Best MTB Cranksets
Mountain bikes are full of essential components that can alter the durability and performance that you experience. And, without question, one of those components happens to be the best MTB cranksets. Whether you have come here today looking for an upgrade or because your current MTB cranksets need to be replaced, we are here to help.
MTB cranksets of any kind are set out to convert the motion of your legs (from pedaling) into energy that can drive the rear wheel forward. So, as you can tell, it is an essential component to get right, and you need to know how to buy one.
Now, it is important to note that this guide will be focused on MTB cranksets. This means that this guide will be tailored to mountain bike riders. Now with that out of the way, let’s get this show on the road.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 8.25 hrs of research
It has been optimized for superb stiffness
It is available in multiple arm lengths
The spider has been designed to take advantage of the new shape
Our Top Picks for the Best MTB Cranksets
1. SRAM Red GXP Crankset
It has been optimized for superb stiffness
It is available in multiple arm lengths
The spider has been designed to take advantage of the new shape
The price is steep
This is an SRAM crankset which automatically means its placement is justified on this list. If you are looking for a true upgrade and do not mind shelling out the dough then this is a terrific option.Read more
What is so exceptional about this crankset is the fact that it provides the stiffness users love from carbon cranks. At the same time, this design also lays up the carbon to create a spider with a higher volume.
Still used on the spider arms are 130-millimeter bolt circle diameters. Oh yeah, the wings are also available in different lengths (165, 167.5, 170, 172.5 and 175 millimeters).
In addition to the fact that SRAM used specific analysis techniques to create a crankset with enhanced stiffness, innovative Exogram technology has also been implemented. This ensures better gear shifts and improved power transfer.
For the record, this design is compatible with the SRAM GXP bottom bracket standard. And, this also includes the option for hybrid ceramic bearings.
It depends on the size of the arms that you buy, but each option remains lightweight regardless. The weights range from 568 to 619 grams, for those of you who care.
The SRAM GXP Crankset is just as good as it gets when it comes to MTB cranksets. It is money well-spent, even though the price of admission is pretty darn high.
2. FSA K-Force Carbon Crankset
It utilizes a single bolt circle diameter
The chain rings are 10 and 11-speed compatible
The shifting performance is phenomenal
The price is not cheap
Due to the carbon fiber construction of this bike crank, it is not only extremely lightweight but also superiorly stiff. While you pay the price for this type of crankset, it is worth the money.Read more
In addition to the fact that the chainrings have been 3D forged from aluminum, the actual arms have been molded in carbon fiber for excellent stiffness.
Past the fact that this is available with different chainrings, the lengths of the crank arms are also different. They are available in 170, 172.5 and 175-millimeter lengths for those of you who care.
To say that the shifting performance of this crankset is flawless is an understatement. Additionally, extra rigidity is placed where it is needed most in the pedal stroke.
Not only are the chainrings both 10 and 11-speed compatible but this entire system is compatible with full 86-millimeter bottom bracket shells.
What is nice is the enhanced stiffness of this chainset does not come at the expense of more weight. That is the brilliance of carbon fiber, after all.
When it comes down to it, this and the number one option on this list are tossups. Both of them deserve to be called the best MTB crankset out there as they are that close in quality.
3. Race Face MTB Crankset
It features patented steel inserts for increased strength
Sports three millimeters of chainline adjustability
The installation will be quick and easy
Not the lightest option out there
The bottom bracket seems to be hit or miss with people
Race Face has been known to create some spectacular MTB cranksets and their Chester model is one of their best. Even though the crank arm is not made out of carbon fiber, it has been engineered with net-forged alloy.Read more
Everything about this model screams durability. This includes the net-forged 6066 alloy crank arms, steel inserts, extended spline interface and also bearings that have been factory filled with waterproof grease.
Race Face provides you with multiple crank arms lengths to choose from. As with so many others, you have the option of choosing 165, 170, or 175-millimeter arms.
Overall, you will not feel any flex at all with this crankset. Even though it is not designed with carbon fiber, the supplied stiffness is simply superb.
