Reviewed by Brian Mullin aka Gram and MTBR.com Pastajet
I don’t think it was inconsequential that the first bike I saw and rode at the 2007 Interbike Outdoor Demo was the Moots Mooto-XZ. The titanium 29er with 4 inches of suspension caught my eye and pretty much drew me in like a magnet, “Test me please! Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.” It was a standout ride at the Interbike Demo days and it won my ‘Best Ride of the Show’ award. I decided that I needed to do an in-depth review of the bike to truly do this beauty some justice. I contacted Moots about doing a long term test and they agreed to send me a demo bike. After a couple of months the Mooto-XZ showed up on my doorstep, just in time for my winter vacation to California, sort of an early Christmas present. Thanks to Cathy at Moots for giving me the opportunity to test out their bike. I was really looking forward to spending some quality time on this bike and getting a feel for its potential, assets, deficits and its idiosyncrasies. In my case that could be called idioTsyncrasies but I digress. This was of course going to be a brutal and honest review no matter how much I liked the bike. I wanted to show warts and all, even if they were titanium warts. “It’s not a tumor.”
Brad Bingham Moots production head, designed the Mooto-XZ and it is based on their Zirkel model. The Zirkel is a Matched Arc (MARC) suspension system and has no pivot at the rear axle. The Mooto-XZ uses the MARC system from the Zirkel, hence the name Mooto-XZirkel. Obviously its geometry was tweaked to work as a 29er. The front triangle is made from 3/2.5 grade titanium and the rear triangle is Sapa manufactured 6061 series aluminum. According to Moots a titanium rear triangle just doesn’t work very well, so they went with an aluminum rear end. It is interesting to note that the 29 inch wheels are not new, in reality the 26 inch wheel are the new kid on the block. 29 inch wheels are just plain old 700c road sized wheel and 700c certainly have been around a long time.
Steamboat Springs Colorado based Moots has been around for 27 years now. Moots was founded by Kent Eriksen in 1981 and initially made Cro-Moly steel frames. They started out doing braized lugs and then evolved to TIG welding, in 1991 they switched to titanium manufacturing. One of Moots most famous bikes from its early days was world’s first softail mountain bike, YBB, or “why be beat?” Kent left Moots in 2004, but Moots has carried on and has invested in new equipment affording more modernized production of frames and parts. They continue to make some of the best bike in the business.
Demo Bike build:
Moots Mooto-XZ 18 inch frame 29.5 lbs
-Moots 3/2.5 titanium front triangle
-Sapa 6061 aluminum rear triangle
-Chris King Headset
-Bontrager 29 Race Disc wheelset
-Panracer Rampage 29×2.35
-Alpha Q Pro stem
-Salsa Pro Moto Handlebars
-Rock Reba SL shock 100mm
-Fox RP23 shock
-Fizik Gobi Wing Flex saddle
My usual steed:
Ibis Mojo medium frame 5.5 inches 24.5 lbs
My Body Stats:
155 lbs, 5′ 9″
While I was unpacking the bike and getting it ready for my first ride, I was again impressed with the quality of the welds on this titanium frame. The welds and mitered tubes of the frame are simply works of art that are sculpted out of the beautiful titanium metal. Moots does their own production in-house of the titanium and it sure shows the precision and quality to attention they are famous for. All I can say is a Moots is a Moots and this is a very well thought out frame. Seeing the totally tricked out version of the bike at the indoor portion of Interbike was quite a sight. Oops, I am drooling worse then my 3 year old. It stood there in all its splendor and glory with the Moots titanium frame, seatpost and stem, a full XTR grouppo and Mavic C29ssmax Disc wheelset. It was very sweet eye candy, lots of Ti for the Eye! Wow that sounds like a slogan, “Buy our bike, it’s Ti for the Eye.” Of course another quote came to mind “You have a great gift for rhyme. Yes, yes, some of the time.”
The anodized aluminum rear triangle of the bike is made by Sapa Profiles in Portland Oregon. They also make frames for Santa Cruz, Turner, Ellsworth and other bike companies. They are a very large conglomerate making everything from bike frames, to architectural railings and specialize in aluminum extrusion. They can make most anything that is required out of aluminum and it will be as good as the specs that you provide the requirements for. They did a very nice job on the rear triangle for Moots. I wish the rear triangle was powder coated, as I am not a fan of anodization. It would have been nice to have a pretty titanium rear triangle to match the front one, but it’s just not feasible with the long chainstays of a 29er, there would be some very difficult design issues with the additional flex of titanium in the system.
