Best MTB Cranksets

MTB Cranksets - Reviews & Guides For 2024

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MTB cranksets buying guide

Whether you are starting your experience with mountain bikes or an expert rider, MTB cranksets play a crucial role in providing you with a smooth ride.

Riding up steep terrains, or drifting on the long roads with high speeds, right cranksets allow you to pedal with more speed and enjoy the thrilling experience. However, you need to select the appropriate product for your bike.

Depending on your body structure, height, bike type, different cranksets are available in the market. You have to deem about the material, length, and additional properties of the product to choose an elite one.

A buying guide provides in-depth information on the essential factors of the product, which alters its performance. By going through it, you can evaluate the vital factors against your requirements and select the best option available in the market.

But let us first get familiarized with the product.

What are MTB cranksets? Why do you need them?

For a mountain bike, the crankset is the lifeline. It quite literally puts the action in motion. The crankset is what transforms your leg power into rotational energy through the pedals and to the wheels. The right MTB cranksets can work phenomenally for mountain bikers to enhance performance.

If you want your wheels to move smoothly and efficiently make use of all the power your legs are generating, having the best MTB crankset is essential. Without it, your biking will fail to move upward in the learning curve. You want the bike to effectively work with all the might you put in, and MTB cranksets play a significant role in it.

A great MTB crankset will lead you miles of biking effortlessly and blend with the bike's functioning so well that your performance will soar. An avid rider or not, any mountain bike enthusiast should consider upgrading the best MTB crankset that the market has to offer.

Why is reading this buying guide vital before selecting an MTB crankset?

The crankset with suitable length and chainrings will adequately transfer the same proportion of power that you are applying with your legs while pedaling. To select a suitable product, you must know every minute detail of it.

This guide contains precise facts and details on all the necessary characteristics of the crankset. You can quickly get all the information at one stop and make an informed decision while purchasing the product.

So, let us start with the guide.

Things to Determine when Selecting the Appropriate MTB Cranksets

  1. Material

MTB cranksets come as sets of chainrings and crank arms, but the two components are often made of different materials because they serve different purposes. While steel worked well both in the old days, technological advances have come up with better materials for more efficiency, lightweight, durability, and power generation.

When it comes to crank arms, carbon fiber and aluminum are viable options that will cater to your performance-related needs. Aluminum is known to be lightweight and yet durable.

High-end mountain bikes, on the other hand, which are expensive and usually for the pros, come equipped with carbon fiber crank arms. This is for a good reason, though. Carbon fiber is not only more lightweight, but the strength and sturdiness of the material remain unbeatable when it comes to power transference.

For less expense and more reliability, Chromoly is not out of the question. The material is quite durable and dependable. The titanium also is an excellent material choice, but it comes at a high price.

  1. Chainrings

Chainrings have teeth that fit the chain to facilitate movement. They are usually made of aluminum or steel and their size and the number of rings they have to ascertain the range of gears.

There are three types of chainrings that MTB cranksets use. The choice depends on the kind of biking you do, and how much experience you have when it comes to mountain biking.

  1. Single-Ring

A single ring chainring means that the crankset will not have a gear range. Downhill biking is the type of biking for which single ring chainrings were made. The gravity riders, whose biking involves mostly descending, do not require gear range as gravity does most of the work.

Now, expanding their areas of use, single ring chainrings have become quite sought after by cross-country bikers and enduro bikers as well. This was made possible with the help of innovation by SRAM that widened the gear ratios that a single ring could achieve.

  1. Double-Ring

Although the widening of single ring chainrings' gear ratio brought them at par with the workings of double-ring chainrings, the latter continues to be in use despite their heavier weight. The main reason behind this is the reduction in price with the expansion of the single ring chainrings market.

  1. Triple-Ring

The triple ring chainrings are now known to be quite ancient technology. With the widening of gear ratios in single rings, the triple-ring chainrings fail to compete with their counterparts' performance, durability, and weight. They may only be seen in entry-level MTB cranksets.

MTB chainrings are typically known for having fewer teeth. A double ring comes in mainly three sizes – from 32/28 teeth format to 34/24 teeth format. Single ring chainrings have a standard size that may differ from brand to brand.

  1. Bottom Brackets

Bottom brackets are known to be the engines of the MTB cranksets. They have an axle that rotates between bearings that transfer your leg power from the pedals to the wheels. Their style has changed over the years from designed to be in a tube-like cartridge to external bottom brackets. This has enhanced strength and power transference while shedding off weight.

The cartridge-style bottom brackets offer a smaller axle diameter, which was contained in a tube-like structure. This tube of the metal cylinder had internal bearings, making the entire bottom bracket a single unit.

