I had a chance to put in about 25 miles on a Vamoots RSL a couple days ago. Here are my thoughts.
For starters, it was a 58cm bike, so a bit big for me. It was running SRAM Red (2012 version), and had what seemed to be a monstrous set of handlebars (46cm?)
So let me say at the outset, it was a bit big for me, and felt a smidge cumbersome as a result. However, I also did a very brief test-ride on a 56cm RSL, and found it to be much more to my liking. So for purposes of this review, I’ll talk about a combination of those two bikes…as riding the proper size cured many of the idiosyncrasies that initially popped up with the 58.
It was a horrendously windy day. My personal road bike is a Trek Madone 7, which is about as aero as you can get. Suffice it to say that riding into a headwind, on a bike that’s a size too big, with wide handlebars, does not compare favorably to my Madone. If you eliminated the sizing issues, you’d be comparing a very aero bike to a standard bike. The Madone has an edge here. Comparing it to my previous road bike, a Ridley Noah (also a very aero bike), well, the results are the same. That’s about the only downside.
The geometry of the 56cm bike was perfect. It had an amazing balance between sport and stability–a near perfect ride quality balance. Turn-in was instantaneous with no palpable deflection in frame or fork–the rigidity in turns was excellent. My bike had a 44mm head tube, but I also rode a Vamoots with a standard headtube, and my 150# didn’t phase it. On the other hand, the handling wasn’t nervous or tiresome like some ‘race’ bikes. I wouldn’t make any changes to the geometry for the road riding I do (although the more time I spend with the short chainstays on my Psychlo X, the more I wish all bikes were set up that way!)
The BB30 bottom bracket made power transfer instantaneous. If you stood to climb a little roller, the Vamoots just went. The drivetrain feel was linear and predictable. It didn’t feel harsh or jolt-y like my old Noah did. It just went.
Let’s talk about that ride quality. Compared to the Noah (or heaven forbid, my earlier Scattante or some of the aluminum frames I’ve ridden), the Vamoots is heavenly. Glorious. It’s hard to figure out how the bike has such a comfortable ride on undulating surfaces, chipseal, rumblestrips, potholes and similar obstacles, and yet feels so efficient under power. But–I haven’t gone totally Moots crazy. My Madone has the same ability to be incredibly efficient under power, while having amazing ride quality over rough surfaces. I will say that I believe there’s a significant difference between the Madone 7 and the lower grade carbon used in the other Madone series…having logged quite a few miles on a Madone 6, my personal belief is that the Madone 7 has significantly better manners and dampening ability. Comparing ride quality heads-up, the Madone 7 to the Vamoots RSL, the Vamoots definitely has that “ti” feel, but I cannot say that it blew me away. Let’s be fair: I’m a tough critic, both being in love with my Madone, and having a lot of ride time on some pretty sweet Ti frames.
This isn’t a criticism of the RSL. In my opinion, it has the perfect blend of ride quality and efficiency. I just happen to think that it shares that perfect balance with my Madone 7. I tried a couple of the other Moots road frames, and while they had slightly better vibration dampening, they lacked a bit of the snappiness that the RSL had. My ride time on them was not nearly as extensive as the RSL, so take that for what it’s worth.
I would have loved to log some time on the Vamoots with my ENVE wheels–dropping some rotating mass and picking up their aerodynamics and ride quality would have had a substantial impact on the ride.
What’s the verdict?
Ride quality is amazing. Geometry is spot-on. Handling is confidence-inspiring, even when you hit a little gravel mid-turn and slide over on the road a bit. If you get in the drops and put some weight on the front tire, it feels like the bike will hook up in any corner. It looks amazing. The weight is pretty shockingly low (particularly with the wheel/tire combo my test bike sported). It’s a very well thought out package.
So am I running out and trading my Madone? No.
The Vamoots would be an upgrade from just about any road bike on the planet. I’d ride it with great pleasure. But I wouldn’t trade my Madone to get one–at least not now. There are 2 pretty amazing sub-points here.
The first is that Moots, as a relatively small business that handbuilds their frames in Colorado, is capable of building a road bike that compares unbelievably favorably with the highest end, pro-grade, carbon fiber roadbike made by one of the largest bike manufacturers in the country. That’s really something.
The second is that Moots does all of this in what you can truly call a lifetime frame. With my Madone last a long time? Yup. Can carbon be repaired? Yup. But in 10 years, will my Madone look as good as a 10 year old Moots? Nope. There is no question that the Moots will be more durable. It’s an investment–something you can ride forever.
The Vamoots RSL is an amazing bike.