The Psychlo X from legendary titanium framebuilders Moots is a extremely talented bike, with bags of speed complemented by comfort and assured handling. It's adept at cyclo-cross racing but is really capable of rides of far bigger scope and imagination than an hour around a muddy field, the mainstay of 'cross races in the UK. It's a popular bike with the growing gravel race and adventure set in the US, and if you want a bike of such capability, the Psychlo X will fulfill your wishes.
For cyclists of a certain age, Moots is one of a handful of names that will conjure up images of ultra rare and very exotic US built titanium frames. Founded in 1981 in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, the company has continued to build solely in titanium, the material the brand has become synonymous with. Moots has done well to keep business alive, despite the modern prevalence of carbon fibre. That alone shows how in-demand their frames are.
While titanium has become a lot more affordable in the past ten years and the UK is now able to boast several titanium brands and even framebuilders, there's still some serious cachet associated with a name like Moots. They've stuck to their roots, yet continually updated their range of bikes to address modern concerns and evolving standards.
Before I address the ride, I should point out that the bike on this page before you is an example build. It actually belongs to the new UK distributor, it's his personal bike. Moots primarily sell frames, it's the most popular route to Moots ownership, but if you wanted to buy a complete bike then a dealer like London's Mosquito Cycles will happily build you a bike to your desired specification.
I've ridden quite a few cyclo-cross bikes, especially recently, but from my time aboard the Moots it's clear the Psychlo X stands out from everything else. Part of that is the extremely light build weight of just 8.32kg (that's with pedals), helped no end by the all-carbon tubular rims on Hope hubs, but the geometry is so well tuned that it's a blast and delight to ride.
Whether it's pootling down country lanes taking in the view over the hedgerows, or blatting angrily between close-knit trees in the woods, or hammering along a narrow bridleway, the Moots just sings. It carries fantastic momentum, speed is easily acquired with the frame responding keenly to any power input. It's not quite as instantaneous as a good aluminium or carbon frame, being a little more measured in its response, but there's no delay or lag.
When it comes to cornering the Moots shows very good manners. Leaning over and pushing the handlebars into the corner, dropping the inside shoulder, and the Moots turns with just the right measure of speed. It's neither slow nor too quick, it's just right, and this makes it an easy bike to get the most out of.
Some cyclo-cross bikes can feel lethargic, or at the other end of the scale too pointy and nervous. The Moots is well balanced, straddling the line between those two extremes nicely. Racers might mistake that for slowness, but it's not, because the Moots is certainly no slouch when the pace gets hot.
Along with seven stock sizes, you can go fully custom with your own Psychlo X. The frame I tested was a 56cm with a stumpy 136mm head tube, 72 degree head angle, 423mm chainstays and 1015mm wheelbase. That set of numbers serves to give a low front end for an aggressive, head down position, and stability that becomes apparent the faster you ride.
Also lending extra stability is the lower bottom bracket, which gives great bite through the corners. Turn the bars, push down on the outside pedal and the tyres find loads of traction through the turn; unweight the pedal on the exit and the tyre will cleanly break traction and the Psychlo X will drift sideways. It's a great feeling to be able to ride the Moots with such precision but also know you can encourage a bit of lairyness when you're just playing about in the woods.
While it likes to be chucked about, and you can be quite aggressive with it, I found the Moots was happiest when being ridden smoothly. Brake into the corner, spot the apex, turn in and let the tyres find traction and the bike tracks through cleanly. Hustling the bike certainly reveals it's very fast and capable, with decent stiffness from the rear triangle when you're sprinting out of the saddle, but it's when you're actively trying to ride smoothly and cleanly that the Moots most comes alive.
For comfort, the Moots wins handsomely over all other cyclo-cross bikes I've ever ridden. Though it's harder to detect the famed springiness of the material when isolated from the ground via large volume knobbly tyres running at 25-35psi, there is still something in the way the Moots smooths the terrain out and dilutes vibrations that really serves to look after you over rough terrain. It has the comfort to coddle you right to the end of an all-day and all-terrain epic.
For that reason it's perhaps not a first choice for an out-and-out race bike (though it is more than capable) but for aiming at the horizon and riding where your imagination takes you. If we had gravel or adventure races in the UK, I'd be lining up on the start line and the Moots would be my preferred choice. Perhaps with a set of disc brakes though.
I tried the Moots in a number of wheel configurations. As an all-out 'cross racer with deep-section carbon wheels (as pictured), it showed real tenacity and desire to go fast. The Moots showed its versatilty when run with regular road slick tyres on box-section alloy clincher rims, transforming it into a thoroughly capable road bike. With a tyre that is a halfway house between a slick and all-out knobbly tyre, you would have an extremely capable multi-terrain bike on your hands. Or with two sets of wheels, slicks and knobblies, have one bike that will do everything, on and off-road.
There are few things that look more beautiful in cycling than a clean titanium frame, and the Moots is an exemplary example of the breed. Moots prefer a clean aesthetic with simple white decals used sparingly, something they have been doing pretty much since they first launched in 1981. And I applaud them for it, some might say it looks dated, but I prefer to think it's ageless.
The level of the finish is outstanding, as you would hope for a frame costing nearly £3k.The workmanship in the frame is first class, the welds among the neatest I've ever seen on a titanium frame passing through the road.cc office. Modern carbon bikes might make you go 'wow', but in such company the Moots can still hold its own, and turned many a head on outings.
