The other day, a buddy of mine emailed me a link about an 2008 FSA road crank on sale at Competitive Cyclist. I’ve spent quite a lot of time trying to find a good deal on a (used) road crankset to replace the super-low-end EighthInch model on my singlespeed, so this looked like a good possibility, especially since it was new. So, I spent some time looking at reviews, and ultimately decided against it due to many people complaining about the bottom brackets.
Oh, well, I thought, it could have been nice. But before I left CC’s website, I browsed through the rest of their sale items. That’s when I spotted the deal of a lifetime: a 2009 SRAM Force 53/39 crankset–normally $340–listed for only $89. Considering it’s difficult to even find lower-end Shimano 105 cranksets under $250, I decided to hop on it before I missed my chance. Three days later, I had a new crankset.
Now, here comes the weird part. I bought the Force for my singlespeed bike, so obviously, I had one extra gear that I wasn’t going to need. I also had a crank designed for a typical road bike, not a singlespeed. Before I ordered, I measured my chainline, from the center of my seat tube to the end of a gear tooth: 47mm. According to the late Sheldon Brown, that’s a bit wide for a singlespeed set-up–about 5mm too wide, in fact. But, who am I to argue with a chainline that has worked perfectly for me for a year and a half on this bike?
To get the new crank to work, I first had to ditch the 39T chainring, then use a set of singlespeed-specific chainring bolts to hold the 53T ring in place (yes, that’s 3 teeth more than what I’ve been using for some time). After installation, I found my chain wasn’t going to reach around the larger ring, which meant I ended up having to add one link to it. Once it was all finished, I measured the chainline again, hoping for the best. As luck would have it, it came to exactly 47mm.
After having ridden a non-singlespeed chainring for the past 8 months, I’m confident in the chain not falling off, assuming I keep chain tension just right: loose enough not too bind, tight enough to keep slack very low.
Now, to address those 53 teeth
Since last June, I’ve ridden a 50T ring with 16T freewheel, resulting in 82.4 gear-inches. However, as winter set in this year, I swapped to a 17T freewheel to help counter the additional weight from extra clothes, denser air, and additional wind this time of year always brings. With spring making its way back, I was about to swap back to the 16T again, but instead, I’ll leave the 17T in place. Matched to the 53T Force ring, I’ll be running 82.2 gear-inches, keeping me right about where I was before. And once summer makes a return, on those particularly energetic days when all I want to do is sprint around town like a madman, I can put the 16T back on for a total of 87.4 gear-inches (I doubt I’ll do this very often).
As for the unnecessary 39T ring, that will be going on eBay, where I should be able to make back about 1/3 of the price I paid for the entire crankset, bringing my price down to about $60. That’s right, $60 for SRAM Force. That’s only $10 more than what you’d have to pay for a new EighthInch (or Origin8) singlespeed crank, which weighs a ton and uses an out-dated square-taper bottom bracket. Speaking of that old EighthInch crank, I’ll try selling that on Craigslist for $25, bring my total cash out of pocket down to around $35.
So, after getting my fancy new crank put on and laughing all the way to the bank, I was suddenly hit with the realization that I’d probably never get a deal on such a high-end crank ever again. Too bad, since I plan to build my own frame later this year, and it’ll need a crank of its own. I thought about it for a while, tried to clear my mind of future bike parts I’ll need, and finally decided it’d be a terrible thing to miss out on. In the end, I ordered a second one. And it’s a good thing, too, since I apparently got my order in just before they ran out.
Now it’s time to post some ads to eBay and CL, and clear out my parts box of unneeded components. If anyone needs a 39T ring, I have two available.