The Shimano 600 Arabesque crank set, to me and from an aesthetics point of view, is one of the focal points on a vintage road bicycle.  A well made and designed crank set not only defines the drive characteristics but also improves the appearance of the bicycle, perhaps even helping to define its character.  The early Shimano 600 Arabesque crank sets, and there are two styles, are among the prettiest ever made, in my opinion.  The W-Cut machined gears were a special feature, allowing for a more silent and efficient drive train.  And it would appear that many other vintage road bicycle collectors and riders agree.  The Shimano 600 Arabesque components are fast becoming highly sought after on Ebay.  And the prices they fetch reflect this perfectly.  At times, the 600 stuff will sell for more that their Campagnolo counterparts.

Another interesting feature, worthy of comment, was the Shimano "One Key Release" spindle bolt designed to assist in removal of the cranks.  No more need for a special crank set puller. A hex head wrench would do the job.

Couple these engineering improvements with the national business desire to improve quality, a Japanese focus when the Arabesque components were offered, and the result is a truly functional and user friendly component.  To the engineering achievements add the beauty of pantographed scroll work and a brushed alloy finish.  The result a work of mechanical art!  In my opinion, of course.

Interestingly enough, and this once again is my opinion, the Shimano 600 Arabesque crank set appears to be an improved imitation of, both the Campagnolo Nouvo and Super Record offerings.  Look at the differences between each and then compare the similarities between manufacturers.

This Shimano 600 set has, what looks to me like a copy of the Campagnolo Nouvo Record rings, while the set on the Velo Sport "Criterium", wears the Super Record imitation.  Was this an intentional move on the part of Shimano?

Time will certainly tell the story of how sought after these beautiful vintage road bike components become.  I know more than one person who actively seeks out these items, as part of their vintage bicycle interest.  Perhaps others will come to appreciate this marvellous combination of form and function.  I certainly do and I have set one of my favourite bicycles with as complete a grouppo as I could find.  That bike is my mid seventies Sekine SHT270, a Canadian made gem.

The balance of the Velo Sport's component grouppo is every bit as impressive, as the crank set.  All Shimano 600 Arabesque stuff.  These component grouppos are gorgeous, work like a charm and are rapidly becoming collector's items.  I might add, that such grouppos were rarely fitted to lesser mounts.  I cannot recommend these sets enough.  If the opportunity presents itself to acquire such a grouppo for a decent price, buy it immediately.  The value of these grouppos is going up very rapidly.  In today's market, I can sell a Arabesque crank and ring set for considerably more than its Campy counter part.

The 600 transmission is very user friendly, however, it is friction all the way.  By user friendly, I mean that the system is very easy to get used to.  The set is easy to tune and tends to stay in tune for a long time.  Rare is it, that I have to adjust anything on my 1975 Sekine SHT270 and it is Shimano 600 Arabesque equipped.  The rear derailleur is all but a work of art.  Intricate etched scrolls appears in several places, nicely complimenting the beautiful embossed image on the face of the derailleur.  Needless to say, the scroll and embossed theme is carried through to the front derailleur.

Perhaps, one of the nicest things about the transmission, cosmetically speaking, are the shifters.  The Arabesque shifters are about the prettiest I have come across so far.  The only other set that I would, perhaps, prefer are mounted on my seventies something (best guess) Cambio Rino.  The Cambio shifters are hardly ornate but certainly beautiful in their simple and elegant presentation.  Other than the Cambio units, all others pale in comparison to the Arabesque 600 shifter set.

The Shimano 600 brakes do a fine job of slowing the Velo Sport down, however; they are not of Arabesque issue.  Neither the callipers nor the levers are etched with the Arabesque scroll work.  Other than that, the callipers appear to be identical to their more ornate siblings.  The Velo Sport's side pull brake callipers are Old School design, requiring a fair bit of effort to actuate.  However, this is hardly a big deal since nearly all other Old School brake systems feel much the same.  Completing the brake system and somewhat out of place were the Dia Comp brake lever hoods.  My guess is that the originals rotted with the passing of time and simply fell apart, not an uncommon occurrence for most old brake hoods.

And while on this subject of Old School brakes, it is rare that I find a brake set, standing head and shoulders, above the rest.  The absolute best feeling, and working, Old School brake system, I have used to date, has to be the wonderful Shimano Dura Ace stoppers, mounted on my 1972 Motobecane Grand Record.  And these 600 stoppers come in a close second, but then so do Campy side pulls.

The early Shimano 600 head set was also a treat to behold but a nuisance to work on.  To maintain the head set properly, at least one special tool is needed to fit the unusual shaped fittings.  I have never even seen one of these tools and I have been keeping my eyes open for quite some time now.  If and when one surfaces, I will do my best to add it to the tool box.

It is not a good idea to just grab the fittings with a pair of pliers or the like.  The head set is almost all soft alloy which does add to the lightness factor but also makes the unit more fragile to work on.  The alloy material is easily damaged, if care is not taken during maintenance.  All that said, the head set is a beautiful piece, works very well and certainly blends in, with the rest of the 600 grouppo.

The Velo Sport Criterium is a very nice bicycle.  Made of quality materials, apparently constructed with care and fitted with quality components speaks well of the bicycle's pedigree.