René Herse Cranks are Here!

Customers who pre-ordered their René Herse cranks before February 1 should receive a box in the next few days. Inside…

…is the new René Herse crank. It is delivered with our custom crank bolts and pedal washers. We are ramping up production slowly to ensure the cranks are made to our quality standards. Even though we work with the best suppliers, there have been challenges. The first batch arrived last week. It’s already sold out, thanks to our pre-orders. More cranks are expected to arrive later this week. Then we will be able to fill all pre-orders (except for single-ring and tandem cranks, which are machined separately), as well as have more in stock. This week’s delivery should include all chainring sizes ranging from 24 to 50 teeth.

We are proud of our custom-made René Herse crank bolts. Like the classic Herse crank bolts, they incorporate the washers, so you never risk forgetting to remove the washer and stripping your crank threads as your crank puller pushes on the washer instead of the bottom bracket spindle. The bolts are made from high-strength steel (Grade 8.8) and chrome-plated. (Stainless steel is not strong enough for the forces required to properly seat a crank on a square taper.)

In addition to including the crank bolts with our cranks, we also sell them separately. I plan to install them on most of my bikes, to improve their appearance and function. (Like René Herse, I don’t use dust shields on my cranks. With these bolts, there is no reason to hide them.)

The bolts fit on (almost) any traditional crank/bottom bracket combination. The head fits a 15 mm crank wrench, like old-style Campagnolo (and many other) crank bolts.

Our cranks also come with pedal washers. These small parts can make a real difference when the time comes to remove your pedals. They provide a smoother transition from the pedal spindle to the crank, which can prevent the spindle edge from digging into the crank. We also offer these separately.

For more information, see Compass Bicycles web site.

About Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

I love cycling and bicycles, especially those that take us off the beaten path. I edit Bicycle Quarterly magazine, and occasionally write for other publications. One of our companies, Bicycle Quarterly Press publishes cycling books, while Compass Bicycles Ltd. makes and distributes high-quality bicycle components for real-world riders.
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22 Responses to René Herse Cranks are Here!

  1. Bubba says:

    Super exciting. It was great to see them in person at the NAHBS in Sacramento last week. It must be really gratifying to see this move forward.

  2. WFSTEKL says:

    Do you foresee a production run of other arm lengths? I would be interested in a Herse crankset if it was available in 175 or 180 lengths. Good luck with the sale. I hope it is very successful for you.

    • We decided to make our cranks from a “net-shape” forging which is much stronger than when you machine a crank to length. Of course, “net-shape” forging means that you can only make one length per forging die. I am riding our new René Herse cranks myself, and the last thing I want to have happen is to break a crank!

      I don’t see the need to offer arms that are just 2.3% longer (175 mm) or 5.2% longer (180 mm) than the 171 mm we offer. We also don’t offer stems in 2 or 5 mm increments. If you really need longer cranks, you probably need something like 200 mm cranks. If there is demand, we may make new dies and offer significantly longer and shorter cranks. Jim Papadopoulos once told me: “Cyclists have a tendency to identify potentially significant variables, and then argue over meaningless differences.”

      You may want to read our blog post on this topic.

      • Bubba says:

        And yet you offer the Maes bend handlebar in a 41, 42 and 43cm width. 43cm is 2.4% wider than 42.

      • You are right. We actually are rethinking this…

        Grand Bois offered the 410 mm and 420 mm, so it took little effort to offer them. The 430 came about because people clamored for wider bars, and that is as wide as Nitto was comfortable in doing in the “superlight” models. We may standardize on 420 mm in the future (the most popular size).

        Bending handlebars to a different width is relatively simple. There are no drawbacks to offering many sizes, even if it’s arguable whether a rider notices a difference of 1 cm. Making cranks in multiple lengths either requires multiple forging dies, or you end up with a cut-to-length crank that is weaker than ideal. I suspect the big makers use separate dies (which is why they offer only a few lengths), but most smaller makers sell a weaker crank in response to market demand for 2.5 mm incremental crank lengths. We opted for the more difficult solution of making a stronger crank, but having to explain why we do so, and still losing sales because some people feel they need 165 or 175 mm cranks.

  3. michael says:

    These look great, Jan – look forward to picking up a set. Question on the bolts: why wouldn’t these include a recessed Allen head, so as to be able to use a mini-tool and not solely a 15 mm crank wrench? Thanks.

    • I am not sure why you’d want to use a mini-tool on your crank bolts. If tightened properly, the bolts don’t come loose. And if you need to overhaul you bottom bracket on the road, you need a lot of tools that you are unlikely to carry. (That is why I never understood the self-extracting crank bolts, either.)

