ZEUS "SUPER ALPHA 71"
A UNUSUAL FIND FROM SPAIN
Though it comes as a bit of a surprise, I have managed to uncover two vintage Zeus bicycles, in my travels. One too big and one too small. I say surprise, because I live in a fairly remote part of Canada. It would seem unlikely, that such bicycles would have found their way to this small community, in days gone bye.
FINDING THE ZEUS "SUPER ALPHA"
I have no idea what model the Zeus is, however; since the component grouppo is near full Zeus "Super Alpha", I will call the bicycle a Zeus "Alpha". As for approximate vintage, best guess would be early to mid seventies. And, once again, there is no remarkable story associated with finding or buying the "Alpha". The bike was purchased new, in the early seventies by a fellow worker. He rode the bicycle for a few years and finally tucked away in a hidden place. There is waited, for nearly a quarter of a century.
I did give the Zeus a full inspection, rebuilding anything necessary, to ensure mechanical soundness. Had I taken the time to thoroughly clean up the bicycle, it would have been very presentable. The Alpha rode well enough, however; I had not learned to appreciate the Old School feel when the Zeus and I kept company. Today, and if the bicycle were a better fit, I just might have kept the Zeus, since it is quite unusual. And I like unusual.
There was no tubing decal, indicating what material the frame and forks were made of. I assume that a high tensile steel, would have been the tubing of choice, for such a bicycle. The drops were Zeus's own, pantographed with the Zeus name, very simple or plain in design and cleanly installed. The Zeus head badge, a brass affair and nicely done, added that touch of class to the old road bike. I like head badges, even though I know that they are a form issue only, and serve to detract from the original intention, of the light weight bicycle. Bolting or riveting a piece of metal that serves no functional purpose to a bicycle, goes against the "keep it light" grain. But I like head badges, some of which are so ornate and interesting that people actually collect them. I even have a box full myself, though it has been a long while since I fed the box.
The unusual 50/45 ring combination, transmits power, through the dripping with oil drive chain, to the five speed freewheel. The spread of the rings is hardly adequate. I fail to understand why such a combination would have been offered, on a non-specialty bicycle. Interestingly enough, the ring spread is nearly identical on my 1975 CCM "Tour du Canada".
Sadly, the Zeus cranks did not match. The non-drive side had been replaced with an unmarked crank, many years earlier. These old crank sets do become available on Ebay, from time to time, but they are pretty rare.
Other than the crank arm issue, the rest of the bicycle was quite original and in pretty good shape. The original owner, a Millwright like myself, believed firmly in good lubrication. In this case, good simply meant lots. The Zeus was coated in still sticky oil and grease. Good! Grease cleans off with relative ease and prevents the formation of rust. And, I don't mind a bit of cleaning when presented with a new and unusual find.
The transmission was Zeus "Alpha". Once again, it worked well enough, but was not capable of executing fast shifts. The Super Alpha series of components appeared to be mostly entry level. I found myself comparing the tranny to an entry level Huret or Simplex. I could even go so far as to compare the system to Campagnolo's entry level Velox series, which once again works well enough, under non-demanding conditions.
The choice of saddle was hardly unusual, opting for the ever so common plastic wedge, that many early seventies bicycles were fitted with. Even thought this saddle looks to be incredibly uncomfortable, it is incredibly uncomfortable. Not necessarily because of the unforgiving shape (this guy will not break in!), but because of the hard plastic used for construction. I have found that the plastic absorbs body heat and then reflects it back into the body. This is hardly an issue, if going to and from the Coffee Place, but it does become very uncomfortable, when saddled for a few hours, or more.
Adding to the level of discomfort defined by the saddle choice, were the "take em as they are" handlebars. Both the handlebars and stem are steel and one piece. By one, I mean the two components are one unit, leaving no opportunity for adjustment and accommodation of individual comfort requirements. The bars can be tilted, neither back nor forward. They are integral with the stem. Not having this adjustment latitude can, and in my case did, create comfort issues. Why Zeus would have chosen to go, with this departure from the norm, is beyond me.
Few pictures remain of the unusual old bicycle from Spain. Though I was most interested in the bike, the first Zeus was sized for a person well over the six foot mark. The original owner stood six four and a bit. I don't!
Then there were the comfort issues associated with the saddle and handlebars. All in all, the bicycle and I, were not meant for each other. However; with a decent saddle set up, I just might have tolerated the fixed bar position. Sadly, the Zeus and I parted company. This neat and unusual old road bicycle now lives out its life in sunny California. Kinda wish I did too.
ZEUS #2 - FRAME, FORK AND SOME COMPONENTS
I had just received a call on my cell phone around ten o'clock, one Saturday morning. My riding buddy was in the Fat Cat's neighborhood, Fat Cat's being a place to eat, offering good food and better prices. "Got time for breakfast - my treat" summed up the message and I, of course, said yes. My chum knows what I like to eat on Yard Sale Saturday mornings and, with that in mind, I asked him to go ahead and order for me. Fat Cat's was only a few minutes away.
