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Otso Cycles Hoot Ti Review: Titanium Hardtail Gets the Last Laugh

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Otso Cycles Hoot Ti Review: Titanium Hardtail Gets the Last Laugh

Launching today, the Hoot Ti from Otso Cycles is the brand’s first foray into designing a truly modern and progressive hardtail mountain bike. Built around 140 mm of front suspension with short 425mm chainstays across all sizes, the Hoot is meant for demanding trail riding yet is playful enough for riders who like to get airborne. It’s an evolution of where the brand, which has been innovating since day one, is going while also showcasing its ability to deploy new technologies to solve challenging design problems.

Josh has put considerable mileage on the new Hoot over the past few weeks, both in his usual testing grounds of southern Arizona and a big week in the steep mountains of northern New Mexico. Continue reading below for Josh’s review of the Hoot and a peek inside Otso’s Minneapolis, MN-based operations.

Otso Hoot Ti Quick Hits

  • Modern shreddy geometry
  • Frame sizes from small to XL
  • Suspension corrected for 140 mm fork
  • Titanium frame with bead blasted/brushed finish
  • UDH compatible dropouts
  • Elegant 3D-printed elements
  • Four-pack + two-pack mounts on downtube
  • 29 x 2.6 tire clearance
  • Frame weight: 4.08 lb (size XL test bike)
  • Frame+hardware: $3,300 / Frame + fork: $4,200
  • Complete builds: $6,100-9,900 USD

Twin Cities Innovation

Otso Cycles is Wolf Tooth Components’ sibling bike brand. Housed in the same southern Minneapolis facility, bikes are built and shipped right next to where all of Wolf Tooth’s manufacturing takes place. The folks designing Wolf Tooth’s infinitely useful and clever parts are also responsible for Otso bikes.

I was in the Twin Cities last month when the first batch of Hoots arrived. Naturally, I used the serendipitous occurrence to tour Wolf Tooth’s operations for a forthcoming story while also learning more about the Otso side of the house.

Wolf Tooth was launched in 2013 to fill componentry gaps in the cycling industry. Starting with simple chainrings and progressing to complex components like the Resolve dropper made today, founders Mike Pfeiffer, Brendan Moore, and Dan Dittmer have built the brand to be an almost ubiquitous cycling component brand. Wolf Tooth is often the first stop for many riders searching for precision parts that often meet some weird needs with their bikes.

Otso(ide) the Box Design

The leadership team and their engineers have taken a similar approach to making bikes. Otso launched in 2016 with the Voytek fat/hardtail hybrid and Warakin gravel bike. These bikes were fresh takes in their respective categories and still, nearly ten years later, seem ahead of their time. The Voytek, for instance, featured a Q-factor narrower than any other fat bikes on the market and could run a variety of tire sizes and fork types. The Warakin came out when “gravel” was only beginning to gain traction with super wide tire clearance and geometry capable of running a suspension fork.

More recently, the adaptable Fenrir has won over drop-bar adventurers and flat-bar hardtail riders. Multiple Radavist staff have reviewed iterations of the Fenrir over the years, lauding its thoughtful design elements and dirt-focused prowess. It has even found a permanent home in the stable of one of our choosiest writers.

What’s In a Name?

While we’ve seen quite a few versatile yet shreddy mid-travel hardtails released in the past couple of years (Revel Tirade, Esker Japhy, Smokey, and Moots Womble), I’d argue the Hoot is yet another Otso pushing boundaries in its category. Rather than attempting to do many things well enough, Otso doubled down on the shreddy and went light on the versatile.

Using short (425 mm) static chainstays across all frame sizes (rather than longer or adjustable) and a relatively steep seat angle (76 mm), the Hoot isn’t trying to be what some would call a “shred packer.” Sure, you can strap bags to anything, but that isn’t the best use for this bike. It’s called the Hoot, and it’s meant for having fun on the trail.

