ContentsQUICK ANSWER – THE BEST MTB CRANKSETSCOMPARISON TABLE – THE BEST MTB CRANKSETSMTB CRANKSETS REVIEWSSRAM XX BB30SHIMANO XT FC-M780RACE FACE ATLAS 68/73MMSRAM X11 EAGLE GXPSRAM X01 EAGLE BB30SHIMANO ALTUS 7/8SPD SQUARESHIMANO FC-M4000RACE FACE RESPOND 83MMHOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST MTB CRANKSETSCRANK ARM LENGTHGEAR RATIOS AND CHAIN RINGSSINGLE, DOUBLE, OR TRIPLE?POWER METERSCONSTRUCTION MATERIALBOTTOM BRACKET STYLE Why should you buy a new crankset? New cranksets promise better pedaling efficiency, higher speeds and smoother shifting. The best mtb crankset for you might even be one that simply fits you better regardless of the features. Cranksets vary in chain ring size and number and in crank arm lengths. Most chain rings are “triples:” a setup consisting of three chain rings, usually with 44, 32 and 22 teeth each. Triples have a well-earned reputation for being finicky and hard to tune, leading many riders to doubles and even singles. We’re passionate about mountain biking at The Adventure Junkies, and dedicated to helping you get the most out of it. In this guide, we demystify cranksets and show you how to choose the best upgrade for your bike. Once you’ve bought a new crankset, make sure to get a compatible chain. For more of our top mountain bike gear recommendations, check out these popular articles: Men’s Bikes | Women’s Bikes Pedals | Wheels | Tires | Brakes | Saddles Chains | Cranksets | Derailleurs | Gear Shifters Helmets | Lights | Computers | GPS | Pumps Shorts | Jackets | Shoes | Gloves LOOKING FOR A GIFT FOR AFELLOW BIKER?Check out our gift guide that includes 100 ideas to surprise your biking friends.From big ticket presents to stocking stuffers, there is something for everyone. VIEW NOW QUICK ANSWER – THE BEST MTB CRANKSETS 1. SRAM XX BB30 VIEW AT AMAZON 2. SHIMANO XT FC-M780 VIEW AT AMAZON 3. RACE FACE ATLAS 68/73MM VIEW AT AMAZON 4. SRAM X11 EAGLE GXP VIEW AT REI 5. SRAM X01 EAGLE BB30 VIEW AT JENSONUSA 6. SHIMANO ALTUS 7/8SPD SQUARE VIEW AT JENSONUSA 7. SHIMANO FC-M4000 VIEW AT AMAZON 8. RACE FACE RESPOND 83MM VIEW AT AMAZON COMPARISON TABLE – THE BEST MTB CRANKSETS PICTUREMTB CRANKSETBEST USECRANK LENGTHRING SIZINGPRICERATING PICTUREMTB CRANKSETBEST USECRANK LENGTHRING SIZINGPRICERATING SRAM XX BB30Overall175mm175mm$$$$5.0 Shimano XT FC-M780Overall180mm180mm$$$4.9 Race Face Atlas 68/73MMOverall165-170mm165-170mm$$$4.7 SRAM X11 Eagle Single Ring170-175mm170-175mm$$$$5.0 SRAM X01 Eagle BB30Single Ring170-175mm170-175mm$$$$5.0 Shimano Altus 7/8SPD SquareBudget170-175mm170-175mm$4.1 Shimano FC-M4000Budget165-175mm165-175mm$4.3 Race Face Respond 83MMBudget165mm165mm$$4.8 MTB CRANKSETS REVIEWS SRAM XX BB30 Check out the latest price on: Amazon BEST FOR: Trail racing and riding on the lightest of doubles CRANK LENGTH: 175mm RING SIZING: 26/39 WEIGHT: 694g PROS: Weight, performance, durability CONS: Price SHIMANO XT FC-M780 Check out the latest price on: Amazon BEST FOR: Triple riders seeking light weight top-end gear CRANK LENGTH: 165-180mm RING SIZING: 24/32/42 WEIGHT: 860g PROS: Performance, versatility, included bottom bracket CONS: Weight RACE FACE ATLAS 68/73MM Check out the latest price on: Amazon BEST FOR: Stylish pedaling on a state-of-the-art single ring CRANK LENGTH: 165-170mm RING SIZING: 36 WEIGHT: 790g PROS: Durability, reliability, included bottom bracket CONS: Weight, price SRAM X11 EAGLE GXP Check out the latest price on: Amazon | REI BEST FOR: Single ring riders looking for the lightest and the best CRANK LENGTH: 170-175mm RING SIZING: 32 WEIGHT: 493g PROS: Durable, performance, simplicity, weight CONS: Price SRAM X01 EAGLE BB30 Check out the latest price on: Amazon | Jenson USA BEST FOR: Riders looking for a slightly lower-cost version of the X11 for BB30 brackets CRANK LENGTH: 170-175mm RING SIZING: 32 WEIGHT: 520g PROS: Durable, performance, simplicity, weight CONS: Price SHIMANO ALTUS 7/8SPD SQUARE Check out the latest price on: Amazon | Jenson USA BEST FOR: Budget triple for older bike frames CRANK LENGTH: 170-175mm RING SIZING: 22/32/42 WEIGHT: 954g PROS: Compatibility, price CONS: Weight, performance SHIMANO FC-M4000 Check out the latest price on: Amazon BEST FOR: Budget triple with modern bottom bracket CRANK LENGTH: 165-175mm RING SIZING: 22/30/40 WEIGHT: 903g PROS: Price, performance CONS: Weight RACE FACE RESPOND 83MM Check out the latest price on: Amazon BEST FOR: High performance on a budget single chain ring CRANK LENGTH: 165-175mm RING SIZING: 36 WEIGHT: 988g PROS: Performance, durability, style, price CONS: Weight Gear up for mountain biking, without breaking the bankGet the Latest Deals on MTB GearSent right to your inbox...GEAR UP FOR MTB HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST MTB CRANKSETS CRANK ARM LENGTH The default or standard crank arm length is 175mm on mountain bikes, and is always measured in millimeters. Smaller frames and women-specific frames both may come with shorter crank arms, usually 165mm. Crank arm lengths range from 165-180mm, increasing in 5mm increments. As we explained in an earlier article, titled the Parts of a Mountain Bike, short arms are better for uphill and longer arms better for downhill. Crank arm length should be proportional to leg length. Shorter cranks for shorter