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Bike Page > My Bicycles > Zeus 650b Road Bike Project

Zeus Patch Reproduction...crap. Not quite right...

Ok, I had actually measured first. The fork = 371 mm from axle center to brake hole center, and rear triangle = 365 mm from axle center to rear brake hole center. Which should've meant that if I had brake reach of 76mm and 70 mm respectively, they should hit the rim. The issue is that they don't...

So, check my work: this assumes that the axle center to the rim is the 295mm that is to be expected with a 650b rim (which it is - confirmed that from some of the articles.)

I knew that the stock Zeus brakes were too short. But, after nabbing some Rigida Sphinx 650b 36h rims from Jitensha Studio, appropriate spokes (derived from Spocalc) and buiding up the wheelset, the set of Mafac Racer brakes I found at the bottom of the bucket at Recyclery don't work. Drat.

Plus, setting the rims into the frame makes it look like a serious low rider. Ok, I know the tires will be much bigger, but I don't want to have to lean away from every pedal downstroke...

"...my god, what have I done...?" -- D. Byrne

650B Mailing List back online -
As of 10/1/05, the RBW Saluki email list has been resurrected as a general 650B list - If you have interest in finding out more about this tire size and bicycles designed (or, like this one, adapted) for it, you can sign up here - http://phred.org/mailman/listinfo/650b

Zeus 650b Conversion Road Bike Project

"A 650-b in my bonnet..."
Let's begin from the beginning

Original Evaluation/Condition:
Basket Case.
If you are not familiar with that term, try reading "Rebuilding the Indian" by Fred Haefele.

Zeus Photos - Prebuild:

Dirty Dusty Rusty frameset Seat Cluster - rear view Badgeless headtube
Downtube with Zeus sticker Seat lug detail  
Zeus stamped front dropout Zeus stamped bottom bracket Zeus faintly stamped rear droputs
Box-o-Parts Greasy bits unveiled Zeus Criterium derailleur

A dusty, rusted frameset and a bunch of dirty parts in a box. Still, "Zeus" stamped on just about everything, from the dropouts to the bottom bracket. GW had done a bit of cleanup on some of the parts, as evidenced by the Criterium derailleur at bottom right. The frame needs some refinish work, and I'd like to try to keep the original paint where it exists.

There is a photo of a similar frame on the Classic Rendevous website


Build Notes -

3/30/05 - First Things First:
I'm pretty sure I've gotta find some brakes with the appropriate reach. I've been measuring the brake reach with the nothing attached to the bike. I'd found these Mafac Racer brakes which seemed appropriate, and as near as I could tell, they measured 73mm of reach. But, I do need to set things up and actually see where they line up now that the rims are at least laced up to the hubsets.

4/1/05 - To 650b or not to 650b....
This project has quickly reached the Go/No-Go phase. I've obtained some reasonably hard numbers on a cool morning in the garage. Mounted the rear wheel and set up the Mafac's. By pulling the pads all the way down in the slots, I could get them to contact the rim, but they had to be angled down. They are actually "sweeping" in to arrive at the correct angle, but are definitely bottomed out. They kinda, sorta work. However, the phrase "kinda, sorta" really should not be used with braking systems. It looks as though I need about 5 more to make this work.

I'm also concerned about pedal clearance. Resting on the 650b rims, it looked pretty low, though the crankarm was only placed on the outermost part of the spindle, and there were no tires in place. It also looked low with some 700c wheels I put rested it on, and the rear wasn't even in the dropouts. Because the headset has not yet been installed, I've taken no bb drop measurements. Since I've never actually seen this frame even built up, it's not clear what the frame specs really are.

This may not work .

On the other hand, there does seem to be quite stantial clearance for tires.

Current plan - see if the DiaCompe M750's from Rivendell have another skotch of room in the slots. Otherwise, I know the Odyssey 1999's will do the trick, but they aren't quite the aestethic I was pursuing.

