Saturday, September 21, 2013

Low gearing on a road bike - Part 3/3: "Sugino OX601D - The Freedom Crankset"

In the previous part, I considered Sugino OX601D cranks with 44T and 30T chainrings as the best solution for low gearing a road bike. I realized that this option would work better for me, since I can get this crankset with a dedicated 44T ring that is ramped and pinned to work well with modern STI shifters. Should I choose a triple crankset from Shimano instead, I would have to buy a ramped 44T chainring separately.

It is always a good idea to do some research and read other people impressions first. There are a few reviews out there, but not having enough, I contacted Mark from gravelbike.com and bugged him with some questions. Mark was super helpful and convinced me that I was making the right choice. You can read Mark's review about OX601D here. He should know what he's talking about. He does a lot of that kind of riding I would like to do, but lives in a nicer area than mine, with more gravel roads around.
Sugino OX601D on my bike - what a difference!

Having said that, I decided to buy these cranks and try them on my Poprad. For $330 with free shipping and a bottom bracket included, this looked like a pretty good deal. I also ordered a 28T chainring separately ($16) and decided to replace the original 30T one at a later time. The original smallest ring is not ramped and pinned so technically you can install any one that would work with a 10 speed chain and have a 74mm BCD.

The measured weight is 832g for the crankset (175mm long arms) and 94g for the bottom bracket cups. Compared to my original Bontrager Race GXP cranks the new setup is heavier by 84g, which makes me think how lightweight those Bontrager cranks were (718g for a 46/38T crankset)!

Installation of the new cranks was straightforward but removing the old ones wasn't. GXP cranks are supposed to be self-extracting. Technically, all you need is a 8mm Allen key. The left crank has a large retaining ring threaded into the crank arm. Underneath that ring is the main bolt that secures the left crank arm to the spindle. By unscrewing that bolt the left crank is supposed to be pulled off the spindle. Well, in my case it didn't really work this way. Once I tried to unscrew the bolt, the retaining ring came out as well. I didn't have a 16mm Allen key needed to tighten that ring back again. I had to visit my local bike store and they were able to finally remove those cranks.

Next, I installed Sugino cranks with their dedicated bottom bracket. That was simple and all I needed to do afterwards was to shorten the chain a bit. I tried to lower the front derailleur as well, but it turned out that I can't really do it since its cage would hit the chainstays. As you can see in the picture below, Shimano 105 front derailleur is clearly not designed for such a small chainring as its cage's curvature doesn't match the 44T ring at all. It's also too long. I am guessing that a cyclocross derailleur such as Shimano CX-70 may work much better with Sugino cranks, as it is designed with smaller chainrings in mind. But despite all this, shifting is very fast and smooth both up and down, likely thanks to ramps and pins on the larger chainring. Also, I didn't have any dropped chain problems at all.

The gearing range these cranks offer when combined with a 12-30T cassette on my bike is simply amazing. For 95% of my riding I can stay in the large chainring. By replacing the 46T in my original cranks with the 44T, I can now use the full range of the cassette much more efficiently. Not only I use the high gear range (12-15T) more often, but also I don't have to shift frequently to the small chainring when riding some hills. Still, knowing that the 30T ring is there and the 1:1 gear is available, I can now easily ride steep hills sitting. No need to ride out of saddle anymore. That's better for my knees.
 
After riding many kilometers with these new cranks one thought immediately came to my mind - "Why none of the big three manufacturers offers a crankset like this?". For an average cyclist, the gearing range Sugino cranks offer is simply amazing and it is difficult for me to understand why an average road bicycle must be purchased with a compact double (50/34T) cranks and a 11-28T cassette at best. Apparently, the Big Three (Shimano, SRAM and Campagnolo) think that people who buy road bicycles are professional racers only. The truth is - most of us don't race and a 50T chainring with a 11T sprocket is simply useless for an average Joe.

Conclusions
I was thinking about writing something smart to summarize my impressions, but then I found out that epicureancyclist has already done it:
The Sugino OX601D Compact Plus‘s best feature is freedom (cue music). Freedom from the tyranny of road racing conventions that muck up cranksets for the rest of us. In all seriousness, it is wonderful to see a crankset that really gives you carte blanche with your chainring choices. It really allows you to fine tune your bike to your style of riding….and they are also compatible with modern STI shifters. You can set up a standard wide range double of 44-30, or even do something crazy like a 44-26! The only real downside is the cost. They are admittedly a bit spendy. However, if you are tired of waiting for Shimano and SRAM to make a crankset for your style of riding (instead of trying to fit into theirs), then the Compact Plus is just the ticket.
My rating
+ Complete freedom with chainring selection! Ever wanted a 44/26T crankset on your road bike? Now you can!
+ STI shifters compatible.
+ Fast and smooth shifting.
+ Low q-factor.
+ Simple installation.
- On the heavy side (926g for a 44/30T crankset and the bottom bracket).
- Simple finish (not polished), although they do look better in real light than in all those pictures on internet.
- Pricey? Yes, but once you start comparing them to all other cranks of this kind (such as Rene Herse, TA Carmina, White Industries VBC) you will realize that Sugino OX601D are... the cheapest.

