As we prepare to ship our Spring Bike Special and Summer Buyer's Guide to press, I'm finishing up last-minute test rides on the top contenders and boxing up stacks of bikes to ship back. Of course we never stop testing (bikes trickle in year-round), but it's a more leisurely process than the daily-bike speed dating I've been doing for the last half year. Over the next weeks and months I'll bring you previews and ride reviews of 2012 bikes and gear from all of our testing.
While I relish being able to take out a new bike on every single ride, this time of year also brings the relief of returning to my personal rides. New bikes are great, but so are my bikes, which have shock pressures, seat height, stem length, and gearing preferences set where I like them. Last night, rather than spend 30 minutes fiddling with drop height, pedals, and bottle cages, I simply grabbed my bike and rode out. Simple bliss. And though my Moots MootoX YBB is going on five years old, it's as refreshing and comfortable as an old friend.
Moots, the titanium wizards out of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, didn't have any new bikes ready in time for us to test, but they showed me through their revamped mountain line when I visited their factory late last summer. They also lent me a Vamoots RSL so I could check out the local road scene, and Rob Mitchell, president of the company, took a day off work to tour me around some of the new trails on the back side of Emerald Mountain. The visit reminded me just how passionate this small company is about making and riding great bikes. Here's a peak at what they have coming:
Of all the new bikes I've seen for 2012, the MX Divide is the one that excited me most (and the one I was most disappointed not to test). This four-inch 29er uses a new linkage, dubbed Fusion Link, that Moots developed in collaboration with the well-known bike-engineering firm Sotto Group. The single-pivot design is reminiscent of many of the successful suspension platforms out there and should yield a highly efficient ride. The MX Divide has all the modern finery (oversize 44mm head tube for tapered forks, PressFit 30 bottom bracket, 30.9mm seatpost), and it shows off Moots' new swoopy lines. It will also be available in a 26-inch version, called the Divide. Both will start shipping in mid-April. Frame with Kashima Coat rear shock, $4,995.
An update on the company's category-defining softail (with an inch of give in the rear thanks to Moot's time-tested, ingeniously simple slider design), the Mooto X YBB is arguably the company's best-known and best-loved bike. It's updated for 2012 with a 44mm head tube, a bump up to a 100mm fork, and the bent down tube that matches the aesthetics of the rest of the line. The bend in the top tube, which should yield a bit more standover, is optional. After five years of riding the predecessor to this model, I still don't think there's a better bike on the market for endurance racing and bikepacking. Frame, $3,425.
Built from the same superlight tubing as the Vamoots RSL we tested last year, the Mooto X RSL is the company's flat-out XC race bike. It gets a sexy new double bend in the down tube, which should yield a little more vertical compliance, and the same treatment as the MX Divide, with 44mm head tube, PressFit 30 bottom bracket, a bump to a 30.9mm seatpost, and a 100mm fork. I rode a fully decked-out version in Steamboat (which tipped the scales around 20 pounds) and was blown away not just by the wicked fast climbing manners and razor-sharp handling, but also by how cushy a ride the titanium provides, even in this hard tail application. Frame, $3,795.
Winner of Best CycloCross Bike at last week's North American Handmade Bike Show, the PyschloX RSL is the flyweight version of Moots' brawny and stellar Psychlo X. The 44mm head tube allows for a tapered fork for improved stiffness and steering, and the thin-walled RSL tubing makes the bike incredibly light and stiff. The biggest enhancements come from the tube shapes, with tapered seat and chain stays for better tire clearance and a flattened-out top tube that's more comfortable for shouldering. This is one of the most alluring cross bikes I've seen. Frame, $4,250; with Moots Cross fork, $4,675.
I had a great time on my Moots last night, though the balmy 50-degree temps of earlier in the day tumbled into the mid-20s not long after I hit the trails, and by midway through the ride it was snowing hard. I made it home just before dark, and I was chilled through. But Moots had me covered again with a bottle of Breakaway Red that I've been saving. Produced by Moots' Napa-based sister company Silverado Vineyards, it was as smooth and rich as the company's bikes.