I’m not a tech editor, and this isn’t a review. Other than talking a little smack in the comments, most of my job is meetings, spreadsheets, and making sure Levy stays hydrated. I haven't ridden this bike’s competition enough to make relevant judgements.
That said, I spent several months last year riding Moots’ new Womble trail hardtail, and I’ve got some thoughts.
Moots’ niche in the bike industry is well established. They make gorgeous, shockingly expensive bikes for people who want refined, grown-up rides. Moots says they’re for old souls, not for those chasing geometry trends or podiums.
Moots Womble Details
• Wheel size: 29"
• Frame Material: Titanium
• Travel: 140mm (f)
• Head-Tube Angle: 67.1° (at 25% sag)
• Weight: 27.1lb (size M w/ XT trail pedals, no cage, minimal sealant), 3.9lb frame only (claimed)
• Sizes: S–XL
• Price: $6,999–$9,320 USD (as ridden), $3,750 USD frame only
• Made in the USA
• More Info: moots.com
In other words, they’re for rad dad boomers who have bought into the cult of titanium—folks who appreciate nice things, enjoy the subtle flex (not the material), and are willing to pay for it.
All of that is why we were surprised to see
Moots release a new trail hardtail with fairly modern, capable angles last year. Their new Womble is still no hardcore hardtail, but it’s not a glorified gravel bike for Sun Valley fireroads either. Note: We’ve promised to do more content on the value side of the spectrum in 2021, but this isn't it—please don’t take this story to suggest that $10K hardtail builds should be normal. We agreed to check out the Womble because we're bike dorks and it’s gorgeous, but I just want to acknowledge that this is a wildly expensive bike by any metric.
Construction and Features
As you’d expect from a frame that costs literally twice my entire motorcycle
, the US-made Womble gets a lot of things right. There’s plenty of room for 29 x 2.6 tires, clean external routing (even cleaner with this AXS version that removes the unneeded cable guides), a threaded BB, and some fancy bead blasted, anodized graphics.
As usual from Moots, the toptube and downtube are double butted titanium, but they’ve used a new, larger diameter tubeset on the Womble. Large diameter titanium looks odd to me for some reason, but the aesthetic is very clean. I was riding a size Medium, so the large diameter tubing might look more traditional in the larger sizes.
Also, I love me a good 44mm headtube. It looks good, it’s simple, and it lets you run an angle adjusting headset if you like.
• Head tube: 44mm
• Bottom Bracket: 73mm threaded
• Seatpost: 30.9mm
• Axle spacing: 148 Boost
• Brakes: Post Mount 160 (180mm approved)
• Max tire width: 29 x 2.6
• Bottle capacity: 2 (1 on size S)
• Max chainring: 32t
When a bike costs this much, I have expectations. The Womble’s build quality is impeccable, the finish is perfect, and most of the details are thoughtfully sorted… But it’s 2021, and I think a hardtail frame that sells for nearly $4K should come with integrated chainstay protection. It’s not a huge deal, but come on Moots, let customers protect that beautiful frame out of the box. Or was I supposed to do an artisanal leather bar-tape wrap on there?
On a more serious note, the maximum 32t chainring may be a dealbreaker for stronger riders and all-mountain bikepacking folks—there's so much range on cassettes these days, I suspect people in flatter places will be spinning out their 32t rings without much trouble. I wonder if there’s another way to design that BB junction, or if maybe a slightly longer chainstay would mitigate the issue. That said, 32t was fine for me and I appreciated the ability to run wider tires with decent clearance.
Moots quotes their geometry at 25% fork sag, which makes sense for hardtails since it’s measured in the position you are usually in riding—except that not every brand does it that way, so it’s harder to compare. There are four sizes ranging from 419mm to 505mm reach. The headtube angle is just over a 67° at sag, which is pretty normal for a light trail hardtail these days. BB drop is fairly neutral too at 57mm, and there are 434mm chainstays on all the sizes.
The seat-tube angle at sag is listed at 75.7°, but with its stylishly shaped seat-tube, the actual STA is a good bit slacker than that. Pedaling position was excellent for my ~30” inseam, but people with longer legs may need to push their seats forward a bit.
The Womble is designed around 35mm - 50mm stems. You can run down to a 120mm fork too, but it would make for a steeper headtube angle, longer reach, and lower BB.
Loves slow tech.
I was surprised with how confident the Womble was in slow tech. Picking my way down some of North Vancouver's slower, jankier trails, the 140mm Pike did a great job taking care of my garbage line choices, and the back end just kept following along with no complaints.At home on fast, natural singletrack.
As pleasantly surprising as the bike was on our local trails, it wasn’t until I took the bike to the sweeping high desert singletrack of the Okanagan Valley that it really came into its own.
The Womble wants to be pedalled way up into the mountains. Fast, open, smooth terrain is the bike’s bread and butter. It absolutely loves natural singletrack, and it made me feel like I understood what the bike was all about. It wanted to be pedaled harder than I’m capable of pedaling, and it put a smile on my face every time I took it out.Isn’t so sure about rougher terrain.
The Womble does get unsettled when the terrain is rough and
fast. First of all it’s a hardtail and I haven’t ridden a hardtail regularly in years, so I needed to adjust both my riding style and expectations along the way.
I suspect some of that unsettled feeling is also down to that longish 140mm fork and the fairly neutral headtube angle. While the extra travel is nice at low speeds, hardtails get steeper the deeper you go into the travel, and the Womble did threaten to throw me out the front door while plowing into things at pace.
I’m definitely not advocating that Moots throw a 160mm fork on this bike—I’m not sure the world needs an ultra expensive titanium hardcore hardtail, but maybe that’s just me. I'm also hesitant to insist they slack it out by a few degrees to make it more capable. While I would want it slacker personally, that runs the risk of diminishing some of the things that make the Womble special as it is. I bet the next time they update this bike it gets slacker though, just saying.Rides solid and feels fast.
