The greatest commuter bike ever

Old-school Moots Mountaineer is so right in so many ways

While rare, there are times when the stars align and you notice something truly magnificent. This happened to me recently at Steamboat Ski Resort in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, when I happened upon what may have been the perfect commuter bike for its time and place. 

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This was one of the first ever mountain bikes. Moots started building Mountaineer frames in 1983
This was one of the first ever mountain bikes, Moots started building Mountaineer frames in 1983
Russell Eich / Immediate Media

Why it’s the greatest

There are a few reasons why I think this old steel-framed Moots Mountaineer is the greatest commuter bike ever. 

First of all, it was well ridden but not a complete derelict bereft of care and maintenance. It was likely well over three decades old, and since I noticed it twice in a three-day span, it’s entirely possible it gets ridden daily

Second, it’s an undeniable classic. The Mountaineer was one of the first mountain bikes ever to be built; Moots started making them in 1983. Although by the looks of this one, it could be a bit newer than that. 

Innocently minding its own business, exactly the way a legendary commuter bike should
Innocently minding its own business, exactly the way a legendary commuter bike should
Russell Eich / Immediate Media

The bike was parked at a ski resort and outfitted for the journey no matter the weather with studded tires, flat pedals and full-coverage fenders.

But the single most important feature was that it’s oh so relevant in the town I spotted it in, Steamboat Springs – home of Moots. Commuting on this bike is like driving a 1964 Porsche 911 around for errands in Stuttgart, Germany. Whether with a bike or a car, those that know, know you’re awesome because you’re daily-ing a classic. 

Impressively original still

Even though it was old, it was still rocking the original raked-out, rigid steel fork and threaded headset. And it had the original top tube shoulder pad for hike-a-bikes. (Why has this gone away?)

The paint job was amazing, resplendent in a faded, camo motif of a time gone by. Even the decals on the top and down tubes looked to be in decent shape. No easy task for a bike that bides its time in bike racks.

While I wish I had more time to investigate the running gear (I was there to ski with my family), it appeared to be rolling an old drivetrain, and it had thumb shifters! Contrary to the old shifting bits, it had a newer, über-expensive Moots titanium seatpost and a mid-90s Moots-branded, Serfas kevlar saddle. 

Swapping in different size wheels isn't new. Check out the slidable brake bosses
Swapping in different size wheels isn’t new, check out the slidable brake bosses
Russell Eich / Immediate Media

And check out those brakes. Not so much the horrid cantilever brakes, but how the brake bosses attach to the frame and fork. Moots didn’t braze them on the fork legs and seatstays, rather they’re clamped on, which was dubbed ‘Moots Mounts’, and allowed them to be moved up and down to work with numerous wheel sizes including 24in, 26in, and even 27.5in. (Yes, they existed back then, mostly as touring wheels.) 

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While I may never know, I’m okay with believing that this Mountaineer was made, purchased, and lived its entire life in the Yampa Valley where Steamboat is located. It’s a legend in its own little world.