Sunday, April 19, 2009

Strong, Light, Cheap. Pick Two

Bikes and the components associated with them can create a love hate relationship. When your gear is running good it is a love relationship, though I must say a love you don’t talk about a lot. It is a long term relationship, where you know what to expect, know the person (or part) is going to be there. You know exactly what needs to be done to get the relationship to work. Most of the time I don’t really think about the components on my bikes, if they are working there isn’t much thought process involved. Yea, I know to shift into the big ring on my road bike I need to ease up just that little bit on the pedaling. I know on the mountain bike one side of my drive train side pedal feels better than the other, so no matter what I’ll unclip and flip the pedal if I need to. But really most of the time I don’t think about my parts.
I’m long past buying inexpensive parts because they are inexpensive. At this point in my life and cycling career, I’ll spend the extra money upfront and get parts I expect will perform well in all conditions for a long period of time. I ride around 7,000 miles a year, split about 65%, 30% and 5% between road, mountain and cross bikes. I expect the mountain bike to last about 2-3 years, the road bike 3-5 and the cross bike should survive a nuclear holocaust. Sure I need to spend money over time on upkeep so the bikes will last but overall I expect the key components to last and handle riding in all weather conditions, time spent on the trainer and race efforts. So it was with great frustration today I found out my crank on the road bike had seen its last day.
I bought the bike early last April, just over a year of riding, probably 6,000 miles on the bike. I’ve had two “professional” tune-ups on it in that time, plus my normal maintenance (cables, washing, adjusting gears etc). Yet today on my ride I noticed the crank felt strange. I washed the bike and noticed the left crank arm wasn’t tight. I took it off to check, no apparent misuse, no metal shavings, no damage to the spindles. I cleaned everything and tried to tighten back on, still a looseness that wouldn’t go away. I took it to the shop and found out that the metal piece inside the carbon crank arm was not holding. The metal piece that houses the spindles have somehow come unglued (I assume) from the carbon arm, causing the looseness. Upon further investigation the same issue was occurring with the pedal spindles too.
I know I ride hard and I tend to believe that light and cutting edge isn’t always the best choice. Why do I have carbon cranks? Well they came with the bike. I can assure you stronger riders, putting in more miles than I have ridden these cranks, but still I’ve had the problem. If the warranty doesn’t come through I can guarantee that the new crank will not be a composite. One material all the way through designed to last, not be light. As Keith Bontrager has said “strong, light, cheap. Pick two.” Is clearly a factual statement. I’d venture to say FSA would say strong and light are how their components are designed. Today I’d say light. Carbon? Not sure why we came up with that for bikes.

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