Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Want It Wednesdays: Sweet Wings

This is my second attempt to link a post to Want it Wednesdays. And sorry if I get a little weepy eyed as I cast my mind back to the late ‘90s, it was a sweet spot in my life: I was a strapping young lad, a new father, and my career seemed to have potential. The only thing missing from my life was a 520 gram pair of Sweet Wing cranks; so beautiful that they could actually make the hair on my neck stand up. There were a lot of companies making pretty anodized cranks CNC’d out of aluminum; Sweet Wings were completely different (actually I think Bullseye and Coda had similar cranks but I will simply ignore them to make my story more dramatic, and I’m not motivated enough to research my hunch).

Unlike all the other cranks, Sweet Wings were steel, hollow, and had an integrated bottom bracket. They were the lightest cranks available back then and are light even by today’s carbon fiber standards. The Sweet Stem was a steel quill stem made by the same company which only weighed 180 grams, lighter than quill stems made out of titanium, but that’s for another post. Sweet Wings are so similar to the current Shimano cranks that I have to imagine Sweet Wings, either directly or indirectly, influenced Shimano. That is a nice way of saying Shimano, that juggernaut of a company, stole the design. Sweet Wings remain a coveted retro mountain bike part and I still want a set. A savvy entrepreneur should re-introduce Sweet Wings in the same way BeBop re-introduced their pedals right after I gave up trying to find NOS BeBop pedals and switched everything over to Shimano.

Now that I think about it, I wasn’t really a strapping young lad, I mean, "strapping" and "young" are both relative. Emilie was brand new and charming but changing dippers wasn’t all that much fun, plus a meaningful conversation with her was still 10 years away. A potential career was stressful. My employee’s problems became my problems that I had to deal with in between working on my post graduate degree and taking terrible plant assignments to make myself look good on paper. Hum...the 90's kind of sucked.

I suppose one could make an argument that the Shimano XTR cranks currently on my Tomac are better than Sweet Wings. XTR cranks weigh only 33 grams more and Sweet Wings had significant issues: they rusted, creaked, wore out bearings quickly, the inner race wouldn’t stay tight, and the spider occasionally broke. I’m not aware of any issues with XTR cranks. And you can buy ceramic bearings for Shimano cranks if you are neurotic.

Maybe I tend to glorify the past in my head. On second thought, I don’t want Sweet Wings; I’m pretty happy with the way things are.


  1. Hmmm, I sense a philosophical undertone to this post about cranks. :)

  2. I think that we all tend to glorify the past in our heads Neil.....


  3. Cheers for joining in a Neil. Love the cranks, think its got something to do with that over the top machined spider on it. Ah, the days of steel..........

    I've linked my post to yours now.

  4. Thanks Trevor and Jez; why I get more views from the Old Country than from right here in the States befuddles me.

    Lindsay, I think you know none of my posts are really about bicycling.

  5. Those were cool cranks at the time. I dug 'em also, but never bought a pair.

  6. I have two sets of NOS Sweet Wings cranks that I will be selling. One each 170 and 175, both with instructions and bottom brackets, and both spaced for 70mm bb shell, but normal bb shims can take up the 2mm. Interest?

    1. Please email pics of the 175mm sweet wings. I am interested. My email:

  7. Sweet Wings are on my bucket list but still out of reach for me. It is unfair that anyone owns two sets.

  8. Well Neil you will really hate me then. Actually have 3 sets. 1 mtb and 2 road. :) If you are really interested though in the mtb which presently reside on my cross bike I "might" be willing to part with them. The Q factor is just too goofy and I am not sure about converting them to my under construction single speed conversion.

    Back to the original article. I was friends with Kent and Craig the original designers of Sweet. Two great guys I had the pleasure of riding and racing with. I don't live in So Cal anymore or would still probably be riding with them.

    I never got the specifics because the issue was confidential but there were negotiations back then about a "major" player being involved in buying the patent rights. I do recall them being very close to a deal though but I think it fell thru on the $ offer amount. That's the best information I can offer.

    I recall Craig did very well during the tech explosion so the motivation wasn't there to "sell out" just for the sake of the almighty dollar. It's obvious that their innovation paved the way for today's cranks. There might have been a deal struck but who knows. I do know that whatever was going to happen was not going to be made too public.