a hiker rounded the trail from below. I pulled my bike aside, into the shade of a pine tree, to let him pass. He looked to be in his late 60s and had an endurance athlete’s build—lean and muscular. As he approached, he studied the bike, stared at me for several seconds, then looked back at the bike. The stare felt long … long enough that I began to wonder whether bikes were allowed on the trail that connected an affluent Aspen neighborhood to primo trails in the national forest.
He finally let out a sigh: “Moots. I have three of ’em.” Then he proceeded to tell me about the Moots he rode 90 hours straight through in the Paris-Brest-Paris. “Best bikes.” He positioned his hiking poles, turned up the trail and hiked away.
Moots owners will do that—praise their bikes as they reflect on satisfying days in the saddle. After spending time on the Moots Rogue YBB this summer, I see why these handcrafted titanium bikes are revered. They look good, ride well and age gracefully.
The Rogue YBB 29er was introduced at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show in 2013, and this year Moots released the 27.5-inch-wheel model. Like other Moots bikes, the Rogue YBB is a timeless beauty, with a bead-blast finish that gives it a raw, classic look.
The YBB suspension has been a staple in Moots’ lineup of softtails since 1988, when the company first began prototyping the pivotless system in steel. By 1991, Moots had refined a titanium version, and it has basically been the same since. As longtime Moots production manager Butch Boucher says: “If it ain’t broke …” The YBB is a small, straightforward design. The 1 1/8-inch spring-damped unit is built into the frame above the seat stays. Unlike a rear air shock, you don’t put pressure in before heading out for a ride, but Moots adds different spring rates and different spring lengths based on the size of each frame (softer for smaller riders, for example).
Another factor about the YBB that has made it popular throughout the years, is that it is easily serviceable. When the unit needs servicing, Moots sends a kit and instructions, and the owner can take it apart with minimal tools, put it back together and add another three years of life to it.
A softtail would never replace a trail bike, but that little YBB subtly smooth out the ride. Paired with the Fox Float Fit 100mm Kashima coat fork, this made for a comfortable cross country bike. In the first week of testing the Rogue YBB, I got stuck in a Colorado evening hail storm on an after-work ride. Bailing off the singletrack and onto a dirt road, I rallied for home in the cold downpour. It was nice to have that YBB taking the edge off the washboard road; my mind wasn’t focused on bike handling but instead was already set on some tea and a hot bath.
Moots uses 30 different sized tubeset diameters—from 1/2 inch to 1 3/4 inch— depending on the size of the bike. In addition to the different diameters, the designers choose from three wall thicknesses to better tune it for the weight and size of the rider, so the bikes aren’t overbuilt or underbuilt, according to Nate Bradley, who works in production/R&D at Moots. “So we’re able to say, ‘We need to lighten up this top tube to make it a little bit more compliant because typically this rider’s going be a little smaller,’” Bradley says.
With the subtle suspension of the YBB, the titanium can really shine and do its job to absorb some of the chatter. The Rogue YBB has slightly longer chainstays (17.4 inches), purposely designed to allow the chainstays to flex and contribute to an overall smoother ride compared to a hardtail. You don’t sacrifice much for the gain, and it will help make long days in the saddle more comfortable. Plus, you get the climbing advantages of a hardtail (no rear-end bob when pedaling).
All of the different tubeset sizing and diameters help you get a bike that’s close to custom. The titanium is sourced from two U.S. mills, and each Moots is handmade in Steamboat Springs, Colo. The standards on the Rogue YBB 27.5 include a 44 mm head tube, inset head set; 27.2 mm diameter seatpost; 135 mm rear dropout spacing; 68 mm bottom bracket, English thread; through guides for hydraulic disc brake lines; and 35 mm front derailleur clamp, top pull.
Although individuals cannot order a Moots directly from the factory, they can work with an authorized dealer on fit and to request tweaks to further customize frames: ISO mounts or post mounts, QRs, 142×12 axle spacing, rack mounts, pump pegs, chain hangers, tubing with internal routing and so on.
Through a dealer, a customer can order a Rogue YBB frame for $3,655; order a frame with his choice of builds; or can now also choose a built-up bike (a new option from Moots within the last two years): a Fox fork, Shimano XT drivetrain and DT Swiss Wheels for $7,299.
Our test Moots came with a full Shimano XT 2×10 drivetrain (11-36 10-speed cassette/38-26 rings) and XT brakes, the perfect setup for all-day cross country rides in the high country. The DT Swiss XR 1501 Spline 1 race wheels were topped off with good cross country rubber: Schwalbe Racing Ralphs in the rear and Nobby Nics up front.
All of this gave the Rogue YBB 27.5 some very good trail manners: It was stable, light and fast, and when my legs couldn’t keep me on a graceful push through technical climbing, the Rogue YBB was super easy to get back in line. It was exceptional in these circumstances. The bike tracked well through the rough stuff and still felt agile and playful on tight, twisty trail, thanks to slightly more liberal angles compared to a full-on cross country bike. It has a 69-degree head tube angle, 74.25-degree seat tube angle, and the downward curving top tube provides extra stand- over clearance where it counts (only on the 14- to 19-inch frames). The down tube is curved as well for fork crown clearance, resulting in great control. The position in the cockpit and the balance felt right, with my weight in the center of the bike, instead of out over the front wheel. The longer chainstays and 43-inch wheelbase helped with that stability but didn’t feel cumbersome when weaving through tight scrub oak and down bermed turns.
With the Rogue YBB 27.5, you’ll have a bike for life. And if, after several years of good use, you need to have the frame touched up, you can strip it down and send it back to Moots to get refinished. Then you’ll have a spiffy “new” bike that’s ready for a 90-hour through ride, such as the Paris-Brest-Paris, where you would certainly earn the right to stop, stare and sigh collectively over your Moots with that hard-core hiker on the trail.