The newer external design of bottom brackets allows for larger axles and bearings that are contained in two rings. To increase life, you can opt for ceramic bearings in contrast to the steel ones.

Regardless of the one downside of the external bottom brackets, it is a wiser update from the cartridge style. It is, however, essential that you be cautious of sizes when making this change. Most cartridge bottom brackets come with stickers mentioning their specifications, which will make this upgrade more convenient.

  1. Length

The length of the MTB cranksets refers to the length of the crank arms. This length will then determine the size of the chain, which will connect to the pedals. A person of average height can work well with the standard crank length, which is approximately 175 mm. However, if you have taller or shorter legs, you will need to adjust this length according to what suits you.

Longer crank length comes with the upside of more excellent leverage application to the chain. But this also makes the efforts required to make the chain move more strenuous. Longer crank length is appropriate for taller riders.

For shorter riders, shorter crank arms are preferred because they make the crankset much more comfortable to move. These are also best suited for exploring mountain trails, in contrast to longer crank lengths that are better suited for flatter trails. They also give you better control over your bike.

  1. Weight

A critical consideration that you need to factor in a while planning to purchase the best-suited MTB crankset is the weight of the crankset. This will affect your speed and performance by a significant margin. The weight is majorly determined by the material used in the making of the MTB cranksets and the number of the chainrings as well.

Especially if you are a racer and speed is of the utmost importance when it comes to biking, weight is an important consideration. The carbon fiber material makes the most lightweight MTB cranksets that are easy to maneuver. They are found in high-end mountain bikes because professional racers mostly opt for them.

Apart from speed while riding, the portability of the bike is also another factor that is important and utterly dependent on the weight of the bike. So, keeping it as light as possible not only ensures high performance but also convenience.

  1. Durability

MTB Cranksets are essential upgrades for your mountain bikes and often cost a fortune but enhance the bike's performance phenomenally. They are supposed to interact with tough terrain while continuously working to generate maximum power from the legs' force. This makes it essential that they are robust and durable.

You do not want to neglect essential criteria like material and build design of chainrings, crank arms, and bottom brackets and then end up with a crankset that requires frequent repairing and fix-ups. Invest time and effort in looking for good quality cranksets that will last you long enough.

Aluminum, titanium, and carbon fiber are long-lasting materials and dependable. The crank arms should align with the chainrings and bottom brackets for increased longevity. Also, ensure that components of the cranksets are entirely coated with coverings that provide long life.

  1. Cranks

Cranks arms, as the name suggests, are arguably the most vital part of MTB cranksets. They consist of two arms that are mounted across from each other and connected to an axle. This shifts and generates power through movement of the pedals.

Different considerations need to be factored in when it comes to cranks. The first is material. As discussed in earlier sections, you can choose from an array of materials that are durable and dependable to different degrees like Chromoly, aluminum, carbon fiber and titanium, steel, etc.

Another critical consideration is the crank length. It often depends on the height of the rider and the type of biking you plan to do. Shorter cranks allow you more control over the bike and are easier to maneuver. They are best suited for mountain trails rather than straighter trails like roads.

  1. Size

A wide variety of sizes swarm the markets when it comes to MTB cranksets. You can choose depending upon the space that your bike can accommodate, the weight of the crankset and gear ratios as well as your personal preferences. You must select the right size crankset for optimum performance.

  1. Teeth

When it comes to shifting gears, the tooth on your MTB crankset is a crucial determiner. Standard single ring chain-sets usually have a single size which differs from one manufacturer to another. This may vary from 32 to 36 teeth. Double ring chain-sets have three sizes of teeth, as discussed in the previous section of chainrings.

  1. Power Meters

This feature, while not found in all MTB cranksets, is fast becoming a valuable add-on. It helps ensure the measurement of output generated by the crankset on your bike from the pedaling to keep track and improve.

Often, with the advancement in technology, power meters can be integrated into the crankset of the bike itself to make accurate measurements. However, if already built-in, this feature will jack the price of the crankset. A more affordable alternative would be to buy the two items separately and then attach the power meter.

  1. Q-Factor

The distance between the biker's legs when he is in his pedaling stance is referred to as the Q-Factor. You want this distance to be optimum because too wide or too narrow never offer stable functioning.

You can understand and adjust your q-factor according to your preferences and performance expectations by measuring the distance between the outer ends of the crank arms.

Narrow q-factor is said to give you more speed, but that speed is not consistent and begins to drop after a few miles. Keeping the q-factor very narrow is not the answer to the quick achievement of faster speed and high performance. Similarly, a wider q-factor may give you less stable control over your peddling.

