Do you remember when you were a child and would walk into your best friends house – the one with the perfect family? Everyone would greet you with open arms, happy faces were everywhere, there was always a dog on the couch, everyone would take the time to ask how you were and what you day was like, and Mum (the traditional model of Mum), would be baking something that smelt like heaven.
That’s how it felt when Flow recently visited the Moots factory in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. No, there wasn’t anything baking in the oven (but there was a box of lovely donuts on offer), but the aroma of titanium being cut and welded wafted through this home. Within minutes we were made to feel like one of the family.
Moots manufactures titanium mountain, road, and cross bikes with options galore to customise a bike to your needs. The factory isn’t just a manufacturing facility though, It’s a local hangout, retail shop (not for bikes) and drop-in centre for customers and fans, with a constant flood of visitors coming in and out each day.
Moots has grown from a tiny custom frame company in 1981 to one of the largest small/custom bike manufactures in the USA. Each pin on this map shows dealerships which sell Moots and distribution is spreading right across the USA (and into Australia). Moots are kind of in a middle area between a small and big bike company. When Moots are at the huge Interbike trade show they’re a very small fish in a large bowl however when they’re at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show they’re a big fish in a small bowl.
This is there the magic happens, the Moots workshop floor. In 2001 Moots moved from a much smaller facility near downtown Steamboat Springs into a new large and specially designed state-of-the-art factory just outside of town.
Moots bikes are handmade and they’re very proud of it. Moots is a titanium only manufacturer and uses US-made seamless cold-worked stressed relieved 3/2.5 titanium tubing. Working with titanium is a speciality and requires skill, experience, and some pretty cool equipment (if you’re the engineering type). As titanium of the Moots quality is in high demand by much larger (and far, far richer) industries Moots has to be very careful with their ordering and planning as shifts in outside industries can have huge impacts to their supplies. It’s one of the pitfalls of keeping their product 100% US made but it’s one of their strengths as well.
All that titanium adds up to a lot of waste? Not for Moots. Moots captures and recycles most of the excess titanium material through local channels rather than being sent to landfill.
This is the primary welding area. Flow learnt some pretty cool things about welding and also how hard it is to make the process as clean and strong as possible. As most bike frame failures happen at the welds this is one of the more important parts of the bike manufacture process. Moots seems to do a great job and is very proud and stated a low warranty return rate.
This is one of the welding stations with a frame in the jig. Note the caps and tubes coming from the frame. Fabricating with titanium requires an Argon gas welding system, which needs an oxygen-free environment to protect the ultimate integrity of the weld. Moots also uses a double-pass welding process to ensure maximum strength.
But all that equipment isn’t why Moots makes a great bike, it’s the people. Each and every employee is passionate about building and riding and time on the workshop floor has to be balance with time on the trails “testing” their products. In all seriousness though it’s not very often you find a bike manufacture so close to epic trails that can be used for instant product testing and feedback.
In fact, the day Flow was in town the workshop was a little emptier than usual. People were out enjoying a ride or other adventure and the relaxed nature of the Moots factory really showed. Definitely not a sweat shop and more like a corner store.
Headtube badges are unfortunately a dying accessory on many modern bikes. For those who still maintain this bit of nostalgia, each badge design has roots in their story. Mr. Moots (the alligator in the logo) goes all the way back to the founderʼs primary school years. His favorite pencil-top eraser was a loveable, smiling alligator character that accompanied him throughout his school days. Thirty two years ago, when it came time to put a name to the first custom bikes he built, the first choice in names was obvious….Moots, the eraser.
If you’re ever in the Steamboat Springs area make sure you drop into the factory. They offer tours to the public and you’ll get to see for yourself what it’s all about.
Every Moots frame carries with it the details of all the hands who have touched it – from the beginning to the end of the process. Each tube miter and each weld, in every single frame build, is done by hand. Checked by hand. Finished by hand. Polished by hand.
The end of the line and all boxed and ready to go. Moots has been 100% titanium since 1981 and people still ask, “Why Ti”. I will let Moots answer that: “Because no other material allows us the ability to finely tune every single frame to achieve the perfect ride quality in every single bike we make. We custom spec a proprietary blend of tube diameters and wall thicknesses for every single frame style and individual size in our line. This ensures that every single frame that leaves the factory delivers the same distinct ride characteristics, whether in the smallest or largest size in the fleet. Each and every tube is cold-worked, stress relieved seamless tubing that meets exacting specs for durability, stiffness, weight, and ultimately, ride experience. When you consider the lifetime you get out of each frame, it adds up to the perfect, magical frame material. The simple fact is: no other frame material can withstand the day-to-day rigors of the ride quite like ti. A Moots titanium frame will not deaden, loosen, crack, or otherwise degrade in its performance or comfort over time like virtually every other bike material on the planet. And it will outlast several generations of carbon fiber or aluminum frames, and always perform like the day you first rolled it out of your local shop. Down the road, we can even refinish your well-ridden Moots frame to look like new without compromising any of the materials properties though our Refurb Program.”
And here’s a finished product being displayed by Jon Cariveau, Moots Marketing Manager. And yes, Moots also make their bikes in 27.5″. As a matter of fact it’s the smaller manufactures like Moots who are able to adapt to changes quicker and easier than the big players. So much so that Jon was able to tell some inside secrets about OEM testing on their products. Secrets are safe with Flow.
And this is what make Moots, Moots. Family. Moots is proud of being handmade in the Rockies (Colorado), proud of sticking to its roots, proud of being local, and proud of making the bikes they do. They also have some very cool dogs that hangout with the team.
We thought this was a really cool footnote. The Moots Trail Maintenance Bike. How damn cool is that!!!! All you need for trail building and even refreshments.
If that’s not enough and you’re even more interested in the factory and their manufacturing process, then check out this video.