead times down. The tubing has really evolved and improved our products. Better alloys, better diameters and wall thickness ratios. The soul of Moots has really remained steady though. Riding bikes and testing where we live really matters to us, and is always a constant.”
Enough about bikes… What kind of trails to do you like to ride?
I like berms. I came from a BMX background from the early 80’s, so I like ‘em FLOWY. I’m also a sucker for hitting trails on my cross bike, pushing what is possible on the bike you might be on.”
Do you and the team get out on many overnighters? Anything planned for the spring?
We do. Our international Sales director Matt Alford has put together a few Friday night ‘lights’ where we will ride from the shop on Friday evening, stop where we like for an evening of camp fire, story telling (lying) and maybe a sip of whiskey.”
Any recommendations for a local bikepacking loop out of Steamboat Springs?
My favorite is a loop called “Circle the Zirkel” which is a loop around the Zirkel Wilderness Area just to the north of Steamboat. There are two different ways of doing it. 150 miles of dirt road, or 150 miles (90 of which are single track) on a mountain bike. I’ve done it in two days on both a mountain bike or cyclocross bike. It’s heaven.”
Thanks for your time Jon. We look forward to seeing what Moots comes out with next…