Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Three Strikes, You're Out!

I can no longer hold my tongue about FSA's piece of sh*t cranksets. I've owned 4 FSA MegaExo style cranksets. Three of them have failed and the only reason I think the fourth has yet to fail is because it is babied on my sunny day bike.

I bought my first set of FSA cranks (Gossamer MegaExo) while working in the cycling industry. The non driveside arm used to loosen every 4th or 5th ride so I always had to be attentive. I finally ignored their recommended torque range and just tightened the snot out of them. That seemed to hold things together for a good season or two. Eventually though the torx wrench requiring bolt that helps to snug the non-driveside arm tight against the driveside arm spindle wore down to a round hole. Hey FSA, good idea to use
a. soft aluminum
b. a small hole with a less than standard torx fitting
After two years of use these cranks were removed and relegated to spare/emergency duty. As a side note, if you own FSA cranks, I would suggest having a spare or back up set handy because your cranks will inevitably fail. I recently re-installed the Gossamers when my FSA SLK cranks failed for good (see below). The loosening problem is back and the stripped tightening bolt is not helping things.

I bought these cranks when I built my sunny day rider. At the time, they were high end for my budget and they were fairly lust worthy (in my eyes at least) since they were new technology and carbon. On my maiden voyage, despite suspecting they may loosen (um, see above...) they stayed tight. I torqued them to factory spec after each of my first 3 or 4 rides and everything seemed good. On my 4th or 5th ride, I was about 20 miles from home when I noticed the non-driveside beginning to loosen. I didn't have an 8mm allen wrench (no stupid torx head needed on these) so I limped them home as best as I could. Ever since then the cranks have acted like powercranks with the non-driveside arm slipping forward and backward on the splined driveside spindle despite not being loose side to side. For a while I thought it was play in my pedals or the crank arm loosening again. It honestly took me most of the season to figure it out. Fortunately, about the same time that I figured it out I also be-friended a very nice FSA employee who got me the hook up on some K-Force cranks. The SLK's were initially shelved for a year and then shifted to the Gossamer bike when I got sick of the Gossamers loosening. Confused yet?

This winter, after a season of 'cross racing with the SLK cranks I finally called FSA to see what can be done. They were very familiar with my problem (because I am willing to bet it happens a lot) and have offered to replace the non-driveside crank arm. Apparently the aluminum insert on that arm is susceptible to greater wear (again, great thinking there) than the steel driveside spindle on which it is mounted. Thankfully I have those POS Gossamer cranks to use in the meantime. Oh, and yes, the Gossamers continue to loosen almost daily.

Being the cream of the crop, I expected the K-Force cranks to work without issue. Since they were on my sunny day ride, I never really put them through any tough conditions but I still felt they were the most expensive and therefore the best. When I saw the super dooper close out deal from my FSA employed friend I jumped at the chance to get another set. They were to be used on my 'cross bike as it was reconfigured for a cross country adventure. The compact gearing allowed me to avoid the need for a triple ring and the bonus of being lightweight seemed like a great idea. Luckily they didn't fail until I was in the middle of f'in nowhere Indiana. I noticed some play in my pedal and thought it might be the cleat on my shoe. Nope. Maybe my pedal was unthreading. Nope. In fact, the pedal insert was coming unbonded from the crankarm. When I finally figured this out I called all the area shops to see if any of them might have a similar K-Force that I could purchase. Oh, did I mention I was in the middle of nowhere so I had very limited cell reception? When I finally got to Ft Wayne, IN I found my way to a shop that allowed me to take a new non-driveside arm from their inventory while my FSA friend sent them a warranty replacement. Honestly, if I didn't have that FSA friend, I probably would have been out some serious $. Then again, I never would have bought the K-Craps to begin with...
Thinking the worst was behind me, I continued on my journey. Within shouting distance of home (Hopkinton, MA) the other pedal insert came loose. FUCK! When I got home, I mailed the cranks back and requested a different model (SLK Light). Those went on ebay and I've been slowly working to eliminate all FSA cranks from my fleet.

Although some might say I am failing to accept blame, I think it is pretty clear when a company makes a shitty product. I've used dozens of other brands without ever having problems so I think it is fair to say, FSA CRANKS SUCK. Ask Ryan Kelly, he'd tell you the same thing.

