The "real deal" test of our own build of the Moots Smoothie is at MOOTS SMOOTHIE MAX TEST. The testing on this page is a "first impressions" test of a Moots factory demo bike. Read it for background, then proceed to the meat by reading the Max test.
First Impression: A Day with the Moots Smoothie
Testing on the page below is a done-deal one-day impression of the Moots Smoothie. For more complete testing of our own XDreamMax Smoothie bike click on the link above.
by Lee Bridgers.
This is an unusual evaluation for me. I generally use testing to evaluate parts to suit the abilities of the frame in anticipation of offering the eventual build to you as a client. This time I have begun with a bike built at Moots for me to try out. It came with XTR parts, rim brakes, Moots stem, bars, post and saddle, and a Marzocchi Marathon 80mm fork. It is a decent, old-school, selection suitable for east coast, Northern California or western slope riding, but from the start I pictured changing everything but the XTR shifters, derailleurs and crankset. I settled on removing just the things that were uncomfortable--the seatpost because the saddle was way stupid hurtful--the stem because it was like a tiller--too long for sure handling. The Moots seatpost is wonderful, but it requires serious attention to swap the saddle out. The stem is beautiful and rugged, but it also requires some serious attention to swap out bars. Old school deluxe. Moots' components are pricy and querky, but they are worth it for the long haul, because that is exactly what they represent--the long haul. These things just won't have to be replaced after a couple of years of hard riding. You can even steel wool the finish to bring back the new look after the decals get scratched and the finish turns murky. Titanium components' extended life eventually saves you money, as well as extending that remarkable titanium magic feel into components that support your body weight. Since these things are very expensive, you are going to need my expertise to help you get the right parts from the start. Swapping a stem could be a headache when the Moots stem costs more than two to four Thomson stems.
When I first picked up the bike, I thought, "Damn, this thing is a tad heavy for a bike that looks like it should be ultra light." XTR and an air sprung fork, with all that titanium, should be a feather to loft. When I went to add some air to the WTB Weirwolf 2.1 tires I found the reason the bike was heavier than it looked. It had slime in the tubes. SLIIIMMME IN THE TOOOOBS--the plague of every demo and rental from here to Timbuktu, except for our fleet here in Moab. We don't use slime. We fix flats. Slime adds a lot of weight to a bike, weight that says, "I just don't want to fix a flat, even if it makes a $5K bike feel like shit." I left the slime in there, because I didn't want to change the tires. I was already changing the stem and post. I wanted to ride this thing, not work on it.
When I mentioned that I was testing the Smoothie to our sales rep at Marzocchi, he said, "I thought your idea of a cross country rig had six inches of travel on it." Well, that is my rep, I guess, at least with Marzocchi. I hardly ever order an 80mm fork, and in the case of the Smoothie, I will certainly continue to keep my Marathon orders to 100mm. It is stupid to put a 3" fork on it. I knew the 80mm fork was going to make the bike too quick for the terrain I ride. I was right. The 80mm gave standard fare 71 degree head angle, so, of course, I really enjoyed it on the climb up Sand Flats to the Slickrock Bike Trail. I also appreciated the balanced feel it would give climbing a tight twisting singletrack, but frankly, 80mm forks are obsolete in an era of extension controlled fork adjustments. Why saddle yourself with a steep head angle for the entire ride, when you can adjust from 69 to 72 with ETA on the fly? I was going to be riding rock and sand today. I prefer a 69 to 70 degree head angle on just about every bike I ride, except the really huge freeride rigs, where 65 to 68 degrees is optimum. I did not lock the Marathon down on the road climb, because I did not need to. It was already steep enough. --Hence the gripe with the 71 degree angle.
I did lock out the Fox Float RC on the back of the bike, but found out very quickly that I did not need to. It is extremely easy to get your body into a position over this bike and into a gear that eliminates bob on a smooth ascent. Yes, you can make it bob, but you can also make it smooooth out. I favor the big chainring and standing to get up long grinders on the road and this was just the trick. The Smoothie accommodated this style nicely. Of course, I could sit and hack away and the bike would bob on pavement, just like any other full suspension bike, but if I stood over the front of the bike and grinded away, it was indeed "smooth." If I spun the cranks in the saddle, it was smooth, smooth, smooth, but once I got choppy, it bobbed. In the rough dirt, Bob is an invisible dude, so my philosophy on Bob is to make your pedaling style suit the bike--fuck Bob. There are not many horrible suspension designs out there that bob so much that you cannot defeat Bob with a bit of technique. The Smoothie defeats Bob nicely, as do a lot of cross country bikes, by not putting a ton of travel in the rear. Keep it at or under three inches and, voila, Bad Bob is not a problem.
THE SMOOTHIE LANDS ON THE MOAB SLICKROCK TRAIL
Once on the rock I found what I had been missing on that first steep climb by riding only heavier trail and freeride bikes. The satin Smoothie jetted up the rock in the middle chainring without a thought of grabbing the granny. That luscious feel of titanium, the smoothness, the smoothness. The bike is certainly named appropriately. I was going to be able to clean the Slickrock Bike Trail pretty quick with this bike, but I had other things in mind. I also had some fear of the Weirwolf tires on this rock. They suck on this kind of surface, dangerous on this kind of surface. I was going to have to put some softer, rounder, stiffer meats on this thing before I could fully enjoy the rock.