Mike, Brendan, and Dan are closely involved in everything at Wolf Tooth and Otso, from material sourcing to design and production. They also have talented people working across departments to ensure efficient and innovative processes.

Kyle Alviani was the design lead for the Hoot and brought a lot of personal touches to the frame. I learned he has a reputation for going big and ripping around their undulating local trails and the bigger stuff around Lake Superior’s shorelines. While I was on site, Kyle let me pull aside his prototype Hoot to see how it differed from the production model.

Kyle and his team initially prototyped the Hoot with rear rack mounts and adjustable dropouts. Ultimately, though, after lots of riding and poring over CAD drawings for aesthetic considerations, they determined the production model should instead have unencumbered tubes and put the derailleur in a fixed position. They didn’t take this decision lightly, moving forward based on reliability, appearance, and, ultimately, the target riders for the bike.

Kyle also incorporated some wild componentry in his proto, including the gyro headset and downtube-mounted ReMote 360 dropper lever. It’s like a dirt jumper that can still shred trails.

The Hoot in 3D

3D-printed frame parts are becoming increasingly popular in metal bicycle manufacturing. Rather than cutting, bending, and welding complex frame components, engineers can send a digital drawing to a 3D printing machine that can produce highly complex shapes on the spot. Also referred to as “additive manufacturing,” printing at scale doesn’t really save any cost, as each part is billed per gram of material used. Such practices are often employed to solve problems that are either impossible to do by hand or are so complex that they become cost-prohibitive. This GCN video of designer/builder Tom Sturdy explains the process.

Not everyone embraces this approach to building bicycles, however. Some folks fall into the “purist” side of the conversation, believing 3D printing removes an integral aspect of the frame building craft. To them, physical problem-solving and labor reign supreme over computers and robots. Personally, I’m pretty stoked about both methods these days.

Let’s look at some of Otso’s 3D-printed achievements on the Hoot frame so you can see more of what I’m rambling about.

Chainstay yokes are one of the most challenging parts of a bike to imagine, draw, and build. This is particularly true when attempting to incorporate a lot of seemingly at-odds aspects into a frame. In the case of the Hoot, Otso wanted all frame sizes to fit a 29 x 2.6″ tire with short 425 mm chainstays AND dropper routing that exits behind the bottom bracket shell.

The dropper cable makes this complicated bend thanks to a small bump-out in the yoke for clean visual congruence and operational performance. Integrated guides on the yoke’s underside route brake hose and derailleur cables (when needed) in line with the dropper cable. Building this yoke by hand would have been extremely tricky and cost-prohibitive.

Dropouts are another complicated frame component to consider. After much deliberation over the Hoot’s dropouts, the Otso team again championed performance and elegance over versatility. They knew the bike needed to be UDH compatible, which guided the dropout parameters. While UDH compatibility is not a new concept at this point, their design offers a clean look that is not just functional, but elegant.

Hoot’s dropouts are light yet strong and incorporate a sleek brake mount inside the frame triangle rather than on top of the seatstay, as is the case with some short chainstay frames. Tucked in the frame, the brake caliper is protected from rock strikes and other side impacts. The available real estate around the mounting zone is fairly sparse, so it might be difficult to fit chunkier machined calipers like Paul Klampers or Hope Tech 4.

Design Language and Material

As I mentioned above, titanium hardtails seem to be having a moment, and there is no shortage of really nice ones to choose from right now. Otso seems to have realized this and made the Hoot stand out in the field. Tubing for the front triangle is oversized and stout while also harmonizing with the thin seatstays and chainstays. Visually, this speaks to the Hoot’s stable yet playful ride characteristics, which I’ll discuss below.

Some bikes with low top tubes require a chunky brace at the seat tube junction, but the Hoot’s is minimal and nearly disappears into the frame’s overall appearance. The same holds for the seatstay bridge, which is tucked up into the seat cluster. The down tube/top tube junction is reinforced with a thin laser-cut piece of titanium featuring the Otso insignia.

