Re: [CR] Zeus... Maybe Simplex was not earlier

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Date: Sun, 30 Jan 2011 21:56:16 -0500
From: "Harry Travis" <>
Subject: Re: [CR] Zeus... Maybe Simplex was not earlier

>From (where a photo of a lovely zeus 2000 rear mech popped up when I visited:)

It is, after all, only appropriate that a brand called Zeus should be surrounded by fantastical myths and legends.

The first of these stories is that Zeus invented the parallelogram derailleur in 1931, many years before the 1951 Gran Sport produced by that Johnny-come-lately called Tullio Campagnolo.

There could be something in some of this story; Nivex had a production parallelogram derailleur in 1938 and I have a 1946 Super Inax Sport parallelogram derailleur in this collection. Parallelogram designs were definitely in the air in the 1930\u2019s and I suspect that there were any number of prototypes being fettled by eager zealots in gloomy sheds.

And there could also be nothing in any of this story; there seems to me to be a curious lack of photographs, press reports or patent applications to back it up.

Harry Travis Pine Barrens of NJ USA

On Sun, Jan 30, 2011 at 9:39 PM, <> wrote:
> Just heard from a knowledgeable person that perhaps Simplex did not
> pre-date Campagnolo with double parallelogram rear der. I could be wrong, I
> have no data on hand to support that idea, just thought I remembered that.
> Will happily defer to someone who knows this detail...?
> Dale Brown
> Greensboro, North Carolina USA
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Jerry Hirsch <>
> To:
> Sent: Sun, Jan 30, 2011 8:22 pm
> Subject: [CR] Zeus...the word!
> First, thank you all for your help. I have a Zeus Suprema frame that is
> Reynolds 531 DB main tubes, Durifort forks and stays and is French threaded
> throughout... ugh. You know what they say about French bikes? "They will
> make you cry." It is from the 1972 to 1974 time period as best as I can
> tell from Zeus catalogs.
> No on to Zeus. By way of background, I am professional business reporter.
> I
> on staff at the Los Angeles Times, where I cover the national auto industry
> and a bit of Southern California car culture. If you have read a story
> about the auto industry and it is not in the Wall Street Journal, the NY
> Times or USA Today, it is a good chance that it was my byline. Even the
> newspaper in Flint, Mich, runs my stuff. Just stick the name in Google and
> you will see.
> I am doing some research on Zeus as part of this project, and since I ask
> question for a living, I don't hesitate to pick up the phone and call
> people
> who have some information.
> All of you know what is left of Zeus by a different name: Orbea. The
> short
> version is this: Zeus started in 1926 near the town of Durango in the
> Basque region of Spain. During the 1960s it gained the reputation of being
> the top volume racing style bike producer and component maker in Spain,
> although there were others. I believe it was family owned, but am still
> doing research on that. Orbea was a bicycle manufacturing cooperative
> located about 20 miles away in a town called Mallabia. It was a volume
> producer of practical transportation bikes and for the most part left the
> racing scene to Zeus.
> Zeus did engage in its own research and development and pioneered the use
> of
> titanium in bicycle components. It also invested time and effort into the
> aesthetic aspect of components characterized by the "Gigante" large flange
> hubs and the big "Z" on the Zeus 2000 rear derailleur and some of the crazy
> hole drilling. It also had some early advance freewheels that were sought
> after. It sold in the home market, Portugal, and some export markets
> including the U.S. A nicely equipped Zeus in the early to mid-1970s sold
> for
> about $360 at retail.
> Zeus, like many of the component makes that are long gone now or are
> trademarks owned by Taiwanese companies, suffered from a lack of
> capitalization to keep pace with Campagnolo and then SunTour and Shimano
> that were big suppliers to bicycle brands during the boom years of the late
> 1970s and 1980s. It was left behind by the mountain bike boom, which
> killed
> road bike sales. Orbea want a stronger presence in road racing and road
> bikes and purchased Zeus and gave jobs to all of its employees in 1991.
> Orbea then produced racing bicycles under the Zeus name. After some years
> it started to put the Orbea name on the frames and leave Zeus to components
> such as seatpost, bars and stem. Orbea tossed the original Zeus tooling
> and
> forging equipment and just started purchasing drive trains from the big
> players. A couple of years ago, Orbea stopped using the Zeus name for any
> portion of its bicycles but still owns the trademark and rights.
> Orbea has been approached to sell the name but has not.
> My sources for this information is a variety of bicycle industry people and
> Orbea executives. I have just started my research so there might be an
> error or two here because I have not yet done my typical fact checking, but
> this is the general tale. There are a variety of tales, all of which may
> be
> myths, that I hope to track down and either verify or debunk, including the
> ripping off Campy patents, subcontracting for Campy, making munitions
> during
> the revolution and WW II, being a Franco project to completely produce a
> "Spanish" bike that could win the TdF. Stay tuned.
> What we can say is that this is a company with a rich and colorful history
> that makes it stand out from some of the other second tier brands and early
> Campagnolo competitors, and that's why it is a fun project for me. By the
> way, all of my other bikes are Campy shifters, drive train and hubs only.
> And only one does not have Campy brakes.
> If you have read all of this and you have a 22.0 110 mm stem for French
> threaded steerer tube and want to sell or trade, please contact me.
> Cheers.
> --
> Jerry Hirsch
> Rossmoor, Calif. USA
> _______________________________________________
> _______________________________________________

Harry Travis