  1. Effectiveness

When it comes to the bottom line of upgrading to a better crankset or choosing a good crankset, it is the enhancement of performance. This comes from an effective generation of power and its transference from your leg force into rotational power that moves the bike. This function of MTB cranksets must be performed well as this determines the effectiveness of the product.

In order to ensure that your crankset is entirely sufficient to enhance your performance depending on the type of biking you do, prioritize your expectations. If you are a racer, enhanced performance would mean speed, and if you are an amateur mountain biker, technique improvement would be your priority.

So, the type of crankset you choose to purchase will affect your performance, for the better or for worse. Make sure that you do your research so that you are able to improve effectively upwards in the learning curve.

  1. Compatibility

For your crankset to work in a perfect blend with your bike, they need to be compatible. To ensure compatibility, the bottom brackets are the component that needs to be paid close attention. Adopting newer technology of the external bottom bracket style will be a wise choice.

The bottom brackets should fit your bike frame, to begin with. They provide you with a larger axle, but that would be of no use if your bike cannot accommodate it. Another critical factor in ensuring compatibility is the speed that the crankset is willing to accept.

How to Inspect an MTB Crankset

A thorough inspection and examination of the MTB crankset that you plan to purchase are essential to ensure smooth and hassle-free functioning.

  1. First and foremost, you need to look out for the basic components' physical condition. The crank arms and the chainrings should be debt free and without any cracks or other signs of damage.
  1. Next, it is essential to check for 'play' in crank arms. This can be done by rocking it back and forth to ensure that no bearings require additional adjustments. If there is an indication of 'play,' it means that bearings have loose bolts, or are damaged.
  1. When you pedal, any motion that feels like a back and forth or up and down rocking motion is an indicator of a bend. To rectify this, the pedal is to be removed and held where it is attached to the crank arm. When this position is set, try to spin the pedal and see if it does so smoothly. If not, it needs to be replaced. If so, then it is the crankset that is damaged and needs replacement.
  1. If you come across any of the above-discussed issues, your crankset may not be in great shape and would require servicing. There are several videos and good books to guide you through it yourself if you want to try your hand at it as well.

Taking Care of MTB Cranksets

Mountain bikes require maintenance in order for them to be in perfect shape and remain good as new. When it comes to maintenance, MTB cranksets are special components that require taking care as they are the lifeline of the bike. It is crucial to maintain a longer life and keep its functioning smooth.

Cleaning the crankset meticulously is the most important to prevent rusting and get rid of any rocks or pebbles that may hamper with the optimum functioning. Thorough cleaning and drying are essential.

Then comes the lubrication of the bearings. However, modern models may not require this step due to the sealed feature. In that case, simply wash the bearing after each ride.

For thorough cleaning, using a brush rather than a cloth will be much more effective. You can even use other sharp and narrow objects covered in fabric to clean the areas that are hard to reach.

Regular upkeep and inspection of the crankset and meticulous cleaning will ensure that it remains daisy fresh and as good as new. The longer you maintain this habit of keeping your mountain bike's components in order, the better will be the results of durability and trouble-free functioning.


1. Is upgrading MTB cranksets really required?

No, not always! MTB cranksets should only be upgraded when they are broken and need fixing. Until then, if you just want to power up the performance, all you need to do is get new tires and wheels.

2. Which material is durable as well as budget-friendly for MTB cranksets?

Generally, steel and aluminum are the two types of most durable materials for creating MTB cranksets. Between them, steel is considered as an affordable option and a more suitable option for all budget-conscious people.

3. What does upgrading MTB cranksets mean?

When you are going to upgrade MTB cranksets, you are actually going to replace all its components with the new ones. This means that the existing length, chainsets as well as arms are changed with newer elements.

4. What are the teeth formats for single and double ring chainsets?

As per the brand size, single ring chainsets usually come in 32 or 34 or 36 tooth format. In the same way, the double-ring chainsets come in the minimum teeth format of 34/24 and the maximum teeth format of 38/28.

5. What is best for the ultimate performance of mountain bikers: single, double, or triple ring chainsets?

While most gravity riders are more focussed on single or double ring chainsets, there are different cross-country riders as well as trail mountain bikers who ride the MTB bikes with triple chainsets.

Summing up

An ill-fitted crankset will not only reduce your riding performance but will also drain your energy at a faster rate by not transferring the proper amount of power to the wheels. To counter this problem, all you need to do is select an appropriate MTB crankset.

We have gathered all the information on all the necessary factors of the product and developed a comprehensive buying guide. Read it and go through every minute detail to avoid investing your money in the poor-quality product. / - © Copyright 2020