Branding is minimal and fun, some only appearing after close inspection of the frame. “Otso” and “Hoot” logos are brushed beneath the bead-blasted frame treatment, while other emblems are visible throughout the front triangle.

Like their other titanium offerings, Otso utilized custom diameters of the popular 3AI/2.5V Grade 9 tubing for the Hoot. This particular type of titanium is known for being light, strong, and lively.

Some reviewers go as far as labeling this material as immortal. While I’m not opposed to considering earthly things in ethereal ways, I also view bike tubing as a means to an end. When using titanium, builders can craft a premium product that meets the needs of riders in ways arguably better than other materials (steel can be heavier when it’s engineered to withstand the same forces as titanium; carbon can lack character and feel hollow).

But it comes at a price. The titanium Hoot costs $3,300 for the frame and associated hardware like a headset, seatpost clamp, etc, from Wolf Tooth. It’s on the pricier end compared to similar hardtails from other brands and even some custom builders. But I’d argue none of those have the level of ingenuity and expensive 3D-printed elements of the Hoot. Still, that fact alone doesn’t impact your wallet any less.

Geometry and Ride

Trail-centric hardtails have been taking cues from full-suspension bikes for a while now, and I’m a big fan of where this trend is going. Steep seat angles, long reach, and slack head tubes with long front centers and low bb amount to bikes that are efficient climbers and, on the way down, offer a playful and confident ride.

This is what I think makes hardtails modern and progressive. Bikes with longer rear ends and slacker seat angles handle flowy trails well and offer more comfort for extended periods but, in my opinion, aren’t as capable or as exciting as their rowdier counterparts like the Hoot.

I’m 6′ 1″ tall with long legs (34″ inseam). I often straddle the line between large and XL frames, though lately, I have sized up to XL bikes with around a 500 mm reach and steep-ish seat angles. The Hoot falls right into this category with 502 mm reach and 76° seat angle (measured at 20% sag). It also uses appropriately-sized headtubes across sizes (653 mm stack in XL!), making it easy for riders do dial in a comfortable upright position.

To put this fit into perspective, take my V2 size large Starling Murmur, for example. After getting a feel for longer bikes in recent years, its 77° seat angle paired with 485 mm reach has started to feel cramped when climbing, though I can move around with the seat dropped while descending.

Conversely, I felt more at home on the new XL Pivot Switchblade and some of Travis’ recent review bikes – like the Forbidden Druid and Canyon Spectral – while shooting photos for him (we’re a similar height, and he’s also honed in on the 500 mm reach magic number).

Of course, reach and seat angle aren’t the only numbers that matter, but they allow for other desirable qualities like a slack head tube angle and long wheelbase.

Going Up

But a long reach only makes sense for me if a bike has a fairly steep seat angle and slack head tube. Plus, a long reach helps account for what I lose in the cockpit because I often use handlebars with a bit of back sweep. Such was the combination with the Hoot, and I requested Otso send me the XL to test.

I’m finding this type of geometry in trail bikes is my favorite for the type of riding we have in the southwest US: steep climbs and sustained techy descents. Slacker seat angles, like that of the Sweet Spot I had for a few years, are great for touring and rolling terrain, but I find they limit power and efficiency when the trail gets steep. A forward-seated climbing position gives more front-wheel control over where I want to point it while maintaining rear-wheel traction.

The Hoot’s steep seat angle centers my weight and pedaling force, making micro-adjustments easier as terrain changes. I feel more powerful and efficient in focusing my effort over the bottom bracket rather than behind it. And the lightweight frame, clocking in at just over 4 lbs, feels spritely when grinding up precipitous slopes.

John considers a series of steep switchbacks on Dorothy Stewart Trail in Santa Fe, NM, a litmus test for how well a bike can climb. During a sweeping tour of the area’s trails last week, which included Dorothy Stewart, I pedaled up those features with relative ease. This is despite the short 425 mm chainstays I feared might cause rear traction issues.

