In early winter 2017, my wife and I decided to each have one of our top rated adventure/gravel bikes, the Moots Routt RSL, built to match our fit and ride needs. About 60% of the roads in Vermont are dirt, so the Routt RSL seemed a logical place to expand our horizons.
After over a year of riding these bikes, what is my impression and what is a year living, working and riding on a Moots Routt RSL like? I’m happy to share.
What Makes Moots’ Titanium Special
Other than the carbon forks, there is no carbon fiber found on a frame from Moots. Moots is a titanium bike company through and through. Just as not all carbon fiber is the same, neither is all titanium tubing.
Moots only uses proprietary 3/2.5 Pi Tech titanium tubing in their frames and very stiff 6/4 titanium in associated items like their sculpted 3D dropouts. All tubing used by Moots is United States sourced and graded. In fact, Moots is one of the few titanium bike builders who is in a position to be very selective about the tubing they accept. Moots rejects a notable percentage of tubing they receive as it does not meet their exacting standards. Where does this rejected titanium tubing end up? Much of it likely in bike frames with a different brand name on the side.
When it comes to titanium alloy, the designation “3/2.5” means that the titanium tubing is made of an alloy consisting of 3% aluminum, 2.5% vanadium, and 94.5% titanium. This alloy is known for its fatigue resistance, liveliness and workability. Likewise, 6/4 means 6% aluminum, 4% vanadium and 90% titanium. 6/4 alloy is known for its hardness and durability.
The surplus titanium tubing from Russia and China used by some titanium bike manufacturers is not of the same quality as graded U.S. made titanium tubing. It will not provide the same ride characteristics or durability. Ride a “budget” titanium bikes (I have repaired many over the years) and listen to the noises they make. They can sound “tinny”. Do the same with a Moots. The sound is distinctly different. The Moots’ frame sounds much more solid, more “put together”.
Just like two tomatoes and look and taste completely different from each other, just being titanium doesn’t mean much. It makes a difference who makes the actual tubing, who engineers and designs the bike, and who creates the welds. For good reason, Moots has always been held as a benchmark when it comes to welds and enginnering.
Moots Routt Models
Moots makes two different Routt models – the Routt 45, and the Routt RSL. I have built and ridden many standard Routts and RSL’s. To me there is a distinct difference between these framesets.
The Routt 45 is smooth and supple and a wonderful bike to spend the day exploring on. In fact, for 2019 there is even a Routt 45 YBB that uses Moots simple, yet effective, suspension system. Compared to the Routt 45, the RSL feels distinctly more “sporty” and reactive – think Porsche Cayenne.
The RSL is more expensive than a standard Routt, but in my opinion it is worth the additional expenditure for many riders due to the performance benefits and the associated versatility it adds. The Routt RSL feels like a comfortable race bike turned into an adventure bike. The standard Routt feels more like an endurance gravel bike with touring capability. Choose accordingly based on your use.
What is the Difference in Moots RSL Tubing
The Moots Routt RSL uses oversized internally butted tubing. Oversized butted tubing is lighter than the straight gauge tubing used on the Routt 45 while offering greater stiffness without a compromise in durability.
The head tube on all Routt models taper for increased stiffness, providing better control and more precise handling, particularly over rough surfaces. The combination of butted, oversized tubing, coupled with a 12mm thru axle, make for a quick handling and responsive road bike, while also offering superior performance and comfort on rough surfaces. Regardless of rider size, we have yet to have someone get a RSL that felt it was not a smooth and supple ride or responsive enough.
In addition to the differences described above, the RSL model uses rear dropouts 3D sculpted from ultra-hard and stiff 6/4 titanium (6% aluminum, 4% vanadium, and 90% titanium). These parts produce frame members that match parts machined out of a solid billet of titanium in both tensile and yield strength, but with far less production waste, and with lighter weight. 3D printing allows Moots to produce parts with extreme accuracy and precision, a big benefit when it comes to mounting flat mount brake calipers.
