18 December, 2007

TA "Cyclo Touriste" Cranks Redux


I've written about TA Pro-5-Vis cranks a couple of times; that's the official name of the "Cyclo Touriste" cranks, by the way. We just found and ordered a couple dozen more sets. They've been selling especially briskly since the article by Jan Heine in Vintage Bicycle Quarterly.

Jan thinks they are the best cranks of all time. I won't argue with that, but there are a couple of small errors in the otherwise super article I wanted to correct.

First, Pro-5-Vis cranks have about the narrowest Q factor, or tread, of any crank made. That's a good thing for most of us. In fact some experts claim that most riders pedal more efficiently on low Q-factor cranks. But there is a small percentage of riders who are more comfortable on with a wider crank. You probably know who you are and you should not buy Pro-5-Vis cranks. Simply using a longer bottom bracket, as the article suggests, will throw off your chain line and, in my experience, may result in balky shifting.

The other bit I wanted to correct is that all these cranks did not go to Japan, nor were they re-imported from Japan. You can just look in our stock room to see that.

Which brings us to the bigger issue of, "Will they be made again?" We were told, twice, that the last production run would be it. Forever; period; no more; finished. But apparently this past run sold so quickly that that decision was reconsidered, according to both Jan and my French contacts, and there may indeed be more runs. I'm happy about that since they really are great cranks. But I feel like I misled our customers by repeating what I'd been told about there being no more ever made. My apologies.

Here is what I wrote previously about these cranks:

One reason why so many people like the TA crank is that it has about the lowest Q-factor (width) of any crank ever made. This is because the crank arm is straight and very close to the outer chainring. So front derailleurs that have thick outer plates sometimes hit the crankarm, But all Campy models and many others work. These cranks will work with modern drivetrains, even 10-speed. Another reason to use TA Pro Vis 5 cranks is that they can replace a triple crank when set up as a double. You can run 28t and 46t rings with a 12-27 cassette (for example) and have almost the same range as a triple, but with a lot less overlap. Rings 26 to 68 teeth are available. By the way, TA sells the cranks and rings separately; there are no stock combinations. So why did these wonderful cranks go out of production? The big chainrings, above 50t or so, are too flexible for racing. And they are very expensive.
To the above I'd add that other reasons to use them include: The chainrings are very durable and last a long time while the crank itself won't ever wear out. So you are buying a crank that will probably last you for the rest of your life. And these cranks weigh about as much as modern carbon fiber cranks. (Now that's progress!)

Finally, I've been told that prices for the next production run will be a fair bit be higher.

24 comments:

Michael S said...

Chris,
Two quick questions: are you ever going to stock the bottom bracket for this crank, and what derailleur do you suggest when running a 48-32?

Thanks.

Lesli L said...

One note: Q factor on these is sooo low that it makes using them with a chainguard a little difficult. The crankarm comes back so close to the chain itself that there's not much bonus room for the guard itself.

Andrew Karre said...

I used it very successfully with an old Suntour Superbe Pro front derailleur, but just about anything w/o an overly shaped outer plate will work.

It's a great crank. Just don't forget the pedal washers (says the voice of experience). It is certainly possible to break one without crashing and under normal loads. I'd also dare say that the TA hardware was a little on the soft side (especially for the torque applied to chainring bolts). I've heard that the hardware for the Sugino PX was of better quality.

Glad to hear this crank may live on.

C said...

I'd love to buy a pair but honestly it's hard for me get over the price. The tooling is paid for and finish work on these cranks has to be a lot easier than most thanks to the nice flat surfaces. The design has been around forever so it's not like there are any R&D costs to be recouped. Also nobody races on TA cranks these days so it's not like you're having to pay for a bunch of pro teams as is the case with Shimano, FSA and Campy.

For the same money or less you can get a Centaur or Ultegra set which includes rings, bolts and a bottom bracket. Those cranks, in theory, should be more expensive for many of the reasons above.

I love everything about the TA crank, have sued them on bikes in the past, will likely end up getting a set for my next bike, and I know Chris isn't making a lot of money selling them. That said, I just don't get why they cost so much more than other alloy cranks.

Chris Kulczycki said...

Michael, Maybe. My favorites are Simplex or Campy triple dérailleur. But most dérailleurs will shift that combination.

Lesli, I should have warned you. It took me at least 30 minutes to get my chainguard lined up just right.

Michael S said...

I think you answered my main question: do you need a triple derailleur to make a 16 tooth shift?

mpetry912 said...

I love TA cranks - there is a set on one of my bikes that has been going strong since 1971. A Phil Wood bottom bracket and Campy NR front derailleur complete the package. A cycling classic.

Part of the reason for the high price is the relative value of the currency. Plus the finishing - final mirror polish is by hand, which is expensive. Back in the day, they were cheaper than Campy. Most of the Campys have failed, however.

TA Carmina crank is an excellent unit also.

Mark Petry
Bainbridge Island, WA

jf said...

An other reason for the high price, with the value of the currency, is that - as said often chris - you have to paid our cheese and wine... ahahah
and our hospitals and our schools and... in France we have a lot of taxes because social protection of workers has a price. But we are ok with that.
And i'm sure you are so proud with products "made in the usa" than we are with "fabriqué en France" ;)

BG said...