4/2/05 - Trip to the Promised Land
Through the mists, Rivendell was revealed. Ok. Not exactly. It was sunny, and although the (gasp) drive there was marred by a stop & stop bit as the fire department cleaned up a rollover (just past the exit, mind you), my trek to RBW World Headquarters and Lair could hardly be considered arduous. Of course, the first 10 or 15 minutes got spent simply ogling the framesets, both built and immaculate and built and reasonably dirty, as well as lugs and other goodies.

The Dia Compes actually measured out at 83 odd mm's, and with the pads at full reach, they sit rather below the rim. In other words, room to spare. I also spent some time looking at the dimensions of a sparkly silver Saluki, which sat proud front and center in the entranceway (just past the drawbridge...). As near as I could reckon, the crank sits pretty danged low on that one - just about where my very-rough-but-worrisome crank placement had hung. So, I even managed to assuage some of my concerns on that matter.

And I-think-it-was-Brian was very kind when he looked at the frame, which, although isn't the ugliest danged thing I've ever seen, certainly has an overall current condition which might border on the horrific, especially compared to the luciously laquered Rivendell, Atlantis, Saluki and Quickbeam frames surrounding it. He was nice enough to say the color was nice, and comment on the older Brooks saddle. I left with some brakes, a pair of Col de la Vie tires and some newfound optimism.

Needless to say, the project is on. I came home and tensioned up the wheelset.

8/25/05 - Whachu Bean Optoo?
Riding. Ok, I've been chippiing away (literally) at the Zeus a bit as well.

Dremelled, sanded and steel-wooled the bad-paint bits on the frame. Lots of bubled bits that coughed up rust and such, but eventually I removed all of the paint that wasn't going to stay. Then I started making the trek to various paint and hardware stores in search of just the right color. Finally decided that there was a metallic aspect to the color. Of the four cans of spray paint I now own, one is very close, but lacks the metallic. Two of them have the same color name (but clearly different cap colors) of "Forest Green", but are not in the same hue. I tried overspraying the metallic Not-"Forest Green" over the matching Forest Green, but don't like the result. If I absolutely can not come up with the correct metallic color, I'll use the flat paint for the cover-up. I did come across some white detail paint to outline the lugs with.

Ordered white housing from Sheldon. "On the Way."

Been cleaning up the parts - chiselling off some tacky grunge from the chainrings and cranks. Found them to be finished quite nicely, so bought a tube of Flitz metal polish. Non-toxic, no acids, works on everything short of your pet canary... Polished up the inside of one crank arm and found myself staring at my reflection. Whoa. This stuff works. However, it also revealed - in stunning blackish contrast - some imperfections in the finish. So, it was back to the OOOO steel wool, which removed most of that. I've never used the stuff before, and was quite impressed by the mirror-like finish which it creates. Still steel-wooling the clamp-ons, all of which have some corrosion poking through their plating. Haven't been able to do much with the handlebars - they have a dull, oxidized look about them. (Nothing against dull oxen, mind you...) I've been casting about online to try to find other Zeus brake levers, and a handle bar and stem if such can be found (or was made).

Got the wheelset all trued and tensioned. Managed to pull off the fixed cup and remove the nasty grease from the bb. Haven't quite figured out if I want to destroy the rubbery grip cover thing. It bugs me a bit - I think I'd prefer either cotton or shiny cello-type tape. Not that I prefer that in general, I just think it would be consistent with the bike...

Looks like the gearing is a 44/52 up front, and a 14-16-18-20-22 five speed freewheel. Even-Steven...? Whew - after quickly charting it out, the combination ends up to be a reasonably bizarre progression. Kind of like Pretty sure that the BCD is Zeuspecific, but the Recyclery has a number of 5 speed freewheels with various ratios, if I want to regear.

Overall, it feels like everything is moving forward.

9/10/05 - Paint & Polish
Zeus fork repaint - primer stepCurious how many names there are for the wrong shade of green...

