The Moots Routt RSL
(Photo/Steve Graepel)

The Moots Routt RSL: This Could Be the Last Gravel Bike You Will Ever Buy

Cyclists have a lot of good qualities. Monogamy isn’t one of them.

Ask any seasoned rider what their ideal number of bikes to own is, and the answer is usually N+1. There’s always room for another bike in the stable. But when I posted a sneak peek at the latest +1 that snuck into my bike shed — a Moots Routt RSL gravel bike ($12,654; yes, that’s the price) — a buddy reached out and asked my early opinion. He was thinking about making a long-term commitment to one bike. A single “forever bike.”

In short: Moots Routt RSL is the most speed-oriented geometry in the Routt lineup. While it will suit the Unbound Gravel racer, it’s comfortable and confident, blurring the lines between road and trail. And the titanium frame houses a threaded bottom bracket, creating a supremely durable mountain bike that can serve as a lifelong foundation for future builds.

GearJunkie_Moots_Routt_RSL_ride-flats
(Photo/Steve Graepel)

How to Live With One Bike

Blasphemy! Asking a cyclist who reviews bikes to stop swiping right on bikes is a big ask. But it had me wondering … what would it take to commit to one bike?

It would have to motivate me to get out the door for quick lunch road rides, carry me over long Saturday spins on B-roads, and be something I’d happily wake up next to on bikepacking trips. And since it’s my only bike, I’d probably open the wallet a little wider to get a perfect frame.

Frame durability would be paramount. Yes, carbon is forgiving, light, and sexy, but it requires a high level of care. Steel is lively but can weaken over time. Aluminum is lightweight but rides harshly. A titanium frame with a threaded bottom bracket would be a good start.

Lighter and more durable than steel, it has a forgiving ride that you could never get on an aluminum alloy frame. Titanium has a lot of pros with few cons. Paired with a threaded bottom bracket, the bike would be compatible with a wide range of chainsets, easy to maintain, and provide a lifetime of “creak-free” service. 

I’d look at an all-road or gravel bike to capitalize on terrain. Something you can wrap skinnies for the tarmac but have enough girth to swallow a wider 650b for rowdier roads and tamer trails.

And lastly, I would want a frame built with global specs in mind — no proprietary BS. A titanium frame will last forever, but components come and go. A forever bike would need to accept gold-standard fitments, making swapping in seat posts, stems, bars, cranks, and brakes a straightforward task.

Moots Routt RSL Overview

The Moots Routt RSL reviewed in this article
(Photo/Steve Graepel)

Named after the Colorado county in which Steamboat Springs is the county seat, Routt is Moots’ all-road line of bikes. Made for gravel and all-day assaults, Moots fine-tunes the line to meet riders’ unique needs with four variations of the Routt: the drop bar mountain bike-like Routt ESC, the plump tire Routt 45, the soft tail Routt YBB, and the race-oriented RSL (reviewed here).

Like all Routt bikes, the RSL uses internally double-butted 3/2.5 titanium alloy tubing (titanium with a 3% aluminum/2.5% vanadium blend that creates a stiffer, more robust metal). Internally fatter at the ends, the tubing tapers to a thinner wall thickness toward the middle. Frames experience the most vulnerability at the welds, so this design gives the frame optimal strength where it’s needed.

The dropouts are 3D-printed titanium and have a flat disc mount. This aligns the thru-axle, wheel, and brake caliper as one. Building and dismantling the bike took just a few minutes, and there was zero play at the connection points.

Braze-ons of the Moots Routt RSL
(Photo/Steve Graepel)

Two bottle mounts sit inside the bike’s triangle. A third pair rides under the down tube. Hidden fender mounts allow you to add protection while riding in wet shoulder seasons.

There are five builds to choose from within the Routt RSL line. Prices range from just over $11,000 (with mechanical shifting) to the mid-$12,000 range for carbon everything and electronic shifting. All cables run internally. No expense is spared on a Moots. The price difference only reflects the choice of drivetrain.

Moots offers several upgrades, like custom paint and carbon wheel upgrades, which can tip the price point over $13,000.

Our Routt RSL was received kitted with Shimano GRX x2 Di2 (MSRP $12,654).

