I don’t get sick of looking at the pictures, so here it is again…
Much of the build is carryover from the Vaya…things that work perfectly, like the ENVE 29XC wheels and Bontrager CXOs. The drivetrain is carryover until Sram Red 22 hydros become available. But this is about the bigger question: why a Moots?
Why would I tear a beautiful Ti Vaya apart to build a Moots?
First things first: the Vaya isn’t going anywhere. With previous bikes, when I’ve replaced them, they were gone. When the Ridley was replaced with the Madone, the threadlocker on the Madone wasn’t even dry before the Ridley was for sale. The Vaya, not so much. It has a special place in my heart. I can’t bear to part with it. I’m not sure how it will next be built up…singlespeed? Flat bar? Touring rig? Other? But it’s not going anywhere, and no, it’s not for sale. It’s an amazing bike…and I’ve logged 5 digit miles on it, in the several years I’ve had it. (Low 5 digit. Very low. But still…). I love the Vaya. It’s an amazing bike.
When North Central Cyclery became a full-on Moots dealer, Tobie picked up a Psychlo X. He followed in the footsteps of Aaron, who has been a Moots road rider for years, and who recently upgraded to a Psychlo for gravel. There’s a certain panache associated with Moots. Those who have ridden them talk about a special ride quality. Those who look at them talk about how beautiful they are. As Tobie’s said, Aaron’s no dummy. If he believes that there is a tangible difference in the ride quality, there’s something there.
I’m not a cyclocross racer, nor do I have intentions of being one. But I do love gravel. Everywhere you look, people are talking about custom gravel geometry. Low BBs. Long chainstays. Relaxed headtubes. Clearance for monster tires. People are trying to custom-build bikes that are like the Vaya. I understand that…the Vaya is an amazing gravel bike. But while the trend is towards long, low and stable, after spending a few years on the Vaya, I wanted the opposite. I wanted a BB that was higher than the Vaya, both for the change in handling feel, and for the extra pedal clearance when riding B-roads. I wanted shorter chainstays, for livelier handling and for zippier acceleration. I wanted a bit more aggressive headtube angle. I wanted those for my gravel riding–I wanted a bike that was livelier, more athletic, and more lithe.
The Vaya has 71.5 degree headtube angle, and I have a relaxed fork on it. It has 450mm chainstays, and 75mm of BB drop. It has a wheelbase of 1039cm.
When I started thinking about geometry, I wanted to go a smidge more aggressive on the headtube. Maybe a degree…72.5. I wanted to go a lot more aggressive on the chainstays. Maybe 2-3cm. I wanted the BB to be appreciably higher…a cm or more.
The Psychlo X has a 72.5 degree headtube. 1 degree more.
It has 42.3cm chainstays. 2.7cm shorter than the Vaya.
It has 6.1cm of BB drop, or 1.4cm less than the Vaya.
When I looked at custom geometry, I was looking at the Psychlo X.
But I wasn’t happy with the stock build. I looked at the Psychlo X and the RSL version of the same, and neither was satisfactory. I wanted rack mounts, in case I want to throw racks on. (Having tried fenders on the Vaya, I was comfortable skipping fender mounts). I also wanted a third bottle mount, under the downtube, for extra hydration on longer rides. (Of note, the Vaya has a third bottle mount that is totally useless–even a short bottle hits the front tire, with every cage I’ve tried).
I wanted a standard, threaded BB like the Psychlo X has, because I didn’t want a pressfit bottom bracket on my gravel bike. Pressfit has some good applications, but on a gravel bike, I just don’t need the potential for creaks or looseness. It solves a problem that I don’t have for this application. So while I’m customarily drawn to superlight bikes, I opted for the standard Psychlo to avoid the pressfit bb. Chris King, to be specific, because the CK bb on the Vaya went through hell and back without a single complaint.
I wanted disc brakes, because…well…I like my brakes to work in all conditions, and I’ve put my discs to the test. Disc brakes. I’ve read the many people suggesting that cantilever brakes or some other brake format is superior for gravel. I’ve had my discs in water over the hubs. Mud that locks the wheels to the frame. Rain. Snow. Ice. Gravel. Grit. I love my disc brakes–they work. Always. Going to hydros will be even better.
But in the realm of the fork, I didn’t want the straight steerer that the Psychlo X has. Look for good options for carbon fiber forks with straight steerers and disc brakes. There aren’t many. (Really, there’s one). While I don’t need “the extra rigidity” of a tapered steerer, it’s the wave of the future, folks. A straight-steerer carbon fork with disc brake mounts is just no longer a viable option (unless you’re willing to go China carbon, or you’re willing to accept an alloy steerer/carbon lower combo). ENVE makes a beautiful tapered steerer carbon fork with disc mounts (as do several other brands), and that was the way I wanted to go.
There’s a move underway in some gravel bikes to go to a thru-axle up front. I resisted that urge. Frankly, I don’t see the point. I never had an issue with rigidity with a straight steerer and standard QR front. With a 38c tire up front and my massive 150# of weight, I’ve never seen any deflection of any kind, or any issue that suggests that a thru-axle is anything more than added weight for me. Again, for my riding, that solves a problem I don’t have. So while I could have gone to a thru-axle (and swapped end caps in my DT240 front hubs to accommodate that change), I didn’t do so. The front end has clearance for big tires…not sure how big, but 38s fit with plenty of room, and I suspect 40s or 42s would as well.
That brings us to rear tire clearance. NCC is working on a custom spec’d Moots with monster rear end clearance. I contemplated that option. To get the monster clearance, the chainstay length increases, along with a few other trick changes. On the Vaya, I ran 35c tires for the vast, vast majority of time I had it. I appreciated going to 38c tires, but the bigger change was going tubeless. I’m confident that a 34-35c tire, set up tubeless on the right rim, will serve all of my purposes. Frankly, a 34c Bontrager CX0 set up on a wide rim like my ENVE 29XCs has a wider, flatter footprint than a 38c tire on a narrower rim. So while the popular belief is that “wider is better for gravel”, I don’t see the compelling need to go wider, in the rear, for my riding. I’ve gotten a few miles in on the Moots thus far, and the 38/34 tire combo seems about perfect. The 34 hooks up in just about everything I’ve thrown at it, and the 38 has enough volume to track through loose gravel with ease and confidence.
The short chainstays are amazing. On short climbs or out of the saddle efforts, the bike feels like someone wound up a rubberband….it just shoots forward. It’s amazing. That said, the shorter wheelbase will undoubtedly impact handling and bump-compliance. Details will be forthcoming.
I could talk about tube butting methods, welding, and similar matters, and compare the Vaya and the Moots on those points, but the relevant discussion should focus on ride quality. The Moots certainly has a more technologically advanced build and tube-joining method, but that’s for naught if it doesn’t produce a superior ride. So I’m going to work on reviewing that ride quality and comparing it to the Vaya that I know and love.
In the days, and rides, to come, I’ll be talking about the ride quality, the ‘zippiness’, and whether there is a compromise between ride quality and speed. And I’ll be honest about everything I see and feel in the bike. Thus far, I’m impressed.