I've been to hardware stores, auto parts stores, home improvement centers, home paint stores and anyone who might possibly have a spray paint which might work. The colors which had just the right amount of metallic to them were way off, chromatically speaking, while those with the right hue didn't quite look correct. Ended up where I thought I ought to start - the local hobby and model store. Of course, it's twice as much money (or half as much paint - depends upon your perspective...) It seems as though there's a white underlayer, which is giving the paint its quality.

Still trying to maintain the original finish where it is holding up, so I don't want to strip the entire frame. Instead, I'm hoping to get a close enough match that you can't quite notice it at 5 ft or 5 mph. So, to test the color, I've taped and primed the fork ends. (You can, of course click on the photo to see a larger version.) If this works, I'll have to give some thought as to how to best cover the numerous cleaned spots, while masking as much original finish as possible.

Brooks B-15 Champion - looking betterMeanwhile, most of the other parts have polished up pretty well. The worst of the pitting seems to have occurred on the rivets of the saddle. The photo shows it after a dremel wire-brush treatment and after a reasonably liberal application of Brooks Proofide. The very direct lighting certain exposes every flaw, but I think a little chamois time may be helpful to it.

Zeus guides & bits - all stampedOne of the interesting thing found during this cleaning is the absolute fervor with which "Zeus" got stamped onto every little part. You can see (l-r) the cable guide, the pump retention cap, the cable guides and - yes - the crankbolts all say Zeus. If you look at the "received condition" photos above, you can see that it clearly shows in the dropouts and the bottom bracket as well. Take a look at the crankset/chainring in the box photo as well...

Zeus Crank arms and chainrings - polished upBecause this is how they look now.

A bit of 0000 steel wool and some degreaser, followed by a Flitz metal polish gives a frighteningly sparkling finish. I tested the Flitz on the inside of the crank arm first, and could actually see my own reflection in it. It may be a little too "sparkly", but it'll do for now. It also does make the finish imperfections stand out a bit more clearly. And, I still find myself shaking my head at the gearing.

I'm starting to run out of impediments to the build. The housing has arrived. I found I can actually obtain a freewheel remover which will fit the old Atom which I've cleaned and re-oiled. The one side of the Dare rubber grips actually cleaned up with serious soap and hot water, but the lack of grime actually seems to make it look worse. But, that can be changed at any time. I'll probably scrub up the left side and use it at first, especially if that ends up being the final undone item once the paint step is finished.

9/25/05 - Chromatica
Frequently frustrating, this has been. I had definitely felt that the paint was reasonably close to the factory color. So, I began spraying my layers onto the primer coat and wondered just who the heck had switched my cans... The Kandy Green which had seemed identical turned out to be extremely transparent when applied to the primer. So, I oversprayed a darker color and then began layering to see how close I could get. The result was a beautiful finish that looked quite different from the rest of the fork legs. Current plan is to resand the newly painted tips and try another Kandy coat. Maybe I'll have to put a pinstripe around the color transition area to take the edge off the difference.

The paint step is really the holdup now - I cleaned up the other side of the grip and have really run out of bits to scrub.

Tracy & Tashi & I visited Rivendell yesterday and found a bumper sticker:

I shan't speak for thee
But the bicycle tire for me
Is switft, cushy, stalwart: 650B

Which could be one of the more obscure cycling stickers I've ever owned... But, at least I'm not the only one making odd rhymes about tires.

10/22/05 - Chromatica Part Deux
The paint has again ground everything to a ugly halt. After the multi-coat approach, it simply wasn't the same green. I've been haunting auto parts stores for touch up paints that might work, and had a brief glimmer of hope when a local paint store said they could match it, "no problem!" Got a call from the manager the next day explaining that there was "no way..."

Anyway...came across this site - focused on the factory finishes on Schwinn Sting-Rays and Krate bicycles. The "Campus Green" would seem to be correct, so I'm going to pursue it with him. I've found this photo of a Paramount with the same color, which looks very close. Confidence is high (again.)