Though the reviews have been mixed with the included X-Type bottom bracket, it is nice that it is included. Also, this also sports three millimeters of chain line adjustability which is really convenient.
At over 1000 grams in total weight, it is safe to say that this is not the lightest option on the market.
The combination of the ultra-durable core and the stiff ride that is produced makes this as highly compelling a choice as you will find, especially at this price range.
4. Race Face Atlas Crankset
Much lighter than the first-generation model
It comes with the necessary bottom bracket
Sports deeper crank arm lengths for improved stiffness
It is not quite as strong as claimed
What another fantastic mountain bike crankset this is. In addition to the superb performance that your mountain bike will receive, this has also been engineered from OPTIM-AL.Read more
Due to the fact that this has been engineered with OPTIM-AL, it is 20 percent stronger than competing MTB cranksets that are made with 7050 alloy. Also, the bearings have been factory filled with waterproof grease.
The Atlas is available with both 165 and 170-millimeter arms, for the record. You just may have to search in other places for the 170-millimeter version.
Thanks to the deeper construction of the arms, this chainset is potent in regard to its stiffness. Additionally, fat tab technology has been implemented for increased strength and effectiveness.
You will just need to buy a chainring for this as a bottom bracket is included. Also, to ensure chain guide compatibility, this allows for five millimeters of chain line adjustment.
When compared to the first generation Atlas crankset, this weighs far less (anywhere from 31 to 81 grams of savings, to be specific).
Leave it to Race Face to design such a high-quality mountain bike crankset. What is even more remarkable, however, is the fact that this will not break your bank.
5. SRAM XX1 GXP
Six chain rings are available
Ring changes are made much easier
This delivers optimal chain control
The bolt circle size is a bit different
When looking at this chainset from top to bottom, it becomes difficult to find any flaws. Granted that the XX1 GXP is engineered by SRAM that is not too much of a surprise.Read more
The carbon fiber arms have been joined with a forged aluminum spider. For those of you who want models that sport carbon fiber, you should be a big fan of this.
The SRAM XX1 GXP comes in a 170-millimeter length. As for the chainrings, there are six different ones available to suit a wide range of different terrains and wheel sizes.
One of the most significant selling points of this design is the fact that it was optimized for maximum chain control. This is thanks to the innovative tooth profile that alternates thickness by inner and outer links.
While this does have a different bolt circle diameter, the new spider design does allow for more natural ring changes. On another note, the bottom bracket (as noted in the description) does not come with your purchase.
With the bottom bracket (which is not included) included in the total weight, this only weighs 650 grams. The addition of carbon fiber is the primary reason why the weight is so low.
At the end of the day, it is merely a tough bet against an SRAM crankset. Their XX1 GXP is as good as it is going to get at this price range, you can count on that.
6. FSA Vero Compact Crankset
The arms are available in different lengths
This is a double chain ring crankset
Sports compact gearing
There are better top-end options out there
Mark this down as simply another truly fabulous MTB crankset on a long list of them. The arms are designed with cold-forged aluminum and are also available in a few different lengths.Read more
As was just noted, the crank arms that are equipped here are indeed made with cold-forged aluminum.
FSA designs their Vero crankset in a few different sizes for your convenience. You have options for 170, 172.5 and 175-millimeter crank arms.
Per the name, this is indeed a compact crankset. But, what you need to know is the compact gearing does not sacrifice top-end speed.
It is essential to know that this is compatible with JIS square taper bottom brackets as one is not included with your purchase. Additionally, this system is also compatible with both SRAM and Shimano nine-speed drivetrains.
It is noted in the product description that this crankset clocks in at just less than 700 grams (699, to be exact).
Much like with other high-quality brands out there, it is tough to go wrong with an FSA crankset. In fact, from top to bottom, the brand’s Vero is about as stellar as you could ask.
7. Shimano Alivio Crankset
It is designed with Hyperdrive technology
It works nicely with Shimano nine-speed gears
You can get a two-year warranty through Chain Reaction Cycles
It does not come with a bottom bracket
One of the nice aspects of Shimano is the fact that they engineer many affordable and high-quality MTB cranksets. Their Alivio is one great example of such and is an elite, entry-level option.Read more
As noted, this is an entry-level option. And, because of this, the Alivio is equipped with forged aluminum. Not bad, overall, but it is not entirely carbon fiber.