On the first steep descent I found another thing that sucks--rim brakes. I am so used to the smooth modulation and consistent feel of hydraulic discs that I found the XTR pads and the matching rim surface to be extremely annoying. They were set up wrong and the pads were impregnated with sand that I could not wipe away. The leverage adjustment was backed all the way out and I could not move the nuts to adjust them in. I would grab a handful of brake, the levers would require a ton of force, then as I headed down the rim would heat up, start making a horrible scrapping sound, and all of the sudden they would grab. Not my idea of brakes at all. I was having a terrible time trying to modulate and could not feather them without a lot of concentration. I vowed that I would never put rim brakes on any Smoothie I sold that was not fitted with Paul Motolites and set up to race professionally.
I felt I was riding a mountain bike built by road wheenies. Those guys at Moots are really serious about the road and the factory build of this Smoothie really reflected the "old timey" "cross country-I'd-rather-be-on-the-road" racing philosophy. I know a fellow in New Jersey who rides with a friend who rides a Moots Smoothie. I heard that the Smoothie dude was constantly taking trips over the bars. I have a sneaky suspicion that his stem was too long, his bars too low, the fork too short and the brakes without any kind of modulation. The philosophy of this kind of set up has mold and rust all over it, and blood, too. It might not be dead, yet, but it sure smells funny.
I have been looking for a bike to replace the Ibis Silk Ti for the past couple of years. Well, I have found it. The Smoothie feels like a Silk Ti on steroids. The Smoothie is surprisingly laterally rigid, especially for a titanium ride. The Smoothie gains its advantages through the titanium material and smart engineering of that material to work with the minimal suspension. The tubes are just right, fat and stiff, with just enough of that titanium feel that takes the edge off of high frequency trail chatter. The arcing suspension action is simple, but delivers decent travel, just the right amount for a full titanium rig. Titanium smoothness combined with real suspension--not a ton of suspension--is just enough to kiss that titanium feel into heaven. The Smoothie has just the right amount of suspension travel to keep the bike solid, yet soft on the butt and efficient on the climbs. The discontinued Mootaineer was never my cup of tea, and now I can see why Moots dropped it. It had too much travel for a titanium bike, and needed more material to keep it from flexing. The Mootaineer just tried to get too much out of the arcing suspension design inside of the compliant titanium platform. The Smoothie must have been a rethinking of the concept and it rightly became the Mootaineer's worst competition. The Smoothie balances the right amount of travel with just the right amount of titanium material, just the right size sealed bearings, and just the right kind of engineering in the rear end to keep the bike laterally rigid. Never once did the rear end creak or complain. I was frankly very impressed with the acceleration and steady feel over bumps while pedaling. The bike descended reasonably well, despite the steep head angle and minimal fork travel for a fully (something I vowed to change on any Smoothie I was going to build). The bike does stinkbug a bit when a handfull of of brake is grabbed, but because the rear end did not have a ton of travel, the effect was minimal, probably unnoticeable to anyone who is not looking for it. Frankly, I did not expect the bike to work this well and be so sexy, but there it was. I knew that with a four inch travel fork, a 100mm stem and disc brakes, the bike would sing. It could be a kind of Moab bike, . . . . a Moab bike for the higher altitudes.
This is a great frame, a true alternative when you take into consideration that the thing will last your lifetime. Is it better than other suspension frames we offer? If you consider the longevity issue, definitely. Am I going to buy one of these for myself? Certainly. The Smoothie is better if titanium is THE REASON to get the bike. It is certainly the best titanium suspension frame on the market, designed to overcome the lateral flex that has been the plague of other titanium suspension frames. That means it is definitely better than the Tomac and the Seven Maverick. As far as the Maverick is concerned, we have had a few clients come into Moab with them and not a single person left town satisfied with their purchase. Moab points to flaws and the Seven has some handling issues, as well as some cosmetic issues when a Moots is there to compare it to. It is easy to see why the Maverick is so popular-- for the same reason that Cannondale's are popular--they look cool and different--from a distance! It is also easy to see why they don't work so well--Unified Rear Triangle, the shock is a member of the frame (many problems arise from this feature), if you watch it work you realize that there is not much travel back there, and tuning the rear never quite gives you a reason to cheer. When you compare the construction of the Smoothie to the Seven Maverick, you are going to see why we fought so hard to have the Moots line and decided not to pursue Seven. The frame junctions, the welds, the details in the overall design of the rear end---all of these features display the experience of a company that has been working with titanium for a very long time. These are the reasons we consider the Moots Smoothie to be the best titanium full suspension bike. While other bikes we offer may be better in some aspects of suspension performance (LONG travel, specifically) and cost-effective beauty (Ventana paint is amazing and aluminum is so much less expensive), the Smoothie is the best choice as an all-around bike for the same reasons that Dreamride Edition builds of the Moots hardtail and softail frames are so functional and perfect--because they are the best examples of TITANIUM mountain bikes in the business and titanium is THE material for XC. The Moots will last forever and they are supremely well engineered, exotic, handmade, laterally rigid, handle like a dream, and loudly scream, "HIGH QUALITY!"
In September of 2003 we purchased a Smoothie frame with the new Fox AVA rear shock in order to have an XDreamMax Smoothie in our fleet. Yes, we spend a lot of money on our demos and this is definitely the most we have paid for a demo since we have been in business. The Smoothie Max shop bike has all the goodies and custom frame touches that come stock on the Max build. The Smoothie frame was the inspiration for the Max parts and build, and this particular bike, the XDreamMax Moots Smoothie, has become "Queen Dreamride," the absolute pinnacle of high-end, short to medium travel, cross country exotica that we offer. The XDreamMax Smoothie has taken its place beside the XDreamTrail and SuperEgo versions of the Ventana El Saltamontes as the best mountain, all-mountain, freeride and black diamond bikes in the business. Period.
The "real deal" test of our own build of the Moots Smoothie is at MOOTS SMOOTHIE MAX TEST. Read it.
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