At the outset, let me say that this bike was conceived to be the ultimate bike of its type. I carefully considered the experience that I had with my Salsa Vaya Ti, with my first Moots, and with every bike I’ve ever ridden or seen. So where did this come from?
The first Moots I had was intended to be the last word in gravel cycling. I loved so many things about it…the amazing ride quality, the short chainstays, the zippiness, and many of the components. What prompted a change was the recall of the SRAM Red 22 Hydro brakes that I was running on it. I was excited about SRAM Red Hydro for a year before it came out, and blogged about it a lot, anticipating its release. I enjoyed it while I had it. But the massive failure and recall caused me to question the product. I don’t want to use something if I cannot rely on it. My gravel bike gets abused–I take great care of it, but it sees abusive conditions. I wanted flawless reliability. Unfortunately, that got me thinking about moving away from SRAM and over to Shimano.
But in the realm of Shimano, I really don’t like the way that the brifter moves to shift. (With mechanical Shimano, there is a small release button under the brifter to shift one way, and you move the whole brake lever to shift the other way). There have been times when I’ve tried to brake with gloves on, with a mechanical Shimano shifter, and had the brake lever move inboards, away from my hand. That’s a disconcerting feeling. I knew I wanted to stay with hydro brakes, I knew I wanted a bulletproof drivetrain, and I knew I wasn’t wild about Shimano mechanical brifters. I had Shimano Ultegra on the Ridley Noah, and the brifters were my only complaint.
That lead to the decision to go to Di2. I rode Di2 in Solvang last year and enjoyed it greatly. Di2 with hydro brakes made this an easy decision for the drivetrain. But then, what Di2 to use?
I compared Ultegra and Dura Ace, and in the brifters and derailleurs, I couldn’t find a difference that justified going to Dura Ace. I saw the Ultegra up close and in person, and really liked it. The weight difference was insignificant, and I couldn’t see a change in shifting that merited going to D/A. That said, when I looked at cassettes and cranksets, I could see a difference. While I’m partial to the dark gray finish on the Ultegra cranks, there is a substantial weight difference between Ultegra and Dura Ace cranks and cassettes. So this bike was destined to have Ultegra shifters/brakes/derailleurs, and Dura Ace cranks and cassette. The cassette is the new 11 speed, titanium/carbon/aluminum version. It is pretty amazing to look at.
Why Di2 over mechanical Shimano? If you talk to the Shimano peeps, they’ll tell you that other than keeping the battery charged, Di2 is more reliable, more durable, and more weather/crud resistant than mechanical shifting is. That interested me. Also, I hate chain rub…and the self-trimming feature on the Di2 really appeals to me. Also, it’s amazing. I like amazing.
Once the decision to go to Di2 was made, that posed some questions. I could run external wiring on the Moots, but that would be ugly. It would not create an aesthetic worthy of the rest of the bike. And having ridden the Moots for a while and put some good, hard miles on it, I had learned a few things that I’d like to change. I wanted to keep the short chain stays, for sure. But while I loved the high BB / fast head tube angle and how dynamic they made the handling as compared to the Vaya, they did mean that the bike could be a handful on loose gravel. I didn’t want to lose all of that feeling, but dropping the BB just a pinch, coupled with slightly slacker head tube angles…those were changes I would be interested in. Additionally, I had sorted out my preferred bar height, and had to run 20mm of spacers to get there. From a purely aesthetic perspective, I wanted a slammed stem.
In talking with Jason C, the wizard of Moots, he told me about changes in the 2014 geometry. The head tube went up 1cm and got a little slacker, and the BB went down about .8cm. Those were all done while maintaining the exact same chain stay length. In addition, Moots went to a new seat tube design that increased strength and prevented some issues they were having on some bikes (although I still think the old pinch bolt design is prettier).
I talked about going +1cm over the stock head tube geometry (in order to get a stem with no spacers underneath), and was advised that from a ‘happiness of your headset’ perspective, the ideal setup would be to have 1cm of spacers above the headset. That meant that the new geometry, with a 1cm spacer, would fit perfectly and would be ideal for the headset. So instead of doing a +1 on the head tube, I’m running the stock head tube 2014 geometry and will be running 1cm of spacer. (I still need to trim the steerer tube, but wanted to get some miles in to confirm geometry first).
Going Di2 meant that if I went to a new frame, I could do all internal routing. Internal battery, internal cables. The Di2 goes wiring goes into the down tube and pops out: a) at the bottom of the seat tube (for the front derailleur); and, b) at the rear of the drive-side chain stay (for the rear derailleur). It is a beautiful design. Charging the battery is done by connecting to the little junction box under the stem; no seat post removal required. The only external line on the bike is the hydro brake line running to the rear brake, and the routing of that line is bea-u-tiful.
