I have a few blind spots in my bike product repertoire. I have ridden Campagnolo, but have little feel for the differences between Record and Chorus. I have never bombed a downhill run on a bike made for those extremes. I live in Southern California so my experience with fenders is nil.
My Titanium knowledge is also pretty shallow. I once rode a Ti frame for a year. It was made by a hobbyist. About all I can say is it held together. So when the Moots van showed up at its Santa Monica, CA dealer on a recent Saturday, I booked a spot. A demo ride to satisfy my curiosi-Ti.
Moots has been making Titanium frames since 1991. For ten years prior, it was steel. Steamboat Springs, Colorado is there home. They do stock sizes and custom. It is a small and focused company. They do Titanium, that’s it.
“Head to head (Titanium) is not going to be as light as carbon, ever,” says Jon Cariveau, Moots Marketing Director, “Ride quality is always that first piece and that’s what we are most concerned about.”
Which is exactly why I picked out a Routt, Moots’ adventure entry. I have been struggling to control my carbon-‘cross sled through the rough patches of the Santa Monica Mountains, and I wanted to see if Titanium’s slight give could help keep me planted.
The Routt’s cousin is the Psychlo X, the dedicated cyclocross rig by Moots. The Routt would do just fine on a fall day bouncing over barriers. But this bike has more bottom bracket drop than traditional ‘cross race machines, 6.9 cm according to the spec sheet. The Routt also has a longer head tube, 17 cm, for a more upright position, and a sloped top tube. So its primary mission is ripping dirt roads, which is exactly what I intended to do.
First, there’s was tarmac to cover. The Demo Day was scheduled as a road ride. Our group got onto Pacific Coast Highway and then turned onto Topanga Canyon Rd. I was the only one on an adventure bike. I was surrounded by skinny tires. But the Routt was not a liability. It jumped nicely during accelerations on the flats and kept me in touch on the long climb up Topanga Canyon and Old Topanga Canyon Rd.
When we got to the top of Old Topanga Canyon, I flicked the Routt onto Summit to Summit Motorway. It’s a fire road that runs between Old Topanga and Topanga. You could ride a road bike on it. The Demo Routt had Sammy Slick 35s, so I figured a familiar dirt surface would be a good place to start. The Routt went from a capable road machine to a real buzz kill, and I mean that in a good way. The Moots titanium tubes ate up rough spots and washboards along that 3.2 mile section.
Next, a long dirt climb on an unpaved section of Mulholland Dr. Here, the Routt also shined by continuing to show its upward mobility. It has just enough give to keep the rear wheel in contact while going over rough sections. There is some BB flex. It’s slight, but I liked it. The bike felt alive and aware of rider input, especially during short, out of the saddle efforts. On punchy climbs I would reach for the hooks, stomp the pedals and charge over the crest.
The final test was another familiar one: the descent of Sullivan Ridge. This is a fire road I have bombed countless times. The dirt portion takes about 8 minutes to cover with speeds in the mid-30s. I usually go down it on a twitchy, carbon ‘cross bike. I was starting to feel familiar with the Routt so as soon as I cleared the gate, I got into an attack position-hands in the drops, chest down, butt back-and let gravity do its thing.
My curiosity about Ti was born on the Sullivan descent. The ultra-stiff-carbon bike tends to ricochet through the rough patches. What should be a highlight of a ride-an eight minute free-fall-turns into a chatter fest. It’s unnerving. So I let the Routt run on Sullivan Ridge to see how it would match up. In the chop, those titanium tubes soaked it up. There is a rebound to the material, kind of a spring-like effect, but no chatter. Titanium calms the nerves, deflects the angst. The Routt was a beta-blocker on two wheels.
I got back to Bike Effect, the Moots dealer and Demo Ride host, about the same time as the rest of the group. They were happy, I was happy and dirty.
The Routt I rode has a max tire clearance of 35mm. The Routt 45 has longer chain stays to fit today’s bigger 700c offerings. Moots has a four week turn around on made to order frames.
For now, carbon is king for most applications. But in the adventure category, when the goal is performance, do we truly have a clear cut leader?
“We are very confident this bike can take you into the far reaches of wherever you might be,” Cariveau says of the Routt, “It’s not going to break, it’s not going to crack. It really can take a beating year after year.”
Final thought: Satisfy your curiosity and your sense of adventure.