12 November, 2010

Grand Cru 110 or Alpina

The question we get is, "Which of the high-end compact double cranks should I put on my new bike?" Since we've been long-time fans of the Sugino Alpina crank and now we make what is seen by many as a competing crank, the Grand Cru 110, it's a question we must often address. The Alpina is regarded by many as the best compact double available today, the successor to the discontinued TA Zephyr. How to choose? I'll try to be objective about this and do a point by point comparison.


Style

This is the most obvious difference between the two cranks. The Alpina is a modern design while the Grand Cru could have been designed in the 1960s. Since this is strictly a matter of taste neither crank has an advantage.

Q-factor

The Crand Cru double has a q-factor of about 140mm; the Alpina's is 159mm. Both use 110mm square taper BBs. So the Grand Cru has significantly lower tread, which some cyclist believe results in less knee pain and a higher power output.

Weight

A 172.5mm Alpina crankset weighs 702g. The Grand Cru 172.5mm crankset weighs 683g.

Chainrings

Both cranks have very well made 110bcd CNC cut chain rings made of 7075 alloy. These have superior wear characteristics compared to the chain rings found on lower cost cranks like the Sugino XD and regular VO cranks. Shifting is great with either, perhaps a touch faster with the Grand Cru. Both are 6-10 speed compatible.

Note that the Grand Cru is also available as a triple, while the Alpina is only a double.

Crankarms

Both cranks have arms that are cold forged and polished. The slightly wider width of the Alpina means that it's probably a little stiffer.

Note that each size Grand Cru crank has different crank arm length, while the various sizes of the Alpina cranks all have the same arm length, but with the pedal hole drilled in a different place. Look at the first photo in the post to see what this means.

Fit and Finish

The close up photos below show the differences better that I can explain; click on them to enlarge. The fit is clearly tighter on the Grand Cru cranks. This is most evident where the the chain rings meet the spider. I'd judge the Grand Cru's polish to be a little shinier, while the Alpina has more of a satin finish.


Cost

The Alpina currently costs $175. The Grand Cru runs $190.

Summary

So there you have it. The biggest differences are style and Q-factor, but these are very significant for many cyclists. If you need a much lower Q or like the classic style, the Grand Cru is the obvious choice. If Q is unimportant and you like the more modern look, or want to save a few dollars, the Sugino is a very fine alternative. It's hard to go wrong.

15 comments:

Eric said...

I think you mixed up the Q-factors.

Gunnar Berg said...

Q-factor?

Anonymous said...

Do you have the Q-factors accidently mixed up? Shouldn't the Grand Cru be lesser than the Alphina?

Chris Kulczycki said...

Thanks all! I did reverse the q-factor numbers. The GC is lower at 140; the Alpina is 159. It's fixed now.

Anonymous said...

The finish on the Grand Cru crank is amazing. It's better than Campy.

GCMoore said...

Gunnar Berg asked what the Q-factor is?

This is explained here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Q_Factor_(Bicycles)

It is often discussed in Bicycle Quarterly, where Jan Heine advocates for a narrower Q-factor (width between pedal attachment points) as providing better comfort and more clearance on turns.

Anonymous said...

gosh, these sure do look nice!

Anonymous said...

You say that the Alpina is a "modern" design but it is simply a newer version of the Specialized Touring crankset from the 1980's.
Sugino made the Specialized one and the resemblance is more than a coincidence. The Alpina does differ in that is has a wider Q.

I thought "Q" was a character in the old James Bond movies ?

superfreak said...

can the logos be removed from either or both cranks. i prefer no logo parts where possible.
thx superfreak

Dale said...

I picked up one of the bargain chrome VO cranks which I'm pleased with but I'm considering a grand cru double or triple as an upgrade or for my next bike. I have a few question around the Q factor issue:

1) My current chain clearance is 5mm and stay clearance is 10mm with a 110mm BB. Would a Grand Cru with a significantly lower Q factor crank fit, or would I need to use a wider BB or shims to make more room?

2)If I need to using a wider BB or shim, how might this affect the chainline? I assume pushing the chainrings out would make it easier to access the small sprockets from the small chainring, but harder to reach the large sprockets from the large chainring?

I have posted a few pictures that might help, plus it's a nice excuse to show how shiny my bike is :-)

http://lh3.ggpht.com/_JHCgjShXLjo/TOAkR37PdwI/AAAAAAAAI44/3_tupCYsBkk/s1024/IMGP5529.JPG

http://lh3.ggpht.com/_JHCgjShXLjo/TOAkEXeNtzI/AAAAAAAAI40/8wX6Dz8EBdE/s1024/IMGP5534.JPG

http://lh5.ggpht.com/_JHCgjShXLjo/TOAkhC4sW-I/AAAAAAAAI48/QLWSQMJkLg8/s720/IMGP5536.JPG

Gunnar Berg said...

GCMoore,
I know what it is. Chris numbers didn't jive. I should have responded earlier. I think it' a contrived issue. It may be good for some people, not for others. Jan is passionate in his beliefs. Q-factor and planing. Don't get me started.

Anonymous said...

Possibly the Alpina will have more ankle clearance from because of the shape?

Jon said...

Thank you for the very informative comparison. I am also curious how the Grand Cru triple compares to the cheaper VO triple. I'd guess it's mainly the chainring material and looks, but perhaps there are other differences. Also wondering if the Grand Cru triple will ever be available in 172.5 like the double.
Jon

Lovely Bicycle! said...

Just a note that on a mixte frame with twin lateral stays, a higher Q factor is usually better - otherwise the insides of one's legs can rub against the stays while pedaling under some circumstances.

I got the Alpina crankset from VO for one of my bicycles and am very happy with it - performance, finish, everything. In the future I will most likely get the Grand Cru as well, for some other bike.

Anonymous said...

Frankly, I'm a little shocked at how poorly the backs of the Alpina are finished. This pictorial is a revelation, I thought the Alpina was the modern equal of the Mighty Tour in finish, I guess I was wrong.