I’ve been riding a Size Large Moots Forager for the last seven weeks. Before there were fat bikes, Moots became synonymous with high-quality – made in US Titanium mountain bikes. They’ve stood the test of time and maintained their brand’s integrity. They’re on their third generation of fat bikes and the latest version, the Forager is designed to run 27.5″ wheels.
The build on the Forager we tested features the best of the best components. The complete bike will run you close to ten thousand dollars. With those three factors in mind, the field test of the Moots Forager has to come with very high standards. It’s only natural to bring some elevated expectations to the table with a test subject like the Moots Forager. I’ve ridden a fair share of fat bikes over the years and still have three Ti mountain bikes. I’ve even ridden a slew of Ti Fat Bikes but this was the first opportunity to spend quality time on a Moots Fat Bike. Over the past two months, I’ve done my best to ride the hell out of the Forager in the full range of substraits and conditions available.
From the first look, during unboxing and assembly, the Forager checked every (exceeded expectations) box for quality and elegantly chosen componentry. The understated tricolor graphics make the Forager kind of a sleeper. The muted color scheme goes with blue or olive drab and black. The components that they’ve chosen, are a ‘who’s who’ of top-shelf bike bling.
The rider cockpit features a bar, stem, and fork from Enve Composites. The headset and seatpost collar are from Chris King and match the raw Ti perfectly. The dropper post is by Bike Yoke and it’s bolted to an Ergon Saddle. The wheels are from HED Cycling and they came mounted tubeless with a set of (huge) Terrene Cake Eaters. Shifting and braking are both Shimano Deore XT. The new twelve-speed shifting is quite impressive (at least when it’s pretty new). All of that blingtastic bike jewelry is bolted to a hand-crafted and beautifully fabricated, made-in-the-USA titanium workhorse.
Wisconsin in November & December can be pretty messy. There were days when I’d take the Forager out for a ride and I’d say to myself, you must hate this bike to ride it in such slurmy, nasty, wet conditions. (just doing my job) Like most of my bikes, the Forager spent most of its days covered in a layer of filth. The Forager and that new Shimano 12 speed took everything that mother nature could muster and never uttered so much as a whimper. The only upkeep that I did was apply some Squirt dry chain lube every few rides. The new Shimano 12-speed shifting gets a thumbs up. The XT brakes worked great until just recently. The rear brake is showing signs that it needs to be bled. Unfortunately, that’s typical of either Sram or Shimano hydro disc brakes.
I’m very familiar with the ride characteristics of HED single-layer carbon wheels. The quick acceleration that these lightweight hoops bring to the table is quite apparent when riding the Forager. I ran various tires on them ranging from 27.5 x 4.0 (for dirt) to 27.5 x 4.2-4.5 (on snow). Tires are like potato chips, you can’t have just one or two. The Terrene Cake Eaters that came on the Forager are humungous! So for my taste (on dirt) a smaller and lower profile Maxxis Minnions got the call. I ran a set of Terrene Yippy Ki Yays for the last couple of weeks of the field test as well. The Cake Eaters might be what folks from out west, where the snow has less moisture, prefer but they were one of the few disappointments in an otherwise great build. Even my tire choice is heavily influenced by what is available and that may well be the case for bicycle companies too. While we’re on the subject of places where Moots could have further impressed with the build, why not spec a carbon or Titanium Crank? Why not fabricate a Titanium Fork and include triple cargo mounts on the fork? The carbon fork on my fat bike has cargo zits and they get utilized regularly.
So enough about the blingy bike jewelry, how did the Forager ride? One of the first things that struck me about the Forager was the taller stack height in the front end. The other general handling characteristic was the very conservative approach to progressive geometry. Fat bikes currently find themselves in the crosshairs of slacker progressive geometry. So far, I’ve spent time riding three different schools of fat bike geometry. The Old School, the slacker new school and the baby step towards slacker, new school. The Forager feels like a baby step towards new school which might end up being the best approach for both dirt and snow. One thing for sure, if this were my bike, I’d be switching to a flat bar and slamming the stem to get my hands lower. It’s not a deal breaker and I’ve had a ton of fun riding the Forager, but in ungroomed snow the higher stack height is just a bit more tricky to keep upright compared to what I’m used to.
I mentioned that the standards for this field test would be very high at the beginning of the article and the standard that I compare all of the fat bikes that I review is my personal fat bike. I’m rather fortunate enough to ride a pretty damn hoopty fat bike. The moots is about a pound and a half heavier than my carbon fatty and about $3500 more expensive. I don’t think that the weight is any sort of big deal at all. But for the additional cost, I would have hoped for a real tangible improvement in the way the bike handles dirt, gravel, and snow riding. Any advantage that the Forager might bring to the table (when compared with only the top echelon of fat bike stardom) eluded my attention in the way that the bike rode. Certainly one could argue that a titanium frame is probably more durable than a carbon frame. I think that frame material is over-sensationalized in the world of fat bikes. The inherent characteristics that people think about when it comes to Ti vs. Steel, Aluminum, or Carbon Fiber frames is lost or insulated by the generous pneumatic envelope of the big ole fat tires. I’m not saying that the Forager had any notable defect in the way that it rode. I’m just saying that it was not better than the standards that I’ve become familiar with for many years. When compared to the best fat bikes that I’ve ever ridden, the Forager would be on the podium. (top 5 all-time).
The Moots Forager is a solid fat bike that would perform admirably for most riders. The main advantage that it brings to the table when compared to other top-flight fat bikes is the perceived curb appeal that the ‘designer name-brand frame and components’ bring with them. It’s like a designer handbag. Is a Louis Vuitton purse better than something without that designer label? I don’t want you to think that this is not a great fat bike, because it is a great fat bike. It’s just not head and shoulders above every other great fat bike that’s currently available. It might receive more compliments than other equally equipped fat bikes from some of your ride buddies but that all tends to disappear when we get on our bikes and turn the pedals.
With all of that being said, the Moots Forager earns 4.75 out of 5 Gnomes. ¡Felices Caminos Amigos!