28 comments:

  1. Can the OX601D be installed on a 2014 Trek Domane 6.2 with 11-cog rear cassette? My biggest concern is the bottom bracket compatibility. Thanks.

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    1. Did you ever get this setup? I'm interested in the same thing.

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    2. Hi Kevin; No, never did; the BB90 bottom bracket was a show-stopper. However, the owner of the LBS where I bought the Domane was concerned about my frustration with the bike. He personally checked my fit on the bike and made adjustments to the saddle height, tilt, and location. Then he installed a 11-36T cassette to go with the existing 34-50T CW. Then he took me out to a steep hill near the shop to observe my pedaling style (high rpm on the drops); he suggested I try a "slow and easy" lower cadence and grip the top of the bar for better breathing. A few weeks later he repeated the tutorial for the whole local bike club. All this to say that better fit plus improved hill-climbing technique has made me at age 79 a much happier Domane owner while pedaling the hills of Sumner County TN; it has given these old legs new life. Hope these comments may give you a different way to look at your situation. This is also a testament to the value of doing business with your LBS instead of buying everything from a catalog or the internet; no substitute for personalized service. Good luck!

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  2. Your Trek has a BB90 bottom bracket. I don't have any experience with this type of bottom brackets but from what I read I can tell that in worst case you would need an adapter from BB90 to a threaded 68mm shell.

    The other concern is that OX601D were designed for 10 speed chains while yours is 11 speed. But many people run 11 speed chains on 10 speed cranksets successfully so that may not be an issue. Otherwise, you would need OX901D crankset that is designed for 11 speed chains.

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  3. Thanks for suggesting the OX901D; Google searches turned up the Sugino site for specs, and Alex'sCycle for purchase source, both in English language. Could not find source for the BB conversion adapter; I'll discuss with my local bike shop. It's a shame Trek didn't design their 50/34 compact CW to be easily converted to 46/30 for hillier terrains. Thanks for your service.

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  4. Such a great product, I was looking for such a crankset for years! Can you please measure the exact Q-factor? Thanks!

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  5. @Klemm
    Sorry for not reporting on this earlier. Measuring q-factor precisely is a bit tricky but I'm getting about 143-144mm for my cranks.

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  6. Hi there. Question: Sounds like one can use any standard 74 BCD chainring for the inner based on your article (you swapped the 30T for a 28T). I'm wondering if one can use any standard 110 BCD chainring for the outer ring - or does it require a specific chainring only for this crankset. Thanks!

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  7. Anyone using this crank in an 11-speed Shimano setting?

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  8. @sittingduckfinefurniture
    Replacing the stock 74BCD chainring is trivial. The larger, 110BCD one is a bit more tricky to swap.
    Technically, you could replace it with a standard 110BCD chainring, but you would lose all ramps and pins that are machined on the stock chainring. Any other chainring would likely work too but shifting performance would suffer a lot. Soma online store sells replacement outer chainrings for OX601D: http://store.somafab.com/suoxch.html

    @Malte
    I was wondering the same thing - can OX601D with standard chainrings be used with a 11-speed chain? I have no answer to this but not too long ago Sugino introduced a dedicated 11-speed crankset: OX901D. Unfortunately, its availability in the US is very limited.

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  9. I installed the OX601D on my Volagi with Ultegra. I am running an 11 speed chain, 11 speed cassette, Ultegra 11 speed STI levers, FD, and RD. Went together beautifully.

    I have a braze-on derailleur mount and had to move the FD very low. Used the WickWerks Fit Link to do it https://wickwerks.com/products/fit-link-adapter/. This made for a very clean install. I set it up with a 40/26. Everything shifts perfectly–better than the Ultegra cranks which were 50/34. I can use 21 of 22 gears with no rubbing: all rear cogs from the larger chainring and all but small/small with the inner chainring. Of course, really only the largest 5 cogs make sense with the inner chain ring.

    It looks great and works perfectly.

