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Can Most Bike Shops Work on Cottered Cranksets?

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Can Most Bike Shops Work on Cottered Cranksets?

Old 05-21-14, 09:08 AM
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Velocivixen
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Can Most Bike Shops Work on Cottered Cranksets?

I avoid bicycles, regardless of how lovely or otherwise desirable, with cottered cranksets. I don't have the tools to remove or install, and I understand that the cotter pins come in various angles, and that new ones aren't as good or as hard as original ones. Parts hard to source. Of course one can always get new bottom bracket & crankset, but I don't have those types of parts in my "parts bin" so that would require spending extra cash.

I live in the Portland Metro area and we have a plethora of bike shops, however, based on my experience on some bike shops on the west side I suspect that most bike shops don't have tools, interest, or knowhow to work on bikes with cottered cranks. How common is it that a typical bike shop, that sells bikes, would have the proper tools for bikes with cottered cranks? I have plenty of specialized bicycle tools, but don't really want to go in search of cotter presses, etc.

Should I be wary of bikes with cottered cranks? Thanks.
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Old 05-21-14, 09:16 AM
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Call around and ask. A shop that sells a lot of used bikes probably has the tools / parts.

That said, cotters aren't all that hard to work on or source.
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Old 05-21-14, 09:23 AM
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No. You should be wary of junk cranks, whether cottered or otherwise. In the 70's and even 80's a lot of junk bikes came with junk cottered cranks, and these should be avoided. It is not hard to figure out what a junk bike, or a junk crank, looks like; the two often go together.

I don't know about the bike shops, but I would not take a bike with a good cottered crank to any bike shop I know. A kid who doesn't know the difference between a good cottered crank and a junk one can turn a good one into a junk one in less than a minute, and I wouldn't want that to happen. You can ask, and evaluate the answer yourself. You might ask to see the tool they plan to use. If they show you a hammer, leave.

The tools are not really that expensive. If I lost all my tools and had to buy a new cottered crank tool, I'd probably go for a drill press vise in the $15-25 range. Harbor Freight has one for $16 that might do the job. People speak highly of the Bikesmith Design cottered crank tool, and I have one of those, but it is poorly suited to the lighter and narrower cranks you find on the kind of bikes I ride.

As for the cotters... yes, quality varies, but I just buy the cheap ones.
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Old 05-21-14, 09:25 AM
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A Better Cycle can help you... they handle a lot of vintage bicycles and have staff that know to to extract and properly fit cotter pins.
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Old 05-21-14, 09:26 AM
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Some are just staffed by people born after Index shifting became the Norm .. I'm to Old to get work in Any ..

Once you get it apart , nothing requires you to re install the cottered crank.. the spindles for them is less common than Model T car parts.
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Old 05-21-14, 09:30 AM
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Great Responses! Thanks so much. I see bikes like Peugeot Mixtes with cottered cranks on CL and immediately think "No way" and keep moving. Yes I was thinking either A Better Cycle or City Bikes Coop. I would love to do the work myself, and it's good to know that there are accessible tools available. Maybe now I'll be more open minded about cotters.
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Old 05-21-14, 10:09 AM
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Bikesmith for all your cottered crank needs, he sells the cotters for most cranks, in different levels of quality, i bought some for my sports and they were already perfectly angled, didn't have to file, and the thread was 26tpi , so i could reuse the 'R' nuts
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Old 05-21-14, 10:53 AM
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...we end up doing a fair number of them at the co-op, because a lot of the local shops bid the work high in order to avoid doing it.

If you want to swap out the cranks for cotterless, it's pretty simple ever since Velo Orange started sourcing and selling French threaded cartridge BB units.
If you want to do your own work, I'd suggest the co-op if they have a teaching mission.

A lot of the stuff on CL has never been serviced, so extraction can be painful.
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Old 05-21-14, 01:52 PM
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Thanks for all of your thoughtful replies. I guess now I won't be so eager to avoid bikes with cotters, that otherwise look interesting. Good to know about bike shops making high prices in order to avoid the work. Interesting & somehow not surprising. I would definitely ask a bike shop about specific tools they would use and ask to see the tool making sure it's not just a big hammer!
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Old 05-21-14, 02:10 PM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
Some are just staffed by people born after Index shifting became the Norm .. I'm to Old to get work in Any ..

Once you get it apart , nothing requires you to re install the cottered crank.. the spindles for them is less common than Model T car parts.
New bikes with cottered cranks are quite common here. And yes, they are all junk. The spindles, however, are readily available in most bike shops.
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Old 05-21-14, 02:15 PM
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When I visited my LBS (back in NJ) looking for cotters, the head mechanic said, "Cottered cranks!?" And he's an excellent mechanic. Some shops are just not set up to deal with old stuff like that, and they don't have an incentive to do so. It depends on where you are. This was in a very upscale suburb. A great many of their customers were triathletes and the like.
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Old 05-21-14, 02:21 PM
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The trick is to use TWO hammers. Hold one firmly against the underside of the crank, unscrew the nut of the cotter pin until the top is flush with the top of the cotter pin, then hit the top/nut firmly with the other hammer. Two blows usually suffice. Most of the time the cotters come out with the threads intact. Learned to do it this way as a kid, and went back to it recently after breaking a number of C-clamps and ruining the threads on my vise.
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Old 05-21-14, 03:14 PM
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Originally Posted by 3alarmer View Post
...we end up doing a fair number of them at the co-op, because a lot of the local shops bid the work high in order to avoid doing it.