After assembling the bike, I drove it around in the street to get a feel if it needed any tuning or tweaking to properly fit myself for my testing. I first needed to adjust the angle of the saddle in the new Moots Cinch seatpost, but for the life of me I could not figure it out. Seatposts are not rocket science, I am sure Moots has a trick but please it should work for the brain dead in us all. Next I noticed that the Fizik saddle must be made for a disciple of the Marquis de Sade, talk about serious discomfort, or is that sexual discomfort? And Man oh Man were the bars too wide for my tastes, I felt like I was riding my motorcycle. “It’s a chopper baby…Zed’s dead, baby. Zed’s dead.” The saddle and bars can be easily solved and Moots has a newer version of the Cinch design that should solve that issue. Time for a ride!
After the bitter cold and snow of Colorado, it was nice to be in California for some bike riding on my winter break. The temperatures were in the 60-75 degree range most days and it sure felt like a heat wave to me. Excellente! I had brought my Ibis Mojo with me so I could do a ballpark comparison between the bikes. The Mojo is my reference bike and I consider it one of the better bikes currently manufactured. I did a wonderful ride near my In-Laws house in Thousand Oaks California called the Dead Cow Road trail and connected it up with the Simi Peak trail for a bit longer ride. The trail is a very steep single to double track trail, with smooth sections interspersed with rocky ledgy sections. It’s a great trail to test out various aspects of any mountain bike and really puts a bike’s suspension and ride characteristics to a good beating. The trail is also a humdinger of an aerobic workout just getting up the darn thing and gets the heart racing and the lungs burning pretty quickly. All my high altitude training in Colorado didn’t seem very useful.
The beginning of the trail is mostly smooth packed dirt and I quickly noticed that it took a lot of energy to keep the big 29er wheels moving. Methinks that perhaps a tad narrower tire might be appropriate, the very large 2.35 tires along with the 29er size made for a bit of a pig dog riding up the very smooth terrain, not exactly a easy spin keeping their momentum going. Once the wheels get rolling its nice but it can take some muscle input to get them to accelerate. The Mojo by comparison effortlessly breezed through this section and I was considerably less winded.
When the first ledgy section came up I was feeling a bit skeptical on how the Mooto-XZ would react but I found that all I had to do was just keep pedaling and it would pretty much go up any of the terrain I was on. How cool was this! This bike eats ledges and rough terrain for lunch. “Whoa, oh here she comes; watch out boy, she’ll chew you up; whoa, oh here she comes, she’s a LEDGE-EATER”. You would not think it only had 4 inches of travel, it felt more like my 5.5 inch travel bike and it just goes to show how a combination of shorter travel with a larger wheel works in synergy. When I rode the Mojo up the same section I had to be much more careful of the line I choose. There was one section I had to retry on the Mojo when I blew the line and I never even recall paying attention to the line on the Mooto-XZ. That was a very interesting comparison. On the way down on the Mooto-XZ I just sat on the saddle and let the bike poke along and if I wanted I could just drop off any of the ledges with just a tad of body english off the back seat. Nary did you really have to do much of anything but enjoy the ride and enjoy the swooping feeling that those big wheels gave you. On some of the bigger drops the bike did show it inherent lack of travel and you had to a bit more careful on the line that you choose. The Mojo on the other hand was easy to ride down the big drops, in fact I was looking for the worse lines because they were more fun.
I noticed that while pedaling the Mooto-XZ in sections that had random fist sized rocks the rear would kick out sometimes and I found that a bit annoying. Playing with the tire pressure and shock settings didn’t seem to make much difference.
The front triangle had a bit of flex in it but nothing to extreme. I ride with a pretty light touch, so its tough for me to get a frame bending much. I used to have Rock Shock forks back when they first made them, and it was a great product. My Mag 21 SL lasted me almost a decade but I frankly did not like this Rock Shock Reba fork at all. It was flexy and just not very compliant. I played with the negative and positive pressures and still couldn’t get the shock to be very friendly for me.
I did not notice any flex in the rear end and it seemed pretty stout. There was only the slightest bob when standing up in the saddle and there was nothing that I felt that compromised the ride. I am pretty picky about bob and I compare everything to the DW-Link suspension on my Mojo which in my opinion is the best current suspension system out there. “Bob’s a special kind of friend. The kind that drives you crazy!” There really wasn’t any need to stand up on this big tall bike anyway. The rear end was very compliant and the Fox RP23 performed flawlessly, although the RP23 did like to be set to a higher then normal pressure then I am used to. The Zirkel rear end works so well for this bike because of the pivotless rear axle of this design.
Did I mention that it track stands with ease? “He didn’t fall? Inconceivable.” There is a lot of leverage that can be used from the combination of the big wheels, long wheelbase, tall bottom bracket and tall height. This extra leverage comes in handy when cranking up and down, over and around obstacles, but it can also make it a bear at slower speeds. It’s a lot of bike to manhandle.
Edited for clarity (slow steering and steep head angle):
Slooooow steering is an inherant issue with all 29er’s. It’s not a big issue and you’ll rarely need to worry about where it’s pointed anyway since it will go up and down most anywhere. Like any bike it just takes some saddle time to get used to the way the bike reacts and tracks, call it quirky if you like but it does give better stability to the bike.