Over the past few weeks, I also tracked down an NOS pair of Zeus pedals (still in their bags inside the box). The same person also had a spotless set of cable guide bands, so I can replace the cleaned-of-rust-but-still-pitted set that I have. Thought I found a couple of replacement chainrings which had the same BCD (a wonderfully obscure 118 mm). But upon trying them out, found that Zeus - bless their hearts - used a slightly different spider size. So, even though the BCD is spot on, there's too much material at on the inside of the chainring for them to fit. (No the thickness of the chainrings - the area where the inside of the chainring contacts the spider - I'll have to post a photo...) I'm pretty sure I can grind them to fit, if need be.

There may be an issue with the rear brake hanger. When I put it in the center of the split at the seat tube lug, it is wide enough to prevent the lug from clamping the post. Either a thinner (old stamped steel style) hanger or thicker post (there does seem to be room for a slightly thicker post - the one in there measures out at 25.6mm. I've seen a couple Zeus posts at 25.8. 2 tenths of a millimeter - how much trouble is that going to cause?)

11/02/05 - Chromatica Incompatica
Had a nice chat with Hyper-Formance Ray on the phone yesterday, and have decided to pull the plug on the quest for spray paint. It's always struck me that if the guy trying to sell you something is telling you not to do it, there's a high probability that you should listen.

Ray was extremely negative regarding the outcome of trying to do a spray retouch. He stated that with Kandy-type paints (and this is really what we're dealing with on this frame), it will build up badly outside of the target area - the transition will look horrible and the outcome worse than doing nothing. Did I mention that he was reasonably negative? He recommended a full strip and repaint. When I said that I was trying to keep the original paint where possible, he had this comment,

"Originally, it was perfect. Now, it's just unrestored."

Which actually caused a pretty healthy chuckle, even if I don't entirely accept the perspective. The man's got a point...

So, back to the model store. Bought a bottle of paint which seems to be as close as I can get. Cheap brush. I'll have a go at it this week.

12/03/05 - "...Head out on the Highway"
It's been coming together over the last week as I've grabbed an hour here and there in the evenings.

Before this past week, I had sat down in the too-fast dwindling evening light and daubed the wrong green over the cleaned and bare metal. The color didn't magically match it, and it looks, well, downright ugly when you get up close on it. But, it will protect the frame from the worst of the elements, and isn't too distracting.

Pestered some of the repair folk at the local shops - Mt Tam Bikes to install the headset. Then when I finally gave up trying to squeeze a 16mm socket head into the cranks, the wrench over at Village Peddler. This second episode was impressive because he (a) knew that a 16mm crank bolt wrench need could only be a Zeus issue, (b) was aware of 650B (and properly diagnosed the impetus as the Rivendell Reader), (c) properly adjusted the BB without charging for it, (d) solved the rear brake hanger issue, and (e) was polite enough to even encourage me to bring the bike back around when it was built up...(something about enjoying "weird" projects).

So, with those issues resolved, it began to rise from the parts into a recognizeable bicycle.

Click here to see the Parts List in a separate window.

Zeus 650B Project - brakes & bits

Dia-Compe Brake Clearance Zeus Rear Derailleur detail

However, when cabling up the rear derailleur, I realized that I hadn't a clue as far as the loop size. Figuring it's always easier to make things a bit shorter, I set it up as shown on the bottom left. However, the period photos I'd seen didn't really look like that. After getting a quick response from folks on the iBob list, it got shorted by about 50-55mm's, resulting in the loop at bottom right. The wonders of distributed asynchronous communications.

Zeus Derailleur loop - first try Zeus Derailleur loop - pt. dos

Everything cabled up suprisingly easy. The only hitch for final construction was that I only had 9 speed chains in the parts bin. It worked OK, but was way to finicky in the lower gears to apply any kind of power without some skipping. So, the next (extremely rainy) day, I scooped up some chains and rerigged. By the weekend, I'd scooted up around the short block a few times without complete and utter systems failure, so I felt reasonably confident.