Oh, but did you hear FSA is going to release a new 11 speed drivetrain? Yeah, remind me to rush out and buy that.


Ryan said...

I want to go to FSA HQ and beat people senseless with my SLK crankset. That thing cost me several races. Because, obviously, no one carries a fucking 8mm allen key with them during a race.

The Gossamers I have (two) aren't super bad...except for the non-driveside bolt which isn't made out of soft aluminum. I think it's made out of the bone marrow of babies.

I've tightened it twice...and now the bolt hole is totally stripped.

I didn't read your entire post because reading the first bit made me so angry I had to reply.

Dura-Ace forever, man.

Ryan said...

Other cranks which I have found suck: SRAM Force. I had a pair on my cross bike that did the same "wearing on the non-drive side" thingy as my SLK.

They were the first-generation, though, so hopefully that's been fixed.

Ryan said...

Oh, I also had a pair of Ritchey WCS cranks when I had a bike with 9 speed Dura-Ace.

Those also came loose 20 miles into every ride. It got to the point where I could get my multitool out of my saddle bag, tighten my crank, and put it back without stopping riding.

Ryan said...

I also managed to bend the spider arms on a 9 speed Dura-Ace crank.

Don't ask me how.

Sorry for blowing up your comment section.

rosey said...

ryan, i think your original post is what helped me realize why my slk's were performing like power cranks.

i'm looking forward to some DA, Campy Centaur, or Fulcrums. First I hope FSA will replace the whole SLK crankset so I can ebay them and put that money towards cranks that don't suck.

RMM said...

I have had no problems with the Campy UT carbon cranks yet, but I did pull the Al insert out of a set of square taper Campy carbon cranks during the Lake Sunapee Road Race, while obliged me to one legged pedal for 10 miles.

rosey said...

RMM, i remember that one. one minute you were riding with me and the next, you had disappeared.

I like my Centaur UT's so far too. I'd prefer the Fulcrums since the bolt patterns are 130 and there are more accessible rings that way.

Ryan said...

At Sunapee this year, my teammate was in a break. Then his SLK crank fell off.

I was in the field. We rode by him, standing on the side of the road, holding up his non-driveside crank.

gaberator said...

I had SLK cranks. They also fell off. My coach went through 4 sets of them when he was on Targetraining pro team a few years back.

They totally suck.

rosey said...

yeah, it's decisive, the fsa cranks suck and are more likely to ruin a race than win it.

Big Bikes said...

I agree with you and Ryan 100% on this one. I have lost count of how many FSA crank arms I have replaced and warrantied at this point.

No matter how much Loctite 641 you slather on the things, no matter how much you torque the hell out of them, they fall off faster than a pair of size 42 pants on Michael Rasmussen.

Those things had me crossing myself every time I installed a new pair...although I doubt it did a bit of good because
a.) I'm an atheist
b.) I don't really know how to properly cross myself and the saying "Spectacles, testicles, wallet and watch" doesn't help because I only posses two of those things.

rosey said... just had the gossamer cranks for $75. it's no wonder we are hearing about so many failures. with such cheap prices it is easy to get suckered in despite their poor quality reputation.

Big Bikes said...

Oh ya,
forgot to mention "the fix" FSA recommended, this is good.

When asked what to do about variable engagement (i.e., little to very little) between the left crank arm and the bottom bracket spindle they suggested that you "face" the bottom bracket down to get more engagement. We're talking millimeters of "facing".

Crazy pills.

FSA..."Full Speed AHH, my fucking crank arm just fell off and I gored my leg on the BB spindle before cracking my sternum on my stem and flipping over a guard rail into a ditch!"

rosey said...

yeah, i'm kind of surprised there hasn't been a more formal recall on any of their cranks. you know, send back your fsa cranks and we'll send you some shimano or campy replacement cranks.

zack said...

I've got some 'old school' gossamer ISIS cranks, and they haven't broke....yet. Maybe they will and I'll get a free replacement and ebay that shizzle.

FSA blows donkey nuts in just about everything they make. I have yet to own something from them that has left me completely satisfied.

rosey said...

i think it is mostly their megaexo stuff that sucks balls. i never liked the isis, octalink invention either though.

maybe i'll go back to square taper on all my bikes.

Josh said...

I'll never buy anything made by FSA. This excellent blog post just reinforces my hate.