Moots Open Trail Review

by Brian Mullin on September 5, 2009


I have been testing the new Moots Open Trail titanium mountain bike stem since late winter, and it is the best stem I have ever used, period. That is a very bold statement, but I have been through my share of stems, and they all have a certain feel and a set of characteristics, and the Open Trail stands at the forefront of stemdomhood (ok, I made the word up).

That titanium stem is unobtainium, man!

The Open Trail was Moots first foray into creating a full fledged stem for mountain biking with a 31.8 clamp for oversized handlebars, and it is the burly mountain relative of the Moots Open Road stem. The mountain bike precursor to the Open Trail was their Ti Beam stem, which has only a 25.4 clamp and a 2 bolt faceplate.


The Open Trail is made with bi-ovalized titanium tubing, a newly designed 4 bolt aluminum faceplate, a titanium dual binder and comes stock in 90,100,110,120×6, 130×10 sizes. Moots use 3/2.5 Pi-Tech CWSR (Cold Worked and Stress Relieved ) seamless titanium tubing, which is comprised of 3% aluminum and 2.5% vanadium.

Titanium 101Symbol: Ti
Atomic Number: 22
Group: Transition Metal
Atomic weight: 47.867
Density @ 293 K: 4.506 g/cm3
State (s, l, g): solid
Melting point: 1941 K
Boiling point: 3560 K
Shells: 2,8,10,2
Electron configuration: [Ar] 3d2 4s2
Crystal structure: Hexagonal


Titanium is a chemical element with the symbol Ti and atomic number 22. It has a low density and is a strong, lustrous, corrosion-resistant transition metal with a silver white color. Titanium can be alloyed with many metals to produce strong lightweight alloys for use in multiple industries, in situations where lightweight strength, corrosion resistance and ability to withstand temperature extremes are required. It was discovered by the English amateur geologist William Gregor in 1791, then independently rediscovered and named by the German chemist Martin Heinrich Klaproth in 1795, whom named it for Titans (Latin – Titanos), the first sons of the earth in Mythology. It is the only element that burns in nitrogen.

Installation
Sliding the stem onto the fork steerer tube was pretty tough, so I did a light sanding/buffing to make it easier, but it still had some tight tolerances. After I had done multiple installations the stem slid on a tad easier, but was always snug. I do wish that the edges and corners of the stem clamp tube were a tad softer, they are just a bit sharp, but I am just nitpicking! The stem can be installed reversible with either a 6-degree rise or drop, depending on your requirements. Since the stem is created with specific tube sizes, they are constrained into how short they can make the stem’s stack height, so it is a bit taller than a normal stem. The beefy and wide four bolt faceplate was very nice, and it gave a nice wide surface area to hold down the handlebars.

Moots recommended to not use titanium bolts, since galling or seizing can be an issue (titanium on titanium), so Moots specs all of their stems with 12.9 alloy steel bolts. If you do use titanium bolts, always inspect them regularly, and liberally use anti seize lube on the threads, and for the faceplate a brass washer is suggested to prevent creaking. I of course have used titanium bolts without issue, but caveat emptor. I tightened everything down with my handy new Pedros Demi Torque wrench, which allowed me to set the torque properly.

Impressions
Holding the Open Trail in your hand, and examining the absolutely exquisite welding, you realize this is another Moots work of art. This was not something that was thrown through a CNC machine or quickly welded, it was meticulously machined, mitered and welded by hand. Drool!

 
The Open Trail has that unique titanium property, it is stiff and strong, but has the silky titanium wonderfulness to it that takes away the harshness, edge and bite out of rough trails, without a hint of flex. It has a sort of microscopic suspension built into the material. Unless you have ridden a titanium bike, seatpost, handlebar or stem, it is difficult to explain the superlative exquisiteness of titanium. Think up riding fast through a set of stutter bumps, then think of that same set of stutter bumps after a good rain has softened them, that is how titanium absorbs things.

I used the Open Trail on my Ibis Mojo for a long period of time, and most recently switched it to my Moots Mooto-XZ 29er. It didn’t take me long to miss the Open Trail on my Mojo. The first couple of forays out onto the local rocky terrain using any normal stem beat me up immediately. The lack of the vibration damping properties of titanium were readily apparent, as my hands, arms and legs had to absorb more micro terrain fluctuations and roughness. The Open Trail was bashed and crashed through as many rock gardens and difficult terrain, I could toss it into, and it never belayed any hint of flex, it just stayed the line, a silky one at that.

Measured Specs (for 90mm) – 156.7 grams

While titanium is a light metal, and has good stiffness vs weight, due to construction processes and dealing with specific standard tube sizes it is a crap shoot in getting what a weight weenie would consider a light part. The Open Trail is not the lightest stem on the market, but for stiffness vs weight it is a real gunslinger.

I think we need a gunslinger
Somebody tough to tame this town
I think we need a gunslinger
There’ll be justice all around


Welding Titanium
Titanium is a hard material to work with, and is expensive to purchase. It must be welded under an environment free of atmospheric gases, which means the area behind the welds are purged of containment’s (oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen), then filled with an inert gas (usually Argon) to keep the welds from becoming brittle. Moots start out with precisely mitered pieces, and those joints are then welded together at low temperatures using no weld wire, and then 6/4 ELI (extra low interstitial) titanium weld wire is used for the second pass. This double pass welding method, has proven to be the strongest weld process for titanium, but is obviously more time consuming and intricate. The welding itself needs to be done with care and expertise, so there is a long apprenticeship before becoming a master titanium welder.

Moots have a meticulous quality control, and use the finest grade American made titanium, and those exacting standards show in the end product. I have toured the factory and was amazed on how much time and effort it takes to create any of their products.

Bottom Line
The Moots Open Trail titanium stem is plain and simple a beautiful work of art, and it offers unsurpassed stiffness and strength, excellent vibration damping, and lifetime of durability due to the long fatigue life of the material. Moots have engineered the Open Trail with specific tubing, alignments and geometry that not only creates a functional juggernaut, but one that are aligned with the titanium’s properties to create a superlative masterpiece.

The issues and complaints I had with the stem were nitpicking, and were very minor.

Why Ti? It is silky yet stiff!
Strengths
-Stiff
-Silky titanium feel
-Strong 4 bolt handlebar clamp
-Moots welds

Weaknesses
-Clamp tube is a bit sharp/rough
-Difficult getting onto steerer tube
-Steerer clamp height is tall
-Expensive

Value Rating: 3.5 Flamin’ Chili Peppers  
Overall Rating: 5 Flamin’ Chili Peppers
Moots Open Trail Specs:
Five Stock sizes with custom options.
Available in 31.8 diameter handlebar clamp only.
Aluminum and carbon handlebar compatible.
Removable 4 bolt AL faceplate
Double ovalized for strength and stiffness.
Exclusive Moots designed and manufactured dual binder for superior clamping strength.
Steerer tube clamp 45mm
170 grams for 110mm length
Five year limited warranty on craftsmanship and materials.
90×6 OT stem $395.00
100×6 OT stem $395.00
110×6 OT stem $395.00
120×6 OT stem $395.00
130×10 OT stem $395.00
Moots url: http://www.moots.com/

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