22 July, 2008

Sugino's Best


If you asked knowledgeable cyclists what the very best aluminum compact, 110bcd, crank set ever made was, I'll bet the majority would say it's the TA Zephyr. The Sugino Alpina, or Cospea in Japan, would probably be a close second. Unfortunately the Zephyr was discontinued several years ago, but various versions of the Sugino are still in production.

Since there are several versions of the Alpina cranks we asked Sugino to make the best possible model for us. Of course, we wanted cold forged polished silver arms. Sugino also makes numerous grades of chainrings and we speced the finest available, CNC cut chainrings with all the shifting aids for 9-10 speed chains (though they work perfectly with 5-8 speed as well). Then we asked Sugino to polish the rings!

The result is this lovely VO-spec Alpina. 48/34t rings, $165; 110mm BB; Q-factor is around 160mm, about 665gm.

We also received some Sugino chain ring guards, the sort that fit on the crank. They cover 44-46t rings on a 110bcd crank. They will work with any derailleur that has a fairly flat outer cage, like the FSA we stock. On some cranks you may need to file a bit off the little pin that prevents the chain from dropping between the arm and the outer ring, on other cranks you can simply unscrew the pin. $20.

38 comments:

Aaron said...

Hooray! It's here at last! Chris, is there any chance that you could carry the same beautiful chainrings in 50 and 36 so we might mix and match on our own? Please, pretty please?

mpetry912 said...

That is really pretty. Classic design, beautifully finished, and at a very good price. Well Done!

Mark Petry
Bainbridge Island, WA

C said...

Wow, that is probably the nicest looking crank I've seen since the original XTR. Never a big fan of the TA as my ankles would occasionally clip them. My **only** quibble is I wish they used the Sugino crown logo. The polished rings are great. I've never liked the unpolished rings as they tend to look pretty dingy pretty quickly.

darren said...

JIS or ISO taper bottom bracket?

Beautiful crank and rings, would also love to see some a la carte choices. That crank with a 45T unramped polished ring would look nice on my SS commuter bike. And thank you for stocking a 165mm.

Chris said...

Wow--these look great! I only wish the Q was a little less--my knees prefer 145 or so.

Felkerino said...

Triple rings? Next order?

Anonymous said...

Chris: Am curious why you went with the 'modern' logo as well, since you previously stated a preference for the 'crown' version. In fact, didn't the top of the line 'Alpina' come with a discreet laser-etched crown logo, as seen on Jitensha's site?

Chris Kulczycki said...

JIS (Japanese Industrial Standard).

I'm not sure if the triple is still made?

Sugino will use the old logo only if you ask for it. I forgot to ask.

nordic_68 said...

Nice to see you're using the best looking chainrings with the crank. I've bought 3 or 4 Suginos in recent years and would have spent more if this combo was available. Maybe next time.

I sure wish Sugino could find a way to make 32 or 33 tooth rings for the 110mm BCD crank (giving it the low end versatility of the TA). I'm ready to spend money on 46/32 conversions on some Suginos if it was possible.

One more vote for you to carry individual polished rings so we can mix and match in the future. Coulda used the chainguards too but I had to settle for ugly black at the time...

Jeremy said...

Chris- How much will the chainguards be? I'd be interested in one.

Anonymous said...

Gorgeous! If I'm not mistaken, TA made Zephyr in sizes up to 185mm. How about emulating TA and asking Sugino to make a longer crank for us super-tall dudes?

robatsu said...

Love it. Now I don't have to go looking around for old Specialized Flag 110 bcd cranksets, since these look so similar. Of course, those were made by Sugino also, and were essentially the same as the ones they made for Suntour Superbe Pro group.

A couple of wishes:

1) Drilled for a 74 bcd triple? Not absolutely essential, but would be cool.

2) Can we get it without any chainrings? Me, I like a large 52 or 53 on some of my bikes, probably getting VO to carry such chainrings is a little much to ask.

3) Metal/shiny crankarm bolt dustcaps? So much more attractive than the allen/rubber affair on all the modern Suginos.

lamplightsg said...

Wow, what a lovely piece! I like Sugino a little more each day, and thanks for stocking these great looking cranks.