I'm still ticked at TA for discontinuing the Zephyr.

C said...

The currency argument doesn't make much sense since Campagnolo and TA are both on the Euro these days. Plus other TA items are not priced unusually high. For instance, TA chainrings are actually less expensive than DuraAce or Record. Their water bottles are no more expensive than those from other producers. Go figure.

Really makes me wish I'd kept the pair from my Singer!

zman said...

Boy this is where I'd love to see an investment by VO, Rivendell, Hiawatha etc., buying up a big run of these cranks in 170, 175 and 180mm, you know , enough to make it worth their while to produce them. Or better still, find a way to purchase the tooling or make a near-replica under the VO banner (way expensive, I know). I have a couple of pairs and the versatility is fantastic. I took an old Paramount, installed a 13-23 6sp Ultra w/ a TA 49/26 double and ended up w/ 12 distinct usable gears. Either these or a VO labeled crank w/ 110/74 capability.

Yann said...

I just bought some used TA cranks but I do not know what type of bottom bracket I can use (apart from an old TA one). Do any of the bottom brackets you sell work?

The cranks are French threaded.

thank you,

Chris said...

I'm curious what the deal is with the pedal washers. I never see mention of such with newer designs. Why are they recommended for the TA's? Do cranks tend to crack at the pedal eye if over tightened?

Anonymous said...

You don't need a triple front derailleur to shift a 16 tooth difference of the front chainrings. I have a 46/27 double that shifts fine with a flat-plate ultegra double front derailleur.

TomCat said...

C- said: 'The currency argument doesn't make much sense since Campagnolo and TA are both on the Euro these days. Plus other TA items are not priced unusually high. For instance, TA chainrings are actually less expensive than DuraAce or Record. Their water bottles are no more expensive than those from other producers. Go figure.'

That's assuming those Campag and TA items you reference are sourced and finished exclusively in Europe.......All the OE business is in China and to a lesser extent Taiwan (mostly destined for the European bike market) these days.

Maybe the TA bottles are made where the other 'producers' produce them.
I'm not entirely sure that campy chainrings, bolts, bearings, etc are forged, cleaned, polished, painted and packaged in Italy any longer. Remember ,these are the small parts that make the larger component. I know for sure the QR levers are no longer made in Italy- not since 2005 or 2006.

Mike T said...

Chris,

For the pedal spindle, is it 9/16" on these cranks? Also do you know the tread if you set this up as a double or a triple?

Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Somebody needs to make a beautiful (slender arms please!), polished silver, wide range double crankset for under $100 - preferably well under $100.
I don't care if it's from Taiwan or Kentucky but some of us cannot afford $250 plus for a crankset.

C said...

"That's assuming those Campag and TA items you reference are sourced and finished exclusively in Europe.......All the OE business is in China and to a lesser extent Taiwan (mostly destined for the European bike market) these days.

Maybe the TA bottles are made where the other 'producers' produce them. "

TA bottle are still made in France. Jan pointed this out in BQ recently. Again, Shimano and Campy rings are MORE expensive than TA. Even if they were made in China (and Campy isn't) they should be cheaper than TA's French built rings.

What's weird is TA can produce rings and bottles in France at very reasonable costs. However the 5 vis is quite a bit more than comparable, made in Europe, alloy cranks despite being a simpler to produce design. It's very odd. I can only assume it's a result of making them in small, limited runs.

C said...

Chris:

How difficult is Sugino to work with? Any chance they could be persuaded to bring back the PX? Not as pretty as the TA but just as functional. Probably stronger as well.

Chris Kulczycki said...

Yann, most 115mm-118mm BBs will be fine.

Michael, True, you do not need a triple front dérailleur and I don't have one on my bike, but I think there is a slight advantage to them.

C, I think one of the reasons the cranks cost so much is that the forging is not done in-house. Also, much depends on how much labor goes into a product; chainrings are mostly machine made without a great deal of hand machining or polishing. Finally, TA is a small company and does not have the economy of scale of some of the Asian manufacturers.

The PX crank has a wider q-factor and it's 40-50gms heavier. It's also anodized, which means it can't be re-polished after 10 or 20 years. Still, I should have spoken to Sugino about the PX cranks when I was at Interbike. I don't personally know anyone there, but I think our agent does.

Chris, Pedal washers simply prevent the pedals from digging into the crankarm when tightened.

Anonymous said...

The tooling for these is old, and they require alot of finish work. The price reflects that. There is no other product on the market like them, and the fact that T.A. can't seem to discontinue them proves that there is still some demand. I like them and think that they are still worth every penny...AND I am glad that my money supports a great old company like T.A......

JonathanG said...

I was wondering, does the Pro Vis use a JIS or ISO bottom spindle taper?

Michael said...

Hi,

What crank-arm lengths are still available? I'd like 175 or 177.5mm but 172.5 is too short. Also, what gear combinations are available with the set? I would like 44t & 28t but could go up or down 2t on either chainring.

Do I order this as a unit or as seperate parts?

Michael

Gary said...

Okay does anyone here know what ISO sealed BB will work with one of these?
I want to replace the TA BB as the the left crank kept coming undone and then developed play. I can swap out to Stronglight 49D but not sure what if they are the same design but i think these are ISO? The crank came on my 1984 MT Becane and it is a triple. Many thanks, Gary UK