Gretch Sanders and Pam LeBlanc take a couple of Moots bicycles for a spin in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, last week. Photo by Cathy Wiedemer

I’ve got a crush on a new bicycle (again).

While in Steamboat Springs last week, I swung by the Moots factory on the outskirts of town to see how the hand-crafted, custom-made bikes are built.

Welders assemble frames at the Moots factory in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Pam LeBlanc/Austin American-Statesman

After meeting the five dogs that work there with their owners (!), and watching the welders putting together the all-titanium frames, I borrowed a bike and set out with marketing guru Cathy Wiedemer for a test ride.

We pedaled up a paved road, then ducked onto a packed dirt road for a spin on what Moots’ employees call “the airport loop,” a 20-mile circuit that’s perfect for a nooner ride.

We noticed dark clouds skudding on the horizon, but figured they’d get hung up on the Continental Divide and we’d stay dry. That’s not quite how it worked out – after 15 miles the president of the company had to come pick us up when we got caught in a lightening storm – but I was so mesmerized by the creamy, almost springy ride I was getting from the Moots Routt I was riding I almost didn’t notice.

The Routt, billed as a long-haul dirt and gravel rides-cyclocross-light touring frame, sells for about $3,300, but fully decked out with top-notch components, it can cost three times that. I’d never ridden such an expensive bike, and now I’m spoiled.

Moots started making bikes in 1981 in Steamboat Springs. Today they make only titanium road, mountain and cyclocross bike frames, plus some components. In Austin, you can buy a Moots bicycle at Mellow Johnny’s or Pro Cycle Works.

The Moots logo features an alligator riding a bicycle. Pam LeBlanc/Austin American-Statesman

The Moots logo, which features an alligator riding a bicycle, traces its roots to the founder’s childhood.

“His favorite pencil-top eraser was a lovable, smiling alligator character that accompanied him throughout his school days,” reads a company bio. “One day, while sitting a little bored in class, he squeezed together the alligator’s cheeks as if encouraging him to speak. Lo and behold, out of his mouth came the faint cry of Moots, Moots, Moots…”

The pencil-top eraser became Mr. Moots, and the founder began sketching him doing all kinds of outdoor adventures, from skiing and hiking to bicycling. When he began building and selling bikes, he had to call the company Moots.

Moots offers free factory tours at 10 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday at their headquarters, at 2545 Copper Ridge Drive on the outskirts of town.

If you drop by, say hi to the pups, give the ‘gator a salute, and maybe stuff one of those bikes in your suitcase and bring it back to Austin for me.