Stronglight steel cottered cranks
Posted: Friday 12th June 2020
Most of us will be familiar with the ubiquitous Stronglight 49D alloy cranks. This article is concerned with the steel cottered cranks produced by the Stronglight company. Firstly though, a little about the formation of Stronglight.
In the 1931 Milan-San Remo race two riders (Binda & Girardengo) competed using a new design of alloy crank. These were manufactured by a company located in the St Etienne area of France named Ets. Verot-Perin. Many manufacturers had attempted previously to produce an alloy crank but they invariably failed due to breakage. Verot-Perin were the first to succeed.
As far as I have been able to establish, the company had earlier been marketing cranks under the ‘Strong’ brand name. To distinguish the new alloy cranks from the previous designs a new name was adopted. Thus ‘Stronglight’ was born. Much has been written about Stronglight alloy cranks, first sold here by the Constrictor Company of Forest Gate before WW2, and later imported by Fonteyn.
The Fonteyn catalogue of 1950 lists types 32 (alloy – single chain wheel), 49A (steel – double chain wheel) and 49D (alloy – double chain wheel). There is no mention at all of steel cottered crank sets at this date.
However, by 1955 Fonteyn were offering steel cottered 3 arm ‘Competition’ sets (type 55) at 39/6. The Stronglight square taper cotterless sets are covered by Hilary Stones’ excellent article on this subject.
The earliest advertisement that I have seen for steel cottered cranks dates from February 1954. Racing 3 arm steel cranks were offered for sale at 37/6 shillings in an advertisement in ‘Cycling’ by Simplex.
Clearly there was a close co-operation between Simplex and Stronglight from this date as these cranks were regularly advertised by Simplex. This is probably the reason that Stronglight cranks are often found with Simplex chain rings despite there being a full range of chain rings available from Stronglight (seldom seen). By 1956 Simplex were actively promoting Stronglight/Simplex chain sets.
Both 3 pin (4 versions) and 5 pin (4 versions) steel cranks were produced during the post war period.
The 3 pin crank range comprised :
Identification of types 53 and 54 is difficult as they are very similar and carry no clear identification marks. To complicate matters further it would appear that earlier cranks were stamped simply with the word Stronglight whilst later versions have the oval design with ‘Marque Depose’ or in the case of type 55 this and ‘Competition’, below.
By 1956 Ron Kitching was listing a comprehensive list of steel cranks, below.
By 1957 Evian UK Ltd were importing Stronglight products also. A Stronglight catalogue was also produced in 1957.
By this time only one 5 pin cottered crank remained in the range and the 3 pin versions had been reduced to types 52, 54 and 55 only. The Evian (UK) catalogue of 1970 includes a listing for type 55 ‘Competition’ cranks only and I suspect that these may have been phased out soon after this date.
The quality of these products is excellent. Even the cheaper ranges were fully forged rather than having the arms swaged on. Types 53/54 are particularly elegant and worth seeking out. I am unsure when Stronglight stopped manufacturing steel cranks. The company introduced more designs in their alloy range and presumably phased steel cranks out by the early 1960’s