Interview with Moots Owner Brent Whittington
Moots has made an impressive mark on the bike industry. Almost from the company’s inception in 1981, their bikes have been craved by cyclists around the world. Simplistic and refined, classic and innovative, Moots represents a principled approach to frame building with an emphasis on precision and build quality.
Each handbuilt frame is held to extremely high standards and the resulting ride quality of a Moots is a thing of legend. Some of that is the titanium, but most of it is the care that is poured into every bike that leaves the factory.
Moots offers tours of their Steamboat Springs factory. On one particular tour in 2015, Brent Whittington, then a COO of a large telecommunications company, got to see what Moots was all about. A few months later he became sole owner of the legendary bike company. We were fortunate to be able to catch up with Brent and talk about his adventure from the corporate world into the bike industry.
To Be Determined: How did you get into cycling?
Brent: I started riding as a kid, growing up in rural Arkansas, where cycling is just what you did, how you made it to your friends house, the river or just exploring in general. I’ve never really grown out of it since those experiences.
What is your idea of a perfect ride?
A perfect week is one in which I’ve ridden my road, mountain and cross bike. Now a perfect ride for me is generally one of the IMBA epic rides offering that back country ride experience with amazing scenery, solitude and challenging terrain. These trails have earned that designation for a reason and I can remember every ride on one of them. My favorite ever, which I just rode in early March ’17, is the Womble trail in the western part of Arkansas. With 30+ miles of singletrack through just a beautiful forest, every ride here is perfect.
What’s your favorite snack to bring on a ride?
For longer rides, you’ll generally see a peanut butter and honey sandwich in my pocket. For shorter trips, I love Quest bars as they are low in sugar, tasty and a more balanced meal in my view.
Could you talk about how you came to be the owner of Moots?
This is a unique story that is hard to believe. After wrapping up a successful run in the telecom industry, I took some time off to spend with my family and travel while my kids were at an age that would create some lifetime memories. We took them out of school and spent the better part of a year traveling the world.
During that time, I got focused on what I really wanted to do next and began looking for a business to buy like you might look for a home. Toward the end of my travels, I found myself in Steamboat where my family and I were camping, hiking and cycling and learned that Moots offered public tours of the Factory.
Of course being crazy about the sport, I had to go see this and take my children so they could see how bikes are built. I had the entire day planned around cycling, where we left camp, road to Moots and then spent the day riding the great local trails around Steamboat Springs. The tour was awesome and I loved the business and it seemed like it could really be a great fit for me and I was still thinking about that visit a few days later.
I then just called them up, introduced myself and let them know I was keen to visit with the owner about the future. Ultimately, he and I met at the right time in both of our lives and we were able to reach an agreement and close on the transaction in around 120 days after my tour.
Was the transition from the corporate world scary or liberating?
I had some great experiences in my previous job and worked with a tremendous team, so I am not someone that would tell you I hated the corporate world by any means. It does get tiring though and I was in an industry that was in decline and it just wasn’t fun anymore.
Buying your own business, however, is certainly scary and there is risk with an investment like that you just can’t compare to a salaried position at any level. However, to buy a business in an industry I love selling a product I’m passionate about is pretty special and that made it seem less scary. I’ve always been more comfortable with cyclists at a bike shop or event than I ever was in some board room and to spend my time professionally with something I love so much personally is a true blessing.
Are titanium bikes all they are cracked up to be?
Absolutely and I’m a believer that everyone should own a titanium bike. The comfort and feel of the ride is special and you’re not giving up performance. We don’t spend our time as a team selling against carbon, which certainly is what garners most of the attention.
The majority of our customers also own carbon bikes and in most cases, the very high end models. Yet in most every case, our customers will tell us their Moots is what they love to ride the most and ultimately, isn’t that what matters?
What makes a Moots a Moots?
There are maybe two traits that distinguish a Moots and the first one most everyone notices is the welds. When you look at one of our bikes and you see how beautifully it was built and how carefully it was welded, that true craftsmanship is what we are known for and have worked to deliver over 35 years.
Secondly would be the ride quality itself and this is what I love hearing the most from our customers. It truly has a special feel and is a hallmark of a Moots.
How does Moots balance trend and tradition?
For us at Moots, the goal is to build the best bikes in the world. Our bikes are viewed as dream bikes and we have earned this through hard work and quality over many years. That quality is part of our heritage and we only want to make better and better bikes, so pushing to improve our product constantly is what drives our employees.
We’ve never been one to change for the sake of change and therefore don’t view ourselves as trendy. Our bikes are built to last, built so you’ll still be proud of that bike in 10 years regardless of technology changes.
At the same time however, we have to build a product that is excellent in all respects and fits the riding styles of our customers. A good example of a trend the past couple of years has been the growth in gravel and adventure riding.
That kind of riding style was popular already with our employees and mountain biking is how we originally began, so this trend made perfect sense for Moots and we have introduced several new models, to include the Routt RSL and Baxter more recently, that are perfectly suited for gravel and adventure riding. Yet the quality, the look of the bike, the durability one would expect of a Moots is all there in keeping with our tradition.
What do you see as your main roles as owner?
Although I’m the owner, Butch Boucher is the President of Moots and responsible for all day to day decision making. I help lead all of our strategic planning, both short and long term, set goals and objectives for our team and make key decisions on investments and big bets we are making as a Company. Further, I try to spend a great deal of time interfacing with our customers and dealers to better understand the market, how we can improve at Moots as well as understand our competitors actions.
What’s your next adventure?
I’m always planning the next adventure and the most exciting one in my future is a trip to Australia to meet with some of our key stakeholders and explore that country. I’ll be there for 17 days and plan to do a lot of riding and now I’m making the hard choice as to which bike to pack – the Baxter, Routt, or perhaps my Vamoots RSL. I’ve got a few weeks to decide yet.
In addition to racing with To Be Determined Colin is a professional bike fitter at ACME Bicycle Co. in Brooklyn. ACME is a two man operation focused entirely on bike fitting and the goal of optimizing the relationship between rider and bicycle for comfort, speed and performance. ACME is proudly part of Moots’ elite dealer network.