C said...

"Now I don't have to go looking around for old Specialized Flag 110 bcd cranksets, since these look so similar. Of course, those were made by Sugino also, and were essentially the same as the ones they made for Suntour Superbe Pro group."

Except the Suntour models didn't crack! The Specialized crank was pretty but prone to cracking at the spider/arm junction.

jimmythefly said...

Robatsu, I'll buy the 48/34 rings off you. That's the combo I'm riding now and I'd love another set of rings.

Chris, fantastic cranks, thanks for adding the cut/milled rings.

I know this may be specific to each bike, but is there a recommended minimum BB axle length for these, assuming 68mm shell?

robatsu said...

"Except the Suntour models didn't crack! The Specialized crank was pretty but prone to cracking at the spider/arm junction."

Interesting - are you talking about the flag ones or the ones with the typically black squiggly S that seemed to have been produced shortly thereafter? Its only anecdotal on my part, but I have a couple (flag, not squiggle) that I've given pretty rough duty w/no problems. But I'll keep an eye on it.

Anonymous said...

That Q is awfully high. You should have them remake the old Ritchey Logic model. Q of about 130 with a 103 BB.

Ian Dickson said...

I just bought one of these last month and put TA rings on it (50/33). I like it a lot. It could be prettier, but I like that it doesn't have a hidden chainring bolt.

If you were to stock polished chainrings, I would definitely pick some up.

ChrisCullum said...

The Specialized cranks had a stress riser at the spider/crank arm jxn due to a sharp point that can propagate a crack. It can be be filed out in a couple minutes. I think this applies to the "flag" and the "S" models. Campy NR cranks had this problem too, as did the Suntour Microdrive XC Pros.

The Alpina looks nice although it might as well be drilled for a 74 BCD triple that you could leave off if not req'd. The Q is pretty high which is pretty std these days. The rings look great.

BTW the Q factor of the Ritchey is lower but not near 130mm.

BG said...

"If you asked knowledgeable cyclists what the very best aluminum compact, 110bcd, crank set ever made was, I'll bet the majority would say it's the TA Zephyr."

I don't know if the majority would (because most cyclists didn't know it existed), but some would. The TA Zephyr certainly gets my vote. I had one on my old Rivendell. A piece of highly polished jewelry that doubled as a superb bike component was what it really was.

"The Sugino Alpina, or Cospea..would probably be a close second."

Agree, but again, most cyclists don't know it exists. Also, many cyclists today want the bling bling carbon black look. Yuck.

"Unfortunately the Zephyr was discontinued several years ago.."

Yes, a sad occurrence.

"..but various versions of the Sugino are still in production."

Yes, (and) my version of Alpina/Cospea cranksets each weigh in at about 540 grams complete. Not that any of us here are weight weenies (~;

BG said...

Off-topic post:

Since many posting here seem intellectually curious, and because many of us can't afford travel abroad these days what with the beating our dollar takes overseas, I'd like to recommend a travel book I just finished rereading:

"L'Usage du Monde" aka
"The Way of the World" by author Nicolas Bouvier, with illustrations by his travel companion Thierry Vernet.

Perhaps just as Grant carries a few titles over in Walnut Creek, might Chris consider stocking the aforementioned title? I would have no doubt who would carry the best book a-n-d the best selection of hard-to-find bicycle parts for enthusiasts who don't follow the crowd. (~;

Aaron said...

Can anyone point me to 50x36 rings or 50x38 or maybe even 52x38 that are (a) 9-10sp compatible (i.e. ramps, pins), and (b) not black? They don't necessarily have to be polished silver, like on VO's new Sugino, but simply any sort of silver that's decent looking. Oh, and BCD 110, such that it would be compatible with the Sugino Alpina. Thanks.

Chris Kulczycki said...

BG, "The Way of the World" is, indeed, a terrific book, among my favorites.

Karl Matthias said...

Nice!

Tim Mac said...

