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Moots Routt RSL review

4 Mar 2021
Verdict:

Beautifully crafted with sublime ride quality and handling. Get an extra set of wheels and tyres and the Routt RSL will take you anywhere

Cyclist Rating: 
For 
Ride quality • Exemplary handling • Versatile • Beautifully made
Against 
None

When I was eight all I wanted were trainers with lights in the heel. When I was 11 all I wanted was replica Peter Schmeichel goalie gloves. When I was 14 all I wanted was a Moots.

Twenty-two years later and I still don’t have a pair of Cica trainers (remember them? See-kah, si-kah, whatever!). But I have a Moots, it is a gravel Moots and it is a joy to behold.

We all make mistakes

This is the redesigned Routt RSL, which now boasts tyre clearance for up to 700c x 45mm tyres, with the RSL designating this is Moots’ lightest, raciest Routt. It sits alongside the Routt YBB, which has 20mm of rear suspension, and the Routt 45, which somewhat confusingly takes 50mm tyres. And to begin with I was confused, and a little disappointed.

Initial outings left me frustrated with my road performance on the Routt. Of course a gravel bike won’t match a racer for tarmac speed, but given the Routt’s light (for a gravel bike) weight and high stiffness, I felt I should be going faster on the blacktop.

So to start with I assumed it must be my festive legs, but then I looked a little closer and it transpired (joyfully for my legs’ ego) that in my haste to ride the Routt I’d failed to notice the rear tyre was significantly wider than the front – 50mm on a 700c wheel, whereas the front was 43mm.

That meant even on Enve’s silly-light G23 wheels (a claimed 1,316g) turning a 570g tyre plus 60g sealant was like spinning a ship’s wheel in a storm. Yet it wasn’t all bad.

 

While I’m sure pairing a 50mm rear with a 43mm front tyre upset the geometry somewhat, a happy by-product was an exceptionally smooth ride and brilliant off-road grip.

In a similar vein to the Stayer I previously tested, the Routt RSL felt more dropbar mountain bike than fat-tyred racer as I was riding it. It played an absolute blinder over lumpy singletrack, if it still dragged a touch on harder-packed gravel.

Downsizing

Now I know what you’re thinking: this frame is rated to 45mm clearance, I had a 50mm in there so it was surely rubbing the stays and that was sapping power.

(For the record, identikit wheels with the same tyres in different sizes got mixed up during the assembly of this bike and a Routt 45 – to quote Bart Simpson, ‘It was like that when I got here.’)

 

And true enough there is a slight polish to the inside of the stays after perhaps 200km like this. As such, I would absolutely not recommend anyone fitting 50mm tyres to this bike. Long-term this kind of frame rub is bad juju.

Buy the Moots Routt RSL now

But it does prove Moots’ point when it says the Routt RSL ‘does more than “just fits” 45mm; it clears with room for mud’.

When I did eventually swap for the model-appropriate 43mm tyre, the Routt became noticeably sprightlier, specifically on climbs. It did lose a pinch of its hovercraft glide and a modicum of traction off-road, but it was a fair enough trade. Which got me thinking, what if I narrowed my tyre choice again?

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So I went down to 40mm – faster still, plenty smooth, good grip in mud – then finally fitted a set of road wheels with 28mm rubber. And then wow. I had a road bike. Albeit one with slightly slower handling thanks to the slacker head tube and longer wheelbase better suited to off-road stability.

But still, but for the flared Enve bars the Routt had all the competitive feel of a disc road bike – a touch on the heavy side at just over 8kg, but even then it was fast, with the only 50mm measurement the depth of the aero wheels.

 

In the frame

It would truly be a brave new world before I’d recommend ‘one bike for all’, because I love bikes and I will proceed to have as many different ones as space and banks allow.

But if a single do-it-all bike is what you’re after and you’re prepared to have an extra wheelset or two (and yes, they’ll cost you, but no one likes changing tyres and a wheelset is a lot cheaper than another bike), the Routt RSL is your bike.

Buy the Moots Routt RSL now

It’s dropbar mtb, gravel and a happy enough road-goer all in one. But then can’t all gravel bikes pull off this trick? Some, yes, but not many, because you have to be like the Routt in crucial areas – that is, hitting an on-off road sweet-spot in terms of geometry and ride quality: stiff enough to punch up road climbs yet robust enough to enjoy grip and comfort on dirt.

The titanium Moots excels at the brief and in one other crucial one-for-all area besides, that of longevity, both in structure and to the eye.

The Routt RSL is exquisitely made from an outlive-yer-grandkids material that, in my opinion, has been fabricated by the best in the business and has been cast in a timeless style. You will never tire of riding this bike, nor of looking at it. And I should know. I’ve been eyeing up Moots for years.

Pick of the kit

 

Gore C5 Thermo jacket, £169.99, gorewear.com

Apparently drivers react up to 2.1 seconds faster to cyclists wearing fluorescent colours, which must make this insanely bright C5 jacket from Gore Wear one of the safest.

Made from Gore-Tex Infinium – a mix of fabrics that pairs Windstopper with a fleecy lining – the C5 is toasty yet breathable, doing a fine job of regulating temperature and keeping me snug on some near-zero degree rides.

The pockets need work – they sit slightly too high and are a tad narrow – but that’s not a deal-breaker for this highly accomplished winter softshell.

Buy the Gore C5 Infinium Thermo jacket from Blacks now

Alternatively…

Spring in your step

If you want an extra bit of off-road plushness and traction, the Routt YBB sports 20mm of active rear travel that’s tuneable with changeable springs and elastomers, and only adds a claimed 113g.

Buy the Moots Routt YBB now

Go big or go home

With clearance for 700c x 50mm tyres, the Routt 45 is about as go-anywhere a bike as you’ll find with drop bars, albeit slightly less racy than the RSL, with a marginally longer wheelbase and higher stack.

Buy the Moots Routt 45 now

Spec

Frame Moots Routt RSL
Groupset Shimano GRX Di2
Brakes Shimano GRX Di2
Chainset Shimano GRX Di2
Cassette Shimano GRX Di2
Bars Enve G Series
Stem Moots Ti
Seatpost Moots Cinch
Saddle Selle Italia SLR Boost Gravel TI316 Superflow
Wheels Enve G23, Chris King R45 CL hubs, Panaracer Gravelking SK 43mm tyres
Weight 8.69kg (56cm)
Contact saddleback.co.uk

Review photography: Mike Massaro

All reviews are fully independent and no payments have been made by companies featured in reviews

Price: 
Frameset from £5,200, approx £11,500 as tested