Compact road cranksets have been a boon to riders seeking lower gears without the added complexity of a triple chainring setup. The ubiquitous 34/50 combo has proven popular with racers and recreational riders alike. But what about the rest of us? Not everyone wants–or needs–a 50t big ring, and the compact crank’s 110mm BCD (bolt circle diameter) can’t accommodate anything smaller than 34t (33t if you use T.A.’s Zephyr). Alternative solutions have been available in the form of vintage setups such as the T.A. Cyclotouriste and Stronglight 49D (and their copies), but they lack the ramped-and-pinned chainrings necessary for compatibility with modern integrated shifters.
For those riders seeking to break out of the 34/50 box, Sugino introduced the OX801D crankset. Instead of a 110mm BCD, the Japanese company designed their new crankset using 74mm and 110mm BCDs. The dual-BCD design enabled the use of inner chainrings as small as 24t, and the ability to run large chainrings much smaller than the ones usually found on compact-double cranks. To the delight of mechanics everywhere, Sugino spec’d their new crank with ramped-and-pinned chainrings, as well as making it compatible with external bottom brackets such as those from Shimano and Chris King.
There were a couple of gotchas, however. First was the price–over $500 when it was initially introduced. Contributing to the high price were the highly polished finish, and cold-forging and machining the units in Japan. The second gotcha was the extremely limited choice of available chainring combinations in the US (34/50, and later, 34/48). The latter limitation could be circumvented by ordering directly from one of the specialty retailers in Japan, but the price put the OX801D out of reach for many riders (including yours truly).
Then, in late 2012, Sugino brought the OX601D crankset to market. This new model featured the same cold-forged arms as the OX801D, but with a less-costly matte silver finish. To satisfy the pickiest gearhead, the OX601D can be ordered with the customer’s choice of chainring sizes. With a suggested retail price of just under $400 (including sealed bottom bracket and all necessary hardware), the new Sugino crankset is on par (price-wise) with similar offerings from Rene Herse and White Industries.
One of the first things you notice about the OX601D is that the outer chainring mounts inboard of the spider. Positioning the outer chainring this way allows the use of the 74mm BCD for inner chainrings smaller than 34t. On setups where both chainrings utilize the same (110mm) BCD, the inner chainring is attached to the outer chainring via spacers and the large chainring’s mounting hardware. If the smaller 74mm BCD is used, the inner chainring uses a separate set of mounting hardware.
Installing the OX601 cranks and bottom bracket was is easy as any other two-piece unit. The external bearing cups install using a standard, Shimano/SRAM-compatible socket (such as this one from Pedro’s), and the cranks themselves require only 4mm and 5mm hex keys (although I did use a torque wrench to insure that the left arm’s fixing bolts were properly tightened). While the MB-608-II bottom bracket seemed to have less seal drag than a comparable Shimano unit, I couldn’t detect any actual difference once the cranks were in place.
For this test, I installed the Sugino cranks on my Black Mountain Cycles bike, replacing the Shimano R4550 cranks that I normally use. Weight-wise, the OX601D came in at 925g, compared to 900g for the aforementioned Shimano cranks (with Dura-Ace cups, 34/46 chainrings, and alloy chainring bolts). Where the Sugino cranks really shine, though, is their q-factor of 145mm (the Shimanos measure 150mm). Riders who want to maintain a narrow(er) pedaling stance without having to sacrifice modern drivetrain compatibility will be well served by the OX601D cranks.
On the road (and trail), the ramped-and-pinned Sugino chainrings meshed perfectly with my Campagnolo 10s drivetrain. The only necessary adjustment involved raising the front derailleur to clear the larger 48t chainring. Shifting up and down was quick, reliable, and didn’t require any babying on my part. Climbing out of the saddle didn’t induce any unwanted flex (that I could notice), and everything has remained silent. Because the OX601D doesn’t rely on the spider’s width for determining chainring spacing, the crank is compatible with 9-, 10-, and 11-speed systems simply by using different spacers. And while it’s too soon to comment on chainring durability, the 74mm and 110mm mounting patterns ensure a wide range of compatible replacement rings.
Currently, the US importer offers Sugino OX601D cranks in 165mm, 170mm, 172.5mm, and 175mm lengths. Inner chainrings are available in 30t, 32t, 34t, or 36t. Ramped-and-pinned outer chainrings come in 44t, 46t, 48t, or 50t. Shops can order the cranksets through Merry Sales, or you can purchase them directly from SOMA Fabrications.
Disclosure: SOMA Fabrications provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review.