The method of affixing crank arms to a bottom bracket spindle using a square taper system has been around for many, many years now and even though we have had lots of designs since it is a method we still see a lot especially on the comforts and hybrids and anything that comes from a box store.
Because we see a lot of these cranks on the cheaper bikes does not mean that it is a bad method, White Industries make a very high end crank set that uses a square taper fit and Phil Woods produce some of the most expensive bottom bracket cartridges ever in square taper format.
If the square taper crank to bottom bracket interface has ever had a problem it has been with installation and maintenance. The basic principle behind the method is that the crank arm gets tighter as it is drawn onto the square spindle because of the tapering. The most comon issue we see is the crank arm bolt coming loose or falling out completely and the bike is still ridden. Even though the crank arm is tightly fixed onto that spindle with the bolt gone the pedaling action will break the bond within a mile of riding. Now here is were it gets interesting. People just assume that a new bolt when they get home and a wrench to tighten it up will solve it. Wrong. When the arm gets loose and you continue to ride it the square hole in the crank arm just mushrooms out. The crank arms are made of soft aluminum and the spindle is steel. Once that crank arm hole becomes deformed it will never stay put, no matter how tight it feels when tightening it back up. The only cure is a new crank arm.
|This is a typical example of a crank that became loose and was still ridden.|
|This is what they are supposed to look like|
The above are pretty generic examples of the square taper cranks that you see on multiple bikes nowadays. Below is a picture of a White Industries VBC crankset and bottom bracket. This one was recently installed on a Ti Moots road frame and made a significant upgrade to the bike.
|White Industries VBC crank set in anodized black.|
|The bottom bracket to match.|
One slight issue that you have when using the white industries bottom brackets is the choice of spindle lengths or the lack of choices. In the event that a different length is needed then the Phil Woods bottom brackets are a great alternative.