Editor’s Note: With these Ride Impressions Twenty Nine Inches riders do not imply that these bicycles are ultimately good, bad, or indifferent for you. We do mean to convey through our many hours of riding lots of different 29 inch wheeled bicycles over a period of years to give you, the reader, an indication of what you might expect from these new rigs. In other words, this ain’t no review, but hopefully it points you in the right direction.

Interbike 2011: Moots Mooto X YBB Ride Impressions: by Grannygear

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Ah, the classics. Astair and Rogers. Frank. The Duke. The Stones. They are still making fans after all these years and are legends, even after they are long gone. Well, Moots may not be Sinatra, but the YBB Ti soft tail approach has been around long enough to be a classic and is still making fans today, especially with 29″ wheels stuffed under there.

I have this romantic notion that the soft tail and big wheels are perfect roommates in that 29″ wheels allow you to do more with less and the soft tail promises to give you that ‘more than a hard tail‘ but ‘less than an full suspension‘ approach that seems very tempting for a rider that likes the bennies of a hard tail bike, but would appreciate some ‘give’ back there. The thing is, does it work out that way in practice?

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We are scheduled to get onto a Mooto X YBB 29er after Interbike for a longer term test, but I wanted to get on one now to get a preview of coming attractions. This one was built around an 80mm travel fork while the newer ones will be set for 100mm geometry. After riding all these 100-120mm trail bikes, pedaling a hard…er…I mean soft tail around was quite a change. What I wanted to know was if I could tell enough of a difference between this and a typical hard tail to make it worth the extra complication of the sliding bits and the inevitable loss of chassis stiffness.

I also was curious as to how a high end Ti bike like this compares to some of the carbon hard tails that I have been on lately and, for that matter, the nicer steel frames. Now obviously the soft tail is tossing a curve ball in there, but allowing for that, here goes.

Carbon fiber wins the pedaling showdown. Really, nothing so far has compared for taking what you put into the pedal and transferring that into forward motion like a composite frame. Not steel and not this Ti bike. Ok. No real surprise there, but that is not to say the Moots was slow or lazy, It was not. It scooted forward with ease with every pedal stroke. But it was not stunningly fast feeling. It is not the stiffest chassis out there as well. More on that later.

Handling wise it was on the quick side with that 80mm fork and a short (for me) top tube and longer stem. However, it was not at all over the top quick and it was fine even on the Bootleg trails. I took it off the same drops as the FS bikes and it got me down safely, you just had to be ‘accurate’ to do it. But the way that front wheel was closer to the rider and with the longer stem, it weighted the front wheel and made it carve like crazy. Kinda fun actually, but on the looser rocks of Bootleg I might have liked a longer top tube and 100mm fork. Still, it was a carving machine.

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So what about the ride? Was it smoother? Oh yes. Of course, I mean NO hard tail will flex vertically 3/4″ at the seat stays, so yeah, combined with the beautiful Moots Ti seat post and a comfy WTB saddle, it made for a ride that allowed me to stay seated over the very rocky trails at Demo Days much longer than a typical hard tail would ever allow, or at least not without taking a lot more abuse. After back injuries in years gone by, I cannot take much whacking up through the saddle, so I typically can deal with a nice steel bike, a comfy saddle/seatpost combo/ and a low pressure rear tire and that works pretty good for me. This Mooto X YBB is a notch above that.

So who is this bike for? It is for a more mature rider, if not in age, at least in sensibilities. He or she would appreciate the fine fit and finish of the beautifully made Moots frame and the long term nature of a Ti bike. This is not a disposable, molded bike. It is smooth. Truly. The YBB steals some chassis rigidity in my estimation, but that does not seem to get in the way of any of the things that make this bike good. It went where I pointed it and still pedaled very nicely. It would be a killer choice for a hard tail rider that did 12-24 hour stuff or epic rides and wanted to get that edge knocked off a bit. You would stay fresher on this soft tail over a long day.

I was thinking who this might be for, this not as stiff as carbon, but still light and fast bike. This rolling art form expressed in welding rod and tubing miters, this smooth and expensive classic.

Then, it came to me, who this bike is for.

It is a gentleman’s hard tail….a well heeled buyer who wants something that is not an off-the-rack bike from some giant factory and is not interested in chasing the ultimate bottom bracket stiffness number but rather appreciates the performance of a bike as a whole entity and the long term value that Ti typically offers. Will that impression carry over throughout the longer term review? Not sure, but I think that this bike should be a willing partner in some epic So Cal rides that are more in line with the intent of this bike, at least compared to Bootleg Canyon.

Maybe I will even make a gentleman out of me in the process.