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2012 Moots Psychlo X RSL — Riding Notes
Related: Cyclocross, gear, Moots, mountain biking, Schwalbe, Shimano
See the bike build notes for background for this discussion.
These notes will be expanded with more time on the bike.
With my first ride on my new Psychlo X RSL, I wore a grin all the way up Alpine Road to Black Mountain, down Montebello Road and back (my local rides). That’s about 5600 vertical feet in 34 miles from where I live.
I was delighted with what I felt— the experts at Palo Alto Bicycles had outdone themselves— the hand-built wheelset, the perfect Shimano DuraAce Di2 shifting, the double-thick handlebar wrap, the ideal gearing, the perfect fit— all contributed to a ride quality that left me awed as to the stunning performance on the road and the trail.
The foregoing is not hyperbole; it must be understood in the context of my four (4) other Moots titanium bikes, as well as the LOOK 695 Ultra, two top end Trek Madones and the LOOK 695 SR. While I would sorely miss my road racing bikes, my thoughts on the first ride were “wow, if I could only have one bike, this bike could do it all!”. With two wheelsets of course, one for road, one for offroad so that optimal tire choice would be a wheel-swap instead of a tire change.
To be clear, the Psychlo X RSL with knobby tires is not a road racing bike like my Moots Vamoots RSL with ultralight carbon wheels. And even with road tires, its cyclocross geometry precludes the razor-sharp finesse of the Vamoots RSL. But what I’m talking about is a great fit, superb handling and responsiveness, and the seamless transition from smooth pavement to rough pavement to dirt and back— it was truly impressive to ride a bike that just soaked it all up and felt (on the first ride) like I had always ridden it. It’s not often a bike feels that good.
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Handling on dirt and pavement
I was impressed with how well the Psychlo X RSL handled. The hand-built wheelset was not only comfortable, but handling was terrific, and the bike was set up for me perfectly. Unlike my initial test ride on the test bike, I did not leave the road or trail against my intentions; the far superior brakes and perfect setup made me quite comfortable my very first ride.
The Moots Psychlo X RSL handles really well and I’m super-picky about handling. I immediately felt at ease, and had no trouble descending quite fast, laughing off the rough pavement that would give me the jitters on my road bike. To be sure, the squared-off Schwalbe 'Racing Ralph' knobby tires don’t handle as well as a tubular road racing tire, but the bike handled superbly within the limitations of the tires and the cyclocross-oriented wheelset. In short, I had a blast on my first ride.
The Moots Psychlo X RSL felt very efficient while climbing both on and off road, though to be clear the knobby 33mm tires at 70 psi don’t feel as efficient as a 22mm road racing tire at 120 psi. Well, that’s obvious I hope.
The Psychlo X RSL has an ultra-solid feel in all respects— one look at the frame with its beefy rear end, rugged fork, oversized head tube— they all have to contribute to an incredibly solid feeling bike. The front end just feels solid— there is no slop or play whatsoever. The rear end gives the impression of perfect power transfer.
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Hallelujah! The 34 front ring with the 11-36 cassette is a godsend! My local hills are now rideable even on recovery days, including that steep section on the Alpine Road dirt bypass (for locals reading this).
In addition, grinding up the steep sections of Montebello road (again for locals), at 34 X 36 combo is an awfully nice option. It makes the bike much more versatile in what can be ridden without ridiculous force on the pedals. Great stuff and highly recommended!
Putting power into the Psychlo X RSL is rewarding.
Grabbing the bar hoods for a vigorous sprint, the Psychlo X RSL leaps ahead, within the limits of whatever tire pressures allow (tire squish). The frame delivers every watt of power to the rear wheel— great stuff.
I did not detect any frame flex or instability from pedaling or bumps— this is one rock-solid frame. It seems that one would need to mount a stiff road-bike wheelset with high-pressure tires on the Psychlo X RSL to explore its limits of stiffness.
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What struck me on my first ride was just how enjoyable it was to laugh off the bumpy/lumpy pavement on a fast descent like Montebello Road (local ride). On a road bike with 120 psi tires, certain bumpy sections make me nervous on 120 psi tires; on the Psychlo X RSL, the knobby tires just eat it up, damping out most of the unpleasantries.
One aspect that surprised me: on level or uphill, hand comfort was better than with my Moots MootoX RSL mountain bike with its suspension fork— going downhill where one must grab the bar hard is another matter— the hands take a beating, such as descending my local Windy Hill fire road (very steep, rough). Still, the combination of the hand-built wheelset, 33mm tires and the titanium frame make the best of a difficult situation.
I attribute part of the comfort difference to the hand position on the brake/shifter hoods, which is well leveraged on the Psychlo X RSL, and thus apparently more kind to hands than a mountain bar (on flat an uphill), even though I use the relatively comfortable Moots Ti bar on my mountain bikes. Perhaps the rubber brake hoods also play a role, as well as the handlebar itself, and its bar tape. As well, the angled hand position on the brake hoods allows more of the hand to take the load and at a more natural hand position, as compared to a mountain bike bar.
But the hand-built wheelset clearly has a significant role to play— those spokes offer some “give” as do the 33mm tires I tend to ride offroad.
I also attribute a good part of the comfort to the Moots titanium frame and its geometry and tube selection. It’s clear to me that the Moots ride quality is there with the Psychlo X RSL, and shares similar ride characteristics to my three Moots mountain bikes. Yet the Psychlo X RSL is a beefy build, so don’t expect any comfort miracles from its sturdy construction.
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Mud-clearing wide profile cantilever brakes are awful compared to mountain or road brakes, take the fun out of descending steep stuff, since one has to use the brakes much more to keep speed moderate.
Hence my decision to use the TRP mini V brakes. I was very happy with this decision, as the braking performance was excellent.
Shimano DuraAce Di2 electronic shifting
The shifting experience matches my road bike, and I vastly prefer it to the SRAM Red drivetrain I rode on the test bike, not to mention an 11-36 rear.
Thoughts on other uses
I’d advise any and all road cyclists looking to shape up their routine and/or extend the riding condition envelope to take a good hard look at the Psychlo X RSL. I am certain it is going to play a key role in my training for the Everest Challenge in 2012.
For example, instead of road-cycling on a fairly limited set of local rides (I don’t have the time to go drive an hour for other rides), I can now hump it up pavement, transition to dirt, cross pavement, hit dirt, descend pavement, ascend pavement, hit dirt, hit more pavement, hit dirt, etc. Shortcuts and bypasses are now options that on a road bike are either unpleasant or unwise.
The cross-training effect is also there— by incorporated a mixed road/offroad workout, the legs are forced into less familiar exertion; higher torque and more balance are required on a cyclocross bike offroad. This not only helps with fitness, it keeps serious cyclists from getting bored or in a rut on the usual road-ride.