Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Expensive And Ugly

I recently spotted these new cranks from FSA, the K-Force Light -- which have the distinction of being not only eye-wateringly expensive, but also, eye-wateringly ugly. In fact, they probably incorporate everything that a Retrogrouch could possibly loathe.

According to articles I've seen, the crank is listed at £599, or $750, which is obviously a lot of dough, particularly considering its Taiwanese origins. But also, it raises a question about component and bicycle pricing that I've wondered about before -- whenever I see prices listed in £British and $U.S., they never bear any relationship to exchange rates. Currently, £599 should be over $1000. I don't get how that works, but I suspect someone's getting screwed. But I'm digressing. . .

Like Shimano, and now Campagnolo, the new FSA crank goes to an asymmetrical 4-arm spider, but of course (because this is the bicycle industry we're talking about) the chainrings are not compatible with either Shimano or Campy. In fact, they aren't really a 4-bolt chainring, as there is a 5th bolt hidden behind the arm (which is nestled between the more closely-spaced spider arms, making the 5th bolt pretty superfluous). The 4-arm spider gets touted by Shimano and their converted disciples as a "major improvement" in crank design, and I've read blog and forum comments from the converts proclaiming improved stiffness and "unprecedented power transfer" -- which just proves to me that a lot of people are completely full of s#!%. It also means everyone has to copy it -- but not copy it so much as to make any part of it interchangeable.

The new K-Force Light is made from carbon fiber with hollow arms, so you know it will stand up to hard use. It also has the huge, bloated look of many of today's components, along with graphics that look like something out of Japanese animé cartoons.

As another bonus, the crank comes with the BB386EVO bottom bracket -- which is another of the multiple new bottom bracket standards to be released in the last few years, and requires spacers and adapters in order to fit into frames that aren't designed specifically for it (which, of course, is probably most of them). And like most of these new press-fit bottom bracket "standards," the only thing that's actually "standard" is the creaking that comes when the various spacers and adapters don't really fit right.

So, what do we have here? A stupid-light carbon fiber crank that's incredibly expensive, obnoxiously ugly, with yet another proprietary chainring pattern, that will probably creak when it's installed in any frame that can be adapted to accept it. It's enough to make any Retrogrouch need a Proofide inhaler.


  1. I don't really follow the "latest and greatest race advancements" of this sort, so I'm sure that I'm plenty ignorant on the subject.
    I wonder if CF cranks are to be considered disposable, like CF frames? I wonder how 4 arms can be stronger than 5? I guess CF could be stiffer than hollow/paper-thin aluminum cranks. Is the carbon fiber formed by itself, or is it wrapped around something? All I know is that I'm a pretty big guy, and there is no way I'd trust having the family jewels hanging over a top tube while I'm out of the saddle and climbing with a set of CF cranks...
    Also, if you ride a lot, it seems that cranks get banged around a bit in day-to-day usage. Even if you never drop your bike/ bang it against anything/ etc. you still get rub on the arms from your shoes. CF doesn't tolerate "rub". Look at the crankset on the bikes you ride the most. Any dings/knicks? Imagine a CF crank arm with a few little gouges like that on it. No way you can tell me that's long-term safe.

    Don't even get me started on the crackpot BBs and ever-changing "standards"... I pity the small scale bike shops that have to keep up with those shenanigans. To be fair, though, lots of sports/ hobbies/ activities that require equipment pull stunts like that, not just bike manufacturers.


    1. So, for kicks, I looked on good ole' Google for more info on these things, and I was terribly amused by the complaints of the pedal-mounting-ring-thing (please pardon my technical jargon) turning loose/ spinning in the crankarms after awhile. Ahaha, $750 cranks rendered useless because a few pennies worth of epoxy failed.

      Also, us Grouchy folk speak to the beauty of old cranks. Decades old. That is something that will be lost with these things. Also: No more drillium.


    2. I hadn't read those complaints -- but that really doesn't surprise me in the least. The review from BikeRadar mentioned how quickly and easily the finish could be marred, which jives with what you'd suggested previously. Waste of money.

  2. I may be wrong, but I think that pound-sterling and dollar prices don't correspond to exchange rates because import duties are higher in the UK (and EU) than they are in the US.

    I agree with all of your complaints. I simply do not understand how people fork over ever-increasing sums of money for stuff that's made in Taiwan or China instead of Europe, Japan or the US, and for materials and construction that aren't meant to least. I guess they have more disposable income (or insecurities) than some of us. Or, perhaps, someone else is buying the stuff for them.

    1. Ahh -- your explanation about import duties is probably right -- I hadn't thought about that. So, when I suggested that somebody was getting screwed, that was still sort of true.

  3. Great blog. The one carbon crank I do kind of like is the one in my LOOK it's a one piece crank like an old dept. store bike, with the same big bearings so you can thread it all through. At least there are a few places it can't creak !