legs, and longer cranks for longer legs. Several competing formula exist to calculate ideal length, but there is no consensus. You can probably calculate the right size from trial and error. See how you feel on your current cranks, and experiment with different sizes if they aren’t comfortable. According to Bicycling magazine, a professional fitting is the best way to get the perfect length. Bike fittings can be expensive, but the best fitters will leave you with a detailed, highly specific fit that you can use for years to come. GEAR RATIOS AND CHAIN RINGS Gear ratio determines how hard you work to turn the wheels. The ratio is determined by considering the number of teeth on the front chain ring to the number on the rear cog. Some riders find the idea confusing because the term higher gear refers both to the bigger front chain ring and to the smaller rear cogs. Conversely, lower gearing refers to a smaller front chain ring and a bigger rear cog. Higher gearing requires more energy but generates more power and speed, making it ideal for downhills and flats. Lower gearing generates less power but takes less energy, making it ideal for hard ascents. When selecting cranksets, you’ll be looking at the number of chain rings and the range of sizes available and comparing them to your rear cog. SINGLE, DOUBLE, OR TRIPLE? The first shifting bikes had single front chain rings, relying on the rear cog to change ratios. Innovation would bring double and triple chain rings to road bicycles, providing greater range and more speeds. Early double chain rings were called 10 speeds because there were 10 possible ratios provided by five rear cogs and two front chains. The pioneers of mountain biking made their bikes by welding road bike chain rings onto beach cruisers, getting an extra range of lower and higher gears. Later innovations would add a third tiny chain ring to mountain bikes and dramatically increase the number of rear cogs. After decades of dominance, doubles and triples are slowly being replaced with single chain rings. Part of the appeal is the simplicity. Multiple rings require a front derailleur, adding complexity, cost and weight. At the same time, rear cogs have gotten larger, allowing for more gear ratios. This increase has left double and triple chain rings with redundant or duplicate gear ratios. It also made them less attractive considering weight and cost. Unless you’re racing or climbing extreme grades, a single chain ring is probably perfect. Just ensure sure you have a wide enough range on the rear cog to handle local climbs and descents. POWER METERS Should you ride with a power meter on your mountain bike? Power meters are expensive add-ons that measure and store data on actual power output from your pedaling. Power meters are ubiquitous in road racing, but less popular in other disciplines. As a result, there are less integrated systems ready for mountain biking. Power meters will add $600-800 to the price of your crankset and aren’t compatible with every brand, so double-check before you buy a new crankset if you’d like to use a power meter with it. Stages and Rotor InPower both make power meters compatible with a wide range of cranksets. CONSTRUCTION MATERIAL Cranksets consist of two parts connected together; the chain rings and the crank arms. Each part may be made from a different material. Materials used include aluminum alloy, titanium, carbon fiber, chromoly steel, or some other type of steel. When considering materials, look at what your other components are. If you have carbon fiber components, you probably want carbon cranks. They’re lighter and stiffer than steel, and will maintain a unified look for your mountain bike. They’re also more expensive. Steel is the heaviest and cheapest. If using steel, try to stay with chromoly steel. Other forms of steel will be less durable and reliable. Aluminium, also called alloy, is in the middle, providing a great compromise. Titanium is more expensive and less common now, having largely been supplanted by carbon fiber. BOTTOM BRACKET STYLE Bottom bracket compatibility is a complex topic. Different frames have different size bottom brackets. Two separate parts are called bottom brackets. The space in your bike frame where a bottom bracket will be installed is called a bottom bracket as is the part itself. This helpful guide from Worldwide Cyclery will demonstrate how you can figure out your frame bottom bracket size. This chart from Performance Bike shows which cranksets are compatible with a specific bottom bracket. In some cases, you can purchase an adapter which should be available from the manufacturer of the crankset. Most cranksets come without a bottom bracket. You may be able to use an existing bracket or purchase a new one. Cranksets with bottom brackets included are highlighted in the guide. MOUNTAIN BIKING RESOURCESTABLE OF CONTENTSMOUNTAIN BIKINGTABLE OF CONTENTS 1. MTB BASICS 4. MTB MAINTENANCE 2. MTB CLOTHING 5. MTB SKILLS 3. MTB EQUIPMENT 6. MTB TRAINING 1. MTB BASICS 2. MTB CLOTHING 3. MTB EQUIPMENT 4. MTB MAINTENANCE 5. MTB SKILLS 6. MTB TRAINING Disclosure: The Adventure Junkies is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost for you. We also use other affiliate programs like REI, LeisurePro, Diviac and Liveaboard.com.