Zealous Division MK1

Thanks to Chris of Yap Bicycle Compania, we’re putting the Zealous Division MK1 “Classic” through a long-term test. Components for the build were selected based on a “budget-performance” criteria.

Zealous Division MKI “Classic” features
(taken from http://zealousbikeco.com/)

  • Patent Pending ‘Eclipse’ split seat-tube design, allowing one of the industry’s shortest 29er chainstay lengths at 415 mm, coupled with a ‘normal’ seat tube angle
  • 31.6 mm dropper post compatible, includes TT & DT hose routing and Reverb Stealth capability. Triple slotted clamp area to avoid point loading and give a more secure clamp force
  • Infinite mud clearance – there’s nowhere for mud to get trapped – genuinely this frame will not clog!
  • Clearance for up to 29 x 2.4 tyres (tested with Maxxis Ardent 2.4)
  • DMR Swopout Dropouts – interchangeable dropouts allow any type of rear wheel to be used – 135mm QR, 142 bolt-thru and even horizontals if you want to singlespeed action! (Supplied as standard with 135mm QR dropouts)
  • IS slotted rear disc mounts, mounted on the chainstay for maximum braking response and clean looks
  • CNC BB shell – Shimano PF BB91 – for super wide and stiff BB area
  • Single ring specific design
  • ISCG 05 chain guide mounts
  • 44 mm headtube gives the ability to run any type of fork steerer (tapered, 1 1/8″ or 1.5″)
  • Designed for 110—130 mm 29er forks. Running with a 120mm fork produces a 68° head angle

  • The unique and eye-catching frame. ➊/➑
  • The graphics are quite conversative, but clean and simple. We like clean and simple. ➋/➑
  • Thoughtful details such as under-downtube cable guides should make for a tidy build. ➌/➑
  • Supposedly no mud gathers here. ➍/➑
  • We will be using a dropper post, so it will be interesting to see how much clearance we will have when it is installed. ➎/➑
  • Swopout dropouts mean we can switch between different axle (hence wheel) standards. ➏/➑
  • This pile of choice components will soon make up a bike! ➐/➑
  • The Shimano XT M8000 groupset was the final piece of the puzzle. ➑/➑


Headset: Brand-X – 44IETS (Sealed, 1-1/8″—1.5″, Tapered)

Handlebar: Brand-X (740 mm, ∅ 31.8 mm, 15 mm rise, 9° backsweep, 5° upsweep)

Grips: DMR Brendog Death Grip (Thin)

Stem: Renthal Apex Stem (40 mm, ∅ 31.8 mm)

Fork: Fox 32 Float CTD Evolution Forks 2015 (120 mm, 1-1/8″—1.5″, Tapered)


Saddle: WTB Volt Race Saddle (Narrow, 135 mm)

Seat post: Brand-X Ascend Dropper Seatpost (120 mm, ∅ 31.6 mm )

Tires and wheels

Front tire: Schwalbe Hans Dampf Evo – SnakeSkin (29″, 2.35″, Folding Bead, PaceStar) Specialized S-Works Ground Control 29″ x 2.3″

Rear tire: Schwalbe Rock Razor Evo – SnakeSkin (29″, 2.35″, Folding Bead, Pacestar) Replaced with Specialized S-Works Ground Control 29″ x 2.1″ because the 2.35″ Schwalbes rubbed against the seat stays.

Rims: WTB Asym i-29 TCS (32-hole, 29 mm inner rim width)

Hubs: DT Swiss 350s (Front: 15/100 TA, Rear: 12/142 TA)

Spokes: Sapim – 3-cross lacing (Front: 291 mm (L), 291 mm (R), Rear: 290 mm (L), 292 mm (R))

Nipples: 14 mm Sapim Polyax Brass


Pedals: DMR Vault Flat Pedals

Groupset: Shimano XT M8000

Chainring: 34t

Cassette: 11-speed, 11—42t

Derailleur: GS cage with clutch

Cables: Shimano OPTISLICK

Brakes: M8000 calipers and levers (Servo Wave / Integrated master cylinder)

Rotors: Shimano Ice-Tech (180 mm front, 160 mm rear)

With all components in, its time to build up a bike!

