It’s no secret amongst the inner sanctum of bicycle frame builders and designers around the world that magnesium can make an amazingly light high-performance bicycle. Magnesium is the lightest structural metal currently available in the world – 34 percent lighter than aluminum and 50 percent lighter than titanium. Magnesium also provides excellent fatigue, denting and buckling resistance, and has the highest known damping capacity of any structural metal – as much as 10 times greater than steel, titanium, or aluminum. Vibration from the road literally disappears within the structure of the frame and never reaches the rider – the smooth ride is truly amazing. Being able to ride longer and with less fatigue are the direct benefits, but the indirect benefits of magnesium might be even more important. Because vibration is not transferred through the frame, a magnesium bike will keep the exceptional initial ride qualities longer than any other bike material.But in order to use magnesium in bike frames, a few key issues need to be overcome: extruding the perfect magnesium tubes, welding these tubes correctly and fine-tuning the ride qualities. After nine years of intensive research and lots of hard work on the drawing board and in the shop, Paketa Cycles has succeeded in doing just that. While there are numerous carbon fiber bikes on the market that are as light or even lighter than a Paketa magnesium frame, none can claim the same level of vibration damping, longevity, and safety in a crash. (Rather than splintering into dangerously sharp pieces, magnesium bends like a good steel or titanium frame would.) Paketa Cycles’ owner is James Peter Burow. Does it get any more Catholic than that? Maybe that explains JP’s almost religious devotion to the arcane science and artistry of building what are arguably among the most exotic, high-technology, custom fit bicycles built today. Hand made; in Colorado; by a native son. Born and raised in Lakewood, and finding life at Fort Lewis College unfulfilling, JP decided to pursue his youthful passion by joining the Winter Park Freestyle Skiing Team in 1987. In the ensuing seven years, he competed as an amateur and professional skier, which left him languishing in the aftermath of three knee surgeries and countless other injuries. JP’s brother, Mark Burow, bought Rainbow Cycle Craft in 1994, a small framebuilding and painting concern in Niwot. Mark brought JP on as a partner and over the next four years, they grew the business doing contract work for many of the big names in Colorado bike manufacturing: Polo Sport, GT, Schwinn, Yeti, Tiemeyer, and Nobilette. In 1998, they bought the Morgul-Bismarck trade name. Times were good for the company, as they built hundreds of bike frames for their numerous clients. Suddenly, in the wake of 9/11 and the recession that followed, Rainbow’s biggest client, Schwinn, ceased operations, much to the dismay of Rainbow and many other suppliers. In the aftermath, one employee of Rainbow left to start a competing operation; then Mark suffered health problems; and the business closed its doors in 2003. One of the first frames finished by Rainbow was that of Boulder’s iconic Lennard Zinn. The frame had hung proudly in the shop for many years. Zinn is one of Boulder’s leading bike builders as well as an internationally-renown bike techie and
author of several self-help books on bicycle maintenance. JP approached Zinn and soon had a job finishing and preparing Zinn bicycles for clients. A few months later, Brian Nelson, the founder and owner of Paketa Cycles, contacted JP and asked him if he’d be interested in trying his hand at welding a magnesium bike frame. Paketa was a four year old business at the time, having begun by importing magnesium frames made by former Russian aerospace engineers. Paketa is now the only company building magnesium bicycle frames in the United States, and after six years, it is still the only company in the world building magnesium tandems. Magnesium is notoriously difficult to weld properly – to make the joints both strong and aesthetically pleasing. JP’s reputation as a world-class welder speaks for itself: when General Motors wanted a prototype magnesium engine subframe for their Corvette and Cadillac STS development program several years ago, they came to JP to perform the precision welding operations because no one does it better! Paketa production progressed for several more years, and in 2009, JP bought the business from Brian Nelson and moved it to Broomfield. Since then, the company has had a steady clientele of high-end road, time-trial, cyclocross, mountain, and tandem bicycle enthusiasts to keep the mills turning and the welding torch burning. Paketa’s tandem bikes have highly customized, ultra-light-weight magnesium frames that can compete head-to-head with the best carbon fiber, titanium, and aluminum bike frames made anywhere. In fact, Paketa offers the lightest production tandem road bike in the world, averaging 23 pounds for a typical build. Custom-made high-end magnesium bikes are not for every biker – just the ones who will settle for nothing less than the toughest yet smoothest ride on the market today. Those discerning bicycle customers will beat a path to Paketa’s door.
From Grand County Living Magazine – reprinted with permission