2014 Moots Mooto X RSL Review

By July 28, 2014 Uncategorized

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For 2014 Moots has updated their stalwart Mooto X RSL frame with some subtle geometry tweaks.

When the MX RSL first came out in 2011 I was among the lucky few to get one of the first production models.  It was an incredible machine that offered real race performance and titanium ride quality with current bottom bracket, head tube, and seat post configuration.  In short it was a legitimate run at a lifetime race frame that took a forward-looking approach to the ever-changing standards of the bike industry and 29ers in general.

2011 was sort of the midpoint progress-wise between the early models of a decade ago and the current configuration of today.  DSC_0090Since then some details have settled out around what a 29er XC bike should be and 27.5 long travel bikes are getting all of the meddling attention that goes with being in the spotlight.  Travel has gone up from 80 to 100 mm and with the combination of tapered steerers and QR15 axles pretty much a given.  Those are all good changes and while the 44 mm head tube on the RSL series allows for an external lower race (as shown above) it doesn’t account for the extra height which in total is about 28 mm taller that the original 80 mm/straight steerer design.

I ran that new school 100 mm/tapered setup on my ’11 and while it worked I never quite felt right on it.  It didn’t bother me too much while riding but I was very aware of how strange it felt when I switched back to riding the MX Divide which had a completely dialed, bulletproof feel.  Certainly the taller and slacker front end were the reason, but the exceptionally short chain stays meant that the weight balance was more heavily rear-biased than intended.  For some riders that’s completely fine, even preferable depending on the discipline, but it meant that I had to aggressively shift my weight forward get up and over the center of the bike.  I knew all of this going into making the decision to run that fork configuration so any unintended consequences were purely my own fault.

The 2014 has some notable changes relative to the 2011 with the most visible being the double curve down tube introduced for 2012.  There may be a structural reason for it, but I can’t tell a difference beyond the aesthetics.  What’s less obvious are the increase in head tube height and head angle changes made to dial in the handling just a little bit more.  There weren’t any published stats on what the geometry was with my non-standard setup and I don’t have any tools accurate enough to measure the difference so I assembled the new bike with the same parts and took it out for a spin.

Tall front ends are an issue for some 29er riders on medium sized frames or with long travel forks, but not for riders like me that are approaching 6′ tall on a 19″ frame.  The head tube is a full centimeter taller so my previously cut steerer ended up being just long enough for the stem to sit flush against the top of the bearing cap.  Slammed!  It looks cool for sure but added a layer difficulty for setup as I needed to try different stems to make any height adjustments.  Ultimately I went with a 0 degree rise rather than the 10 degree I’d been using.  Right now I’m really liking the 700 mm wide bar with a 90 mm stem but that could change if I stay on the wider bar/shorter stem bandwagon.

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For all intents and purposes the bike felt identical to its predecessor which only made the steering changes that much more obvious.  Much like my road going RSL build earlier this spring I re-used all of the same build kit from my previous bike with the exception of the cranks and bottom bracket; it was a controlled test environment with limited variables.  The cockpit length, wheelbase and overall ride feel remained unchanged but the steering was definitely quicker.  Not twitchy or eager, but no longer did I need to do the go right to setup to go left for switchbacks like I’d become accustomed to- just forget all of that happened and point it where you want to go.  Cool.

As a race bike the RSL is hard to beat, and the subtle changes really address just the shortcomings without changing what was already perfect.  I loved the ride feel of the original and everything that bike did right (detailed review of all the nitty gritty here) is unmolested with the current model.  Total build as shown is just over 22 lbs including the Stages XTR power meter and the Garmin Edge 500.  The ride is smooth and predictable while feeling stiff and efficient like a road bike under power.  

To learn more or to find one for yourself visit moots.com.

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Stewart Super Six Pack Race Report

By July 14, 2014 Uncategorized

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It’s been tough recently to try to balance so many different parts of my life.

With the house sale taking up a ton of time, effort, and emotional energy I’ve been riding and training with really just the dregs of the time and energy I have left.  As I’ve said before it’s amazing I’m even able to put on a number plate let alone improve on some fast prior results.  All of that makes pacing and planning to race a little more complicated.

Last week I ran out of race fuel and had to drop out of Worlds at Catamount because of a flat tire, so I wasn’t all “hell yeah I’m gonna kick the shit of this race” heading into it.  Motivated, but kinda neutral emotionally which was fine.  I certainly didn’t stress out- all I had to do was ride my bike for the day- and really on a dry summer day that’s what I’d be doing anyway so what’s there to lose?

The distractions have made it hard to focus on my diet and get to optimal race weight, but I’ve been scratching away at it trying to get closer.  It’s not awesome, but somehow I’m still going pretty fast so when it does come around I’ll be hauling.

