Most would consider Token brand parts to be cost competitive but relatively ‘generic’. In other words; stuff that does the job for a good price but doesn’t set the world on fire. Well, in recent years Token has stepped things up a notch in an effort to gain a share of the high-end bike market. Their catalogue is now peppered with carbon fibre, titanium and ceramic bearing components. One of their slightly less ‘exotic’ items caught my eye when I was looking for a lightweight XC crank set. The not so imaginatively named ‘TK200EX-AL’ crank is an alloy two piece external bearing design that uses an oversized steel spindle.
Being a self confessed ‘weight weenie’, the thing that caught my eye was the claimed 780g weight of these puppies—that is not just light for a Token crank, it is light by anybody’s standards. Shimano’s new XTR with the carbon and titanium middle chainring weighs 782g, while their cheaper 2007 model XT cranks are up around 860g. The full carbon fibre Truvativ Noir cranks come in at 824g. Once fitted with chainrings and a titanium bottom bracket, the English made Middleburn cranks are around 790g. Crank Brothers Cobalt’s come in at 798g with a titanium bottom bracket. What’s more, the 780g weight includes a full compliment of steel chainring bolts! Alloy bolts take them down to 760g. They also sell for $375 with chainrings where the other high-end crank sets that I just mentioned range from $650 through to over $1,000! It is interesting to note that Token also offers a carbon fibre version on the TK200EX but it weighs 20g more than the alloy version. Why? Because it uses exactly the same forged alloy arms that are just wrapped in 20g of carbon fibre for looks! Just goes to show how obsessed the bike industry is with carbon as a selling tool—it can be heavier, more expensive and no stronger, but it will sell if it has that ‘carbon look’. Of course, the light weight and competitive price is pointless if they are overly flexible or failure prone. While they are a bit of an unknown quantity, the price was right so I bought a set to see how they would go. In mounting them to my bike I discovered a few noteworthy points—both good and bad. To begin with the aluminium used on the external cups seemed a little soft and the indents for the bottom bracket tool were prone to damage—make sure that you use good quality tools to avoid any issues. I have used other Token bottom brackets, namely their ceramic bearing model, and not encountered the same ‘soft’ alloy cups. The bearings spun smoothly and continued to do so through four months of use. As with many of these external type bottom brackets, the bearings use a plastic dust cover that doubles to keep the crud out and eliminate play between the spindle and the bearings. With age and servicing, these plastic covers tend to go brittle and crack. As a result, caution needs to be taken when assembling the cranks or servicing the bottom bracket, as these plastic covers are not sold as replacement items (this design is common to many brands of external bearing cranks).
On the upside, the Token cranks offered a very low ‘Q-factor’. This is the width or ‘stance’ of the cranks. A wide Q-factor places your pedals a long way out from the centre line of the bike which can result in an uncomfortable pedalling action for some people—like riding with your legs spread wide apart. With some cranks it also places the chainrings a long way out from the frame and messes up your gear shifting. The Token cranks have a nice low 166mm Q-factor—many cranks are around 180mm which is good if you like to walk around like a cowboy. These cranks also offer an element of preload adjustment on the bearings (just like Shimano cranks). This is another good feature as you can ensure that the bearings are not over tightened. Some external bearing cranks rely on spacers to adjust the bearing preload but, in my opinion, the allen key adjustable system on the Token cranks is superior. I was also surprised by the Token made ‘Shuriken Chainblade’ chainrings. These 7075 T6 alloy chain rings are CNC machined with a full complement of shifting ramps and pins. They proved to be durable and gearshifts were as smooth and precise as you would expect from any of the big-name component manufacturers. The low weight of the Token crankset comes from the slim and scalloped out forged alloy crank arms. While their profile is very narrow, they are quite wide when viewed from the side. Judging crank stiffness can be quite subjective as there are so many other variables when riding. I would say that they felt solid enough and I didn’t notice any excessive flex in them—then again, I only weigh 64kg. The Token cranks certainly aren’t flimsy for their low weight. The only real issue that I encountered came about due to their thin and minimalist profile. The left hand crank is mounted in a similar manner to a set of Shimano XT cranks—the arm clamps to the splined spindle with an allen type pinch bolt. However, Token only uses one 5mm bolt in this highly stressed location (XT cranks use two bolts and a wider clamping area). This design was prone to coming loose unless you really got the lone 5mm bolt tight. It is the same thread size that holds your drink bottle cage on and I feel that a more robust pinch bold design would have been worthwhile. I was able to solve the problem by using a little ‘Loctite’ on the thread and spline as well as cranking the bolt up very tight—not ideal but a workable solution.
While the Token cranks are not as robust as some of their competition (mainly due to the crank bolt issue), they are affordably priced and some of the lightest around. The model that I bought came with a steel spindle and a 718g titanium spindled version should also be available in the future, which will really excite weight conscious riders. The overall quality was fine and they make a good option for cross country riders who want lightweight but don’t have a big dollar budget.
JetBlack Products Pty Ltd (02) 9651 2855 / www.jetblackproducts.com.au