The frame is made from 3Al/2.5V US-made titanium tubes with size-specific tubing. The down tube is oversized and meets a regular 1 1/8in head tube with a pleasing external headset. I say pleasing because though manufacturers have good reasons for integrated headsets on modern frames, I still enjoy the look of an external headset. Especially when it's a lovely Chris King one.
Similarly, there's an externally threaded bottom bracket (press fit 30 is available) with a pair of lightly profiled and oversized chainstays branching off towards the dropouts. The seat stays meet in a wishbone design. It's all very neatly finished, with an elegant cable stop for the rear brake, cowled dropouts and a lovely rounded cable stop on the seat tube.
The cables are routed externally along the topside of the top tube, the rear derailleur cable runs down the driveside seat stay to the mech, and the front derailleur cable runs down the seat tube where a roller takes the cable into the front mech. The seat tube houses a 27.2mm seatpost, which in this build is carbon item.
The frame has clearance for 34mm tyres, so it's race-ready. Anyone wanting to fit fatter tyres will be pleased to know that next year Moots is offering 450mm chainstays that allow 40mm tyres to squeeze.
Moots offer their own carbon fibre fork, though you can buy the frame on its own and fit your own fork. Moots offer this proprietary design, painted to very closely match the frame colour, and combines wide blades with a 47mm rake and 395mm axle-to-crown height. There's a brake hanger mount, and indents on the inside surface of the legs allow the brake pads to sit further away from the rims, slightly increasing available clearance.
The finishing detail is the head badge, a thing of beauty in itself. Originally made from bronze, it features a toy alligator on a bicycle, it's a nod to founder Kent Erickson's squeezy alligator toy he had as a child, and the noise it made sounded like 'moots'. Kent left Moots several years ago and set up his own signature bike company.
The 56cm frame weighs a claimed 1,474g (3.25lb), though without stripping the bike down we can't verify that figure. If it's in that ballpark it's a decent weight for a titanium frame, and isn't all that much heavier than some alloy frames. The bike pictured weighed just 8.32kg (18.34lb), an impressive weight for a cyclo-cross bike and just about one of the lightest road.cc has ever tested, lighter even than the carbon fibre Specialized Crux or alloy Kona Jake the Snake. Though obviously you're paying a lot more for the Moots and the parts are higher specced.
The frame costs £2,856 and with the carbon fork it's £3,331. That includes a lifetime warranty.
The beauty of buying a Moots is you can customise the frame anyway you want. I tested the 2013 version of the frame; for 2014 the frame has been updated with a 44mm head tube - so it can accommodate a fork with a tapered head tube. That brings it in line with the way the entire road market is going. There is also a disc brake version on the cards, which does seem to be the way the wind is blowing at the moment.
Seven stock sizes are offered but a custom option is available, so if you wanted to make the top tube a little longer, the head tube shorter or another change, you could easily do it. You can also have the Moots painted in any colour as long as it's natural titanium. Yes, Moots don't offer much in the way of custom paint. The way it looks is part of the reason you're buying a Moots, so you better like it.
Other options you might want to consider are rack and mudguard mounts, so it could be a very versatile do-everything bike for commuting and touring. You can also choose track dropouts if you want a singlespeed or fixed-gear build, or S&S couplers to transform it into a travel bike. You can even specify a YBB softail, adding a little rear suspension for increased comfort. You can also choose a press-fit bottom bracket and Di2 internal wire routing.
It's not worth talking much about the parts because you're very unlikely to build the frame in the exact same specification as this. You're certainly not going to fit a double chainset if you do intend to head off the road. All of the bits bolted to the frame did their respective jobs with no fuss.
Smooth and comfortable US handbuilt titanium cyclo-cross bike
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Make and model: Moots Psychlo X frameset
Size tested: 56
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
The Psychlo X has been the go-to-machine for Cyclocross for many years and this year it gets some tweaks to take it to the next level of an all-around race, gravel and adventure bike. Not afraid to be ridden on road, in group rides and beyond.
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
Mud free chainstay design on Psychlo X for maximum clearance
Wishbone seatstay configuration for superior lateral stiffness
Top tube cable routing for clean cables
Perfect blend for cross racing or dirt road epics
Optional YBB pivotless suspension for comfort and control
Size-specific geometry for precise handling.
7 stock sizes ranging from 50cm to 60cm to accommodate a wide range of riders.
Lifetime warranty on craftsmanship and materials
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Exemplary build quality and astonishing attention to detail.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Full 3Al/2.5V US-made titanium tubes with size-specific tubing with their own design carbon fork plugged into the head tube.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Typical cyclocross fare, a little longer in the wheelbase, lower bottom bracket and slacker head angle, combines brilliantly to create a fine handling bike.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Very low front end which I liked.
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
The bike felt effortless over bumpy terrain, it really does smooth out rough trails and roads impressively well.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
The oversized chainstays and down tube create a decent amount of stiffness, but it's as stiff as a good alloy or carbon frame.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Yes pretty well.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Perfect really
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
It handled impeccably well. You really feel at home on the Moots, it looks after you. It's not pointy or nervous, but is still flickable enough to be lively and engaging.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Really enjoyed my time on the Moots.
Would you consider buying the bike? I'd be interested in customising it with disc brakes and fatter tyres.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes.
Age: 31 Height: 180 Weight: 67
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, mtb,
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.