Dropping into a slot, groove or off camber obstacle that required the bike to roll out of it seemed to confuse the suspension and bike. I think the tad to steep head angle is the culprit. I would be looking at some tricks to get the head angle in control, perhaps a fork with a better axle to crown measurement, the White Bros Magic 29/110 comes to mind, maybe a big tire in front (29X2.25) and a small tire in the rear (29X2.1)? I think it is the only glaring issue I came away with from this bikes geometry. 29er bike builders have created geometries with steeper head angles to make up for some of the slow steering issues which I noted above, but I think that the big 29er wheel are just that, big and slow to steer.
I also think with these massive wheels that a 180mm rotor for the brakes in the front is the way to go, you can build up some amazing momentum and it would be nice to have just a tad more braking power.
This bike needs to be put on a diet because it just felt a bit “plump and luscious” and needed to be trimmed down. The build I was testing was on the heavy side so it could easily be lightened with a different build or a few parts interchanged. I am too old and lazy “I mean I’m a God. I’m not the God…” for 30 lb bike especially with the extra spunk it takes to get the big wheels rolling and spinning. “Big Wheels keep on turnin’ Proud Moots keeps on burnin’, Rollin’ rollin’ rollin’ on the river rollin’ rollin’ rollin’ on the river.”
I got the bike back to Colorado and in between the much to frequent snowstorms I did some rides at this wonderful place called Pueblo South Shore Canyons. The trails down there have lots of ledge drops, stair steps, ramps, etc and those big 29 inch wheels were just a dream. I could just keep pedaling and it would go up most anything. It was really nice coming slowly up to a tall ledge and just letting the big tires roll up to the top of the ledge, no real need to do the usual roll your weight forward to get the rear end up cause it was already doing it by itself. You have to love those big wheels combined with this bikes geometry and characteristics. It was a breeze flowing down through the terrain, dropping down ledges and steps, just swooping this way and that and smiling the whole way. I had my Ibis Mojo down there after I returned the Mooto-XZ and I had some problems making some up moves that were a no brainer on the Mooto-XZ. The couple of extra inches of suspension that the Mojo has over the Mooto-XZ didn’t make much difference. On some of the large drops the lack of suspension was more them made up by the long wheelbase.
Another aspect of those big wheels and the Mooto-XZ frame geometry is the massive bottom bracket height. I measured it at 13 inches. I don’t recall ever hitting my pedals, something I am usually used to on most any bike I have ever ridden. Another aspect of the incredible power you can generate on a 29er is due to where the wheel axles sit in relation to the bottom bracket. “It’s a freak of nature.”
Note: this review and the following conclusions are based on the bike build and frame version that I tested
The Moot-XZ has a very sweet ride and feel. Titanium has a great ‘Silky’ feel to it if done properly and this bike has tons of ‘Silkiness’. The 29er wheels just fly along the trail and absorb bumps and swallows rollers like crazy. The long wheelbase, big wheels, tall bottom bracket and great geometry work in great synergy to create a wonderful climber and descender. It is also a tenacious traction monster. You can just pedal it through and up and down most anything short of nasty All-Mountain bike terrain. It is a Ledge-Eater! I have never been on a bike that is so easy to pedal through terrain that would give many other bike’s fits. Overall this is a wonderful bike. I would go for a different and lighter build and would especially do something about the fork, steep head angle and fat tires. Most of the build issues are very minor and can easily be solved. Like any 29er it is going to have some sizing limitations for smaller people. I loved the Mooto-XZ and when I finally had to return it to Moots I sure missed it. I highly recommend the Mooto-XZ. I want one!
-Tall bottom bracket height
-Big, Big wheels, need we say more!
-Ledge monster – it can ride up and down most anything, just keep pedaling
-A climbing and descending machine
-Silky titanium ride
-Stiff and stout rear end
-Shimano XT drive train and brakes
-It’s a Moots! It’s titanium!
-Steep head angle: perhaps solved by different fork with taller axle to crown measurement, headset race or wider tire in front with narrower tire in rear
-Small fist size rocks bounce around the rear end
-Sizing limitations: small or short people are out of luck
-Expensive: it is titanium after all
-Weight: needs a diet
-Tires are to big/wide
-Rock Shock fork
-Saddle (to painful), handlebars (to wide) and seatpost (couldn’t adjust)
-Needs 180mm brake in front
Rating: 4.5 Flamin’ Chili Peppers
-5 stock sizes: 16.5, 18, 19, 20, 22
-29er: 29 inch wheels front and rear
-4 inch travel: front and rear
-Fox RP23 shock
-3/2.5 grade titanium front triangle
-Sapa aluminum rear end
-Frame MSRP: $3075
More information at the Moots Website: www.moots.com