By Adam Newman.
Ventana has been building mountain bikes in California since 1988, one year longer than we’ve been publishing Dirt Rag. It’s no surprise that the two would go well together, and we’ve written about several models over the years, and even took a tour of the factory in Issue #161.
The Zeus is one of two new 27.5 models, the other being the 120mm Alpino. The Zeus is quickly and easily adjustable from 140mm to 160mm by unbolting the top shock mount and flipping a chip insert. That travel is handled by Ventana’s tried and true linkage driven single pivot design, which has graced not only its own bikes but those of quite a few smaller brands and custom builders over the years. The asymmetric chainstays expand tire clearance and increase stiffness, and the main pivot has needle bearings and a grease injection port for longevity.
While the suspension design has remained true over the years, the details at either end of Ventana’s bikes have changed quite a bit. Like most current models, the Zeus sports all the modern touches, including a tapered head tube, dropper post routing, a PF30 bottom bracket shell, internal cable routing, ISCG-05 tabs and replaceable dropouts to accommodate most axle types. Ours is outfitted with the Shimano 142×12 thru axle, a $150 upcharge. It also sports a color-matched black swingarm, a $75 upcharge. One thing you can’t put a price on is quality, and the Zeus wears it like a badge. Electric Sex welds and the Made in America decal—can’t import those.
Ventana has always adapted quickly to new industry trends—especially wheel sizes—and first built the 27.5 El Bastardo with input from 27.5 evangelist Kirk Pacenti. After a few years of slow sales, Ventana’s owner Sherwood Gibson said he was close to giving up on the wheels, citing a lack of quality forks available. Fast forward to last year when suddenly all the major wheel and fork manufacturers rolled out new products and Ventana quickly responded.
While we don’t normally go about changing all sorts of things on our test bikes, but right now it’s sporting wider bars, a shorter stem, different tires, a dropper post, and the carbon Syncros wheels we reviewed in Issue #171. I didn’t quite so guilty about it since Ventana has traditionally only offered frames, but Gibson said they are close to rolling out complete bike packages with stock build kits. While this particular build kit won’t be available, a SRAM XO kit with the same Fox TALAS 34 Kashima fork and Stan’s wheels will retail for $6,223. The frame and shock are $2,295.
With the go-fast SRAM XX kit contributing to it’s go-fast nature, I’ve mostly been riding it in the shorter 140mm “trail” setting. I’ve been blown away by how well the suspension handles pedaling and even standing climbs. In my mind it’s on par with some of the more advanced dual-linkage setups on the market. The 13.4-inch high bottom bracket and 17.0-inch chainstays are also at the lower/shorter end of the 27.5 trail bike market and really makes it respond well to playful, aggressive riding. Yes, a bike is more than just numbers, but compare that with the 13.6-inch high bottom bracket and 17.3-inch chainstays on the Santa Cruz Bronson, while both bikes share 67-degree head tube angles.
Anyway, the Zeus has been a lot of fun, but I’m looking forward to setting the suspension chip to the 160mm setting and letting it rip in “all-mountain” mode. You’ll have to watch for the long-term review in an upcoming issue of Dirt Rag to read about it though. Subscribe today!
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El Saltamones – Issue #157
El Capitan – Issue #133
X5 – Issue #112
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