Bike Test - Moots Compact SL
Moots are one of the several American titanium manfacturers and craftsmen who have carved a niche in both the road and mountain bike markets. No other country produces so many titanium brands of such quality and they compete vigorously for a growing market of 'superbikes'. Moots sit along side brands like Merlin, Seven, Serotta and Litespeed. Aficionados out there will know them as a cult brand, something to aspire to, when you have the money. This is Moots' most expensive off the peg frame; with a custom build and additional fork, seatpost and stem you'll be looking at close to £4000. That's a lot of money for a racing bike.
Stunning welding, an exceptional finish and at 2.6lbs it's one of the lightest frames we've ridden in a long time. Reynolds butted 6-4 titanium is excellent material. It's lighter and stronger than 3-2.5 tube but harder to work and as a result less likely to get swagged and shaped too much. Compared to a Litespeed or Merlin there is less work in the tubes, but this is no surprise as the tubes are best left un-fettled. The socket covered Breezer style droputs add a little mountain bike flavour and the details, from the seat tube clamp to the gear cable adjusters, are all perfectly welded.
The True Temper Alpha fork would not be my first choice for this frame, it's just a little too direct, more like a track fork, and
wasn't helped by the steep head angle. I'd prefer a Look HSC4 or perhaps a Reynolds Ouzo Pro, just to take a bit of sting out of the road. It's a very lightweight front end with the Rolf wheels, Vredstein tyres and Alpha fork, but it was a bit of a struggle to keep the tyres in contact with the tarmac. Crit riders will certainly appreciate it's razor sharp steering and solid feel.
Rolf started making wheels long before most of the current crop of homogenous hoops appeared. They are favoured by many riders and well known professionals say they prefer them over their 'sponsors' wheels and I can see why. They weigh 1295g a pair which is pretty impressive for an all aluminium wheelset. Obviously they are light so perhaps the rims are thinner and less serviceable, but at £649 a pair they will only come out on race days. The Vredstein tyres are very low in profile and I have to say that I am not a big fan - they are just a bit too wooden feeling and I'd prefer a deeper section plusher tyre for this bike. Few wheels ride as well as these, they
track perfectly and add a welcome bit of give to a head-banger's bike.
What stopped the wheels getting full marks is the price, this much for an all alloy wheelset is a little on the steep side. Good though they are there are a lot of wheels around this price that offer similar qualities, but perhaps not quite as light in weight. If they were £100 less I'd be reaching for the credit card. We will have a full test on the Rolf wheels very soon so watch out for the review.
We rode up Mont Ventoux on the Moots. Bizarrely I met another rider on an identical bike on the way up, we shouted encouragement and double-taked at the bikes we had under us. Climbing such a big hill gives you a clear impression of how a bike can perform. Out of the saddle is how this bike should be ridden: it is a climber's dream
bike. Light and remarkably 'stiff' as you dance on the pedals. The Compact SL also took me over the Joux Plane and Joux Verte climbs in the Alps. Out of the saddle and this bike flies, and seeing as most of these hills demand that I was more than happy.
Going down was a different matter however, the tight front end and steep head angle would be perfect for a crit or technical course, but for long sweeping corners at speed and tight hairpins it had us all over the place to start with. Once the forks were tamed and the bike understood, things got better. Compared to the relaxed Trek Pilot geometry, I wasn't totally in tune with the sharp handling Moots straight away.
The handlebars didn't help the descending either. With a massive 40mm reach to the levers over my usual choice the brakes seemed like they were a mile or two away. It took a while to get the brake hoods in just the right place, but luckily Dura-Ace levers are multi-facetted and a happy position was possible eventually. Fizik's Arione saddle is taking over from some of the classic saddle shapes used in the Pro Peloton, it's longer than most.
This Moots stem costs £250. Yes that's right £250. It is, however, one of the most beautiful bits of titanium and aluminium you could clamp onto your handlebars and it's suitably solid to sprint on too – so if money really is no object this could be your stem of choice.
It matches up with the white logo-ed seat post too, which costs an equally staggering £120. But like we said hand made stuff like this takes time and care to get right. The stem is perfect and a wonderful piece of engineering though the seatpost was less user friendly, but does add the ensemble-look so you'd find it hard to resist.
Shimano Dura-Ace or Record is the obvious choice for a bike that already costs a king's ransom. It was a perfect blend of perfect shifting and spot-on braking. The brakes had been fitted with Rolf's own Kool Stop compound cartridges and they are perhaps the best thing to happen to Shimano brakes. I've noticed a few of the Pro teams using these as try as they might Shimano just can't seem to match the performance of Campagnolo's rubber. For £10 a set it's money well spent to make your brakes faultless in wet and dry conditions (they make Campagnolo cartridges too).
There is a lot to like about this bike. It has the "oh-mi-god" weight for starters and it offers one of the most direct drives we've encountered, especially from titanium and the look is decidedly understated and classy. But the Compact SL left us wanting a little more. The comfort issue was a worry for me, especially as most titanium frames are sofa-soft in comparison. For £270 the custom option could change a few of the issues I have, but the chainstays are obviously where the problem lies, they are just to fat to allow any seated compliance.
It was one of those bikes that allows you to sprint and climb to your full potential, but if your riding is more 'cruise' than 'bruise' then something in softer titanium may be more your scene. I couldn't really see why they've made the bike so stiff, a little softer and we'd have a winner. And as many people pointed out you could buy 3 Omega Alchemys for the same money.
All that said this bike has a certain appeal. At a race changing rooms it had a big crowd around it and (although a little dated) the graphics get recognised and appreciated, even outside of the MTB world. The Rolf kit is superb, the wheels and pads made the descents a dream. But to die-hard Moots fans it will not disappoint – especially if you intend to start racing and want a bike that will last you many, many seasons.
Frame sizes: 52, 53.5, 55, 56, 57.5, 59, 61.5
Size tested: 55 (55.5 cm effective top tube)
Frame tubing: Reynolds 6–4 SL Titanium
Fork: True Temper Alpha full carbon
Headset: Chris King Ahead
Crankarms: Shimano Dura-Ace 170 mm
Chainrings: Shimano Dura-Ace 53/39
B/B: Shimano Dura-Ace
Pedals: none supplied
Chain: Shimano Dura-Ace 10
Freewheel: Shimano Dura-Ace 10-speed 11-12-13-14-15-17-19-21-23-25T
F/D: Shimano Dura-Ace
R/D: Shimano Dura-Ace
Shifters: Shimano Dura-Ace 10 speed STI
Handlebar: Ritchey Carbon
Stem: Moots 12cm
Brakes: Shimano Dura-Ace with Rolf custom pads
Tires: Vredstein Fortezza Comps 700x23c
Saddle: Fizik Arione
Seatpost: Moots titanium
Weight: 2.6lb frame 15.7 complete bike
Price: frame only £2,550.00
- Contact: Rock 'n' Road 02380 221022
- Distributed and manufactured by www.moots.com