The original intent of purchasing my C'Mute was to build a cyclocross do-it-all'er similar to my brother's 20 year old Rock Lobster. My first experience with a cyclocross bike was attempting to ride my brother's scandium Rock Lobster race bike, which, after a few pedals, I gave it back to him. It felt weird, sketchy, and just wrong. Even with a negative first impression, I was still intrigued.
Months later I built myself a Motobecane Fantom Cross Uno, which I undoubtedly fell in love with. I was amazed on how well the bike climbed and actually managed the rocks in Santa Teresa County park so well. But, being a single-speed, it had its limitations, and that's when I decided to build myself a geared cyclocross bike.
My requisites were simple: steel, cyclocross geometry, do-it-all'er. I also wanted to be sure the frame had mounts for racks and lot's and lot's of tire clearance (minimum 700 X 40).
So, off to Googleland I went, searching "steel cyclocross frame" and the Pake C'Mute came up. It became a toss up between this, a Surly Cross Check and a Soma Double Cross. I briefly considered some other, more expensive frames, but cost was prohibitive for me. Looking at the geometry specs, weight and price, the Pake C'Mute seemed to fit the card.
I knew of Pake for their fixed gear frames, so I was confident in the quality and company.
I swapped some parts off my Surly Pacer (which ended up being rebuilt into a sweet road bike again) and had myself a nice, sub 22lb. cyclocross bike. You can check out the initial build here.
Since April, I've changed a few things to make it more suitable for its current job (racing) and they are as follows:
- Ritchey Carbon Fiber Low-Rise handlebar
- Old-school Falcon friction shifter
- 1X8 set up: 34T X 11-32T
- Thompson 130mm stem and Seatpost (the longer stem is to compensate for the switch to a riser handlebar)
- Crank Bros. SL Pedals
- Hutchingson Tubeless Tires with Stan's Sealant (Bulldog in front, Piranha in back)
- Updated Forte Seat
- Anodized Red bits
HOW THE PAKE C'MUTE PERFORMS
General Riding (road and path): I've done a metric century on this bike when my Surly Pacer was in limbo land, and I have to say that it performed beautifully. Most notably was the stability of the bike. I never feel like it's too twitchy or iffy in turns. The fat tire clearance makes a GIGANTIC difference: I think mounting up anything larger than 700 X 32 makes a for nice comfy ride that even the bumpiest of roads can't hamper. I never feel cramped or too stretched out and it climbs remarkably well.
Off-Road Trail Riding: Again, the stability of the design and tire selection makes all the difference here. Continental makes 700X42c cyclocross tires that work just as well as any 26" mountain bike tire (I have them on my Motobecane Fantom Cross Uno). Remember that tire pressure can make or break your ride, so make sure you have your psi low enough to sop up the bumps, but not so low that you are going to pinch flat. Tubeless is a great way to go.
I feel I can bomb and climb with any mountain bike (especially climb). Rock gardens are rough, but if you have the skills to do it, the bike can handle it. Climbing is the true strength of the cyclocross geometry and you will have a great time breezing by mountain bikers in their granny gears.
Racing: I am a C Class racer, first year. So far, I've been consistent with my racing and in contention for the top 10 in points for the CCCX series. This is mostly due to my consistency, because I always finish in the back of the pack.
Racing with the C'Mute has its strengths and weaknesses, and this is where I will probably be the most critical (and it won't even be that bad). I really like the stability, as I've mentioned, but when you have to drop the hammer, the geometry is a bit TOO relaxed for that. The chainstays are a bit long, and it feels like the acceleration is a bit muted. I've moved my wheel as far forward in the dropout as possible, but it still isn't as sharp as the racing frames you see on the market.
Most people will not be using the C'Mute as a racer such as I am. But, it is definitely an option if you want to go out and participate in your local series; the C'Mute can handle it.
The only crashes I've ever had were during races and the sweetest thing about it is I didn't have to worry about some precious $2000 carbon fiber situation. I basically yank the bike out of the bushes, hop on, and keep pedalling.
Racing the C'Mute is definitely doable, but unless you are a Hammerhead, don't expect to win any National Championships with it.
This may be the only drawback with a do-it-all frame. Too racy, it's tough to tour or commute with. Too relaxed, and it's tough to make it a go-fast bike. But this perceived weakness is truly a strength!
The Pake C'Mute is a wonderful idea. Part road, part commuter, part cyclocross bike, part mountain bike - you can truly make it into whatever you want. I feel this frame will be a dependable life-long friend. Its ageless design will never let you down, no matter how advance frame design becomes.
I foresee the C'Mute evolving into many forms and wearing many hats throughout its life with me. While parts and old technology are replaced, the platform will live on forever.