To Be Determined Journal

To Be Determined is a journal of cycling, adventure and photography, curated by a NYC-based cycling team known as TBD Racing or Team TBD. From criteriums to cyclocross to product reviews and travel diaries, it is all part of the TBD Journal.

The TBD x Moots Routt RSL: A SRAM AXS All Arounder

Photo Rhetoric - To Be Determined - Moots Routt RSL-5005.jpg

I’ll admit it. I don’t like writing bike reviews. First and foremost I am naturally skeptical of how each generation of a given product comes with a wave of new performance claims, complete with wind tunnel testing that conveniently buries the lede in comparing a bike with deep section aero wheels against another bike with lightweight climbing wheels. But more than that, I consider bike related preferences to be highly subjective.

And as someone who personally believes that the best bike related money that you can spend is a proper bike fit, there are just so many variables in bike setup that I find it difficult to scientifically compare bike A to bike B. Change the fit, change the wheels, heck even change the tire size, and a given bike will feel very different. Which is to say nothing of value considerations. Sure, spending more - hopefully - gets you incrementally better performance. But the simple truth is that the best bike is the one that you ride, whether it costs $100, $1,000 or $10,000.

So with that preface, this is not a review of the Moots Routt RSL (if you want one such review, head over to CyclingTips). And I’m not going to pitch you on why the Moots Routt RSL is the best bike for you - because truthfully, it might not be. Rather, this journal entry is why the Routt RSL is right for me and why I am so incredibly stoked to be riding it in races and many slightly silly adventures in and around NYC.

For me, the starting point with the Routt RSL is the craftsmanship. Way back when I first started riding bikes, it was on a made in the USA aluminum frame that I purchased second hand from a local bike shop employee who had raced it (and crashed it) quite a bit. Then over time, like so much of the bike market, I transitioned to a variety of carbon frames manufactured in Asia. To be honest, for the most part I really liked those bikes, particularly as carbon layups have advanced in recent years to move away from stiffness-to-weight ratios as the primary measure of performance. Over the years different bikes had different ride and performance characteristics. But the simple fact is that none of them had the craftsmanship that is captured in each of the many beautiful welds featured on the Routt RSL. The bike is an absolutely masterpiece in construction techniques, and it is all done in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The frameset is quite simply something to look at.

And while aesthetic preferences vary from person to person, I personally appreciate the classic look of nude titanium more than any other finishing technique. The industry may have transitioned from matte black as the color of choice to wild glitter finishes but for my two cents I’ll take the longevity and simplicity of nude titanium any day of the week. Especially when it’s topped off by finishing touches like a TBD logo on the seat-tube:

Photo Rhetoric - To Be Determined - Moots Routt RSL-5008.jpg

Of course, the frameset is only one component of the finished product. To complement Routt RSL frameset I turned to AXS 1x HRD. It is a groupset that I have been riding for a few months now and I remain thoroughly impressed with the product. I have some gripes, including the choice in brake fluid and the lack of 2x cranksets in 165 crank length. But overall I have zero regrets on making the switch over from Shimano. In 1x configuration the shifting speed is more than adequate and unlike Shimano, AXS actually comes with software that looks like it was designed in the past decade. This particular Routt RSL is completed with a Zipp cockpit and Industry Nine i9.65 wheels. I need more time with the wheels to get a better sense for their durability, but out of the box they feel super fast and thus far they have held up well to some initial off-road adventures.

Groupset: SRAM AXS 1x HRD with Quarq
Gearing: 48 chainring, 10-28 cassette
Cockpit: Zipp SL-70 bars (44) Zipp Sprint Stem (140)
Wheels: Industry Nine i9.65
Build and fit: ACME Bicycle Co

Which brings us back to that most subjective of questions: how does the bike feel? Honestly, I love it. On the road it feels nearly as snappy as the Vamoots RSL - certainly more than raceable, especially as far as ‘gravel’ bikes go. But then toss on a set of plush tires (the Routt RSL will clear 40mm tires but I have been borrowing the Compass 35’s off my wife’s bike) and the Routt RSL is ready to hit just about any gravel or dirt road you want to throw at it, all with the titanium build and craftsmanship giving me added comfort that the bike isn’t going to go to pieces underneath my (heavier than the average) body. Yes, the build has only been complete for a few months, but I really cannot wait to get into some off-season adventures with it this fall - the flexibility of the Routt to tackle everything from pavement to singletrack is really something.

Photo Rhetoric - To Be Determined - Moots Routt RSL-5010.jpg
Photo Rhetoric - To Be Determined - Moots Vamoots Disc RSL-1000.jpg

One parting note for this ‘not a review’ journal entry: for this build I selected the premium “Birch” finish from Moots’ long list of semi-custom options. Birch is one of the most technical finishes available, featuring a combination of brushing, bead blast, etching and anodizing. I’ll admit having some second thoughts after hitting send on the order - in fact I nearly switched the bike to the polished finished that is on my Moots Vamoots RSL. But, in the end, I took a chance on the Birch and couldn’t not be happier with the outcome - it features an intriguing mix of subtly and complexity that I think complements the broad spectrum capabilities of the Routt perfectly.