So if I was doing a new frameset, go Minotaur, right? I mean, who wouldn’t want to be able to run 42s in the back?
Well, no. I decided to skip the Minotaur option. I’m a light rider, and I’m happy with my 34-35mm tire in the rear. Going Minotaur means extending the chain stays an inch or more…and that’s in Vaya territory. I wanted to keep the bike light, quick and zippy.
- Ultegra / Dura-Ace combo on the drivetrain for reliability, functionality, amazingness, and mix for lightweight. Ultegra hydro brakes because hydro is superior in terms of longevity, stopping power, modulation, reliability, and resistance to unnecessary maintenance as compared to mechanical disc. Disc because disc is, in my opinion, far and away superior to any other setup for gravel riding.
- Moots: PX frame with 2014 geometry for worldsbestgravelbike status. I added dropouts for a rear rack (future-proofing) and a 3rd bottle cage, plus internal Di2 routing and custom brake line routing.
- ENVE fork (carryover from previous Moots) because there is nothing better in the world. Tapered steerer and QR. Tapered steerer because it is the new standard (you try finding a good disc-brake, straight-steerer carbon fork). QR because I really don’t see the need for a thru-axle on a gravel bike.
- Chris King headset, because it’s the best.
- I wanted to do a CK bottom bracket, but we found that the threads on the BB were too long and interfered with the internal Di2 wiring. Accordingly, we looked at a Shimano BB. The Dura Ace was a smidge lighter, but had smaller seals. I went Ultegra for longer-term durability in gravel grinding.
- Eriksen seatpost (carryover) because it is fantastic and I cannot envision anything better.
- ENVE 44cm compact road drop bars (carryover), again because they are the best in the world.
- ENVE 29XC wheelset with DT Swiss DT240s hubs, laced with Sapim CX-Ray wheels built for me by Chad at North Central Cyclery because they are the best mix of durability, lightness, reliability, aerodynamics, and pure hotness available in a tubeless setup.
- Bontrager CX0 tires, tubeless with Stan’s sealant, as I believe that the CX0s are the best “fast light” gravel tire out there for tubeless use. I wouldn’t use them for extensive mud, and they’re not a 10,000 mile tire. But for fast and light, they cannot be beaten by anything currently available for tubeless setup.
- Moots Ti Stem (carryover) because Moots.
- Ergon SM3 Pro mountain saddle because it is the most comfortable, compliant, supportive saddle I’ve ever found.
- King ti cages because they’re the best. Blasted to match the bike’s finish, of course.
- DTSwiss ratcheting skewers, again because they’re the best, and because they’re the easiest to use. Ti because titanium.
- Crank Brothers Candy pedals. I favor Crank Brothers on my gravel bikes, as I like to wear mountain shoes (for walking, creek crossing, etc.), as they’re super self-cleaning, very light, and dead reliable. I maintain them twice a year, and ride the dickens out of them. I run Candys as the small platform helps with efficiency on a gravel bike. (On mountain bikes, I run eggbeaters). The Candys are ultralight, and I prefer their feel to SPD. In my opinion, they’re the best that there is for gravel use. Also, I can wear boots with Crank Brothers cleats, when it’s cold out.
I haven’t had a chance to put miles on this bike so as to enable an informed review. That will come in the near future. The few bits of color are red throughout.
Rear Derailleur. (Clean, eh?)
Shimano Hydro brakes.
Front Derailleur Wiring.
New style seat post clamp.
Ohhhh. That finish.
Downtube wiring port.
Clean brake-line routing.
Nice hood profile. Chad built up the gel under the grips at the rear of the hoods, to add rider comfort.
Front tire clearance for days. (These are 38c tires).
Seatstay clearance for days. (34c tires).
Chainstay clearance. 38c tires will just fit without rubbing. 35c or 36c tires would fit comfortably.
XT 6 bolt rotors (XTR are only available in center lock).
The whole shebang.
You knew this was coming.
This is, in my humble opinion, the most amazing gravel bike ever assembled–at least for my purposes, and again courtesy of North Central Cyclery. There is not one part that I can see to upgrade, change or improve upon. Big words for a bike that is largely unridden thus far, I know. But this is truly a dream bike.
Tobie and Chad were exceptionally patient in dealing with my thoughts, questions and revisions. Every component, down to every nut and bolt, was discussed, optimized, and selected with care. The brake lines are the perfect length. Every thread was dressed and anti-seized (or locktite’d). Their level of attention to detail was only matched by my retentiveness. Seriously, those guys know how to spec, design and build a bike.
There is nowhere to go from here, but out onto a gravel road.