Paketa Magnesium Belt Drive Singlespeed 29er Review

Pro Reviews

Handling Characteristics

Of course, to a real mountain biker, all this marketing mumbo-jumbo equates to squat. How does it ride? Well, I don’t know if it’s the magic of a 29er, but I will say that the Paketa was exceptionally smooth on even the rockiest downhills I encountered during a weeklong road trip across Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah. The difference between the Paketa and my Santa Cruz Chameleon was remarkable. Although at first these two bikes don’t seem similar, when you look at all the gussets, arches and other reinforcements used on the Paketa, it strikes a close resemblance to the Santa Cruz.

As a test of handling, I took both bikes on my local rocky and rutted technical playground; Bernardo Mountain in Escondido. Riding the Chameleon was like getting repeatedly pounded over the head by a drunken Whack-a-Mole ringer with a ball-peen hammer, whereas the Paketa was like getting lightly tapped on the shoulder by a 3-year old girl with a rubber mallet. It was smoother, faster and more stable than the Santa Cruz by a considerable amount, and the Fox Fit RLC fork was an added plush bonus.

Although the Paketa really opened my eyes to the downhill merits of 29ers, the way up was a bit of a different story. The first time on Bernardo, the Paketa felt like a lot of bike to hump uphill, especially in singlespeed guise. Although I eventually got used to the climbing dynamics of the Paketa, once I got back on the Chameleon, I instantly realized how much easier a 26er was to climb with. And for anyone considering a singlespeed 29er, make sure you get a fork with lockout. Although I’ve never had much trouble donkey punching a climb on a 26er singlespeed with no front lockout, having the lockout off with the Paketa made the difficulty of climbing even more pronounced.

Once the trail turned downhill, the Paketa descended light years faster with a gripload more control than the Santa Cruz. I was descending at or above the speed I would have on my 26er full-suspension Specialized. Just as I was reaching terminal velocity, a rapidly deflating rear tire brought me back to reality, proving that 29ers are no more resistant to pinch flats than 26ers.

An additional revelation to the vulnerability of 29er wheels came to me in Santa Fe, New Mexico, as I was riding the Dale Ball trail network. I came to a very tight, steep downhill switchback, which I probably would have made on a 26er, but the big wheels of the Paketa just couldn’t seem to make it around, and I flopped over at a near standstill. With nothing more than a bruised ego, I remounted to continue, but was flabbergasted to see the front WTB LaserDisc wheel completely bent.

After David Bell at Mellow Velo tried in vain to get the wheel straight again, I realized yet another weakness of big wheels – under-tensioned 29er wheels can fold like origami in the right conditions.

In the tight, technical singletrack of Utah’s Wasatch range, the Paketa was hard to handle. Quick accelerations to get up rock ledges were not happening, and the crank arms repeatedly clipped rocks due to the low bottom bracket design.

But once into some of the fun, fast, flowing singletracks around Durango, the Paketa was a pleasure. Drop-ins and G-outs enabled the Paketa’s big wheels to carry serious momentum into the uphills, and the exceptional damping characteristics of the magnesium frame made for hours of fatigue-free riding.

Gates Belt Drive System

Probably the most eye-catching element of the Paketa was its Gates belt drive system. Ten pedal strokes into my first ride, I knew the Gates system was legit as a singlespeed drivetrain. The utter silence and 100 percent maintenance free attributes already made the Gates system a winner. And although the same belt technology is used on 150 horsepower motorcycles, could it stand up to the much more ferocious, torque-nasty donkey punch climbing power of a mountain biker?

To find out, I took the Paketa to perhaps the most brutal place you can take a singlespeed – Slickrock Trail in Moab. The uphills are literally walls, where if you run out of gear or your strength succumbs to the pull of gravity, you’re rolling backwards down a 30-foot high rock face. Thankfully, Slickrock has more grip than Sylvester Stallone in Over the Top, so it makes the task a little easier, but not by much.

I tried everything in my power to make the Gates system skip and slip, but to no avail. The gear setup was the smallest gear inch ratio available from Gates, a 46:32 combo which equated to about 40 gear inches. I climbed all but 3 sections of the entire Slickrock loop, and the Gates system performed flawlessly.

As I rolled down the pavement back into town, crazy gearhead visions of retrofitting Gates belt drive systems on all my bikes started coming to me. The maintenance-free joy, twice the service life of a chain, over a half-pound lighter than chain driven systems; even the gears turning in my head were considering a switch over to belt drive. But there’s only one problem – in order to make the Gates system work, you either have to have a specially slotted frame or elevated chainstays.

The one area where we didn’t get to test the Paketa was in thick, nasty funkdafied mud. We wanted to see how the Gates belt drive system would handle such conditions, but were unable to find enough goop to give it a valid test. But by just looking at the design of the cogs and chainrings, which feature an open design which would appear to shed mud quite easily, our bet would be that the Gates system excels in muddy conditions. If any of you out there have firsthand experience with the Gates system in mud, please impart your wisdom.

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  • Anonymous says:

    Looks like I know what the word Paketa could mean.

    It’s Russian for rocket. That simple. )

    The way it’s written in all capitals on the downtube, together with that rocket on the headtube badge, it’s almost unmistakable.

    Anyone remember Litech?

  • J. Random Psycho says:

    It was me who made the previous comment (in short, Paketa is Russian for Rocket, written with Cyrillic letters).

    I just found this post on MTBR, back from 2005:

    http://forums.mtbr.com/showpost.php?p=1052583&postcount=5

    Interesting stuff.

  • kam says:

    i’m sorry but that is a horrible paint and graphic job.