Moots Routt RSL (As Tested)

  • Frame: Titanium
  • Fork: Moots flat mount disc carbon with 12×100 mm thru-axle,
  • Clearance: 700 x 38 mm, 650b x 45 mm
  • Drivetrain: Shimano Force or GRX 2x
  • Crank: Shimano GRX 2X 48/31t (170, 172.5, 175 options)
  • Cassette: 11-34t
  • Routing: DI2 w/internal rear brake
  • Weight: 18 lbs.
  • Price: $12,654

Is the Routt RSL a Forever Bike?

So how does the Moots stand up to our “forever bike” standards? Pretty great, actually. But within a range.

The RSL’s titanium frame is held together with immaculate welds, where Moots has claimed its name in the handbuilt bike industry. The stout 3/2.5 tubing looks robust, but the frame weighs a scant 1,350 g (under 3 pounds)!

Kitted out, our complete bike weighed in at 18 pounds. Anything under 20 pounds grabs our attention, but this welterweight bike elbows into space that rivals even the lightest full-carbon bikes.

The bottom bracket is threaded, adding more weight to the frame than a press-fit bracket. But what it penalizes in grams, it gives back in versatility and longevity. Threaded bottom brackets are easy to maintain and mute that annoying creaking you can experience if press-fit versions are not perfectly aligned.

If you like to hard-mount bags and panniers, the sparse braze-ons might be limiting. Three bottle mounts sit inside and under the main triangle — enough to hydrate a long ride.

For weather protection, Moots has hidden fender eyelets. There are so many ways to lash bags on bikes that the limited hard connection points may be a nonissue.

Moots releases most bikes with Shimano or SRAM electronic shifting, following the industry curve. Our Routt GRX transitioned flawlessly through gears every time.

It’s worth noting that some electronic shifting systems require you to charge the bike directly (into the handlebar on the RSL). Given that potential buyers will have the means to buy this expensive bike, they will probably have a dedicated space to store and charge the bike.

Shimano GRX Di2 charging port inside the handlebar end
(Photo/Steve Graepel)

Because I’m lazy and many of my rides put me miles away from home, I’d personally run the bike with mechanical shifting. It makes wrenching in the field more manageable and yields a more likely forever bike. It’s a personal choice.

The ultimate flexibility with adventure bikes these days is the ability to run 700c for Saturday’s club ride and swap in 650b wheels for the waffle ride on Sunday. It buys a lot of bang for the buck. Instead of owning two bikes, you invest in two wheelsets. While the clearance on the Routt RSL allows you to swap 700c with 650b, it’s limited to a 45c tire (though the stays could probably fit a 50 mm).

If there’s a ding against the Routt RSL as a forever bike, it’s the narrow range of tires that fit. Moots acknowledged that it optimized the Routt RSL around a 700c wheel.

So, while you can go larger, going much more than 45c will affect the bike’s ride quality and handling. Again, this is a personal choice, determined by your primary use.

Moots does offer a more rowdy Routt 45 (that accepts a 50c tire) and just released the Routt ESC. The ESC is about 5 pounds heavier, but it can run 2.4-inch mountain bike tires. Of course, it won’t be nearly as fast as the Routt RSL.

Which is right for you? A bike is a tool; choose the one that fits your requirements.

Moots Routt RSC rear tire clearance
Our bike arrived with Panaracer Gravel King SK 700X43, and there is still room for more tire; (photo/Steve Graepel)

Geometry

Longer reach and high stack pushed the RSL’s geometry to a more extended riding position while keeping me upright. Think aggressively comfortable.

Our 56cm RSL wheelbase measures 1,032 mm, which is moderate for a gravel bike. The length added flex to the frame and yielded better manners on long, straight rides.

But it didn’t compromise stiffness and responsiveness on the roads, where it remained nimble and quick. The chainstays are longer (430 mm), which added additional flex under the saddle.

I did feel some toe-touch on tight trail corners that switchbacked in a hairpin turn. To be fair, I seat my cleats as far back as they can go, which puts the toes out forward toward the wheels.

The lower the bottom bracket drop on a bike, the more planted you feel on the bike. At 6.9 cm, the drop is conservative (many gravel bikes have a 7-8cm drop). The Routt’s 6.9cm drop struck a balanced and powerful position while providing ample clearance.

The Ride of the Moots Routt RSL

The author aboard the Moots Routt RSL on single track
(Photo/Steve Graepel)

So, what was it like to ride a $12,000+ bike? Scary — but mostly rewarding. Titanium is much more durable than carbon or steel. It’s hard to scratch, and I worried less about leaning the bike against a rough surface. It’s meant to take a beating, and I felt more latitude to get rough with it.

