The Moots Vamoots, Part I

What’s not to covet?

I live in Southern California, and the cycling scene here is unlike any I’ve encountered anywhere else. When I go back home to Memphis, I run across guys on bikes with 9-speed Dura-Ace, which, except for the brakes, is arguably one of the hardiest workhorse groups for the money that was ever produced. Mounted on a Serotta, it’s an assemblage that simply won’t need replacing unless it’s stolen or crashed.

But here in the land of—hell, just what is this place? It’s the ultimate buffet of what America has to offer. From fabulous wealth to poverty that would make even Leona Helmsley weep, Los Angeles is all things to all people, the ultimate dream maker and crusher to 10 million people in 4000 square miles. But the cycling community is bred from an educated, successful lot. Nine-speed drivetrains? That’s the stuff of rain bikes and spare cyclocross bikes. Steel? Definitely not the A-bike. Ultegra? That’s what folks recommend to the first-time AIDS riders.

People turn over their bikes on a pretty regular basis, but it has a curious effect on the riders. I’ll roll up to someone on a group ride and ask, “Hey, how do you like your new Gonkulator?”

“It’s terrific.”

“How’s it compare to your old Trek/Specialized/Giant?”

“Well, I’m not sure how to describe the difference, but I know one thing: It made me more excited about riding. I’ve increased my mileage by a third this month, just because I’m not skipping rides.”

That’s the funny thing about bikes; you can keep all the company the same, ride the same roads, probably even go the very same speeds, but a new bike is a new, fresh experience and has the power to reinvigorate your riding. It’s why I fundamentally believe:

Better bike = better experience = better life.

With the flash and fashion of all the carbon fiber creations out there it’s easy to lose a whole material like, say, titanium. I’ve spent the last couple of weeks riding a Moots Vamoots around and found myself wondering why the hell I’m not seeing more of these on the road.

The weld quality on Moots bikes is just stunning. This is why guys do double-pass welds.

The Vamoots is the cheeseburger of the Moots line. Now, they work with grass-fed, ground Kobe, but the Vamoots is a bike with no surprises except for its quality. It’s the sort of bike you look at whose beauty is so obvious, its function so implicit, that your reaction is to think, “Well, of course.”

The Vamoots is constructed from 3/2.5 titanium; this is the sunny day of titanium tubing: beyond reproach. The 7/8-inch chainstays are as much a signature of the bike’s appearance as its ride quality. You know a Moots by its socks, but more on that in a minute.

While the glowing luster of the titanium recalls days of government surplus and grunge metal, the geometry hails from days hard men with names like Merckx and De Vlaeminck. That’s because the Vamoots is built around old-school grand touring geometry.

This is a bike aimed squarely at those who are unconcerned with what anyone else is riding. Neither the material used to create this bike nor the geometry it is designed around are the least bit trendy.

The Vamoots is available in nine production sizes, from 48cm to 60cm in 2cm increments. And if none of those work for you, custom remains an option. Speaking of options, it’s refreshing to see a bike that offers choices. In addition to a custom fit, you can request S&S Couplers, track dropouts, a pump peg, chain hanger, rack eyelets, fender mount in the chainstay bridge, a third set of water bottle bosses (now that’s a long day!), decal choices, Di2 internal and other cable routing options. Whew.

The 68mm BB shell is old tech, but that’s not to say it doesn’t work well. This bike is plenty stiff at the BB.

My Vamoots was a 58cm frame. The top tube was 57cm; that’s 5mm shorter than that found on the ever-popular Vamoots CR. It had a lowish bottom bracket: 7.3cm; that’s 2mm lower than on the Vamoots CR with its decidedly racier geometry. The chainstays were 42cm long; that’s 5mm longer than on the Vamoots CR. And the head tube is 17cm long, a full centimeter longer than on the Vamoots CR. The head tube angle, at 72.75 was a full degree slacker than on the Vamoots CR. Both share an identical seat tube angle of 73. Finally, the fork had a rake of 40mm, yielding a trail of 6.37cm.

Put simply, confusing this bike with a race bike would suggest a need for cataract surgery. Years ago, with chainstays that are longish but not so long as to offer heel clearance for big panniers, a bike like this would have been termed light touring. It recalls the Specialized Sequoia and the Raleigh Alyeska. They were bikes you could ride from here to Mars and not regret the experience. Specialized boss-man Mike Sinyard so loved the Sequoia that the Roubaix is just a 21st-century version of that bike.

