Did you know that Sugino makes high-quality road cranks? I mean, not back in the 1980s nor 1980s designs, but right now and in modern external bearing BBs?
A friend of mine brought me a fresh glossy bike mag back from Japan, one unabashedly dedicated to the incorrigibly retro and randonnuer crowd. I spotted the Suino OX801D crankset/BB as a featured item. What’s really cool about the OX801D is that it uses a chainring pattern that they call Compact Plus. Whereas road double cranks are usually standard road 130mm bcd (smallest ring=38-39T) or compact 110mm bcd (smallest ring=34T), these cranks are made in such a way that the inner ring can be mounted on either 110mm or 74mm bcd, which drops the lowest ring tooth count to 24T.
This Compact Plus+ pattern allows a bike fitter to mimic the wide ratios of old TA Specialties Cyclo Touriste cranks, something that the retro and randonneur gearheads are always yammering on about. However, if a bike outfitter planned to use the OX8-1D on a modern drivetrain, then the chainring selection would need to accommodate the capacities of the derailleurs. As such, it would be best to stick with a 16T range between the chainrings. Still, that would mean combinations like 46/30T would be possible. I’ve always been a spinner, but for touring or casual but still brisk riding I could do nearly anything with a 46/30 if I had an 11-28 on the back.
What’s nice is that Sugino chose to use well established bolt-circle-diameters for the rings, rather than create oddball patterns like Shimano and Sram are doing with their mtb double cranks. The OX801D inner ring’s 74mm bcd is as old as dirt as for road and mtb crank granny rings; 110mm bcd is used for road compact doubles as well as an older mtb standard. Also attractive is the Sugino product’s very low Q-factor (pedal stance) compared to other external BB cranks. I wish that this crank had been available when I did my tour across Japan in 2007. I hated the wide Q-factor of the Shimano triple crank; plus I had to replace the double front STI shifter with a downtube lever to accommodate the required triple shifter on the left.
These cranks are currently distributed in the US by Merry Sales. However, I was disappointed to find out that OX801D is only offered here in 50/34 or 48/34 combinations, since those combinations don’t take advantage of Compact Plus’ potential. Frankly, there are MANY quality alternatives for 50/34 compact cranks that sell less than the OX801D’s hefty $550 retail cost (w/ BB). Of course, you could buy OX801D with the 50/34 or 48/34 rings and then replace them with 46/30 (or 44/30, 42/26, etc), but by then you’ve invested a lot of money. Also, a weird quirk of the market is that there just isn’t a lot of good quality ramped and pinned 46T 110mm bcd rings on the market. Sugino does make really beautiful ramped/pinned/polished 42 through 46T rings, but they aren’t available aftermarket, at least the US.