Ok, ok, so the Stewart Super Six Pack, right.  I got to the race, dropped the little remaining GU fuel I did have (my own fault for not ordering sooner) with some bottles and some Coke in a borrowed cooler in the feed zone.  I plastered the cooler with Pro-35 stickers, and I’m glad I did because I never would have been able to find it amongst the sea of similar white and blue coolers otherwise.

For the warm up I pre-rode the start of the course and realized that it was a long way from the start to the singletrack and there were some huge puddles on the way.  Fortunately it was bone dry otherwise so my tire Maxxis Cross Mark tire selection was perfect.

At the start I met Tim Snow, one of Spinney’s associates from QT2 and we talked for a bit before the gun went off.  Normally racer meetings are the same shit every time, but fortunately Norm from MTBNJ brought his sarcasm “A” game.  The short version was “follow the arrows, it’s a race.  Don’t be a dick.”  Got it.

The gun went off and I filed into line with the rest of the Open field.  Yep, Open- the meat eaters.  No pro category, just the guys who showed up between Sport and Jaroslav Kulhavy.  And me somewhere in the middle of it, I hoped.

The course was fast- hauling fast- and I was glad to have a little knowledge about the course and the first sections of single track.  It was fun, all in, and there was a lot of drafting and tactics for a relatively tight course.  I tried to ride my pace, but somehow I felt alright and ended up sticking with Tim Snow (husband of Ironman competitior Cait Snow) for most of the first two laps.  He was much stronger than me on the pedaling sections, but I could make time back on the rock-strewn drops, rolldowns and step-ups.  We rode pretty close to the same pace, but I was burning more matches to do it.

I was in a good spot and riding fast within the fast group.  It wasn’t a pace I could ride for 6 hours, but I wanted to push it as far as I could to get used to that feeling of riding up a level from where I’ve been for so long.  With my less-than-awesome race fueling program I figured I’d crack at some point, and after ripping two laps with Tim I was riding solo and felt the wheels start to come off.  Slowly at first, but I was starting to cramp pretty hard.  On the technical course I’d been having a hard time getting in enough water, and I didn’t complete my usual cramp-fighting routine so I was in rough shape.

In the photo above I was about to stuff my last packet of Chomps into my mouth before I saw the turns then quick descent immediately afterward, so I held onto them while gripping the bar then tried to stuff them back into my pocket and missed.  Damn.

I battled on through lap 3 and made an extended stop for some remedies and slammed a Coke in the process.  I was feeling…broken, but wanted to keep going.  Later that lap I almost cartwheeled down the nastiest section on the course when I momentarily got knocked off of my line and semi-crashed.  At that point it was keep pushing and get hurt or chicken out and limp home.  So I limped home, but I did get credit for completing that lap.

All in it was pretty solid day.  The bike worked great, the tire spec was right on, and I rode above my station for a couple laps.  Piece by piece it’s coming together.

Next up is the Pro XCT at Catamount in a couple weeks.

Six Packing

By July 11, 2014 Uncategorized

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This weekend is the Stewart Six Pack at the familiar venue of the Stewart Air Force base nature buffer zone.

I first raced there in high school, then did the Dark Horse 40 there in 2011.  It’s a cool venue with fast, rocky trails and some cool rock features.  On paper it should suit me pretty well, but in reality it’s a little too flat to be perfect.

This week I did the Wednesday Worlds at Catamount for the second week in a row, and I have to say that I really missed it.  Last week’s race was interesting- I missed my start, rode way off course and got in a solid workout.  It was also in the mid 80′s at the start and still over 80 degrees at the finish around 8 PM.  If I subtract some time for my off course adventure I’m pretty well in line with how I was racing in 2012- and that’s a really good thing.  When I consider the number of distractions I’ve had, the stress, and weighing more than ideal it’s pretty fucking incredible, really.

This week I got a couple laps of warm up on the course and felt for the first time like I was really getting into the whole pre-ride, warm up and race routine.  For whatever reason I was battling a leaking front tire so after three trips to the car it was still going soft and halfway through the first lap I was already out of the race.

At that point I’d nailed my starting effort, was in the right spot on the grid, and was exactly where I needed to be in the field without burning too many matches.  It was only semi-frustrating since I planned on pulling out to stay fresh for Sunday, but damn, it would have been cool to ride that out and get the feel of racing at that level again.

Also the new MXRSL is an awesome race bike.  Now that I’ve actually raced on it I can say it keeps all of the ride quality and positive attributes with the updated and sharper handling from some subtle geometry tweaks.  Look for the full write up on that soon, too.

Catamount has prepared me for the race this weekend, and I’m hoping the race this weekend will prepare me for the Pro XCT at Catamount later this month.  It would be nice to have a strong showing at a big race close to home.  Maybe I could even get a Pro-35 Supporter Club together for it.