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2011 Moots MootoX RSL — White Mountains Ride Experience

Moots 2011 MootoX RSL

About two months after riding the Trek SuperFly 100 Elite and Top Fuel 9.9 SSL bikes on the Trek to the Summit of White Mountain Peak, I had occasion to ride the Moots MootoX RSL in the same territory. My impressions follow.

For my ride, the Moots MootoX RSL sported Furious Fred Tires, and the RockShox 2012 SID XX World Cup suspension fork with carbon steerer. This is a very responsive, very fast setup at 21.7 pounds, several pounds lighter than the Trek 11SuperFly 100 Elite, and about a pounds lighter than the Trek Top Fuel 9.9 SSL (mainly because of the lighter tires).

Steep technical uphill

Just past the Barcroft Research Station (see official site), the “road” steepens, with loose gravel and rocks. This section when ridden on the two Trek bicycles demanded from me a considerable effort to navigate successfully (on multiple days/attempts). That remained true as well across the broad meadow towards White Mountain Peak, where it grows increasingly rocky.

When I rode the MootoX RSL up this section, I was astonished by just how much easier it was to “clean” this section (with one foot dab, my own mistake). It took much less physical effort as well as less concentration to ride it. I was very impressed at this point.

Now in September, I was both lighter and stronger than in July when I rode this section on the Trek bicycles, but that was an incremental gain, and it was clear that a lot more was going on than a minor strength/weight gain:

  • The lighter wheels and tires made it easier to position the tire precisely where I wanted it.
  • The 15QR front axle yields more precise steering; I think this contributes to precision and stability.
  • The MootoX RSL hardtail design means 100% efficient power transfer to the rear wheel, no small thing on steep, loose uphill sections at altitude.
  • The Furious Fred tires should have had less grip than the more aggressive Bontrager tires on the Treks, but instead I had little or no slippage, perhaps because of better power transfer and (so it feels), a better-balanced bike.

In my experience, the MootoX RSL outperformed either of those two Treks by a comfortable margin. Not only that, the precise handling of the Moots made descending this section easier as well, even though in theory the dual suspension Treks should have made it easier. Not so— the Moots MootoX RSL rode it beautifully, with less concentration required, and absolutely no sense of the slightly unstable feel of the Treks which made me feel like I would be eating rocks.

Barcroft Research Station in California’s White Mountains, about 12,470 elevation

Downhill on washboard

Road conditions that are “washboard” are one of the most demanding conditions for a mountain bike; cross-country suspension cannot smooth out the ride very much, and the bike itself shows all weaknesses in terms of frame and fork stiffness.

On washboard, I’d have to give the dual suspension designs some credit for smoothing out the ride, but I was surprised at just how well the MootoX RSL did. I attribute this to the lightweight tubeless tires (very compliant), and well as the ability of the MootoX RSL frame to soak up some of the road vibration in spite of its high overall stiffness.

The lack of rear suspension can make the rear end of a hardtail wander around on the loose rocky terrain; this is unavoidable as the rear end has no “give” other than the tires. The Moots MootoX YBB variant would likely calm down this effect. At any rate, I was able to ride just as fast on the RSL. The Trek SuperFly 100 Elite did allow more seat-time than either the Top Fuel or the MootoX RSL, presumably due to being both a 29er and dual suspension.

Rocky ground

Ascending terrain with a mix of loose rocks can be done two ways: bang over the rocks, or thread an efficient “line” through them. My riding style is intensely the latter (more skill and more fun), and besides, at 13,000', uphill over loose rocks is simply too physically demanding to sustain for very long.

Ascending, I found that the MootoX RSL made short work of the meadow past Barcroft Research Station, all the way up to the last hill before the dip before the final summit climb. I was again struck by just how much easier this section felt on the MootoX RSL than on the dual suspension Treks. It was fun, not just hard work, and I kept a grin on my face (really!). I have nothing but praise for the MootoX RSL here; I found that I could thread my way precisely through even the toughest and steepest rocky sections, and I never felt intimidated by a jumble of rocks to navigate.