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  10. @Lewis Levin
    Glad to hear that is works for you well. I'm currently using 11sp 105 STI levers and 11sp 105 derailleurs but I'm still on 10sp Ultegra chain and cassette. I was wondering how well OX601D would work with 11sp chain, as this crankset is technically designed for 10sp only. Good to know that it runs fine. Thanks for feedback!

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  11. Hi i have put the ox601 onto my synapse whixh has shimano105, it is far from ideal and goes out of true after a long ride. I need lower gearing though for my challenge: cycling 1600 miles length of norway, not a flat country. I note you refer to the cx70 front derailleur, forgive my stupidity, would it be possible to even try this on my 105 set?

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  12. @J j
    I'm not sure if I understand correctly, but if you use compact crankset such as 105 with 50T/34T chainrings, you have two options:

    1) Replace crankset with something like 48/32T or 46/30T. These are now more common (check FSA or SRAM) than few years ago when I wrote this post.

    2) Replace cassette with 11-32T or 11-34T. You may need a new, long-cage rear derailleur for this to work well.

    The CX70 front derailleur was only 10-speed compatible. It won't work with 11-speed Shimano STI shifters.

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    Replies
    1. Hi thanks for replying.
      Do you think that the sugino 44-30 is a non-starter on the 105 11-speed? This is what i fitted, with the adapter for braze on) at first it was ok (the lower 2 or 3 gears on the 44 cog would rattle on the FD, but i would shift to high gear on the 30 anyway), however the set up starts failing after say 70 miles and needs fettling, far from ideal for a 1600 mile trip!

      If i need to bin the sugino then i will, just looking for optimal solution on crank, i dont want to end up changing rest of the 105 groupset.

      Cheers

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    2. @J j
      Wait, OX601D with 44/30T chainrings should work with 105 front mech. Are you sure you have it adjusted properly?

      But there may be a better solution. I currently use these cranks with even smaller chainrings (42/26T) and with 105 ST-5800 11sp shifters. I needed a front derailleur that:
      1) would work with these shifters well and,
      2) would be compatible with chainrings of such a small diameter (regular 105 front mech has too large cage curvature because it's designed for chainrings such as 50T or 53T)
      I found out that Metrea U5000 front derailleur works great. It's fully compatible with ST-5800 and it's designed for 46T chainring so it's better suited for small chainrings on Sugino cranks.

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    3. Cheers, i will try a different FD!

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  13. ....can i ask, do you still use an adapter to the Metrea FD? I am using the Sugomi adapter with the 105 FD currently...

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    Replies
    1. @J j
      Metrea FD seems to be only available in "braze-on" version so, yes, you will likely need a proper adapter.

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  14. Hi and thanks for this info. What rear derailleur and cassette do you use with the 105 ST-5800 11-sp shifters and Metrea FD? I am considering the jump to 11-sp with my OX601D 46/30 cranks, but want to be sure I can maintain a nice low gear (34T) for a tour I have planned this summer. Thanks -

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    1. @SQG
      I use 105 RD-5800 long cage rear mech with SRAM 11sp 11-32T cassette. This works great in combination with 2x11sp 105 ST-5800 shifters and Metrea U5000 front mech.

      If you want to use larger cassette like 11-34T, it may work just fine with RD-5800 but you will probably have to adjust B-screw a bit. If you have problems, there is always WolfTooth GoatLink to lengthen the rear der. hook.

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    2. Good to know - thanks. How about chain rings; if I opt for a smaller inner chain ring, do you think any of the 74bcd ones will work, or should I look for one rated for 10-11sp?

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    3. @SQG
      There is nothing special about inner chainring in Sugino OX601D cranks. Get any you like (10 or 11sp) as long as it fits the BCD and is not smaller than 24T.

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    4. Sounds good. Thanks for your help!

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    5. I found out that a sram 11sp 11-36T cassette doesn't fit on my current hub (Tiagra FH-4600). I have 28 spoke wheels - any idea of a hub that will work?

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  15. My bike has just gone in for the metrea FD swap out (amongst other work) so i'll let you know if it's a success. The sugoni has 'worked', but it requires constant fettling of the FD levers, detracting from enjoying the ride, hoping the metrea over the 105 FD will alleviate this (must say visually they look near identical FD's!)

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  16. Bike is now massively improved with the Metrea FD installed, only the highest 2 gears on the inner/smaller 30t cog rub the FD, but i am on the 44t cog by then anyway. Cheers for the guidance Boston guy....now if ypu can tell John Henry to move all his investment into Liverpool FC that would be great! ;)

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    Replies
    1. I'm glad it worked well for you. Have fun in Norway!

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