There are two different size options at your disposal, much like many of other MTB cranksets. Anyway, you can choose between either arm lengths of 170 or 175 millimeters.
The combination of the Hyperdrive technology for improved shifting performance and the 8-spline interface between the crank arms and bottom bracket for enhanced power transmission is excellent.
For the record, the bottom bracket you need is not included with your purchase. Also, this crankset works well for nine-speed gear systems.
Though this is not designed with carbon fiber arms, this is not a heavy crankset regardless.
For an entry-level bicycle crank system, this thing is pretty remarkable. The performance-end of things is what is striking as you would not expect that from a model at this price range.
8. Shimano Tourney Crankset
It can suit different types of drivetrains
The produced ride is incredibly smooth
Designed with an aluminum body
The bottom bracket and bolts are not included
What makes this crankset so great is the fact that it produces a smooth ride thanks to its flawless shifting. Oh, it also is available at an affordable price so that is always a plus.Read more
In addition to the fact that the body of this chainset is made with aluminum, it has also been painted to protect the surface from scratches and other such damage.
There are some different options available for the chainrings as well as for the lengths of the arms. For the latter, you have options for 170 or 175 millimeters.
If there is one thing you can count on from Shimano MTB cranksets, it is that they are typically designed to perform. The smoothness of the ride (thanks to the flawless shifting) provided by this crankset will be adored by several of you.
Quite conveniently, this can work with various types of drivetrains. For example, it is compatible with drivetrains ranging from six to eight speeds. Oh, and the bottom bracket is not included.
The steel arms do add some weight, but the overall aluminum core does make this a lightweight chainset. It is just not quite as light as specific top-end models.
This is proof that cheaper cranksets can still be quite beneficial. While this lacks the lightness and stiffness that you will see in top-end designs, it is beyond excellent for the price.
9. Shimano Altus Chainset
The arms are available in 175 millimeters
It includes a built-in chainguard
It works great as an entry-level chainset
There is some plastic that has been implemented
In the future, you will probably find yourself upgrading from the Shimano Atlus. For the meantime, however, it can act as a great replacement for your current crankset if it is worn out.Read more
While some plastic has been implemented, this is mostly designed of metal. There is also an excellent powder coating that adds a layer of protection to the metal.
For those of you wondering, five millimeters can go a long way. That is being noted as the two size options available are 170 and 175 millimeters in length.
In addition to the increased speed that you can expect from this (depending on the crankset that you are replacing), the built-in chainguard conveniently keeps your shoelaces and pants away from the drivetrain.
This is going to require a 123-millimeter bottom bracket. As you can probably guess, this is not going to be included with your purchase. On another note, this is also seven and eight-speed compatible.
You can expect top-end models to be a little lighter (thanks to carbon fiber), but that is not to say that this is heavy (as that is not the case at all).
Yes, the addition of the plastic is going to be met with a lukewarm response. That is fair but do know this; the Atlus crankset is still going to be excellent for the right riders.
10. Shsyue MTB Crankset
Designed with Fluid Drive Plus technology
Ideal for people on a tight budget
Built with aluminum and steel
One user had longevity issues
In addition to the most durable construction, this crankset is also equipped with Fluid Drive Plus technology. This accounts for improved and satisfactory shifting performance.Read more
For the most part, the construction is solid here. This includes the steel inner ring and the aluminum outer ring. We say “for the most part” as one user did note that the pedal threads stripped out for them.
This comes with a crank arm that measures 170 millimeters in length, so do keep that in mind.
The primary reason why this crankset even made this list was due to its Fluid Drive Plus technology. This maximizes the performance of the shifting, which will only make you happier.
As with other MTB cranksets, this does not come with a bottom bracket. Also, keep in mind that this does come with riveted chainrings.
You have heard the spiel before; this is not the lightest model out there but is far from unbearably heavy.