      If you prefer to use crank bolts with Allen heads, you can buy them at any bike store. We wanted to make something that looked nicer and more in keeping with the original Herse cranks.

  4. Alex Merz says:

    Jan, what about Jobst Brandt’s old argument in favor of dust caps?

    “If the bolt was insufficiently tight in the first place, it can become
    completely free from this action and subsequently unscrew small
    fractions of a turn with each rotation of the crank. Proof that bolts
    fall out exists abundantly. The interesting part is visualizing the
    mechanism. I think it is apparent to most observant mechanics that
    crank bolts are not as tight as when installed after active use.”

    “Crank “dust caps” have the additional duty to retain loose crank bolts. Because crank bolts lose preload in use, they can become loose enough to subsequently unscrew and fall out if there is no cap. If this occurs, loss of the screw will not be noticed until the crank comes off, after the screw is gone.”

    • When I read that years ago, I was surprised. It used to be common among racers to leave off the dust caps. In 25 years and more than 150,000 km of riding, I never had a crank bolt fall out, nor did any of my friends and riding partners. (One friend did have a crank come loose, but it was because he forgot to tighten it. The bolt did not fall out.) René Herse bikes came without dust caps since about 1946. For 30 years, Herse didn’t see a need to reintroduce dust caps. Even now, when one finds an old, neglected Herse, the crank bolts haven’t fallen out.

      While you shouldn’t retighten your crankbolts (as you risk breaking your cranks eventually), you should take off the cranks every couple of years to inspect them for cracks. When you reinstall them, the crank bolts will be tight again.

      If you feel differently, you can use standard dust caps on the René Herse cranks. (The new Herse cranks use a standard 22 mm extractor thread.) You’ll need bolts with thinner heads, as ours are designed to be flush with the crank surface.

      • Alex Merz says:

        I’ve never had a crank loosen either, but I almost always use a torque wrench. To add a wee bit of fuel to the fire: do you grease the taper when making the interference fit?

      • I was waiting for that question! The answer is: grease. I am working on another blog post to explain why.

      • Brian says:

        I’m interested in your thoughts on greasing the taper too. I’m also curious what you would recommend as an adequate torque for installation. I’ve heard/read ranges from 250-395 in/lbs should be adequate.

  5. Willem says:

    Congratulations Jan. These look sweet. Will you be offering outer rings smaller than 44t? As it is, you can only make an ultracompact double with a 24t or 26t small chainwheel by having an 18t or 20t difference with the big 44t chainwheel.

    • We will see for which sizes there is demand. We will add chainring sizes as needed. The investment for each ring size is considerable, not just in manufacturing, but also in development (CAD drawings, etc.).

      • Michael Richters says:

        I would have bought a 42t or maybe even a 40t outer ring if one had been available, in order to have a 26t or 24t inner on a double. I settled for the slightly bigger rings, but the size was really just a guess; I don’t know yet what gears I’m going to settle into long-term on the new bike I’m putting together.

      • Thank you for the request. We are considering offering smaller outer rings. If and when we do, you can change your outer ring (or both).

  6. Ted says:

    Mine arrived and were promptly installed on my new Terraferma. The finish on them is out of this world.

    I think the real reason for dust caps is to keep crap (dust, which mixes with water to make cement) out of the threads, so you don’t have any trouble with the extractor. That’s why they’re called “DUST” caps.

    • That may be a problem if you ride mountain bikes or cyclocross. On road bikes, even racing bikes without fenders, I never had problems with the threads being full of dirt. We do not recommend René Herse cranks for mountain biking, as they are a lightweight design that is not intended to withstand the forces that occur on big jumps.

  7. Gabriel Will says:

    I’ll never forget the first time (and the last, hopefully) that I stripped a crank by forgetting to remove the washer. Is repacking the bottom-bracket really that hard? I guess it was! Bummer. Thanks for omitting the unnecessary.

  8. Tom says:

    Among the reasons for using a separate washer is to allow the bolt head to “slide” against a hard surface when tightening, rather than risk galling the softer aluminum. Are you recommending an anti-galling compound between the bolt head and the crank? Why not a captive separate washer?

    • You make a good point: Having the bolt turn on a polished steel surface would produce less galling than having it turn on aluminum. In practice, few crank bolts use a polished surface, not even Campagnolo’s from the glory days. I put a little grease underneath the bolt head, as I do with all bolts that require a lot of torque. As I mentioned before, the Herse cranks and bolts are a proven design. They have been around since 1938, with very, very few failures or problems. Few other cranks available today have that sort of track record.

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