I have built bikes where the flat mount for the brake caliper mount was not perfectly perpendicular to the brake rotor. If it is off by just the smallest margin, it causes alignment problems that affect brake performance. So, accuracy is vital. The resulting 3D dropouts are also stiffer. Moots is now integrating this technology across its line, and the Routt 45 now uses this process for the non-drive side rear brake caliper mount.
Stability and Handling:Moots Routt RSL
I really like the “planted” feeling found on most Moots models. To repeat those comments, by “planted” I do not mean that they feel heavy, sluggish, plodding, or unresponsive. I mean that the bikes have a solid and stable feel that exceeds any other frame I can remember. To me, a Moots feels like nothing is going to perturb the bike; assurance that I can bomb down the roughest pavement or dirt road and the bike will handle it This is a very comforting and confidence building feeling when riding on rough dirt roads, or for that matter flying down a long descent on a rough paved road, such as App Gap here in the Mad River Valley.
Moots Aesthetics and Engineering
While they have vastly expanded the finish options on their bikes in recent years, Moots is in no danger of being accused of making trend based bikes. There are no aero-shaped tubes, no complicated curves, no vibration inserts, just seemingly basic round titanium tubing. However, the apparent simplicity belies a great deal of advanced technology and design incorporated into the frames. The Routt is truly a modern design. It is, up-to-date in all the right places.
Yes, you can make swoopy, complex shapes with carbon fiber, but does that actually offer a real performance advantage, particularly on dirt roads? Once you ride a bike like the Routt RSL, you may well answer that question “no”.
I compare the look of Moots bikes to the classic button down collar oxford cloth shirt. I wore them in high school years ago and the design still looks good today. In other words, timeless.
Moots Routt Model Tire Width
The Routt RSL is capable of handling a 40mm wide tire while the Routt 45 accepts tires up to, you guessed it, 45mm wide. These dimensions will vary a bit depending on the rim width you are riding and how closely you abide by the ISO standards, but you get the picture.
Moots Routt RSL Frame Details
All Routt models come with threaded bottom brackets, to eliminate a possible source of creaking from PressFit bearings. However, if desired, any Moots can be had with an over-sized PF30 type bottom bracket.
Rear hydraulic brake hose guides are on the underside of the downtube on mechanical shift bikes and inside the frame on electronic shift bikes. Di2, or Campagnolo EPS wiring is internal. Mechanical shifting bikes route the derailleur cables outside the frame, where they are the easiest to service and provide the best shifting performance.
Why Carbon Bars, Stem and Seatpost Make Sense on a Titanium Bike
Our bikes came from the factory equipped with Mavic Ksyrium Allroad Pro wheels, with Mavic tires. We finished off the bikes with carbon fiber stems, bars, and seatposts. I really like carbon fiber for these components because of carbon’s ability to filter out annoying road vibrations, such as on a road that has been chip-sealed.
The combination of a lively titanium frame that sucks up big hits and the high frequency vibration damping and stiffness of carbon fiber is a good one. If you are riding a bike with an alloy stem and handlebars, do yourself a favor and upgrade to quality carbon fiber parts. My personal experience is that these parts provide a great improvement in the comfort and feel of your bike. Much of the same is true if you opt for Moots titanium seatpost and stem (but not bars).
The Routt RSL is available from Moots with a wide variety of shifting options, from Ultegra mechanical to Dura Ace Di2 to SRAM Red e-Tap, or as a frameset to be built however you would like.
Moots Routt RSL Riding Impressions
What are our riding impressions? My wife’s comment during every ride on the bikes, “I am so glad that we got these bikes!” pretty much sums it up.
Generalizations about ride qualities attributable to any specific material are always dangerous. So much depends, not just on the raw material (e.g. carbon vs. titanium), but on how the material itself is manufactured, and how the frame is designed and built. If I had to go out on thin ice and make a sweeping generalization about titanium, it would be that it is very good at filtering out harsh road shocks, such as hitting bumps or holes. Titanium has an elasticity that imparts a lively, slightly springy, and supple feel that can deal with such shocks in a way that carbon fiber has trouble duplicating. It usually makes for a comfortable ride, but can be built to be plenty stiff for and responsive for almost any rider.