With only one stop for a saddle adjustment, and a couple stops to retighten the thumbscrew on the rear shifter, the bicycle handled well on an inaugural 30 miler. The gearing, as I hadn't mentioned is reasonably insane, but the bike was a kick. Cornering was extremely solid - credit the "pneumatic trail" of the 650B? Of course, the 26cm BB height might assist in that feeling. (Didn't do much pedaling through corners.)

Before rolling out, I snapped a few quick shots of the rideable-but-not-finished Zeus 650B Project Bicycle. The actual ride was flippantly recorded on the cyclofiend.com blog.

Zeus 650B Project - first ride

Zeus 650B Project - Side view Zeus 650B Project - rear quarter view

Gearing Chart
courtesy of Sheldon Brown's Gear Calculator




81.7 96.6
71.5 84.5
63.6 75.1


52.0 61.5

Still to do at this point:
- Outline lugs with white contrast paint.
- Find a slightly larger seatpost (~25.8mm?) - preferably Zeus branded.
- Fenders & Rack?
- Smaller chainrings or larger rear cogs.
- Shoot some photos without a distressingly busy background.
- Mock up a schematic with the frame dimensions.

- Show it to GW and have him recoil in horror...

Other -

In my quest for missing Zeus bits, the fine folk back at YellowJersey.com replied to my questions with this link. It's an interesting collection of NOS bits and components. I ended up buying some other small parts just to get a copy of the product guide. They were great to deal with and very helpful. They also have a small Zeus history page with the backwards Zeus rider photo.

5/15/06 - "Zeus 650B Restoration Version 2.0"
Over the past few months, I've been tinkering again - Decided that the handlebar was supremely uncomfortable and the stem short enough to put my hands behind me. Plus, we had enjoyed the rainiest spring on record in a long time, so fenders seemed essential. I also had a Planet Bike rear rack kicking around which I'd won at the MCBC Big Bike Bash (along with a RBW Candy Bar Bag). In the interim, I had the folks over at Sunshine Bicycle Center tap out the fender mounts (some odd thread on three of them, with the fourth actually unthreaded), and they expanded the seatpost collar slightly to allow insertion of the the Zeus-branded seatpost which I'd aquired.

I'll admit that the bicycle is a bit ugly - but it's pound-dog ugly, not clock-stopping ugly.

Other than the tendancy of the shifter to slip, it is a nice ride. The gearing is goofy (not even cross-over gearing - it's just friggin' bizarre...) but I've decided I can live with it. Still haven't shown it to GW yet, but that will be fun. I've updated photos of it over on the Cyclofiend.com website. Enjoy!


Zeus 650B Conversion - completed 5/15/06

Blog Entry

Cyclofiend.com V1.0

Cyclofiend.com V2.0

Project Addendum - Zeus Bits
Over the period of this project, I tried to change what components I could to Zeus if they were procurable. The change of tire size to 650B complicated this somewhat. One of the side benefits of this was that I've come across various Zeus-stamped or badged bits, and have added these things to the Zeus box. In some cases, like the oddball 16mm crank bolts, it was grabbing the only tool that worked. Sometimes it just was a relatively cheap online auction.

Zeus Pedal Wrench Zeus Decal Set
Zeus Pedal Wrench Zeus Decal Set
Zeus Spoke Wrench Zeus Offset Saddle Wrench
Zeus Spoke Wrench Zeus Offset Saddle Wrench
Zeus Pedals Zeus Pump
Zeus Brake levers Zeus Freewheel Remover
Zeus Brake Levers - Thanks Jon! Zeus Freewheel Remover
Zeus 16mm crankbolt wrench Zeus Catalog
Click for a larger version  
Zeus Product Poster - hi rez version  



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