Origins: The obscure relationship between Moots Cycles and a fictional alligator
Based in the cycling-friendly mountain town of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, Moots Cycles has became an icon of titanium frame building and craftsmanship. This year marks Moots’ 35th anniversary, and it’s celebrating with a stunning limited-edition road bike that was proudly displayed at this year’s North American Handmade Bicycle Show. Many know of Moots, the bikes, and Moots, the brand; fewer know the origin behind Moots, the name.
What’s a Moot?
Three and a half decades is a long time for any company to be in business — and certainly long enough for many to simply take the name for granted. But if you remove familiarity from the equation, the name Moots is an undeniably curious one. After all, is it the plural a “moot”? And if so, what is a “moot”? A person? A place? A thing?
Here’s a question that leads us to our answer: Why does every Moots feature a head tube badge with an alligator on it?
“Moots, the name, came from a fictitious pencil eraser — well, it was a real pencil eraser but a fictitious character,” Moots company spokesperson and social media guru Jon Cariveau explained to CyclingTips. “The founder of Moots [Kent Eriksen, who left Moots in 2005 and now heads Kent Eriksen Cycles] had this rubber pencil eraser, and on the school bus one day, some kids took it from him and jabbed a hole in its head. From then on, as you squeezed the little head of the eraser, the lips of the alligator would pop open and let out this ‘moots’ sound.”
For many kids, a mortal wound for something as seemingly trivial as a pencil eraser would constitute a trip straight into the trash bin. But for Eriksen, it was creative inspiration.
“So Kent named the little rubber pencil eraser, Mr. Moots, as kind of an imaginary figure,” Cariveau continued. “He went through junior high and high school back when those types of places printed out a school newspaper. Kent was a really artistic guy and he started drawing cartoons. He called them, ‘The Adventures of Mr. Moots.’ From episode to episode, Mr. Moots was biking, skiing, always something outside — he was very outdoors-oriented.”
Eriksen stopped publishing the comics after finishing school, but the real-life adventures of Mr. Moots were only just beginning. After touring the United States on a Schwinn 10-speed in the late 1970s, Eriksen landed in Steamboat Springs — a long way from where he started in Wisconsin — out of money, and out of work. As so many cyclists often do, he eventually found a job in a bike shop.
“As the bike thing continued, [Kent] kind of felt the draw of building his own bike frames,” Cariveau said. “One of his friends had attended the Bruce Gordon frame school, came back to Steamboat, and they fabricated what would be the first Moots, which was a steel road frame. He didn’t want to name it after himself but he still had the rubber pencil eraser in his backpack and said, ‘I’m going to call it a Moots.’ And that was it.”