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Bicycle Cranksets: How, What and Where?


The crankset is the power center of the bicycle. Parts are designed to transmit power from human pedaling to the drivetrain. Thus cranksets must be efficient in energy translation and at the same time support the weight of the driver when standing, or maybe if you persist in bunny hopping… when landing. So buying quality bicycle components, crank arms, chainring and bottom bracket is essential to enjoyable riding. But what is quality?

First it might be important to know what makes up the most common crankset since the number of configurations and combinations is growing at an exponential rate.

2 piece bicycle crank setCranks Arms: This is the essential arm connecting the bicycle pedals to the spindle or axle. There is a left crank arm and a right crank arm, with the later often sold in combination with your front sprockets (chainring) and spider.

Spider: These are the star shaped arms that radiant out from the right crank to hold the front sprockets or "chainring." They can be independently bolted to the right crank arm or forged as a one piece integrated crank arm-spider combination.

Chainring: A fancy name for the front sprockets. Different manufacturers, just like cars, design them with various bolt patterns so it is essential to identify what specifically will work with your crankarm-spider-spindle combination and front derailleur.

Bottom Bracket Shell: This is the tube welded to the lowest point of your bicycle frame designed to accept a set of bearings and the main spindle (bottom bracket assembly). It is typically threaded to accept the bottom bracket assembly. English, French and Italian bikes are NOT all the same diameter or threaded with the same tpi (teeth per inch) thus it is important to get the right match. It is not really part of the chainset, but you must know its specifications in order to replace any components.

bottom bracket assembly with square taper spindleBottom Bracket Assembly: This bicycle part comes in numerous combinations and configurations, but essential includes the drive spindle, a set of bearings and cups that thread into the shell to hold all of these parts in place. This assembly allows the pedals to freely rotate and put power to the chain.

Spindle: The drive axle. It comes in a number of different configurations depending on the attachment link between crank and spindle. It may or may not come independent of the bearing assembly. In two piece cranksets the spindle is attached to the right crank arm. In these cases the bottom bracket bearings and cups are sold separately to match spindle diameter & length.

The Crankset Unit:
Where buying a complete crankset becomes confusing is that these key 7 pieces (2 cranks, spider, chainrings, spindle, retaining cups and bearings) are not always sold in the same way or have one set of sizes.

Today most mid-range bikes consist of a sealed bottom bracket assembly with spindle, sold with matching cups for installation and a separate set of crank arms that match the end profile of the spindle for correct mounting. A list of chainring options is added to complete the chainset. This is considered to be a 3 piece crankset. (2 cranks and one cartridge style bottom bracket)

Current innovations in bicycle componentry have fused the right crank arm to the axle and pre-mounted the matching spider-chainset combination, creating a 2 piece crankset. (they don't really include the bearing assembly as part of the story) (shown in top picture above>

The appropriate sleeve with sealed bearings is threaded into the bottom bracket shell and the right crankarm-spindle combination mounted through these bearings. The left crank arm is mounted on the opposite end of the spindle.

The Campagnolo Centaur Ultra-torque Crankset has taken the conversation one step further splitting the axle at the mid point inside the bottom bracket shell to offer significant weight advantages over traditional solid spindle models.

Read further on this site for information on why and how bicycle parts suppliers and manufacturers continue to tweak these designs for weight, durability and speed gains.

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Products, specifications, and techniques shown are meant as a guide only.

Owners of this site assume no liability for and make no claim to the suitability of any products or information shown, other than to report history of usage, and sharing of knowledge from others.

It is the sole responsibility of the owner to adequately test for suitability and application method for a product..

SITE MAP:Bicycle Parts to Add Speed & Reliability to any Bicycle Repair & Upgrade
copyright Jan. 2007