Consider this the off-the-wall selection on this list. It is not that it is terrible, but it is made by a manufacturer that you may have never heard of before.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
What you want to focus on here is the design of the crank arms. In specific, what materials have been used to make them.
Alright, so your first order of business is to assess the design of the crank arms (one of the significant components of MTB cranksets). Back in the day, steel crank arms were commonly used. But, as you probably noticed while looking through this list, most of the modern models will be made with either aluminum or carbon fiber crank arms.
The question is, though, which material is better when it comes to the crank arms? Well, just for the record, neither aluminum nor carbon fiber is bad choices. But, let’s start with aluminum. Typically, you will find aluminum crank arms on low-to-mid-range cranksets. Aluminum crank arms are not only light in nature but also stiff and sport a certain level of toughness.
Then again, most top-end units will be equipped with carbon fiber crank arms. If you want premium, then carbon fiber is the way to go. However, this will come at a price that some of you will not be willing to pay, and that is fair.
Either way, the sheer tensile strength advantage that carbon fiber has over aluminum (over 11 times) is impressive. But, it also manages to be lighter than aluminum by quite a large margin (which is remarkable). Oh yeah, and the stiffness provided by carbon fiber crank arms is second to none.
The material of the crank arms is important but so is the size. Of course, you also can't overlook the chain ring setup that you prefer.
To continue talking about crank arms, there is also something else you need to assess, and that is their length. This is important as not all MTB cranksets will come with the same sized crank arms. They can range anywhere from 165 to 180 millimeters. However, most commonly, you will see them measure 175 millimeters in length.
But why should you care about this anyway? Well, depending on the size of your legs, you may want shorter or longer crank arms than other users. Again, 175 millimeters can be considered the norm. To gain a clearer perspective, it is recommended to conduct some research to see which length is recommended for your legs.
Now, let’s shift the focus to chainrings for a little bit. These allow the chain to drive the rear wheel. But, what you need to know is there will be options for single, double, and even triple chainring setups. For the most part, all are good.
Single chainring setups are made to simplify your drivetrain and can often be seen as more reliable. Double chainring configurations are probably the most popular and can account quite nicely for steep climbs and downhill rides. As for triple chainring setups, this may only be necessary if you enjoy riding on fast surfaces.
The crankset is simply another component that can positively affect the performance of your bike.
Above all else, you probably are interested in buying MTB cranksets that can perform the way you want them to. They are one of the many components that can affect the experience of your ride. Of course, buying them all starts with the type of riding you will be partaking in.
If you enjoy cross-country racing then you will probably want a lighter rig with a wide range of gears. On the other hand, you may need more strength if you are into more “gravity” riding. This is where the addition of carbon fiber arms can be so beneficial for some of you.
Now, speaking of carbon fiber, it is worth noting that most hollow axle chainsets will be plenty stiff regardless if they sport carbon fiber or aluminum arms. For the record, with cranksets that place an emphasis on stiffness, you will notice an increased response in your handling.
Oh, and one last thing, also look for models that allow for really good shifting performance. The design of the chainrings can help with this, as well as specific proprietary technologies, as the smoother the gears shift, the better.
Above all else, do ensure that the crankset you buy (more specifically the bottom bracket) will work with your bike frame.
Alright, it is now time to talk about the last major component that makes up a crankset. This is referring to a bottom bracket but what exactly is it. Sometimes shortened to just BB, you can consider this the engine room of the entire unit. It consists of an axle that will be rotating inside all the bearings.
Now, some sellers will include a bottom bracket with their cranksets and others will notify you of which types are compatible. And, yes, bottom brackets themselves can provide different performance benefits and durability. Regarding the latter, look for the bearings to be sealed and protected from the elements.
Of course, you also need to ensure that the bottom bracket (either provided or paid for separately) will actually fit on your bike frame. The reason for this is bike frames can have differing bottom brackets that they will accept. This is not an issue that you want to run into, after all.
Additionally, pay attention to the speeds that the chainrings will accept. You probably do not want a single-speed crankset. But, you also need to know that the chainrings will only work with chains of the same speed. If you want several different speeds, look for MTB cranksets that are compatible with 9, 10, or even 11 speeds.
