The BMX is intentionally overbuilt to withstand the rigors of their intended purpose, so manufacturers tread a fine line between structural integrity and usability. Joe Stevenson decided to test the limits of the Eastern Bikes Grim Reaper — with some impressive results.
Joe tells the story: “I’d had this build in my head for years and it turned into a question that, I thought, needed answering: how light can a usable BMX bike be? When the Eastern Grim Reaper was released it got slated. Personally, I think Eastern inadvertently did the BMX world a favor. Frames and bikes had been getting lighter for a couple of years and the Reaper frame was the next obvious step.
“It had weight-saving cutouts everywhere: seat tube, head tube, even the bottom bracket and stay end caps had cutouts, not to mention double butted tubes and what was, back then, an anorexic 4lb frame weight. It all got a bit silly and yes, riders broke them and the slating continued, but what it did was let the bmx world/industry know that ‘enough is enough’. Frame weights started to creep back up and companies went back to putting strength before weight saving.
“In what I suspect was a ‘middle finger’ to critics, Eastern released a very limited production run of titanium Grim Reaper frames. The use of ti brought an already silly weight down to a ridiculous 2.7lbs.
I sourced one of the production frames and began building, using as many lightweight but usable parts as I could. I even stripped many of the powder coated parts to shave those extra few grams. I weighed it on a digital scale and it read 17.11lbs for the full (brakeless) bike. And I could have gone further still.
“The bike felt stupidly light and floaty to ride. The way it squirted forwards when you cranked the pedals was cool, but… it flexed more than a flexy thing on flex day. Honestly, you could preload the frame before you hopped it and it flexed like a spring. I took it riding many times, always letting people ride it to see their reactions. One guy got on it and within minutes was pulling 360 hops on the flat.
“I heard the production of the frames was by a Russian ex-MIG fighter engineer who goes by the name of ‘Batch’. Over the years I’ve seen and ridden some of the most beautifully built frames in the world and this little frame was right up there with them. The build quality was just gorgeous, all the cut-outs were flawless, the welds were smooth, all the threads in the frame were totally accurate and cleanly finished, even the brake posts had been machined from ti. Sitting there looking at it made me think: Whoever built that frame made it a personal thing, the Eastern Bikes Ti Grim Reaper.”
We’ve seen a few of Joe’s immaculate mid-school builds on Cycle EXIF, a look through the BMX archive will reveal them. He’s also just been featured, along with another Cycle EXIF favorite — Ken Spaulding and Zodiac Engineering, in Rad Rides, a fantastic collection of the world’s best BMX bikes.