  • Jared says:

    Yep, the graphics are horrific. First thing to catch my eye and just lingered through the whole article. A solid powder-coat would even be more appealing.

  • lucyfek says:

    not sure about this Russian link – as far as i can recall it, Rocket would be spelled Pakema in cyrylic

  • Mitch says:

    Does that thing come in any other colors or design? Sheesh that paint job reminds me of my last trip to Pinkberry.

  • J. Random Psycho says:

    lucyfek, you’re partially right. Cyrillic letter T has several renditions. The one you mention, which resembles an “m”, is used for the small letter T in handwriting scripts. What we can see on the frame however, is the capital block letter T, which is rendered just like Latin capital T. It says PAKETA in all capitals.

    On to the paint job. The short answer is, “programmers tend to be horrible UI designers”.

    A team of talented but out-of-touch engineers (especially if they have to deal with the language barrier) can design a superb magnesium frame, but they don’t necessarily have any idea of what is aesthetically pleasing to the common eye. And in severe cases, there is no one near to tell them.

    Even if we drop the language barrier, the out of touch thing still remains, because these engineers most likely come from military contractor circles. That is, they do recognize that their frames have to *kind of* look good. But they don’t understand that it takes a good professional artist to actually do it. They may even have had hired some undergraduate student of fine arts to do their paint scheme, and considered the result satisfactory.

    That is, what we see here is most likely a case of function over form.

    Speaking of function, can anyone see where the driveside chainstay interrupts for belt insertion?

  • Shop Mechanic says:

    Undergrad fine arts student? More like high school freshman in Art 1.

  • J. Random Psycho says:

    This is early times anyway. The luxury of attractive paint jobs shall come later.

    Although I do agree that they should have simply painted the frames in one color. I would totally dig Pixie Blue, for instance. As it is, it seems that they fancy themselves better artists than they really are.

  • M. T. Biehr says:

    Those frames are imported to the USA, not made here. What is “handmade” in Colorado is the assembly of the Russian made frame into a complete bike. It’s fraudulent to suggest this frame is handbuilt in Boulder when it’s not.

    Why is MTBR always so full of misinformation?

  • Nick Wigston says:

    In response to M.T.Biehr.

    You are confusing Paketa with another company. All Paketa frames are made at our custom shop in Broomfield, which is a Boulder suburb. All materials in every Paketa frame were extruded in denver at a large manufacturer of magnesium material. The custom yokes are CNC machined right here in Boulder, from US made Magnesium material. I can even send you a photo of JP Burow, the owner, building a tandem in the shop. JP builds every frame custom for the customer by hand. You are welcome to come and visit our shop and watch him build a frame if you don’t believe me.

  • Kurt Gensheimer says:

    To M.T.:

    So much for MTBR’s misinformation. Sounds like the only misinformation here is originating from your keyboard. “Handmade” and “assembled” are two different words with two different meanings, and a company could be held liable if they advertise “handmade” when its actually “assembled”. Next time check your facts first before posting.

    Kurt Gensheimer

  • Nick Wigston says:

    and check out the website and you’ll see that you can get any color or paint job you want. http://paketabike.com/index.cfm?page=colors

  • max maxxer says:

    Good to see another belt drive offering. I plan on building up my own custom belt drive bike soon.

  • Nick Wigston says:

    the belt is great! I can’t wait till we can run it with a Rohloff hub.

  • Jp Burow says:

    This is JP (owner and frame builder of Pakta Bikes). I would like to reiterate that all tubing is extruded to my specifications, cut and welded by me personally in the Boulder area. These are not the Russian frames of old, this is an all American project. If anyone is interested in seeing the operation or riding a frame, please don’t hesitate to come on by.

    I will admit that I don’t respond to forums all that often, but is interesting to hear what people are saying about my work. BTW, the paint job isn’t my favorite either, but we have other colors to choose from.

    Thank you,
    JP

  • Kosmo says:

    What a cool idea for a bike. Sounds almost like achieving a soft tail kind of ride without the complexity.

    As far as the review goes, let’s see, the very flexible, smooth riding 29er climbed slower than the super stiff 26er because it had 29 inch wheels; 29er wheels are no more resistant to pinch flatting than 26er wheels because you got a pinch flat going faster downhill on the 29er hardtail than you do on your Specy 26er dual suspension bike; and an under-tensioned 29er wheel tacoed on you when you crashed because 29er wheels are inferior?

    No wonder 29ers are such a dying breed! :-)

  • Jonathan P says:

    I have been riding a handmade in colorado Paketa road frame froms everal years now and i can’t say enough what an amazing ride the Paketa Magnesium is. I tell all my buddies riding high-end carbon on the road that I will put the Paketa against any carbon any day. Albeit I don’t race and I am a lightweight the Paketa suits me just perfectly. I always imagined a Paketa 29, and under new ownership it is now a reality. When My 401k recovers I will be ordering up a custom Paketa.

    Thank You JP for offering an amazing alternative.

  • sh-wolf says:

    Hey, guys! I`m from Russia!

    Russian “PAKETA” (also “Pakema”) voices [raketa] and means “Rocket”

    Colors of that frame looks like all “post-soviet union” russian design – horrible

    Sorry for my terrrrrrrrible English :)

  • liu says:

    hello,
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    http://www.tradertrade.com

  • J. Random Psycho says:

    sh-wolf, you sum up what I’ve been thinking the instant I saw this bike:

    “Colors of that frame looks like all “post-soviet union” russian design – horrible”

    By the way, I’m not far from you to the north. Preved from the “E” city! )

  • Natedogz says:

    Interesting bike and I like the paint scheme! :)

  • Natedogz says:

    Would have been better to have an experienced 29er SS rider review this bike.

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