Whether it’s the new large diameter titanium tubeset or the stout ENVE wheels, the bike rides stiff. Not harsh, but also not as supple (or whatever) as the titanium evangelists might lead you to expect. Solid. Considering the price and build, it’s not super light at 27 lb, but it still feels fast and wants to be pedaled hard.
Is there something special about titanium? I’m not the person to answer that question—I’m admittedly not attuned to my riding in a way for the differences to be obvious. I suspect that, for me, a few PSI difference in my tires (or a different casing) would make a more noticeable change to ride feel than ti vs steel vs aluminum.
I will say that the feel at the bar of the Womble is muted and confident. Is it carbon wheel or bar magic? Titanium magic? Foam rubber grip magic? 2.6” tire magic? No idea, but it feels great.
The Womble frame is a work of art, and the build matches it well. Moots did an excellent job of catering to the target market and it’s got all the right high performance stuff on it. It's also worth mentioning that the Womble is available in a few slightly less eye-watering spec levels, but they're all very thoughtfully chosen.
Enve cockpit & wheels. For all the flack that Enve gets, I really like the spec choice on the cockpit and wheels. The parts worked well in my time on them and there’s a good brand fit between the two American made companies. It might not be how I’d spec a bike like this, but if you’re spending all the money on a USA frame, it’s not crazy to spend all the money on USA components too.
Vittoria Martello tires. The tires were an interesting choice. My test unit came with 29 x 2.6 Vittoria Martellos, but the stock build is with 29 x 2.5 EXO+ Maxxis Assegais. Both of those tires are aggressive, high volume tires, and neither are featherweights.
Talking from the bleachers is easy, and product managers have an incredibly hard job. Do you play to a bike’s strengths by installing faster, lightweight tires? Or do you try to make up some capability with bigger, burlier tires? Tough choices, and some media hack like me always finds something to complain about...
The Martellos were excellent on the rough, rooty terrain around Vancouver, and I'm a fan of those 2.5 Assegais I have on another bike. But, if I’d had more time before I sadly had to send the bike back, I’d have been curious to see what swapping the 1100g Martellos for ~820g Barzos (in 29 x 2.6) would do for the bike’s character. For me this bike is still on the light-and-fast side of things, and bogging it down with big meats isn’t the direction I’d have taken it.
AXS drivetrain & dropper. Wireless drivetrains are still sci-fi to me. I’m glad Moots aren’t retrogrouches when it comes to spec; just because it’s an “old soul” frame shouldn’t preclude it from having some futuristic tech. I absolutely love the performance of AXS. It may not shift under power quite as well as Shimano, but having those little robots handle your gearing is effortless and impressive.
The 175mm RockShox Reverb AXS post worked perfectly and had no issues over the several months I had the Womble. I will say my brain doesn’t want to go back to sub-200mm drop posts, even as a fairly short guy, and there was still room to add more dropper travel on my size Medium frame...
Also, the Pike Ultimate RCT3 was as impressive as ever. I really like this fork.
Bigger anchors please. I have found SRAM's G2 Ultimate brakes to have excellent power and modulation, but I would love to see bikes like this (or really all bikes) specced with at least 180/200 rotors instead of the supplied 160/180 rotors. Literally nobody has finished a ride and gone, “You know what? The extra 30g of weight from my rotors was really holding me back.”
That said, I am admittedly biased towards stupidly powerful brakes, and we are talking about a sub-4lb titanium frame, so this is an incredibly minor nitpick. It costs $10K, let me find something to cry about.
Final thoughts on the Womble
Pros and cons? No, sorry, I did say this isn't a review. I give the Womble 93/100 TPS reports, 1/5 Bernie Sanders mittens, and 9/9 Whole Foods gift cards.
In all seriousness though, whether you're interested in buying a Womble (can I borrow some money from you?) or not, it’s a hell of a bike, and the right rider won’t be disappointed. Even if that rider isn't the aforementioned rad dad boomer.
Yes, an entry level full suspension outrides the Womble in descending performance, but that’s not what the bike is about. Most efficient climber? Who cares. Enduro-winning descent time? Look elsewhere. The Womble made me stop and think about what I like about hardtails—the simplicity, versatility, and clean design, rather than the traditional performance metrics we sometimes get hung up on. In the right terrain and with the right mindset, it’s an amazing bike.But wait, now I want a hardtail?
Now that I’ve sent it back, I have to admit that the Womble was a bit of a gateway drug. I want a hardtail in the garage again. But I’d like to try something simultaneously more and less aggressive. Please excuse me while I go on a little tangent.
I'd like an "XC trail" hardtail like this one, but I didn't love its nervousness when things got rough (even for the XCish terrain here). The more I think about it, I believe there’s a limit to how much travel makes sense on a hardtail. As you get deeper into the travel, everything gets worse: the reach lengthens and pulls you forward, and your headtube angle steepens. So a longer fork equals more room for the bike to get worse. That's my theory anyway.
Maybe I’m out to lunch, but I’ve picked up a steel hardtail from another brand, an angle-adjusting headset, and a 120mm SID to see what happens. I’ll try to keep the whole build under ~25lb, but end up with much more aggressive geometry (~62.5° headtube angle, etc). I’m hoping it’ll retain some of the magic of the Womble, but widen the terrain sweet spot.
We’ll see. Is that stupid? Will the 100 foot wheelbase ruin everything? I’m curious to see how stupid the “Slim Donut” is in the next few months. I could be super, super wrong...PS: The next Field Test will have a whole value hardtail category. Sorry in advance to Levy's ankles.