When we left off yesterday, our hero was waxing less than poetic about the Vamoots handling. If you’d like to see what he was on about, go here.
With a trail of 6.37cm, the Vamoots has roughly a centimeter more trail than many race-oriented bikes for this size. It’s also got a longish wheelbase, but I didn’t have trouble getting the bike to turn thanks to that lower bottom bracket. Compared to a Specialized Tarmac, the BB is 5mm lower. On descents, at speeds between 30 and 40 mph, the bike was calm as a United Nations diplomat. My concern with bikes with this much trail is that while they can be ultra-stable at 12 mph, they can get loose when you get up to 50 mph. I suspect—though I didn’t have the opportunity to try—that would not have been a problem because of the short-ish 57cm top tube, which keeps plenty of weight on the front wheel.
My one issue with the Vamoots had to do with the bike’s trail. Across nine sizes, five different head-tube angles are spec’d, ranging from 72 degrees in the 48cm frame to 73 degrees in the 60cm frame. The increase in angle is only a quarter of a degree at a time. To their credit, they spec three different fork rakes, 40mm, 45mm and 50mm. The issue is that a 5mm increase in fork rake is almost equal to 1-degree increase in head tube angle. The upshot is that trail on the nine sizes jumps around a bit—the 56cm frame with the same head angle but 5mm more fork rake is going to be a sharper handling bike, noticeably so. To offset a quarter-degree increase in head tube angle you only need increase fork rake by 1mm. I’m being picky here, I admit. While the choice of forks isn’t ideal, they get credit for taking a much better approach than some companies that use a single fork rake across six or seven sizes. It’s good, better than some, but not ideal.
It’s a bike, so the issue of weight invariably must come up. I wasn’t afforded the opportunity to weigh the frame alone on this bike. They claim a 56cm frame weighs 3 lbs. Given the bike’s stiffness, that number is unsurprising. I’ve yet to ride a steel bike with that combination of weight and stiffness.
I’ve ridden more than a dozen different ti bikes over the years. I’ve ridden a half-dozen or more Litespeeds alone. The first thing I noticed about the Moots as I rolled from my driveway was how surprisingly stiff the bike was at the bottom bracket. It was stiffer than most steel bikes I’ve ever ridden, most ti bikes, too. Certainly it wasn’t as stiff as the current crop of carbon creations, but this ride is more 7-series than M-series to use a BMW analogy; it’s meant to be comfortable.
Out on the road one of the bike’s most distinctive features was its muted road feel. While some ti bikes allow a fair amount of high-frequency road vibration to reach the rider, the Vamoots was plenty sensitive but turned the treble down on the highest stuff. It’s an understandable approach if you’re going to be on the road for hours riding centuries and gran fondos. Honestly, this bike is perfect for a long day in the Alps.
The Vamoots is the sort of bike that will build a rider’s confidence. It’s stable, yet responsive and stiff without being jarring. There’s going to come a day when my agility has gone brittle, my confidence cheap. I hope to age with some grace, which to me means staying on the bike but dialing back my ambition. While I love this bike today, its relevance as the correct answer to my life will sharpen in 15 years.
What I most wanted to do while this bike was in my possession was to roll from my front door with no agenda. Simply head out one morning with three pockets stuffed with food. No worries about pace or destination, maybe spin through downtown, hit the Mulholland rollers, maybe head up the recently reopened Angeles Crest Highway, the Vamoots would have been perfect on its sweeping bends. Alas, my review bike is a demo that needs to circulate … and can’t spend months in my garage. In their wisdom, they will rely less on my word than your experience. Good plan.
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?”
“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 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.
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.