Soft… not all are created equal

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Several years ago, at the start of the whole Mountain Cycle thing, I was introduced to a line of cranks that for all intents and purposes were the goods. At the time we were in the market for a crank spec and I was assured that these cranks had been ridden in-house at MC for the best part of a year and proved flawless*. All seemed good.

Fast forward to now and my damn crank creak has returned in earnest. On my last ride I pulled up and gave things a good tug. To my alarm, the non drive side crank arm had developed a more than acceptable amount of flex, enough to make me think the carbon frame had developed a crack in the BB area.

I have been riding these cranks for well over a year now, putting some decent hours into them each week, so they have not been molly coddled. At the same time, being cranks, you’d expect that they would be able to hold up to this amount of use with ease and the last time I pulled them off, I inspected everything closely and I could see, or feel, nothing wrong; the BB bearings spun easily and had no noticeable play. The crank spindle/axle was straight and clean. Still, grab a handful and give the arm a push and there’s the movement. The only conclusion I can come to is that the arm is becoming ‘soft’.

Of course, I don’t mean like a noodle but somewhere, probably in the spindle/arm interface, the material is ever so slightly backing off, creating flex. I just went and checked it again and sure enough, the arm flexes.

This of course brings me back to the thoughts I had when in Taiwan and dealing with people either selling or making stuff that have zero actual real world experience. We’ve all seen the photos of stuff at the big shows, where some intrepid Chinese or Taiwanese manufacturer has decided to have a go at designing something for the bike market, usually to end up with something that is so far from ‘anywhere’ that it’s pure comedy. The same though I have found with component makers who on the surface seem to be offering some very nice product, then only to find that it is totally substandard in one way or another.

Bike ‘stuff’ by, and for, riders.

That’s a term we’ve all heard before and one that has a lot of merit. Same can be said of any field actually. It’s the people that ‘do’ that know. The people that don’t do, well, they are guessing. So while they can take the measurements, drive the software and operate the machines that spit out the parts, there is something missing and that something is usually the years of accumulated in field experience.

I feel this is the case with these cranks I have. Everything is right about them, except that the field time and experience is missing, so all those little things that happen outside in the real world have not been considered. So while they have been good for a year, I now have to strip them off for fear that at some point in time they will let go. Sure, they are ‘lightweight’ crank but so are XTR’s, or any number of other cranks that we all know and love from companies where extensive rider testing is par the course.

So I guess the point of this little bit is that I see the background, provenance if you will, of a company and the people in it, just as important as its ability to actually make the stuff. I personally have always believed that unless the people making a product use it, and use it in true anger, then there is a large question mark over the end result.

These cranks are a testament to this belief.

* Turned out my idea of testing testing was quite different.