Pipedream Muchuu frame review£299.00

Alloy trailblazing frame with a hard riding XC character

BikeRadar score3/5

Pipedream has had award winning success in the UK and Asia with its Reynolds 853 steel and titanium Sirius, Scion and Skookum frames and has now used that experience to create a more affordable alloy hardtail. While it’s easier on the wallet, it’s also harder on the trail so should appeal to riders after a more focused rather than flowing ride.

Frame and equipment: options aplenty

The Muchuu (it means ‘in a dream’ in Japanese) is built from triple-butted 6069 alloy main tubes, with double-butted rear stays for a stiff and light structural baseline. As you might expect from a frameset priced this keenly, the features list isn’t as extensive as on more costly bikes. The head tube is tapered for maximum fork control though, with the Gusset headset hidden up inside the lower cup.

There’s an in-moulded gusset on the down tube to spread front end impact loads and cabling is all hidden under the top tube for simple cleanliness. The fittings hurt like hell if you’re shouldering the bike though, so we were glad of the super-low gears from the double crankset at times. The seat tube is sized to be compatible with a wide range of dropper posts but it’s not ported for internal routing and there are no spare cable/hose clips, making a non-remote post such as the X-Fusion Hilo fitted to our sample the tidiest solution. The bottom bracket is a conventional screw-in style for simple, creak free running, but there are no ISCG mounts so you’ll have to use a BB mount chain guide if you want to take that route.

X-Fusion’s velvet fork is a solid 650b performer, but we’d definitely recommend upgrading to the 15mm axle version: x-fusion’s velvet fork is a solid 650b performer, but we’d definitely recommend upgrading to the 15mm axle version
X-Fusion’s velvet fork is a solid 650b performer, but we’d definitely recommend upgrading to the 15mm axle version: x-fusion’s velvet fork is a solid 650b performer, but we’d definitely recommend upgrading to the 15mm axle version

X-Fusion’s Velvet fork is a solid 650b performer, but we’d definitely recommend upgrading to the 15mm axle version

The seatstays are double swerved and the chainstays set up bridgeless to accommodate rubber up to 2.4in wide, and the seat tube clamping slot faces forward to stop wheel spray entering the frame. The cowled dropouts are 135mm QR rather than bolt-through, but you get an easy-adjust post style brake mount. Production bikes will come with a different decal kit, possibly with Japanese Kanji script to reflect Pipedream’s success in Asian markets.

Pipedream rushed us one of its first production frames, so our sample bike came with a mixed bag of kit being trialled. Paying customers will get a build more closely based on the firm's steel bikes. That means the SRAM X9 transmission will be spinning Mavic XM319 rims on WTB hubs rather than our Halo Vapours and the cockpit will be an FSA pairing with a BBB post under the WTB saddle. It’s decent kit but the dimensions are decidedly old school, with a 685mm bar and 90mm stem creating more of an XC race than progressive power steering style feel.

Production bikes will be shod with 2.2in conti trail kings, but they'll be hard, plasticky oem versions that don't inspire confidence on damp surfaces: production bikes will be shod with 2.2in conti trail kings, but they'll be hard, plasticky oem versions that don't inspire confidence on damp surfaces
Production bikes will be shod with 2.2in conti trail kings, but they'll be hard, plasticky oem versions that don't inspire confidence on damp surfaces: production bikes will be shod with 2.2in conti trail kings, but they'll be hard, plasticky oem versions that don't inspire confidence on damp surfaces

Production bikes will be shod with 2.2in Conti Trail Kings, but they'll be hard, plasticky OEM versions that don't inspire confidence on damp surfaces

The X-Fusion Velvet fork uses a QR skewer rather than a stiffer, more secure (but slightly pricier) 15mm axle to connect to the front wheel. That front hoop will be shod (like the rear one) with a 2.2in Continental Trail King rather than the faster rolling X-King we got, but it’ll still be the longer lasting, high speed, hard compound OEM issue, not the softer, grippier aftermarket version.

As Pipedream is based in its own bike shop in South Wales, component swaps are easy to negotiate when you buy. Riders on a really tight budget but still wanting a distinctive rather than mainstream bike can opt for the £1,099 (US$1,772 / AU£2,021 at time of writing) SRAM X5 based bike option.

Ride and handling: no soft touch

With fast-rolling hard rubber and a firm feel through the saddle, grips and pedals, the Muchuu is a responsive, aggressive ride even by alloy standards. Despite a hefty weigh-in, it kept pace well on smoother surfaces and more powerful riders praised the way it transferred all their torque to the rear wheel on less technical climbs. The (literal) kickback is a harsh ride, with rock and root impacts coming hard at you. The back wheel’s habit of shifting around demands far more skill to keep traction on techy climbs and a keener eye for lines to avoid stoppers and tyre poppers on rocky descents. The leaden Gusset brakes on our sample also contributed to a staccato experience when things got choppy and challenging.

The sharp-riding alloy frameset is an aggressive alternative to pipedream’s steel and titanium frame options: the sharp-riding alloy frameset is an aggressive alternative to pipedream’s steel and titanium frame options
The sharp-riding alloy frameset is an aggressive alternative to pipedream’s steel and titanium frame options: the sharp-riding alloy frameset is an aggressive alternative to pipedream’s steel and titanium frame options

The sharp-riding alloy frameset is an aggressive alternative to Pipedream’s steel and titanium frame options

A 68-degree head angle is a fair payoff between surefooted stability and avoiding floppiness on steep climbs and the longish chainstays help keep the front wheel planted. While official-spec bikes might come with a control cramping cockpit combo, our sample also came with a big Race Face Respond bar that eased steering on techier trails. The high BB and plasticky Continentals still made for a nervous feel in high-speed corners, especially if trails were damp. Things were smoother and more connected when we switched wheels for part of the test, but the Muchuu’s character is less playful, more businesslike in standard trim.

Spec as tested

  • Weight: 12.08kg (26.63lb)
  • Frame: 6069 alloy
  • Sizes: 16.5, 18 (tested), 19.5in
  • Fork: X-Fusion Velvet RL2, 120mm (4.7in) travel
  • Headset: First

WHEELS

  • Hubs: WTB Speed TCS
  • Rims: Halo Vapour
  • Spokes: 32 double butted
  • Wheel Weight: 2.14kg F, 2.53kg R (including tyres)
  • Front tyre: Continental Trail King 27.5x2.2in
  • Rear tyre: Continental X-King 27.5x2.2in

TRANSMISSION

  • Crankset: SRAM X9, 39/26t
  • Bottom bracket: Truvativ GXP
  • Derailleurs: SRAM X9Shifters: SRAM X9
  • Cassette: SRAM PG-1050, 11-36t
  • Chain: KMC X10

FINISHING KIT

  • Brakes: Gusset Anchor, 180/160mm rotors
  • Bar: Race Face Respond, 685mm
  • Stem: USE, 90mm
  • Grips: Gusset lock-on
  • Saddle: WTB Volt
  • Seatpost: X-Fusion Hilo manual

This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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