Descending, I found that the same principle applied: while a dual suspension bike can bang over rocks (assuming suitable heavy duty tires for puncture-avoidance), with the MootoX RSL I was able to thread a line at high speed, minimizing hard shocks and risk to tires, simply by threading a line through the rocks, utilizing the extremely agile handling of the MootoX RSL. I was able to do this at higher speed than with the Treks, a remarkable experience that again astonished me. Very impressive.

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General conclusions

Prior to acquiring the MootoX RSL 29er, my working assumption had been that dual suspension would offer obvious advantages as soon as the terrain became a little rough.

I was wrong. While dual suspension solves a few problems in some specific terrain situations, overall on both local rides and tough White Mountain rides, I have found that 90% of the time I can ride the MootoX RSL 29er faster and with greater ease than either of the dual suspension top-line Treks.

The MootoX RSL efficient power transfer, the ride quality of titanium, the precision handling, the 29er format all contribute to a synergy whose bottom line is enjoyment and efficiency. In short, dual suspension is a clear liability when total riding time is considered. A liability to both enjoyment and efficiency, and I’m talking about my standard rides being 2-3 hours, not short races.

The Moots MootoX RSL delivers an outstanding experience in all respects. It has become my favorite mountain bike ever, stealing many days away from my road-biking, and always bringing a smile to my face when I ride it. It’s so good that even after two months of riding it keeps impressing me with its capabilities, and that’s an experience that rarely occurs with any bike.

Of course, the MootoX RSL has its limitations; as a hardtail there is of course terrain that is better tackled with dual suspension, including more front travel, etc. Moreover, staying seated at all times is problematic with a hardtail. But put simply, heavier (overweight) riders should lose the gut to save the butt; riders who insist on staying seated 95% of the time are missing a lot of the fun, and should work on riding skills and fitness, rather than erroneously thinking that dual suspension is mandatory.

YBB alternative

Riders looking for some rear-end compliance should take a look at the Moots MootoX YBB, available in either 26" or 29" wheel size versions. The YBB model offers an inch of rear-end compliance which in my view is far preferable to conventional dual suspension (see my review of the Moots YBB 26). YBB travel is enough, and it is simpler, lighter, with better power transfer.

The White Mountains for mountain biking

Images from the White Mountains, taken with the Fuji X100 digital camera, my preferred camera for photography while biking (as of 2011).

This is some of the most enjoyable fire road you’ll find anywhere in terms of the landscape. I know of no better place to ride in California. Numerous side roads branch off the main road, but there are very sharp rocks, so plan accordingly.

Frame logos are blacked out here on the Moots MootoX RSL shown below— there are a lot of riders who cannot afford a MootoX RSL, and some that would nonetheless really like to have one. A prudent precaution.

White Mountain Road at Crooked Creek turnoff

Getting ready to ride at 12,000'.

Your author with White Mountain Peak in the background

Well, mountain biking doesn’t get much more thrilling than this kind of view and weather. What a feeling! White Mountain Peak summit is visible in the distance, summitted July 29.

I just about always have a Lupine Betty mounted on my mountain bike, because it’s great for a daytime running light, and one never knows when riding late in the day what might befall, or whether extra riding might be enjoyable. The Lupine Betty eliminates night-time as an issue.

White Mountain Road at ~12,000' elevation looking towards White Mountain Peak
Lupine Betty II mounted on handlebar next to Garmin Edge 500

My Moots MootoX RSL and gear I rode with:

Equipment for a solo high altitude mountain bike ride

The red spot is a mark from the helmet pressing on my forehead.

Self portrait at 12,800'

This is the road to the summit of White Mountain Peak on September 21, 2011, at the last hump before the road dips a bit before beginning its final strenuous ascent to the summit. Winter presses in early here in 2011.

Last hump at ~ 12,800' before the dip before the final White Mountain Peak summit push

Kill that sign dead. The local rednecks haven’t lerned how to kill signs with fewer than 10 shots, which is where they run out of fingers. This sign is in darn good shape compared to its sibling up the road, which looks like T2 after a bunch of shotgun blasts.

Kill that sign dead


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