At home in AZ, the bike excelled in my favorite punchy proving grounds. As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, we have weekly short-track XC-style races at Papago Park in the middle of the Phoenix Valley. The routes change every week but are always punctuated with short yet intense climbs, loose descents, and occasional flat sprints. I was a little worried the Hoot’s steep seat angle might feel like an ass hatchet in the varied terrain, but it proved to be just the opposite. It puts me in an active stance with powerful pedal strokes going up, and then I can quickly maneuver into a descending position.

A potential downside of steep seat tubes can crop up during long, flat-ish seated pedals. With much of a rider’s weight leaned forward on the bars for prolonged periods, hands can become sore and go numb. Bikes with more relaxed positions can mitigate this. On the few flat and sustained rides I’ve gone on out to trailheads, I’ve noticed this a bit with the Hoot. It likes to be pointed up or down and is a big factor in why I wouldn’t want to do long tours on the Hoot or other trail or enduro bikes like it.

Going Down

I’ll say this again: the Hoot’s chainstays are short. At 425 mm, they barely clear a 29 X 2.6″ Teravail Kessel on DT Swiss XMC 1501 30 mm rims. While short chainstays are known to be fun in playful settings like jumping or whipping the bike’s rear end around corners, they can make it difficult to control at high speed. In my time with the Hoot, this was not the case.

The short chain stays are balanced out by a slack head angle, lengthy wheelbase, long front center, and a relatively low bottom bracket. This party in the back/rowdy in the front geometry creates sure-footed steering stability at speed while still feeling playful.

I don’t have much style in the air, especially when a camera is pointed at me. But I can’t help but hit every bump, hip, water bar, natural, or built feature a trail gives me. The Hoot loves to jump, and its planted front end instills a lot of confidence upon landing.

The Hoot’s long reach comes into play when the seat is dropped. While the steep seat angle puts me into an active climbing position, moving the long 200 mm dropper out of the way opens up a lot of room to move around when dropped for descending or jumping. It does well rolling through rocky terrain, popping off rocks, and shredding through sections of baby-head-sized rocks.

When approaching technical sections, I maneuver the short rear end beneath me, which gives me the sensation of scooting over or around steep rocky features rather than bouncing on top of them. Thus far, there have only been a few instances with the Hoot where the trail was so rough that I wished I was on a full suspension; when the rocks were so large that each rollover pushed the bike up into my rear end. For the most part, however, it’s one of the most capable hardtails I’ve ridden.

The Hoot is the kind of bike that is plenty capable “out of the box,” but I suspect it can also help a lot of folks become better riders. For example – partially as a factor of my bad habits, but also due to the Hoot’s long front end – I have to work it around tight turns to keep it from oversteering. While the bike performs well at speed, some deliberate and slower maneuvers can hang me up.

I’m not even close to pushing the Hoot to its limits, yet I’m motivated to improve my banked turn technique and jumping skills, where only confidence dictates how much I want to push it.

Build Kit

No doubt, the Hoot’s trail capabilities are assisted by the 140 mm FOX 36 Performance fork. This custom-length fork is specifically built for the Hoot, as only the Fox 34 is available off-the-shelf with 140 mm travel.  While any 140 mm fork will work with the Hoot, Otso engineers wanted to incorporate the sturdier 36 mm sanctions for aggressive riding.

Lighter than the previous generation of 36 mm Fox forks, yet with the new Grip X Damper and a full suite of tuning features, it’s an appropriate accompaniment to the lightweight yet stout Hoot frameset.

The first batch of titanium Hoots is available in limited quantities. They are sold as frames for $3,300; frame + Fox 36 fork for $4,200; or as full builds starting at $6,100. All options are available through Otso’s Custom Bike Builder.