Now, that’s not to say you couldn’t get this bike around a crit course. I did some very fast group rides on this and was able to follow the line of riders in front of me, but to do so is to misuse the bike to a degree, like slicing apples with a bread knife.

Tomorrow: Part II.

 

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7 comments

  1. Doug P

    Thanks for the review. Boy! That’s one luscious bike! It has it all! It’s METAL, REALLY made in the US, and has all the touches I’ve been seeking in a bike. If my ship ever docks with the ducats necessary to buy this gem, there’s no contest. The gram counters can have their semi-disposable plastic Asian creations. The Moots is my dream bike.

  2. Alex

    Padraig, I own the off-road version of that “workhorse” you mentioned early in your post: a ´99 Moots YBB, still assembled with 8-speed Shimano XTR transmission and Avid Ultimate brakes. It´s 9,8kg with pedals, bottle cages and ciclopc. TI is so durable that even after thousands of miles (off-road, hard miles), racing, mud and dust, the frame still looks like new after a wash. The components are working flawlessly too, not a surprise for an 8spd. And if I slap a new, 2×10 lighweight groupset and suspension fork on it, I can build a superlight racing machine.

    For exactly those reasons (durability, reliability and ride quality), I´ve been considering a move from carbon (my ´10 SL3) to TI (a Moots, Seven or Serotta). I love carbon, it´s amazing and I´ve never had any trouble pushing it hard in training and racing. Top carbon bikes are unbeatable in most departments, IMHO. But I feel I´d be much more… relaxed, perhaps in a confident way, maybe… on a TI framed bike. Like never havo to worry with crashes and ugly road abuse. Such a sweet ride too. And it´s a smart investiment if one consider that TI really lasts forever.

  3. Dan O

    I’ve never owed one, but have always admired Moots. Very cool bikes. The ‘cross version could be my all-around, do everything bike – if money would allow…

  4. bd

    I ride a 5 year old 56cm Vamoots built up with a sram red group and easton ea90slx clinchers (great quality components that can be ridden everyday). The geometry of my bike is more like the current Vamoots RSL, but has the tubing of the bike reviewed above.

    I live in Vermont. It snows and rains here. A lot. I bought this bike as a long lasting, lightweight workhorse to endure weather, crappy roads, and the 18+% grades brought upon by the App Gap and Smuggler’s Notch. My bike has seen all that, plus the local weekly world championships and the G.M.S.R.

    It has more than lived up to all of my expectations and while I’m lusting for some fancy new lightweight deep dish carbon tubulars for it, I just can’t see replacing it with anything else. In my eyes, it deserves the label of a truly superb all around road bike.

    I’m looking forward to reading part 2!

  5. Pingback: The Moots Vamoots, Part II : Red Kite Prayer

  6. JClev

    Funny and accurate description of the SoCal scene – I lived, trained and raced out there (Santa Monica) for 6yrs before moving to cold, bitter (and vibrant) New England. I agree that the racing scene is definitely different here, kind of a similar vibe to what you describe. Not to diminish the west coast scene (god, would I love to be back there), but I’ve found a more practical and hardy breed of racer out here. Steel frames? Yep, and some beauties too. Fenders? Almost everyone has a “rain” bike with a full set. Shitty conditions? There’s a reason that we’re one of the premiere ‘cross regions. Hell, I even see guys rolling elite crits with down-tube shifters, and no one gives a second glance. Bottom line is that it’s about how you ride the bike, not what’s on it.

    BTW – my “backup” race bike, and regular-use “swiss-arm knife” bike is a custom IF Ti-Crown Jewel, which will likely be my favorite bike for life. Fast, stiff, and very smooth – it does everything well, and with style. I’ve raced crits, rolled centuries, and even commute to the office on it. There’s just something so comforting and special about riding a metal-frame bike. When I was initially shopping for it, and weighing it against faster, lighter carbon frames, the question that I asked myself was, “which bike will I still want to ride in ten years?” It was an easy decision.

  7. Darwin

    I have a VaMoots with Dura-Ace 7800. After 30 years of always chasing the next cool thing I finally got tired of it and bought the Moots. So glad I did. This bike will probably outlast me and is superlative in every way. I see all the new carbon bikes come and go without a trace of envy or interest.

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