  • Building our wheels from scratch is really the only, the best and, the most fun way to get the wheelset we want, need and deserve! ➊/➍
  • For this wagon wheel, we’re going with 3-cross asymmetrical lacing on asymmetric rims. ➋/➍
  • Pressing in the bottom bracket bearings. ➌/➍
  • Minor realignment of the rear dropouts, allowing the thru-axle to slide through smoothly. ➍/➍

Fortunately, the process of building the bike was mostly uneventful, so here’s the completed bike.

  • Fully assembled — view one. ➊/➏
  • Fully assembled — view two. /➏
  • Detail view of the cockpit. /➏
  • Detail view of the seating facilities. /➏
  • Weight-check. /➏
  • Fully assembled — side view. ➏/➏

There were some concerns regarding tire clearance between the stays, so the 2.35″ Schwalbes were replaced by some Specialized S-Works Ground Control tires in 2.3″ and 2.1″.

  • A hair’s breadth between the tires and the stays. As tires will naturally squirm while riding, we knew this would be a problem. Change of tires unavoidable. /➍
  • A last bit of customization. /➍
  • Fully assembled and fitted with race essentials — spare tube and CO2, hand-pump and multi-tool (under water bottle cage). /➍
  • Into the bike bag it goes! We’ll test ride it in Vietnam! ➍/➍

Our testing grounds for the Zealous Division MK1 was the rural Hoàng Su Phì district of Hà Giang province in the hilly and mountainous northeastern region of Vietnam, near the Chinese border. A 7-hour bus ride from Hanoi, this spectacular area sees very little tourism. Its rice-terraced mountainsides are full of untouched narrow singletracks that until now have only existed to connect villages and villagers.

Having resisted 29″ “wagon wheels” for the longest time, I was keen to experience how this “new generation” 29er would perform.

  • Re-assembled. Fingers-crossed that the bike fits. /
  • With daily distances ranging from 20–30 km, including some serious climbing, this proved to be an interesting experience considering I’d never ever ridden a bike with 29″ wheels before. /
  • Wagon wheels are fast! I effortlessly sped through 10 km of hardpacked trails, farmland and bamboo plantations. Short 415 mm chainstays meant I was able to stay agile during a fast and rocky 8 km downhill ride! /
  • It was relatively easy to get into a steady rhythm for the 7 km climb out of Nam Sơn to the top of Nam Ai Pass. /
  • Rivers, waterfalls, streams, rocks and roots — 29″ wheels gobbled everything up. I have also become a believer in Specialized’s S-Works Ground Control tires! /
  • After a gruelling 10 km time-trial race, the Zealous is beautifully caked in the day’s terrain. /
  • Mud tends to pool slightly here, but it’s never a problem. In fact, this would be an ideal place to carry an extra spare tube. /
  • Not once did the MK1 get clogged with mud! Considering the mud-fest we rode through daily, this is quite remarkable. /

For those interested in this sort of thing, here are the maps and elevation profiles of the trails we rode.

  • Bản Luốc Pass — Chiến Thắng — Tân Phong village. /
  • Tân Phong – Nam Sơn – Nam Ai Pass (Heaven Gate) – Nam Hồng. /
  • Nam Hồng (Kinh’s Homestay) – Phìn Hồ tea village – Thông Nguyên township. /

Some snaps from the rides and of the picturesque views we hardly had a chance to enjoy because we were going so fast!

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Why were we in Vietnam?

We took part in a test run for future community-based tourism activities in Hoàng Su Phì, planned by the NGOs Helvetas Vietnam and CRED under the umbrella of the destination management organisation, Vietnam Responsible Tourism (VRT) to promote community-based tourism (CBT) that directly benefits disadvantaged people in rural areas of Vietnam. Hoàng Su Phì and nearby Cao Bằng are home to many ethnic minorities that have kept their unique traditions but are also one of the poorest people in Vietnam. In addition to riding awesome trails, we also rolled up our sleeves and helped the local ethnic minority village build a sealed concrete road – part of which you can see under the blue tarp in the first picture above. The event took place from 18 to 21 May 2017.

The next event is scheduled to run in October 2017, and will take place in scenic Cao Bằng. Stay tuned!