If you want to swap out the cranks for cotterless, it's pretty simple ever since Velo Orange started sourcing and selling French threaded cartridge BB units.
If you want to do your own work, I'd suggest the co-op if they have a teaching mission.

A lot of the stuff on CL has never been serviced, so extraction can be painful.
Originally Posted by non-fixie View Post
The trick is to use TWO hammers. Hold one firmly against the underside of the crank, unscrew the nut of the cotter pin until the top is flush with the top of the cotter pin, then hit the top/nut firmly with the other hammer. Two blows usually suffice. Most of the time the cotters come out with the threads intact. Learned to do it this way as a kid, and went back to it recently after breaking a number of C-clamps and ruining the threads on my vise.
Ignore the above advice!

It is easy enough to get a good cotter-press, which will not damage the cotter pin on removal. Plus you need the cotter press to install the pin. I have a Bikesmith cotter press, which works with excellent results on all the cottered cranks I have (Nervar, Raleigh, Chater-Lea, Stronglight, Campagnolo).

Once you discover how easy it is to work with cottered cranks, you may find yourself wondering why one would want an alloy crank as they are so much harder to service by comparison. Those that think otherwise are simply misinformed! Get a decent cotterpress! A link to the Bikesmith press is below:

New Crank Cotter Press
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Old 05-21-14, 03:23 PM
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Someone recommended modifying a Harbor Freight motorcycle chain tool. That worked very well for me and I can't imagine working on a cottered crank without it. As you have discovered, one would have to avoid a large part of C&V to avoid cottered cranks.
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Old 05-21-14, 03:57 PM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
Some are just staffed by people born after Index shifting became the Norm .. I'm to Old to get work in Any ..

Once you get it apart , nothing requires you to re install the cottered crank.. the spindles for them is less common than Model T car parts.
I have tons of spindles for cottered cranks here... just call me Henry.

If preservation of the spindle is desired then you want to use a press, and if you don't have a press you can use a hammer but make sure you block the opposite side of the crank to keep from bending the spindle.

Bikes with cottered cranks that aren't crap... these won't be getting swapped.



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Old 05-21-14, 04:26 PM
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My Harbor Freight modified tool didn't fit a crank I tried to work on recently. I don't remember the details. I'm glad I have it, but it doesn't do every job.
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Old 05-21-14, 04:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Salubrious View Post
Ignore the above advice!

It is easy enough to get a good cotter-press, which will not damage the cotter pin on removal. Plus you need the cotter press to install the pin. I have a Bikesmith cotter press, which works with excellent results on all the cottered cranks I have (Nervar, Raleigh, Chater-Lea, Stronglight, Campagnolo).

Once you discover how easy it is to work with cottered cranks, you may find yourself wondering why one would want an alloy crank as they are so much harder to service by comparison. Those that think otherwise are simply misinformed! Get a decent cotterpress! A link to the Bikesmith press is below:

New Crank Cotter Press
Well said!
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Old 05-21-14, 05:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Salubrious View Post
Ignore the above advice!

It is easy enough to get a good cotter-press, which will not damage the cotter pin on removal. Plus you need the cotter press to install the pin. I have a Bikesmith cotter press, which works with excellent results on all the cottered cranks I have (Nervar, Raleigh, Chater-Lea, Stronglight, Campagnolo).

Once you discover how easy it is to work with cottered cranks, you may find yourself wondering why one would want an alloy crank as they are so much harder to service by comparison. Those that think otherwise are simply misinformed! Get a decent cotterpress! A link to the Bikesmith press is below:

New Crank Cotter Press
...whenever someone tells someone else to ignore something I've posted, it hurts my feelings.

While I am not a strong advocate for swapping out cottered cranks for cotterless, there's a good
chance I've serviced more of them than have you, and I can understand some trepidation in someone
who has never done so.

I await your apology, which I am certain will be forthcoming.
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Old 05-21-14, 05:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Grand Bois View Post
Well said!
...with you, I know better than to await an apology.
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Old 05-21-14, 06:23 PM
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Back when I had a Raleigh as a teenager, I learned to service cotter cranks, and not to fear them.

But over many year's time, when attempting to occasionally remove cotters from discarded Peugeot frames, I learned that most bike's cotters are usually impossible to remove without special tools and/or a torch.

I recently did a couple of cotter crank rebuilds successfully, using a torch on one and my Harbor Freight tool (assisted by torch) on the other.

