Paketa Magnesium Belt Drive Singlespeed 29er Review

Pro Reviews

By Kurt Gensheimer

Uppers:

Descends faster than the balance of your 401K
Magnesium frame = light, durable and shock absorbent
Handmade in Boulder, Colorado
Custom built down to the last chainring bolt
Gates belt drive is dead silent and bulletproof

Downers:

Low hanging bottom bracket = rock magnet
Hard to maneuver in tight, technical singletrack
Even though it’s light, still feels sluggish on climbs
Spendy
What, no seat tube water bottle mount?

Ruling: Regardless of the terrain you ride, Paketa offers fully custom, USA-made magnesium bikes with more build configurations than the dollars in our national debt.

There’s this dog in my neighborhood; a golden retriever. He’s psychotic. Every time I roll up the street on my way home from a ride, he hears me coming, leaps from his porch stoop, and sprints towards the fence. He either hears my fat knobby tires humming down the road, or more likely hears my under-lubricated chain and friction-ridded singlespeed chain tensioner.

At first he’s quiet, the only audible evidence of his presence is the jingle jangle of his collar, as he follows me along the fence line hidden by a thicket of oleanders. Then, just as the oleanders give way to exposed fence, he’s in full visible sight, and unleashes his ferocious barker. It’s not so much a bark as it is a frantic, high-pitched yelping which grates on your nerves so much that you want to reach through the fence and strangle him.

If the psychotic barking isn’t bad enough by itself, his snarling sonata grabs the attention of every other fenced-in dog in the neighborhood, setting off a cascade of angry barking which escorts me all the way home.

What does any of this have to do with a bicycle review? Well, the day I rode Paketa’s new belt-driven singlespeed magnesium 29er called the Wac Corporal, for the first time ever, my psychotic canine adversary never came to the fence; he didn’t hear me. Thanks to the Gates belt drive system, I had a quiet, peaceful ride up my street.

The Merits of Magnesium

You’re probably wondering who is Paketa, but more importantly, you’re probably wondering what exactly is a Paketa. Is it like a cheetah or a leopard or something? Or perhaps it means something in Pakistani? Or maybe it’s just someone’s last name? Don’t ask me, I have no idea. Whatever the meaning, Paketa is a custom bike builder located in Boulder, Colorado, and they specialize in only one kind of material – magnesium. Now for those chemistry buffs or air-cooled VW gearheads, we all know that magnesium makes one magnificent light show when ignited. But magnesium’s attributes go far beyond a juvenile junkyard twilight pyromania session.

It turns out that magnesium also makes a damn fine material to build bicycle frames with. According to Paketa’s website, magnesium is currently the lightest structural material in the world; 34 percent lighter than aluminum and 50 percent lighter than titanium. The test bike weighed in at a svelte 24 lbs. In addition, it has the highest known damping capacity of any structural metal, as much as 10 times greater than steel, titanium or aluminum. In other words, it won’t rattle your brain stem loose.

The next natural question would be ‘well if magnesium is so great, why isn’t everyone building with it?’ Well for starters, magnesium isn’t cheap. Then you factor in the difficulty of extruding perfect tubes and welding them in a way which doesn’t compromise strength, it makes for what you would call a niche frame builder market. And Paketa is exactly that, considering you can count on one hand the number of reputable frame builders in the U.S. currently using magnesium.

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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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