Shimano 600 Groupset

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.

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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.

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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.

Peugeot J-8 Randonneur

Randonneurs are something of a French Classic.  As the name implies, they are for Randonées, a type of sports cycling also known as Brevet or Audax riding. The French term Randonée itself is rather general, literally meaning ramble or trek. The Randonnee style of riding evolved in early 20th century France, and consists of organised rides over long distances (200km or more).  Riders are expected to be self-sufficient and Randonnees may involve an element of orienteering, however there is no competitive element.

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The Randonneur bicycle evolved around the requirement for a sports bike that could be ridden all day long, and carry everything a rider would need. As such they are generally relatively lightweight, with full mudguards, provision for lights and panniers. The resulting machine is something akin to a cross between a road bike and a touring bike, and as such they are very practical everyday bikes, leading to their recent resurgence in popularity.  They could be described as the ‘original hybrid’, and make a great commuting bike for those who prefer a retro aesthetic. Able to handle a variety of terrain and riding styles, they are a good choice for those looking for one bike that fits all.

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Randonneurs had to be able to cope with anything old European roads could throw at them, with surfaces varying from dirt tracks to cobbles. They generally have 650B wheels, which are halfway between modern 26″ mountain bike and 700C road wheels. This allowed them to use fat tyres which would cope on anything from grass to gravel. Lauded by many as a happy medium, 650B is now making a comeback on mountain bikes.

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I found this example at a charity sale, I was instantly drawn to it’s super ’70s orange paint job (reminiscent of Eddy Merckx hour record Colnago – to me at least). It’s actually a youth bike, with a 50cm frame and 650A wheels. 650A wheels are slightly larger than 650B, but take a skinnier tyre , meaning the overall size is very similar (around 650 mm – hence the name).  It was in excellent condition and only needed cleaning and servicing before moving on to its next adventure – even the tyres were still in good condition – which was good news for me as 650A tyres are a pain to find these days!