Reid Zeus – Godly or Ghastly?
For the last couple of months I have had the Reid Zeus fatbike lurking in my shed, to try and determine what’s what. Reid is a budget brand based here Down Under, but with distribution to Europe and the US. They keep their prices down by selling not only in dedicated shops, but also online. If you have an internet in your house, you can have a Reid on your doorstep in days. Upside? Great value for money. Downside? No swapping parts at point of sale, so buyer beware.
The Zeus is their top level fatbike, and straight out of the box the initial impressions are tasty. Solid looking paint and graphics, full Deore spec handling the shifting duties, Avid brakes… For a thousand of our Australian fun tickets, near enough, you get a fair bit of bike. Some people may choose to comment on the 1 1/8 steerer and 135mm front hub as outdated measurements in a market inventing new standards every three months, but I’ve been riding these numbers for years and the world hasn’t ended yet, so I don’t see this as a great concern. In fact my only real disappointment frame wise was the exposed cable inners under the top tube and on the chainstay. Exposed inners on a bike designed for ugly environments is sooo last century, I thought we had moved past that.
Component wise it was good to see actual Deore on a cheaper bike, kudos there, and the brakes, although not one of Avid’s higher end offerings still stopped you like a brick wall taken under the influence of a dozen stubbies. I was also glad to see 7” discs. I often see 6” discs, the justification being it’s “enough” braking power for the bike. Enough? To me braking power is something that’s not hugely heavy to carry around, you don’t have to use, but if you need it and don’t have it, well, nothing else will really do. Big discs, good work.
This is, however, a bike built to a price point, so compromises had to be made. The two chainrings were less expensive items, and for some reason were a 28/40 ratio, which I felt rather ignored the lower gears. Fine for down the road to the beach for a cruise, fine if you are a whippety racing type, but if you are in gnarly terrain, or old, or fat, or decaffeinated then a few more low gears would be welcome. People talk gear ratios and say “Oh yes, you only lose two or three gears at the bottom end,” but they are the ones I want, they are the difference between riding and pushing, and feel free to call me a single origin soy chai latte sipping gold lame wimp in the comments section if you disagree. I won’t cry. Much.
Budget items also included the contact points, which is not uncommon on bikes looking to shave shekels. Pedals were generic flats, fine if you have a generic foot, but sadly lacking real estate for my size 13 plates of meat, which rather overflowed in all directions. I rode the bike as God intended for a couple of weeks, then swapped them out for something more comfortable and enjoyed the bike so much more for the change. The grips were lock on foam numbers which were fine until about hour three, then started to lack a little give on the epic rides. Lastly, the seat was no doubt designed with someone’s derriere in mind, but that person was not me. I don’t blame the bike for this, I have ridden many more expensive steeds than this which caused me posterial discombobulation, but either way after a couple of hours one began to wonder if it was a saddle or a bag of hammers one was perched upon. Could have been the seat’s fault, could have been my backside’s fault, hard to say.
Hitting the trail the first thing you notice is this bike is short. Short top tube, short stem, and combined with thin grips and a marginal saddle it’s probably not your cross Alaska stretched out epic machine. It is, however, begging to be given a bit of what for, and with stability in spades this is a bike to have fun on. You can chuck it about surprisingly easily, and handling wise it feels comfortable straight away. It corners well, and doesn’t feel twitchy or like it wants to buck you off. No real quirks, just ride. The Kenda tyres grip well, and at 1450 grams they are no light weights, but certainly are not concrete boat anchors. The tubes punch in at 450 grams; some gaffer tape or a ghetto tubeless set up could lose you nearly a kilo off the wheels, and down the track as tyres wear they could be replaced with lighter items to see the bike a kilo and a half lighter all up. Good now, and room to improve. There is also plenty of room up front for a 5” tyre, the fork is palatial, so that’s where I’d be going in the future upgrade stakes. Just because I can.
Whilst there are threads at the rear dropouts, there are no rack mounts on the seat stays, although these things can always be arranged with commitment and imagination. The main triangle is small, so any frame bag would be more of a frame wallet. The fork also is devoid of rack mounts, so this is not really a bike packing machine. It’s more about fun times and foolishness, and I think we’ve all been there.
So where does that leave us? Yes, there are bits of this bike I don’t like, but let’s face it, for ten C notes you’re not getting a five grand carbon confection, and shouldn’t expect it. Having said that, the value for money is undeniable, and I think the bike rides better than it’s price suggests. It can be enjoyed right out of the box, and if you put away a few dollars extra, you could purchase a few bits and pieces to increase your personal comfort. Seats and grips are very personal things, I tend to move mine from bike to bike once I find what I like, and it will greatly enhance your enjoyment of the ride.
I lent this bike to a number of friends to sample, and they all loved it. If you are a hard core fatbiker, this may not be the bike for you, but it’s not designed to be. If you are a casual rider, fatbike curious or just looking for the N+1 playbike, then this is a steed that could bear a little investigation, and may just provide the inroads to a new passion. Look up Reid Cycles on the Net. Then Google “Bigger Sheds”.