I turned the Ranger at the first corner I came to, in an effort to get to the restaurant and, wouldn't you know it - a Yard Sale. I had time to stop, but not much, if I were going to avoid eating cold fried eggs, hash browns and toast. But stop I did, more to look at the offered mountain bicycle, than anything else. Needless to say, when I saw no old road bicycle in sight, I asked the Yard Sale host if he might happen to have an old "Ten Speed" that he would be interested in selling. A smile passed quickly over his face and he invited me towards, but not into, the fenced off back yard. Apparently he owned a large dog and did not want to risk a confrontation. Neither did I!
Several minutes later, the fellow shouldered his way through the six foot gate. He was carrying a road bicycle frame set, in one hand, and a wheel set in the other. He also had a couple of plastic bags, in the wheel hand. As he approached, I could not help but notice the art work - ZEUS.
As mentioned, I have run across very few Zeus bicycles, this one being number two. I was incredibly interested and worried. Why was the bicycle disassembled? What was wrong with the bike? There had to be something. Thoughts of bacon, eggs and hash browns were all but gone.
I took a minute to inspect the bicycle and, seeing no structural frame issues, asked how much the fellow would sell the bicycle for. He hinted at fifty dollars. I hemmed and hawed, finally settling on thirty bucks, for the lot. The moment the deal was made, thoughts of breakfast returned. I hurriedly loaded the Zeus into the truck and zoomed off to Fat Cat's.
I arrived, just as breakfast was being served, said hello to my chum and dived in. The food at the Cat's is great and, of equal importance, many guys that I know, frequent the place, on Saturday mornings. It is kind of like a home coming party, every time I go there. I am retired now and it is good to see past fellow workers and friends again.
BUILDING/RIDING ZEUS #2
I never did build the second Zeus up and ride the bike. I did take the time to carefully measure the frame set, in an effort to ensure that nothing was dented, cracked, bent or out of line. For all intents and purposes, the frame set was perfect and required no adjustment at all. Once satisfied the the frame's geometric integrity was intact, I got down to the business of disassembling the bottom bracket and head set, in preparation for a complete and thorough cleaning.
The frame set's mechanical condition was just fine and both the bottom bracket and head set were cleaned, lubricated and installed back into the frame set. Once cleaned, the frame and fork set was offered on Ebay and quickly snatched up.
The winning bidder, an avid Zeus bicycle collector, contacted me even before the auction had ended. He inquired about the component grouppo's availability, that I had mentioned in the auction listing. I frequently offer an original component grouppo with frame sets that I sell. I do this, in an effort to help others, with the street restoration projects, that they take on. Many people appreciate the opportunity to acquire a complete, or partial, grouppo and frequently take advantage of the generous offers.
As was the case with Zeus #1, no decal indicating tubing material or design were documented on the frame set. Other than the Zeus decals that appeared on both sides of the down and seat tubes, the only other decal was one that indicated the bicycle was assembled with "Original Zeus Accessories".
The frame set a reasonable level of craftsmanship, both in construction and finish. The candy red paint was smooth, shiny and evenly applied. The lugs showed no thinness of paint, a common problem on many vintage bicycles, and a problem that only shows after many years have passed. The BCM lugs, for the most part, blended smoothly into the tubes, as did the forged Zeus "Competition" drops. However, workmanship was not flawless and did leave a bit to be desired, particularly at the rear drops. All in all, a nice enough frame set, but not of the quality that I have come to appreciate.
Sadly, the Zeus head badge had to remain with the original owner. He did have the head badge, but he was not parting with it. I assume that he wanted to keep the badge, as a memento, but cannot really say for sure. I did make note of the address where I bought Zeus #2. I do plan to go back and attempt to get the badge, at a later time. Who knows, the badge just might be available when I do. I might even get the chance to ask the fellow a forgotten question. Does he know of any other old road bicycles that might be for sale?
The lug work on the Zeus was relatively simple, with the exception of the somewhat ornate bottom bracket lug. The seat tube and heat tubes lugs were nothing special, but they did their job well over the years, with no indication of movement or flexing damage. I seem many bicycles with apparent structural failure, at the tube to lug joints. To me this suggests improper fit into the lug, coupled with inadequate brazing or silver soldering.
About the only thing left worthy of comment were the wheel sets and they were really nothing special either. The low flange alloy hubs were void of any marking, whatsoever. The wheels lacked, the commonly appreciated, quick release assemblies, found on most other similar bicycle. Though Zeus hubs are available with quick release assemblies, this Zeus opted for hex head fasteners with integral heavy duty washes. Certainly a positive way to secure wheels but hardly the preferred choice of the time.
Though the hubs were in good condition, the same could not be said for the alloy rim set. One rim in particular was all but shot. In a pinch, I am sure that I could have salvaged the rims but only at the expense of structural integrity. The worst rim was so badly pitted that clean up would have required the removal of a considerable amount of metal, perhaps weakening the structure. Normally, I would not pass this kind of damage on to another person. However; the fellow who purchased the Zeus frame set, wanted everything that came with the Zeus. Even though I did inform him that the rims were shot, he wanted the complete wheel assemblies included in the purchase price of the component grouppo.
Since I have found two Zeus bicycles in Thunder Bay already, chances are another will cross my path, one day. When, or if, it does I hope that the bicycle is complete and either a 54 or 56, either size being quite comfortable for my to ride.
EMAIL: MY "TEN SPEEDS" - firstname.lastname@example.org