If it aint bust……….
The great thing about a custom bike is that you can get it built exactly as you want it. Or at least you can if the builder can get hold of all the bits that you want. My Roberts was always meant to be blue and silver but unfortunately T A cranks in the 165mm length that I needed were only available in black. So black it had to be. A blue and silver bike with black cranks, hardly worth losing sleep over but it still niggled me a little. A year or so later silver cranks were available but the central spider which comes seperately was still black. It wasn't worth the expense of new cranks if I was still going to have a black spider. Earlier this year I went to Bespoke Bristol, the handmade bicycle show, and there on the Robin Mather bike that won Best in Show, was the complete T A silver chainset that I had always wanted. I just had to have it!
I didn't rush into things, in fact I tried to talk myself out of it. It was very expensive and there was absolutely nothing wrong with the cranks I already had, except they were black. It was no use, I wanted silver cranks and that was that! In early June I placed my order and then waited 5 weeks for them to arrive. I had considered getting Roberts to fit them for me the next time I took my bike in but somehow that felt like 'all the gear and no idea', surely it couldn't be too difficult to fit them myself. I studied everything I could find on the internet and asked a few questions on the CTC forum to make sure I had got it right. I ordered a pin spanner so that I could fit the dustcap, there seemed to be nothing on the subject of self extracting crank bolts that I hadn't read. All that was apparently required was a large allen key and a bit of brute force. My lovely shiny cranks finally arrived and on the next wet day I settled down to fit them.
I put my large 6mm allen key on to the bolt head and it turned about half a turn before tightening up. Puzzled, I retightened it and put the bike away again. Perhaps I should let Roberts do it after all? No, I wasn't giving up so easily. I asked on the CTC forum and was told that this was exactly what should happen, the bolt goes tight as it meets the top of the extractor cap, I just needed to apply some more brute force. I applied all the force I could muster. There was a loud snapping noise and the bolt spun easily. 'Thats got it' I thought. The crank however remained firmly attached while the allen key spun round unscrewing the dustcap. The horrible truth began to dawn – I had snapped the crank bolt! I put desperate pleas for help onto the CTC forum but it was obvious I wasn't going to be able to follow any of the advice offered. Even if I had the necessary tools I had completely lost my nerve, I wasn't touching anything else. If I could snap a crank bolt who knows what other damage I might do!
There was only one possible solution – phone Roberts and let them sort it out. I couldn't even do that immediately, they're closed on Mondays. I spent the rest of the day in a state of bewildered shock. First thing Tuesday I phoned Roberts and arranged to take the bike in the following Wednesday, the earliest they could manage. I would have to wait 8 days but at least there was light at the end of the tunnel. When I got there Brian, the mechanic, didn't believe I had broken the bolt. 'Impossible' he said, he thought I must mean that I had rounded the head off. He was absolutely gobsmacked when I showed him. He assured me that it was not in any way my fault, I had done everything right, this was just a freak occurrence, it should not be possible to snap a high quality 6mm stainless steel bolt. Brian said he had only ever seen a crank bolt snap once before and that was on a very cheap bike and said he would contact the distributor to see if anyone else had had problems.
Fortunately Brian was able to drill the bolt out. He swapped the rings from my previous cranks but discovered that T A have changed the design of the spider slightly so that he needed to use spacers to get the chain to run on the smallest ring. So even if I hadn't snapped the bolt I still wouldn't have been able to fit it properly. He also replaced my bottom bracket bearings and made a couple of small adjustments to things, all for a very modest labour charge. All's well that ends well. I now have the lovely shiny silver cranks that I always wanted but was it really worth the expense and stress? To be honest I'm not sure it was! In future my motto is going to be 'if it aint bust don't fix it!'