Securing cotters can be done with a hammer, alternating hammer blows with nut tightening until no further tightening can be achieved. It takes both actions to get cotters to settle in fully to where the new cotters won't allow crankarm movement on the spindle, which would ruin the cotter.
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Old 05-21-14, 07:43 PM
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The place I used to go to before I moved away from central Maine could handle cottered cranks, in large part because the owner had been dealing with bikes since those were the norm. I remember at one point he showed me this box of NOS cottered cranks that he'd gotten shortly before the standard died off for good. So maybe that's the trick, find a shop and a mechanic that's been at it for a little longer than the others.
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Old 05-21-14, 09:14 PM
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Originally Posted by 3alarmer View Post
...whenever someone tells someone else to ignore something I've posted, it hurts my feelings.

While I am not a strong advocate for swapping out cottered cranks for cotterless, there's a good
chance I've serviced more of them than have you, and I can understand some trepidation in someone
who has never done so.

I await your apology, which I am certain will be forthcoming.
One of my first jobs was as a mechanic back in the 1970s at a place called the Bike Shop in the Stadium Village area in Minneapolis.

FWIW generally speaking its a bad move to install newer parts on vintage/classic equipment. It almost always causes the equipment to loose value; this is moot only the gear has no collectability. A good quality cottered crank is an item of beauty relative to modern cranks and is certainly more unique. Thus your comment seemed ill-advised. Even a lowly British 3-speed's value is hurt by such treatment.

Understanding how a certain assembly is serviced is always important regardless of the field of endevour. In this case replacement of a crank simply because it is cottered seems to be poor advice generally speaking. A cottered crank is one of those assemblies that simply has to be understood in order to service it correctlly.

I am an advocate of Kroil and have yet to see a crank that Kroil and a cotter press can't take apart with ease. IMO cottered cranks are easier to service than most alloy cranks- there is no ambiguity about whether you have the crank tightened down enough (with the possibility of creaking a few miles down the road)- with the cotter press you simply press the pin into place, so the nut simply holds it once in place and so does not need a lot of torque.

The use of hammers, torches and the like simply smacks of ignorance of the design and should be avoided.
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Old 05-21-14, 10:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Salubrious View Post

Understanding how a certain assembly is serviced is always important regardless of the field of endevour. In this case replacement of a crank simply because it is cottered seems to be poor advice generally speaking. A cottered crank is one of those assemblies that simply has to be understood in order to service it correctlly.

I am an advocate of Kroil and have yet to see a crank that Kroil and a cotter press can't take apart with ease. IMO cottered cranks are easier to service than most alloy cranks- there is no ambiguity about whether you have the crank tightened down enough (with the possibility of creaking a few miles down the road)- with the cotter press you simply press the pin into place, so the nut simply holds it once in place and so does not need a lot of torque.
...as I suspected, you've not serviced a great many of them that have been in place, unserviced and
unmolested for thirty years. if you want to spout off on your expertise, spout on and on, but anyone
who has done this on a regular basis knows that Kroil and a press are not the magical answer to every
cottered crank disassembly. If it were, there'd be much less reluctance in the trade to take them on.

Collectability and originality are a whole seperate issue, but it suffices to say that the majority of them
are not on bikes that are particularly collectible, uinless you are talking about prior to the 70's when cotterless
began to be seen on most bikes of upper end quality. there was a brief period when racers preferred them,
as steel and familiar, and relatively bombproof, but it was relatively brief, as things go.

I'm left with the feeling that you're one of those guys (we have many here) who is always right, and of strong opinions.

It would be better if they were based more on fact than limited experience and fantasy, but this is the internet, and there are limitations.

I'm kinda with you on hammers, but there are some pretty experienced people who will tell you that if you get good at it,
and support the crank under the point of impact with a piece of steel plumbing pipe that reaches the cement floor, the single,
authoritative blow is the best way to go. I think I just never got that good at that, so if I hit them with a hammer, I end
up drilling out the remainder.

The bottom line here is that anyone who writes what you have written simply has not done enough of them to have an opinion worth listening to.
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Old 05-21-14, 11:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Velocivixen View Post
I avoid bicycles, regardless of how lovely or otherwise desirable, with cottered cranksets. I don't have the tools to remove or install, and I understand that the cotter pins come in various angles, and that new ones aren't as good or as hard as original ones. Parts hard to source.
Should I be wary of bikes with cottered cranks? Thanks.
I grew up riding and servicing cottered crank bikes, so I'm not afraid of them. While a cotter press is nice, you could use a bench vise and a socket (with an assistant) to remove and install them. A hammer with a support could be used too, but it's dangerous and usually mushrooms the threads/cotter head (even if you loosen the nut and remove it later). The cotters usually have to be adjusted with a file, so I wouldn't worry about the angles or hardness. However, cotters do come in different diameters, and this must match.
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Old 05-22-14, 01:37 AM
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I only wish that Kroil and a press were always adequate for removing cotters.

In most cases I consider the cotter pin to be disposable as I have a good stock of quality replacements and if the press fails and the cotter is ruined, you move on to other means and in most cases the cottered crank is coming off so it can be replaced with a modern crank which is much easier to service and allows for more drive options.
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