Since Otso is physically located just feet from the shop where all Wolf Tooth parts are made and/or assembled, the Bike Builder offers full build options from wheels and drivetrain down to color-coordinated headsets, dropper levers, and grips. In an era where we’re seeing fewer brands offering full builds, Otso provides a plethora of customizations and price points. And, if you ask really, really, nicely, they might even purify your frame in the waters of Lake Minnetonka.

My test build, costing around $9,900, was the crème de la crème top-end option with DT Swiss’ new 240 hubs laced to XMC 1501 rims, an SRAM XO Transmission drivetrain, and Shimano XT brakes. This was my first time putting in consistent miles with the top-tier T-Type system, and it’s nothing short of incredible. Shifting is flawless and not impacted in the least following multiple derailleur rock strikes in Santa Fe’s chundery trails.

If you have any specific questions about these primo components, drop them in the comments below. Otherwise, I’m hoping Otso lets me keep the bike for a few more weeks, allowing me to evaluate some of these parts further.

Everything about this bike feels premium, from the custom tubing selection and 3D-printed elements to the components and build options available directly from Wolf Tooth. But If you’re in the market for a shreddy hardtail like this, you don’t have to spend $10k to enjoy it. SLX and GX groups are still available, and they are more than good enough.

Holy B-Rad, Batman

I’ve spent most of this review detailing the Hoot’s innovative design aspects and describing how much I enjoyed riding it. But, I imagine that through all 2700 of those words, you’ve been wondering what the hell is up with all of those B-Rads on the frame?

Well, the XL Hoot only has one mounting point for a water bottle inside the triangle on the downtube. Otso wanted riders to fit as much dropper post travel as possible. The seat tube can fit most 200mm travel droppers fully slammed down to size small frame with room to spare.

Unfortunately, one water bottle isn’t enough for where I live and ride in the Desert Southwest. And wearing a pack with water is one of my least favorite things to do, especially in hot temps.

To allow long dropper insertion, Otso could not add mounts to the Hoot’s already short seat tube. Still, I would have liked to see more mounting options on the downtube or underside of the top tube for bottle cages or gear storage. Thankfully, they did add a 4-pack to the downtube and, determined to carry more than one bottle in the frame, I asked Otso to send a few Wolf Tooth B-Rad configurations along with the bike, and I got creative. There’s also a 2-pack on the downtube’s underside, but I only use this location for water storage rather than quick bottle access because I don’t like drinking dirt or whatever else finds its way to my bottle cap.

Most brands would probably frown on me cluttering their tastefully designed frame with straps, aluminum strips, and zip ties. Still, Otso figured it was a great way to show off the usefulness of their sibling brand’s clever accessories. I fit a B-Rad 2, B-Rad 4, and an Everwhere Base. Now, on the XL frame, I can ride with three water bottles of various sizes and an Accessory Strap with 0.6 L Roll-Top Bag.

Closing Thoughts 乁(ʘ ◊ ʘ)ㄏ

The Hoot Ti is a fun, confident, and engaging hardtail with playful rectrices and planted remiges. The titanium frame and 3D-printed parts feel premium, and the build kits available from Otso are owlpropriately commensurate. While not everyone will give a hoot, it’s a solid option for riders wanting a head-turning, lightweight, and capable trail machine. Additionally, it’s cool to see Otso add a dedicated trail bike to its parliament of adventure and touring models; I’ll be tracking closely, observing where their design wisdom takes flight from here.

Pros

  • Beautifully designed 3D-printed elements
  • Lightweight and stout titanium frame
  • Well-considered playful and shreddy trail geometry
  • Plenty of standover and long dropper fitment
  • Wide variety of factory build options
  • Punny name

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Limited frame mounting points
  • 29 X 2.6 tires fit, but probs too big for muddy conditions
  • Trail-oriented geo might not appeal to everyone

See more at Otso

Mock Orange Bikes: 20 Years in Winston-Salem, NC

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Mock Orange Bikes: 20 Years in Winston-Salem, NC

The last 20 years have seen seismic changes to brick-and-mortar businesses of all kinds, especially bike shops, yet Mock Orange Bikes endures. Mock Orange and its owner, Charles Van Isenburg, have remained a pillar of Winston-Salem, NC’s bike community for two decades with a relationship-driven, neighborhood-oriented, very much offline, and old-school way of conducting retail business.