Yep, though it has been hinted at previously, this section directly addresses weight.
It seems to have been beaten to death already so we will not spend too much time talking about carbon fiber here. But, this section is one of the reasons why the material is so beloved by many mountain bike racers. While aluminum is known for being a lightweight metal (which it is), it only can’t contend with the lightweight nature of carbon fiber.
Now, with that out of the way, it is worth noting that weight savings can be beneficial for whatever riding that you will be doing. Again, though, do not mistake lightweight MTB cranksets for low-performance models. Remember, carbon fiber is also much stronger and stiff than aluminum.
Outside of weight savings playing a role in the portability of a bike, it can also be incredibly beneficial for racers. Mountain bike racers will not want to be bogged down with heavy bike components. And, the same concept applies to the crankset. Keeping it as light as possible will be very important to some of you.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
It is very important that you place an emphasis on what you want the crank arms to be made out of. While carbon fiber is the superior of the two most common materials you will see (the other being aluminum), it is also the more expensive of the two. Both aluminum and carbon fiber crank arms are competent. But, the latter offer increased stiffness and less total weight.
In addition to the material of the crank arms, you also need to assess their length. The most common period is 175 millimeters, but this may not work for all of you. Past this, keep in mind the chain ring setup that you want to have. If you feel a single chainring setup will be too limited, then you may want to opt for double and triple chainring setups.
Outside of the materials of the crank arms, other factors can allow MTB cranksets to perform at a higher level. But, a lot of what you want will come down to the riding that you will want to partake in. Of course, with that said, you should always prioritize cranksets that offer smooth shifting performance. Top-end models should excel with stuff like this.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: Does the crank length affect the gearing?
This is somewhat of a tricky question to answer and it is merely due to the wording of it. The reality of the situation is the crank length is going to change the feel of the drivetrain. But, it is going to do so regardless of the gearing. So, whether the arm lengths are longer or shorter, it will have an impact on the feel of the bike, as a whole.
q: What exactly is Q factor?
Q factor has not been talked about yet but it is something that you may stumble across during your search. To briefly explain what Q factor actually is, on the crank arms, it is the distance that is between the pedal attachment points when they are measured to the bottom bracket axle in a parallel motion.
But, what does this mean to you? Simply put, smaller Q factor can result in a smaller and lighter crankset. Meanwhile, a larger Q factor means that less cornering clearance will need to be met.
q: What is the difference between 172.5 and 175 cranks?
For the record, when you see cranksets labeled as 172.5 or 175 cranks, it merely is referring to the length of the crank arms. This was documented earlier, and regarding what the difference is between the two cranks, it is very minimal.
When you take into consideration that 2.5 millimeters are not even 0.1 inches, it becomes clear that the difference in distance is quite minute. Then again, it can still make somewhat of a difference.
q: What bottom bracket size do you need?
Here is the good news; measuring the bike frame of your current bicycle is not going to be difficult. Doing so is going to determine the size of the bottom bracket that you need. All you will need is a measuring tape to get the job done.
With that tape in hand, you will need to measure the inside of the bottom bracket shell that is in your frame. You can access a tutorial video if you are unsure where that is precise. Anyway, you will need the measurement to be in millimeters (and it will either be 68, 70 or 73 millimeters).
q: Why is your bottom bracket creaking?
Nine times out of ten, the reason your bottom bracket will be creaking is that the bearings are moving. This creaking sound is going to be because of movement so that you can count on that. Anyway, unless you are proficient when it comes to bike maintenance, you may want to seek help from a reliable outside source.
Some people will lubricate the bearings to fix the issue. However, this is only a temporary fix and can often make matters worse. The safe bet is to address the problem as soon as you detect it.
q: Can you mix Shimano components with each other?
While you will always need to double-check with the components that you are working with, Shimano is pretty good at making their componentry interchangeable. But, there is a catch. What you need to look for are components that share the same gear configuration.
Granted this is the case then you should be fine to mix some components. This can come in handy if you tend to shop with Shimano a lot. They are a pretty reliable company, after all.