Lovely though The Butler is, it is a touch on the heavy side at 24 lbs/11 Kg and over an Imperial Ton on an Eroica style route that weight has a certain penalty. So, a couple of years back I decided to move from the 60s to the 70s for an Eroica compliant #2 Vintage Steed. The target was either a Colnago or Gios and I happened on an already restored Gios frame in the right size and Brooklyn colour scheme so the deal was done.
The target for the build was not to be hidebound on correct components for a specific year but rather to have a good representation of a Roger de Vlaeminck bike with a few twists to add a bit of bling.
The first consideration was the crankset. Based on my experiences with The Butler that had to be a Stronglight so that I could run a Compact equivalent front end. At the rear it was 126 OLD so a 6 Speed Block. I wanted (needed!) to go to a 28 sprocket and decided on a Pat 83 Campagnolo rear mech just to be a bit different to The Butler.
To my delight I found a Stronglight crankset with Drillium chainrings at a more or less reasonable price and so wanted to match that concept in the Brake Levers. The choice here was a pair of NOS Campagnolo Victory levers. They have the added bonus of being slightly larger than older Nuovo Record and give a modicum of extra comfort. There is also some benefit in having manufacturer supplied Drillium when hauling on the levers and trusting that they are strong enough to be full of holes!
The end effect is per the photographs and the bike is a delight to ride and pans out at 21 lbs/9.6 Kg and has been my partner of choice on 1 Eroica Britannia, 2 Eroica Limburg and Anjou Velo Vintage last year as well as local riding.
The main reason for this article though is to do with Q-Factor/Angle.
One of the things about bikes of the vintage era is that they did not really bother with Q-Factor – at least in the consumer market. So it was quite common (or even normal) to have a different Q-Factor on the drive side and the non-drive side resulting from an Asymetric Spindle.
Where you have a bike with relatively large inner chainring (ie some were around 42T), you need additional drive side Spindle length so that the inner chainring doesn’t hit the chainstays. Typically, the crank on the non-drive side would be closer to the centre than the crank on the drive side. This would become worse as additional chainrings were added going from 5 speed to 10 speed and indeed to the dreaded triple, particularly when upgrading a bike that originally had a single chainring. Thus, you have an Asymetric Spindle in that the distance from the Spindle Bearing Race face to the end of the Spindle differs on each side. The result is that the rider is (or may be) a little offset to one side in the saddle and/or with asymmetric loading on the rider’s hips when in the saddle.
I’m sure there is some science in axle choice but I did find that getting an axle that measured up to a balanced Q-Factor was a bit hit and miss, not least when I discovered thick and thin BB cups – which caused me no end of puzzlement at one point when I bought a BB that came with mismatched cups. Net is that both The Butler and The Gios are set up with a balanced Q-Factor or Symetrical Spindle though that is at the cost of some exposed Spindle inside the crank on the non-drive side that some purists may frown on.
Typically, this does not occur on modern bike which usually have a Symetric Spindle/Crank and the profile of the cranks made such that they blend nicely to the BB.
Anyway, this started me thinking whether or not this was also the case on Pro bikes of the era. Specifically, whether Eddy Merckx had an imbalanced Q-Factor and whether this could have contributed to his lower back issues post his crash in Blois. The difference is not great – maybe a max of 1 cm drive to non-drive size but having some back issues myself I know that keeping alignment is crucial and with the additional power output that Merckx had vs my puny wattage, I have to wonder how his bikes were setup and whether this could have been an issue for him. You can just about see that the Benotto at the start of A Sunday in Hell is quite likely to be asymmetric as the left crank is close to the BB.
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