Our first several rides were primarily on paved roads around Burlington. On our first ride, with road tires mounted on the Mavic wheels, we both noted how well the bikes handled rough pavement and bumps, and how stable they felt. The Moots frame simply eats up harsh road shocks. This, in turn, imparts a real sense of confidence.
One of Becky’s first comments was that the bike was very responsive; the bike really jumped when she applied power. On one of our regular hills, on her very nice riding, but classic, Serotta Ottrott GS, she always has to shift to her small chainring to get to the top of that hill. The first time out on the Moots, she made it in the big ring, with heavier wheels than on her Serotta. Believe me, this could not be attributed to our physical fitness at that moment. The bike mattered.
My reactions were similar. The Routt RSL frame feels very responsive laterally. I noted this immediately getting out of the saddle the first time climbing. There is no perceptible side-to-side flex in the bottom bracket or rear triangle, yet the bike has a very rhythmic quality to its power transmission. I agree with my wife’s assessment that the bike really jumps when you apply the power and it gives back what you put into it.
Why does this bike seem to transfer power so effectively? Likely a combination of things that includes oversized butted tubing, thru axles, tapered form and the stiffer rear end due to the 3D printed 6/4 titanium dropouts. Thru axles alone can attribute to an increase in lateral stiffness in the 15% range on bikes.
Thankfully, the lateral stiffness of the Moots Routt RSL does not translate into a stiff riding bike. As I have already said, the RSL is very comfortable and compliant over rough surfaces.
Riding the Moots Routt RSL with Gravel Tires
After several pavement rides getting used to the bikes, I removed the road tires and installed Schwalbe G-One Allround tubeless tire, 700 X 35mm. I mounted them tubeless, the better to tackle dirt roads. Offering excellent performance on both dirt and paved roads, these Schwalbe tires have become a favorite gravel and dirt road tire; all three of us at Fit Werx in Vermont are riding these tubeless ready tires on our adventure bikes.
As with all Moots bikes, the RSL is very stable, very “planted”. Despite that feeling of solidity and stability, its adventure bike geometry, and its undeniable comfort, the Moots RSL is quick handling. It performs like magic on Vermont’s many dirt roads, soaking up stones, pot holes and washboard descents. Yet, while not being quite as quick handling and responsive as my Parlee Z2 road bike, due in part to the slacker geometry and larger dirt road tires, it is still very responsive on all surfaces.
It has been said that, outside of fit, there are three things to consider when buying an adventure bike:
- Is the bike capable of riding rough dirt and gravel roads?
- Is the bike comfortable?
- Does the bike instill confidence?
The Moots Routt RSL meets all three of these criteria, in spades. As Service Manager at Fit Werx, I had the opportunity to build, service and ride many adventure bikes. I have found very few bikes that meet these three criteria as well as the Moots Routt RSL, and none that exceed it.
Last fall, we took these bikes on vacation in Canada, first to Ile d’ Orleans outside Quebec City, then out the Gaspe’ Peninsula. We kept the Mavic wheels and Schwalbe tires on the bikes. We thoroughly enjoyed riding the 45 mile circumference of Ile d’Orleans, as well as the perimeter of the Cap Gaspe’.
Moots Routt RSL, a Worthy Pavement Bike?
I have said that a well designed and built adventure bike, with the right wheels and tires, can do double duty as a decent pavement bike. Simply change tires, or even better, just change to a second set of wheels mounted with 28mm road tires, and you can change from gravel duty to pavement.
Having a second set of wheels makes a lot of sense if you have wider, knobby tires mounted tubeless, as we do. Changing tubeless tires is a messy affair and you do not want to switch tires back and forth very often. When we purchased these bikes, we also purchased a set of road wheels.
