Training, racing, gear, facial hair styles and thoughts from my push to become an elite cyclist.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Moots Mooto X RSL Full Review

After a year's worth of use I think I can legitimately publish a review of my Moots Mooto X RSL.  For an entire season this was the bike I rode in every race, every trail ride and every dirt road excursion.  I even found myself favoring dirt road rides on the RSL over mileage on paved roads on my road bike, so that should give you an idea of how fond I am of this bike.

The foundation of the bike is of course the Moots ti frame and matching 30.9 seatpost.  The RSL family has several refinements compared to their predecessors, namely a 44 mm headtube, Press Fit 30 bottom bracket and a 30.9 seatpost.  Individually those changes add incremental stiffness to the ride, but together they really help to fuse ride quality and responsive handling while still keeping the lively ti trail feel.  Frame weight is 3.4 lbs for a 19, and the overall bike as pictured is 22.5 lbs- pretty svelte considering it's a large metal bike used for endurance races with no sketchy light parts.

This is the 2011 model which is technically designed around an 80 mm fork.  The 2012 has been tweaked to include slightly updated geometry for a 100 mm fork and the downtube now has an additional bend in it near the bottom bracket shell.

I opted to run a full 100 mm of travel, which does slacken the bike slightly.  The geometry table will show it's a pretty steep bike, so it's really not a major change.  When the 2012 came out I asked the guys at Moots about the head angle change to accomodate the additional travel they said that it was nominal and that the (mainly cosmetic) change to double curve the downtube was the biggest difference between the two bikes.

Interestingly Velo News reviewed the same model year RSL with a 100 mm Fox fork and they did not report any negative effects of the additional travel either. 

The 44 mm headtube does allow for a tapered steerer, but that adds to the overall stack height of the front end because the lower race needs to sit outside the headtube.  Since I'm running 100 mm travel I decided to minimize the overall change and run a standard straight 1 1/8" steerer.  In my mind the additional travel was more important than the nominal gain in stiffness.

The seatstays feature the trademark Moots monostay and aggressive shaping to allow for tire clearance.  Even around the Maxxis Ikon 2.2 there's plenty of room.

The chainstays have less tire clearance primarily because the chainrings need to clear the outside of the stay.  There is still room for my 2.2, but it's a tighter fit.  The front derailleur is also pretty close to the tire.  I've done several very muddy rides and races and never felt that this contributed to unnecessary mud build up.

The front end of the bike is pretty low slung.  Most of last season I experimented with my positioning mostly to improve my technical handling skills.  I'd read about using wider bars in conjunction with a shorter stem so I tried that out a few months.  To complicate things even more Moots changed their sizing so to get my usual 24"-ish toptube I would need to ride a 19 and not a 20 like my YBB.  Add in a steep seat angle and the longer travel fork and it was too much for me to geek out ahead of time- I had to experiment after I got it built up.  

The good news is that the bike felt pretty balanced and the 90 mm stem was a good starting point.  As bars get wider the reach effectively lengthens (consider how far your chest is from the ground when you're doing push ups with your hands directly under your shoulders versus further apart) so I didn't want to get too stretched out.  

I ran the 90 for several months and it felt pretty good, but when I switched to a 100 mm stem I felt the bike instantly had a more balanced feel.  The short stem/wide bar approach works great for trail bikes or long travel, but the key thing with the RSL is that the rear wheel is tucked in so tightly that it puts a lot of weight over the rear wheel.  As a result I had a few bad falls in wet terrain because I didn't have enough weight on the front wheel to maintain traction.  I could overcome that by aggressively weighting the front end, but that riding style didn't really suit the bike and isn't feasible in endurance events.

The ride quality of this bike is amazing.  I've ridden other 29er hardtails and this one takes the cake with the best handling/smoothness/stiffness combination for cross country racing.  I'm running it with handbuilt Chris King/Stan's Crest rims which are fairly compliant and fit well with the overall feel of the bike.  When I've ridden other wheelsets like the Sun Ringle Black Flag Pro the bike feels quicker and almost shorter (because the spoke windup and rearwheel deflection is minimized), but that also means more chatter on square-edged bumps.

The SID fits well with the overall race-centric feel, but the Reba that preceeded it was a great fork also.  The Reba was easier to setup as the SID is slightly finicky with the STP3 damping cartridge.   Once it's setup it's a remarkable fork and the remote lockout is the best I've ever used.

Overall I would agree with the Velo News review with the exception of their dismissal of the Press Fit 30 bottom bracket design.  The PF30 bottom brackets are certainly the Achilles heel of the bike- they creak and wear out very quickly, but they are also fairly inexpensive and easy to replace.  It's not having a wider crank spindle but rather the larger shell diameter that makes the difference since it allows larger diameter tubes to be welded together.  By doing that the bottom bracket stiffness is remarkably better than standard threaded bb shell ti frames, and to me that's worth the trade off.

PF30 has been adopted by many small builders like Moots because it allows for bigger tubes, and I would suspect that higher quality bottom brackets aren't too far off from companies like Chris King or Phil Wood.  The first generation of GXP bottom brackets sucked too, but they've been improved and I expect PF30 to follow the same path.  And if you really hate PF30 you can permanently glue in an adapter to run a threaded English bottom bracket and pretend this whole thing never happened.

The RSL is not cheap, but it's a great option for a bike that rides well and will hold up.  It's also American made and still offers a lifetime warranty- something that is getter harder and harder to find in mountain bikes.  With all of that said I can say the Mooto X RSL is now my favorite in a long list of high end bikes. 

For more information visit moots online.

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