I would like to replace the crank set but don't know heads or tails about crank sets. The current setup has a crank length of 170mm. However, I am short and would like to replace it with a crank of 160mm or 152mm. I was told that I would have to buy a whole new crank set.
Now, the question is how do I buy the right set? I would like to search on-line for used ones, but what specs must I be aware of to know that it will fit the bike? For example, what is cotterless, what does the "52/42" thing on Sheldon Brown's site mean?
Can some provide a link to a crank set that will fit the bike for me to use as an example?
The 170mm dimension is the length of each crank arm, from the pedal axis to the crankset axis. Less than 165mm crank arms are VERY short and I doubt you need or want to go this short. Here are some guidelines I've seen published:
under 5'.......<=70 cm........165
5' to 5'2".......70-74 cm......167.5
5'2" to 5'7"...74-80 cm......170
5'7" to 6'..... .80-86 cm......172.5
6' to 6'5".......86-93 cm......175
over 6'5".......93-99 cm......177.5 - 180.0
I've never seen crank arms available for less than 165mm and 170mm is often the shortest you can get in commonly available cranksets. And I wouldn't bother replacing your crank to go from 170mm to 165mm - not worth the expense and trouble. Most don't think crankarm length is a critical thing anyway if it is within reasonable limits - it is much more important to get other sizing things right (frame size, seat height, stem length, etc.). Your money might be much better spent just gettting a good fitting done on your current hardware.
A new crank with shorter arms than 170mm may be available that is compatible with your bottom bracket (the bearing assembly that threads into your frame, although you may have to hunt around. If you're interested in used parts, you might just cruise Ebay and Craigslist for awhile looking for someone sell an old crankset or even the complete bike which has the short arms you're looking for. If the bike has the same style crankarm attachment (typically a square spindle), then you can swap the crank and leave the BB alone, although you may have to use other chainrings and certainly will probably have to make derailleur adjustments.
Cotterless generally refers to a crankset that attaches to the BB by a press fit onto a square tapered spindle. The spindle is typically part of a 3-piece BB with two cups that thread into the frame's BB shell, the steel spindle, and loose ball bearings.
The key frame spec for swapping BB's is the dimensions and threading of the BB shell that the BB cups threads into. The most common is 68mm and English threading. To change out the BB, you have to figure out the dimensions and threading of the shell and be sure you get the right one. There are some other considerations like spindle length and chainline to worry about later, but the BB physically won't tread in unless you match the width and threads spec.
You can often substitute a new-style cartridge BB if your BB shell is a standard size. If you do end up swaping your BB and crankset, you should probably let the LBS take care of it for you as it gets complicated, requires special tools, and removing your old BB may be VERY difficult.
The "52/42" refers to the number of teeth on the front chainrings. If you get a new crank, you may have to buy new chainrings and possibly have different gearing.
Again, there may be good reasons you want to upgrade your BB and crank, but I don't think shorter arms is probably worth the trouble, assuming you can even find them.
And the sheldon brown site has a lot of good info on cranks and BB's also.
Hold your horses: If these are still available and you have a standard 3-piece BB with square tapers on the spindles, this might bolt right up and for $80, you'd have a new crank, new rings that match your current, and 160mm arms. This would seem to be a great way to go:
Basically, any semi- modern crank will be "cotterless." Kind of like new cars having "tubeless" tires. Since it's the norm for the last 30-40 years, it's really not even mentioned anymore.
The 52/42 is the size of the chain rings (front sprockets)
If you plan on using your exiating chain rings, you need a crank that has the same diameter mounting circle (BCD). Mountain bikes tend to be 110MM BCD, while road bikes tend to be 130MM BCD. Then, there are also a bunch of odd sizes, which may or may not still be available. Also the NUMBER of arms (spider) the crank uses. See here to measure- http://sheldonbrown.com/gloss_bo-z.html#bcd
Your cranks must also use the same type mounting as your BB spindle. A Sqare taper arm fits a square taper spindle (2 different types of these and the Raleigh may use the less common?) ISIS fits ISIS etc.
You need to measure all your various parts. You may end up having to replace the Bottom bracket also to fit a crank that meets your spec. I think Raleighs may have an "oddball" size on that also.
About the only cranks <165MM seem to be BMX style?? (I'm not a BMX person, so I don't know what's different about them) It's also near impossible to find "Mountain Bike" cranks <170MM. I'm looking for that myself.
Others may have much more info on what;s available and what will work for your bike.