Nice! The VO product line is progressing at an astonishing clip! I have to agree on the Q factor, though. My knees prefer a Q of 140 mm, which is obtainable with a number of Campy cranks and easily obtainable with my old Ritchey (made by Sugino) cranks. BTW, someone said that the Q of the Ritcheys was 130 mm on a 103 BB and somebody else said "not." The Q on my Ritcheys is 145 mm on a Campy 116 mm Veloce BB. On a Dura Ace 103, it'd be right about 130 mm +/- a couple mm.

Jon said...

That chainguard has me thinking that what would be really cool to see is a 110/74 bcd crank setup as a wide range double using the chainguard as an outer ring, and 44/24 for the middle and inner rings.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the previous posters: the Q-factor is high. I had a Sugino X600, but I dumped them because I felt like I was straddling a horse. But there aren't many squared-tapered, silver compact cranks out there, so these new Suginos are probably the best of the lot.

Anonymous said...

FYI: I got 128mm Q on my Ritchey Double with 103mm Shimano BB. I was using a tape measure since I don't own calipers, so thats' maybe +/- 2mm?
I don't think I could handle 160.
I agree about getting 32/33 rings. I know you can do 33t, but is 32 even possible on a 110bcd?

amabele said...

how about cranks for shorter riders and children? sugino makes some of it's cranks down to 152mm (xd i believe) and they are very hard to get a hold of in the US. might you carry a few of these in triples (with crown logos of course)?

Ian Dickson said...

Sugino does make the XD in 160 and 152, and they are very easy to get in Japan. The guy at my wife's LBS in Tsushima City said that the 152 is considered a child's size, and he recommends a 165 or maybe a 160 for most small women. We got a 160 for my wife (she's 5'2"), and she likes it, but doesn't feel much difference from a 165. But it does improve the proportions of her very small bicycle.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know what the Q-factor is on the XD double crank? Not the new crank, the older one. Sugino's website is less than helpful.

http://www.velo-orange.com/suxddocr.html

Thanks.

Anonymous said...

They seem splendid, but why no 172.5? It's a very popular size and you ought to carry it.

Anonymous said...

Another "Why no 172.5?"

Seriously. Why no 172.5?

Chris Kulczycki said...

Why no 172.5? Because no can tell if a crank is 2.5mm longer or shorter than the length they prefer. Try it in a blind test.

One of the things I have to decide is where to apply VO's resources. Do we buy a case of 150mm, or 172.5mm cranks that only a few people want, or do we apply that capital to getting a new 50mm bcd crank made?

Also, when buying components from a factory we can't just buy a few cranks. The high minimum orders sometimes require that we choose only the most popular sizes. That's why most shops buy from distributors such as QPB or J&B who will sell them just one or two cranks in each size. But those distributors don't import a lot of the components we sell.

Anonymous said...

"Why no 172.5? Because no can tell if a crank is 2.5mm longer or shorter than the length they prefer. Try it in a blind test."

I can. Does it make a difference? - probably not. But I certainly can tell.

Anyway, great looking crank.
Unfortunately the very high Q (for a road crank) will hurt it. I would buy one if the Q is 145 or less.

Andrew said...

Having experimented with a number of different crank sizes, I've come to the conclusion that 5mm increments are very noticeable. I've settled on 160mm for rando riding and commuting and 155mm for touring (the shorter cranks make me gear down and spin - protects the knees during long days with big hills and a load).

So far, Sugino XD, Pro 5 Vis and Zephyrs are the only ones I've found in those lengths. And you don't get much competition on ebay for 160mm Pro 5 vis...

Anonymous said...

I, too, can definitely tell the difference between a 172.5mm and a 170mm crank. I had 170's on a spare bike...I liked the bike, but almost never rode it becuase I had put a set of 170's that I got cheap. The pedaling circle was noticeably different. Found some 172.5's and the bike was far more rideable.

The best analogy that I can think of is this. You can walk all day long with a stride that differs very little. Now, tie your shoelaces together so that they restrict your stride by 5mm, and I'd be willing to bet that you'd spend the entire day tripping all over yourself.

Anyway, I understand the economics of scale and importing a specialty item like this, but I've got to believe that you would sell many more 172.5's than 165's.

nicolas said...

i'm a little late to the conversation, but i just bought this beautiful crank set from velo orange and i'm not clear on how hard to tighten it. it would be great if you could post the recommended torque.