When the Ramble Ride popped onto the horizon in my late summer travel and photo shoot plans, the guys at Moots offered up one of their prized models, the Baxter, for me to ride. Out of all their bikes in what I would consider a stout lineup, the Baxter is one that always stood out to me as the most versatile. The beauty about this bike platform is the Baxter is what you want it to be, although it’s designed to essentially be a drop bar 29’r. How you build it is up to you and there are options like with a suspension fork, or with a rigid fork, with or without a dropper post, and everything in between. Di2 or cable, double crankset or 1x, and now with the updated boosted rear spacing, compatibility with your “other” mountain bike wheelsets. The guys at Moots are great at constructing these frames, it’s just up to you to make them roll…
I spent three solid days on this bike and while that’s usually not enough for a full-length review, I thought I’d share my thoughts on it. Granted, I only rode this Baxter fully-loaded on the Ramble Ride, so I didn’t get the chance to take it out for an unloaded spin around Steamboat Springs, where Moots is based and coincidentally where the Ramble Ride departed from.
Let’s just jump right into the build kit. Since I had no idea what to expect on this ride – and considering most of it was above 8,000′ in elevation – I really wanted gearing conducive to 10+ hour days in the saddle, traversing steep mountain roads, while being able to keep up on the flats without spinning out too much. Thanks to the road and mountain connectivity of Di2, Jon from Moots set this bike up with Dura Ace Di2 shifters, mated to a Di2 XT drivetrain, including a front derailleur. With the double crankset and an 11-40 rear cassette, I’d be able to spin up just about anything, including singletrack. The comfort of road shifters, mated with the gearing of a mountain bike made the long days in the saddle all the more enjoyable. All in all, I shifted a lot with the front derailleur, but after three full days on the bike, I managed to use only one bar of the Di2 battery. For anything longer than an extended weekend getaway, I would probably consider other mechanical build kit options.
On rides like the ramble, which are 80% dirt road, 15% paved, and 5% singletrack, give or take, I didn’t feel the need for suspension or a dropper post, but if those numbers had been switched around a bit, I might have opted for at least a suspension fork. With a geometry optimized for 100mm of travel, the Baxter allows you to get playful without feeling like you’re going to jettison over the bars in error. Yet, for this sort of ride, a rigid fork will climb better, which is what I really concerned about. A dropper would have been fun on the descents, but I didn’t feel it was necessary.
The Astral Wanderlust alloy rims, laced to White Industries hubs gave me no issues, felt great on the rough stuff, and are still perfectly true after a rather abusive round of bike touring. It’s nice having more MUSA rim options out there! Even the Thunder Burt – a tire I have a love/hate relationship with – held up fine. I tend to go with flat pedals on rides like this and either hiking boots or sandals, depending on the weather. My Race Face Atlas pedals have held up to excessive abuse over the years and feel great on your feet at the end of a long day. All in all, this dream bike rode like a dream. You can see where I’m getting at here. When you don’t have to worry about anything on a bike, you can really enjoy the ride and for me, it just leaves more mental capacity to doing what I do best, take photos!
There’s nothing like titanium. It’s one of the most forgiving materials at the end of a rough day. You don’t get the chatter of aluminum, or the resonance of carbon, and while steel provides an amazingly compliant ride, titanium just feels all the smoother. Even with a big, beefy fork like the rigid ENVE MTB fork, and reasonable tire pressure, avoiding snake bite or rim damage, the bike just absorbed so much road vibration from washboarded corners, even without Moots’ famed YBB soft tail technology – there is a bike like this with YBB in the works, by the way.
My initial concern of the bike being a noodle with all that weight on it subsided as we were pedaling out of town the morning of the Ramble. Perhaps past experienes with smaller-diameter tubing on older ti bikes made me think it’d be a bit squirrely, but the modern oversized tubing Moots uses is anything but that. There’s a beauty in its ride quality and one that is difficult to grasp with words.
The thing that sticks out the most about Moots is the construction and the quality of the welds. When you invest in one of their frames, you’re buying into decades of experience with titanium, born in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. While you can’t see it here, this bike actually has quite the finishing job. With a aspen-inspired graphic on the seat tube, a blasted and polished logo, and a nice, brushed finish, the frame itself is a piece of art. One that I strapped bags to and thrashed around dirt roads in the back country of Colorado. I wanted to strip the bike to showcase these details, but I felt it was misleading since I didn’t ride the bike unloaded, and to be quite honest, I like the way it looks here just fine!
Like all Moots frames, they aren’t cheap, but with titanium, you really are buying a lifetime investement. Later down the line, if you’d like things added to your frame, like rack or fender mounts, the team at Moots can make that happen. These are available in stock sizing, from XS to XL, a variety of finishes, one stock build kit, or just as a frameset. Pricing is $4,629 for the frameset, including the ENVE fork, or $8,699 built with a similar kit as seen here. For matching Porcelain Rocket bags, holler at Scott and his team!
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