We opted for low profile carbon fiber rimmed wheels for our road tires. High quality carbon fiber rims, mated to disc brakes, is a match made in heaven. Engineered carbon wheels from manufacturers such as Zipp, ENVE, Corima, Reynolds, Mavic, among others, will ride more comfortably than an alloy rim in almost all cases.
One of the challenges confronting carbon rim manufacturers for years is dissipating the heat that builds up in the rim from prolonged use of a caliper brake on long descents. While the major carbon wheel manufacturers made great strides in this area, there is no getting away from the fact that it is nice to get that heat away from the rim/tire entirely. Disc brakes do this. Transferring brake heat to a brake rotor, solves heat and wet braking problems better than any caliper brake/rim combination can.
How do I like the Routt RSL with carbon road wheels and road tires? Very much, thank you. No, these wheels do not turn the Routt RSL into a crit bike, but who wants to ride a crit bike all day? The quickness is not very far behind a good high performance pavement bike. The carbon wheels add yet another level of shock and vibration absorption, while improving overall responsiveness, not to mention improved climbing with their lighter weight when compared to the Mavic AllRoad Pro wheels.
Equipped with carbon wheels and road tires, the Routt RSL floats over road imperfections as though I still had the Mavic wheels/Schwalbe 35 mm wide tires mounted. However, it does this at substantially lighter weight and with much quicker handling and efficiency (due to lower rolling resistance). My wife and I intend to take these bikes, mounted with our carbon wheels, to France in a masochistic attempt to torture ourselves climbing in the Pyrenees and Alps. The disc brakes will definitely come in handy there, as will the drivetrain’s ability to handle 11-34 cassettes.
Is the Moots Routt RSL the Perfect Ultra-Versatile Gravel/Pavement Bike?
Is the Routt RSL the perfect bike? There is no such thing, of course. What may be perfect for me may be all wrong for you.
For my wife and I, and our individual needs and wants, the Routt RSL comes darn close to perfect. Each time my wife and I ride these bikes on both dirt and paved roads we become more and more impressed by their performance and ride. Keep in mind that both of us are used to very nice riding bikes; we have ridden high quality and properly fit and designed custom bikes for years.
What Would I Change About My Moots Routt RSL?
Any regrets? Oh, it would have been nice to take advantage of the very cool finish options that Moots recently introduced. I like the anodized logos in particular, but they were unavailable when we ordered our bikes. In the future we can always send the frames back to Moots to take advantage of these options, if we choose.
If I were a “weight weenie” I might gripe about the almost 19 pound weight of my large framed complete bike with alloy wheels and gravel tires and Look pedals. My carbon fiber Parlee Z2, with carbon wheels and tubular tires, is a shade over 17 pounds. However, having ridden ultra-light road bikes, you do not always want those ride characteristics on washboard dirt roads. Besides, with the carbon road wheels and 28mm tires the weight of my bike is closer to 18 pounds. This is only one pound heavier than my Parlee, which doesn’t have disc brakes.
Other than these most minor of quibbles, I have absolutely no regrets. We will keep these bikes for a very long time. They will always make a great base if we someday choose to upgrade components.
Moots RSL Long-Term Review Conclusions
All in all, the Moots Routt RSL meets all of the criteria we had when we started deciding what adventure bikes to buy. Of course there is no question about titanium’s durability or longevity, two of the attributes we were looking for. Due to the nature of the titanium, it will ride pretty much the same ten years from now as it does today.
If you are considering investing in an adventure bike the Moots Routt RSL should be at the top of your wish list. Admittedly these bikes are not inexpensive. However, well built titanium make a forever frame; unless you run over the bike in your car it is very hard to damage a raw titanium frame such as the Moots. Add to this longevity the fact that you really are getting two world class bikes for the price of one plus a second set of wheels, and you may decide, as we did, that the Moots Routt RSL is definitely worth the investment. Just ask anyone who has one.
I am very glad we got these bikes! They offer great value both in the long-term and with how they help make every ride better and every rider better.