I thought it bad form to get into the details of my Venge going under the knife until I knew the S-Works crankset I love so much was going to make it through, or whether I’d be sporting a new Ultegra crankset next summer. It was touch and go, my friends, until Saturday… and I didn’t get the word we were out of the woods until Sunday after the Cider Ride. Truth be told, I didn’t want to jinx it. Call it silly and superstitious if you must, I’m fine with the label on this count. This is my Venge we’re talking about here!
So here’s the deal, in a bottom bracket shell.
I had the crank upgraded from the low-end, heavy, creaky FSA Gossamer crank that came on the bike to the most-glorious, highest of the high-end* Specialized S-Works cranks you see in the photo above back in May of 2015. In fact, here is the drive-side view from the day I got it back home after the upgrade (I made a copy of the actual photo to cut the size of the jpeg down):
With that upgrade alone, I dropped three-quarters of a pound on the bike. Ah, those were the days…
I rode the Venge through the summer, thoroughly enjoying the new crankset. I ran into trouble late that autumn when I tried to take the crank apart to clean the bottom bracket bearings, cups, and the crank spindle – something I’d done regularly with the old crankset. I needed a Torx bit that Specialized supplied with the crank to undo the single bolt that holds everything together. I picked a set up from the local auto supply store and went to work. I snapped the tip off the first Torx wrench almost immediately. Then I went to the shop and got the bit that came with the crankset. I snapped the tip off that one as well. Now I knew something wasn’t right in Denmark (or Michigan, for that matter).
I’m going to cut right to the chase and give you the goods. When the new crank came in, Specialized wouldn’t allow the crank to be installed in a bike with plastic press-fit BB-30 bottom bracket cups (like mine), because they’ll creak under load. I like to think Specialized figured, if you’re willing to spend that kind of dough on a crankset (think Dura Ace and add a few bucks), we best make sure that sucker doesn’t creak! So, they supplied metal cups to replace the plastic parts that came on the bike. There’s one problem; the metal cups have to be epoxied into the frame. That, and the epoxy is some 3M space-grade epoxy. Once it’s set, everything else around it fails before the epoxy. Steel and alloys bend or snap, carbon fiber shatters, etc., etc.. The installation is so specialized, the owner of the shop actually brought in the regional Specialized rep to offer guidance. Well, somehow in the process of gluing the cups in they accidently got some epoxy on the crank’s bolt threads. That bolt wasn’t coming out using a Torx wrench. Ever.
Fastforward six years. I hadn’t had one creak, tick or click from that crankset since it was installed more than six years ago. Every other crankset on every bike I’ve got has to be taken apart, cleaned, lubed and reinstalled to keep everything quiet – and least once a year, usually more. Not the S-Works crank. Until DALMAC. The start of Day Three was messy. A little wet and misty. Roads were damp to wet. The sun was on the way up, though and it ended up being a peach of a day.
I noticed climbing The Wall, an 18% monster of a hill 90 miles into the 100-mile day, that something grinding something fierce. Any time I laid down serious power, it’d grind. Under normal power, all was quiet and good.
At first I thought it might be the chain going bad. Nope. Chain was at 75%. Maybe the cassette? I ordered and installed a brand new Ultegra 11/28. Nope. Chainrings! Ordered and installed two brand-spankin’-new chainrings. Nope. Still grinding out of the saddle, no change. I removed, cleaned, re-lubed and installed the seat post to make sure that wasn’t it. It wasn’t. I took apart the headset, cleaned it, lubed it and put everything back together. Nope. I even installed a new rear derailleur just for $#!+s and giggles (the old one was going bad). Nothing changed. That’s when I knew my run of good luck with that crank was done. I dropped it off at the shop about three weeks ago, prepared for the worst. “Sorry, we couldn’t save your crank. We had to drill it and… it just didn’t work. You’re going to need a new crank, but they don’t make the S-Works BB30 crankset anymore.” I was sure I was going to have to take a weight penalty of about 100 grams and go with an Ultegra crank (the best option I could afford). I started rationalizing; “Well, it’s not even a quarter-pound more. I can live with that. I won’t like it, but I can live with it. And Shimano cranks are great, anyway. It’ll be okay. I just gotta breathe…”
I’d resigned to a lesser crankset on my most-fantastic race bike [a tear hits my pantleg as I sit here typing].
However, I was told Sunday morning that the crank was apart, the bolt was removed and new bearings were ordered and on the way! My worst fear wasn’t going to be realized – they saved my beloved crankset. The cause of the grinding, the cluprit; there was no grease left in the bottom bracket bearings. They were dry. Shot. Caput. You could feel it when you turned the race by hand. That was the cause of the out of the saddle noise.
So, parts will hopefully be here before next summer [chuckle]. I can wait, though. It’ll be nice enough just to have my Venge back as I love it; with that beautiful, top-of-the-line* S-Works carbon fiber crankset. And now I’ll be able to service the bearings regularly.
*Technically, top-of-the-line is the THM Clavicula SE Road full carbon fiber crankset (even the spindle is carbon fiber) @ roughly 1,200 Euro… it’s only 300 grams with the spider. My S-Works is something like 500. Sadly, $1,500 for a carbon crankset is absolutely out of the question (plus I gotta add the chainrings and bottom bracket bearing assembly). We can all dream, though**.
**Don’t worry, sunshine. We have better things to do with that kind of money… I’m just geeking out over a part I would never buy***.
*** Actually, a line of parts. You might want to skip reading Friday’s post. That’d be a good idea.