On one of his frequent swings through his native North Carolina, Andy Karr stopped by his favorite hometown bike shop to chat with Charles about what’s changed in 20 years of owning a shop and what hasn’t.

Quirk Cycles TITAN Custom Titanium Road Bike

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Quirk Cycles TITAN Custom Titanium Road Bike

The TITAN is the first custom titanium bicycle offering from Quirk Cycles. Known for their elegant and excellently crafted steel bikes, the new titanium TITAN expands Quirk’s catalog with Columbus Hyperion tubing for a “fast, responsive and beautifully compliant ride.”

For a decade, Quirk Cycles has been refining what a modern steel road bike should be, using innovative manufacturing techniques. Now, they have applied their knowledge to the matchless ride feel of titanium.

The TITAN is their first titanium road bike. It claims to be fast, responsive and beautifully compliant. It’s a contemporary design engineered in advanced materials, “the ultimate modern road bike.”

Quirk Cycles is dedicated to pushing the boundaries of bike production by harnessing the potential of the latest materials and technology. While they honor tradition, they are driven by a relentless pursuit of innovation, constantly seeking fresh and inventive approaches.

Specs

  • Columbus Hyperion titanium tubing
  • Progressive tube diameters (proportionally sized tubes for ultimate compliance to stiffness ratio)
  • Titanium Fork
  • Integrated cabling (in-house 3D headtube offers fully hidden cables routed in frame)
  • Disc brake equipped
  • 3D printed titanium construction
  • 35mm max tire size
  • T47 BB standard
  • 27.2mm seatpost
  • 160mm max rotor
  • Frameset: £6500 inc VAT / Full builds starting at £9.5k

See more at Quirk Cycles

Photos courtesy of Nikoo Hamzavi

Nick and His Titanium Sycip Hardtail 29er

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Nick and His Titanium Sycip Hardtail 29er

Nick’s titanium Sycip hardtail has been on our list to document for some time. On his April road trip to Sea Otter, John crashed in the driveway at his buddy Nick‘s house while he visited shops and builders in the area. After a particularly epic afternoon of riding in Annadel State Park, he grabbed Nick’s beautiful Sycip for some photos. This bike isn’t your ordinary Sycip and Nick ain’t your ordinary guy. Let’s see why below…

From Paul Component Engineering and HotSalad Bicycles: The Wild and Weird Sierra Roamer

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From Paul Component Engineering and HotSalad Bicycles: The Wild and Weird Sierra Roamer

It’s become a tradition for Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. and Paul Component Engineering to collaborate on an off-the-wall bike to showcase at Sea Otter Classic and then raffle off to raise money for a select non-profit. An enigmatic headturner, this year’s collective build will benefit The Roam Collective and came together around a custom titanium frame made by HotSalad Bikes. Dedicated to women past and present in cycling, the Wild and Weird Sierra Roamer pays tribute to legendary mountain biker Jacquie Phelan and her Cunningham race bike, “Otto.” Take a closer look below and consider contributing to the raffle!  

If There Is a Gravel Heaven, All-City Cycles Is There

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If There Is a Gravel Heaven, All-City Cycles Is There

We lost a good brand last year. All-City Cycles’ parent company, Quality Bicycle Products, announced they’d be closing down the brand in 2024. After a heartfelt outpouring here on The Radavist, John penned an homage to the brand vis-à-vis some abstract photos of the All-City Cycles Cosmic Stallion Titanium and includes a note from Saisha Harris, All-City’s creative director, and final closing thoughts by Jeff Frane, the brand’s founder. Read on for this fond farewell…