One to Look Out For
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. 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.