I own four bikes that I rotate through regularly: a carbon gravel, a carbon full-suspension, an aluminum fat bike, and a vintage single-speed titanium bike. The bike that I continue to reach for is my titanium single-speed. The materials and welds are clean and crafted. It’s light and durable, and the classic lines always draw attention on the trails.

And the Moots was similar. I rode the bike on steep single track and bombed down gravel roads. The titanium was rigid but responsive. The build was solid and stable.

It felt buttery smooth when pedaling uphill, where power from the legs transmitted right to the ground. And the chatter of gravel felt muted under the bike.

Spending $12k won’t make you a better rider or have you floating over washboard sections. And the gravel-centric design won’t cover you on downhills or gnarly terrain. But for everything else, a gravel bike is a viable choice.

While the Routt RSL had a bias for speed, there’s a Routt for everyone within the lineup. And if you are only going to buy that bike once, you’ll likely open the wallet a bit wider. The Moots Routt line is about as good as it gets for a lifelong bike.

Plus, it just looks damn good.

About Moots

The Moots Routt RSL head badge
(Photo/Steve Graepel)

Moots is to bikes what Pagani is to cars. They both exude an aspirational, artful, untouchable quality of engineering. While other kids taped posters of 911s in their high school lockers, I had proudly pinned up a Moots.

Steamboat Springs-based Moots specializes in high-spec, handbuilt, titanium-framed bikes and have been doing so for 40 years, making it one of the longest-running micro-builders in the bike industry.

All tubing is sourced and milled in the U.S. and is cold-worked. The process works the metal under “just enough” steady heat to avoid altering the titanium’s microstructure.

The tubing is double-butted, with thicker internal diameter walls near the welds that tapers inside toward the middle, creating the best strength-to-weight ratio. For those who don’t geek out on material science, it’s aeronautical-grade engineering usually reserved for airplanes.

Moots weld quality at the seat cluster
(Photo/Steve Graepel)

Moots welds the precisely cut titanium tubes by hand to a one-thousandth of an inch tolerance. The welds appear more like a work of art than a structural requirement. Beautiful, yes, but it’s much more than skin deep.

Each weld undergoes a double-pass process. A first base pass melts the two tubes together at the joint, followed by a second wave of consistent beads smoothly wrapped around the external joint like a stack of dimes. Strong, solid, and beautiful are Moots weld trademarks.

After welding, the frames head to finishing, where they are all bead-blasted and finished with one of Moot’s tastefully anodized or etched graphics. If you’re not a fan of bare metal, Moots can custom paint your frame.

Moots keeps its production low to focus on quality; the shop only releases 1,200 bikes a year. You’ll need to put down a $1,000 deposit to reserve your Moots. Lead times run about 6 months.

Who’s the Moots Routt RSL for?

Of the Routt lineup, the RSL is for gravel riders who seek speed but want something capable enough for long adventure riding. If you’ve swung your legs over enough bikes to say, “I know what I want,” and have enough cash to float the entry fee, the Routt RSL is worthy of a long-term commitment.

Pros

  • Beautiful welds
  • Timeless design
  • Titanium is light, compliant, and durable
  • Fast and comfortable position
  • Bikes purchased new are backed with a lifetime warranty

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Six-month lead time
  • Stays limit tire diameter
  • Experienced some toe overlap on tighter trail turns
  • Limited retailers; it’s hard to get your hands on one to try before you buy

Conclusion

I received the email that my time to review the Routt RSL was up. I boxed and shipped the Moots to the greener alpine pastures of Steamboat Springs. Thinking back to my high-school poster, did it live up to the hype? Would I sell all my bikes (and tap into my kids’ college fund) for a relationship with the Routt?

It’s not in my budget now, but one thing is for sure — Moots has been at this for 40+ years with a very consistent line of bikes. The Routt will still be there when the time comes to pull the trigger, where I’ll undoubtedly consider one of the Routt models as my forever bike.

Steve Graepel
By

Steve Graepel is a Contributing Editor and Gear Tester at GearJunkie. He has been writing about trail running, camping, skiing, and general dirtbagging for 10+ years. When not testing gear with GearJunkie, he is a Senior Medical Illustrator on the Neurosurgery Team at Mayo Clinic. Based in Boise, Idaho, Graepel is an avid trail runner, camper, angler, cyclist, skier, and loves to introduce his children to the Idaho outdoors.