How Moots Build a Titanium Frame
By Stan Portus – 31 January 2020
Moots has been building exquisite titanium frames for over 25 years and has become synonymous with the material. The company’s hand-built masterpieces are made with a level of expertise and craftsmanship that sets them above the competition.
There is probably no cycling company more synonymous with a material than Moots is with titanium. Named after the Titans of Greek myth, the metal holds an exotic status in the cycling world, with a titanium frame being a rare sighting and a Moots frame being more exclusive still. It might come as a surprise then to know that titanium is the ninth most common element on the planet, but its rarity as a bike material is due to the fact that the metal is incredibly hard to work.
The difficulty of working titanium however is completely worth it, with Moots frames harnessing titanium’s natural properties such as being incredibly durable, resistant to rusting, having an incredible strength weight ratio, and – joyfully – being one of the most attractive materials there is.
Moots was founded in 1981 in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and has worked exclusively with titanium since 1991. Since then it has developed a number of manufacturing processes that make it an industry leader in titanium frame building. Still operating from Steamboat Springs, the company also relies on the incredible craftsmanship and knowledge of its small team of welders and builders.
Moots holds a unique position. It is big enough to hold an expert position in titanium manufacture, but small enough to carry out custom work for clients from frame sizing to proactively designing bikes with the most current features.
Utilising its expert machinists and five CNC machines Moots makes prototypes, designs component parts, and develops its own specialist tooling for frame production. Once the parts are refined, they are produced in house under Moots’ highest quality control – and only using the highest quality US made 3/2.5 alloy titanium.
The tubing is Cold Work Stress Relieved, meaning Moots can build the thinnest possible tubing walls. Moots has 30 tube sizes which are selected to tune the ride of each bike model and frame size. Each batch of tubing is tested for composition, strength, straightness and resistance to deformation.
Cold Work Stress Relieved tubing is challenging to make: the temperature of the heat treatment needed must be held within a 5-degree bracket for the right amount of time to ensure the tubing has the correct strength and ductility.
The tubing is mitred so that it will fit together with no gap between the different sections of tubing whatsoever. This ensures incredible strength and is achievable due to Moots’ machining prowess. Each tube is also meticulously cleaned and buffed before welding as any contamination can affect the quality of the weld.
Moots’ experts use a two-pass weld system on their frames using custom welding equipment. The root pass joins the tubing together by heating the titanium to its 1667˚C melting point, and then filler is added to guarantee lifetime durability. This happens while the weld is belched with argon gas so the surrounding atmosphere is devoid of oxygen, which would impede the quality of the weld as titanium reacts badly to oxygen when it is heated to high temperatures.
Such is their expertise and knowledge that Moots welders can spot who has worked on a frame from looking at the welds alone. A Moots frame must pass an almost unfathomable alignment tolerance of 5000th of an inch before it can leave the factory – testament to the team’s eye for quality.
Once the frame is welded it’s passed over to the finishing area where the all-important stage of squarely facing, chasing, alignment happen. Each Moots frame has a Moots Yellow Card that shows the tasks that must happen. Each task is marked with an initial to show that it has been done and who by. This card is also given to whoever buys the frame – a memento of its building, and a sign of the pride taken in its manufacture.
The Moots bead blast finish is applied with the utmost care and strict attention to detail before the subtle, understated but unmissable etching is applied.
The Moots head badge is screwed on and depicts the iconic Mr Moots alligator. The alligator and Moots name extend back to Moots founder Kent Erickson’s childhood when in school he had a pencil with an alligator shaped rubber on the top with a hole in it. Whenever he used it, it would make a noise that sounded much like “moots”.
As well as building frames, Moots also creates titanium finishing kit. The Moots titanium stem, seat post, and headset spacers complete any Moots frame and help achieve a seamless build.
Moots’ expertise doesn’t end with frame construction and titanium. Moots has a variety of signature and premium finishes that can create a unique final bike. Moots offers anodising in five different colours, Skyline graphics inspired the mountains near Moots HQ, and ‘Stanley’ that features a design inspired by the carpets of a certain film that was filmed near Moots and takes its name from the director, amongst other finishes.
All this attention to detail, from sourcing materials to the final finish, results in frames built with incredible pride and love – something few manufacturers can claim. This passion makes for truly unique bikes that pay forward Moots’ obsession to craftsmanship to their owners’ ride experience – special in every way.