In 1971 Shimano introduced a professional quality rear derailleur, the Crane, to compete with Campagnolo racing models. The Crane was the first step towards Shimano dominating of the pro peloton from the ’90s onwards (for 2014, 10 of the 18 UCI World Tour teams use Shimano components.) Shimano pulled out all the stops, constructing it almost entirely from Aluminium, and priced it accordingly. In order to increase appeal, they also launched a part steel model, called the Titlist (pronounced Title-ist like the golf brand – stop sniggering…) The Titlist was a great success with leisure cyclists, and in 1976 it was tweaked a little and relaunched as part of a new Shimano 600 Groupset. The 600 Group was renamed 600 Ultegra in 1988, and the 600 part dropped in 1998. The Crane derailleur would similarly become part of the Dura-Ace group.
The idea of a coherent groupset for leisure cyclists was a new one in the ’70s. Components were individually assembled from a variety of smaller European manufacturers; Weinmann or Mafac brakes, SunTour or Simplex derailleurs, T.A. and Stronglight chainsets are just a few examples. Now weekend cyclists could kit themselves out all from one manufacturer, making them look and feel a lot more pro.
I came across this first generation 600 groupset mounted on a Coppi. Whilst the group was in good condition, the frame is in dire need of a repaint (more on that in a future blog.) I opted to sell on the 600 groupset as I don’t think a Vintage Italian racing bike should have Shimano components, even if they are period correct.
Whilst the second incarnation of 600 (often called Arabesque due to its patterned finish) may be better known, I love the simplicity of the original group. It’s combination of form and function perfectly matches how I believe bicycle components should be.