Best Vintage 3 Arm Crankset
This is a Spécialités TA Professional 3-arm crankset, and frankly, I believe it’s the nicest vintage crankset of its type. This particular crank came off a 1979 TI Team Raleigh Pro, in the celebrated red, black and yellow colours, built by the SBDU branch with Reynolds 753 tubing. It was a custom built machine, mostly adorned with Campagnolo Super Record parts, except for this lovely crankset which was somewhat of an oddity. I do believe the Campagnolo Record crankset cracked ( as I’ve heard they did ) and the owner replaced it with this French beauty.
Rare, Sort Of
I have rarely come across TA cranks on all the vintage bikes I’ve come across over the years. One was on this Super Tourer. In fact, I’ve rarely had the chance to take one off and have a good look at one, and this is the reason why I didn’t even own a TA crank puller tool until last year. Of course, being French, their threads had to be different from Stronglight: 23 instead of 23.35mm, just enough to make the Stronglight tool useless for the TA crank. I’ve probably only taken a handful of TA cranks off for cleaning or selling over the years, whereas I’ve owned dozens of Stronglight issues.
I think aesthetically this TA crankset is a real beauty. It has a certain je ne sais quoi, an effortless style and perfection of form. I say this even though this particular crank had a chain bolt replaced with an ugly flat-headed thing that doesn’t belong there. Even with this flaw, its a beautifully rendered crankset, having a timeless look that all great designs possess. I’ve always liked the black strip with elongated “TA” logos running down the arms, there’s a certain elegance about it that would never clash with any build or frame, buy yet offered that distinctive branding to brandish its quality.
I can’t say with real authority whether TA cranks really were of any superior quality to their Stronglight rivals. I feel the only way to have a worthwhile opinion on any component is to have owned a number of them, or even better, to have dealt with tens or hundreds of them. My biggest beef with Stronglight cranks is their soft threads and fragile dust caps. I have found a few TA examples to have suffered from similar issues, but I can’t say this definitively. On the other hand, I am quite skeptical of the opinion that TA cranks sat too close to the bottom bracket, causing the chain rings to rub with the front derailleur.