Bred from a long tradition of quality and durable products in the component arena, the Race Face Atlas cranks have been a mainstay in the Canadian company's product line for years. Originally designed with an all-mountain and a freeride model, Race Face had refined the design over the years creating a single Atlas crank described as being a “do-it-all” crankset that could handle anything from aggressive trail riding to downhill laps. Known for its durability, strength, and an affordable price tag while giving riders the ability to add some flair with their trademark color options, could Race Face update the Atlas crank enough to warrant an upgrade from the previous model?
Race Face Atlas Features
- Forged 7050 aluminum alloy arms
- Bracing matrix at the back of the crank arms for added stiffness
- 30mm spindle
- Removable spider offers the ability to convert between existing chainring standards while remaining flexible to future developments
- Compatible with Race Face BMX spindle and spider
- Intended use: Trail / Enduro / DH / DJ / BMX
- Spindle Size: 30mm
- Spiders: Direct Mount, 104/64mm (boost option available)
- Arm Lengths: 165mm, 170mm, 175mm
- Weight: 690g (32t Direct Mount, without bottom bracket)
- Colors: Black, Red, Blue, and Green
- MSRP: $210 (crank only) / $340 as tested with 32t Direct Mount Ring and RF Press Fit BB
At first glance, most might not see much visually different with the Atlas Cinch cranks compared to previous models. On the surface, these cranks have the same clean lines and subtle graphics as previous years. But upon closer inspection you’ll notice two key changes. First, Race Face has updated the cranks with the new Cinch interface, using a direct mount chainring system that allows you to easily swap out chainrings, or if needed, add a removable spider to accept 104mm BCD configurations. With the Cinch system, it is also possible to swap out axles allowing you to use the cranks on bikes with different BB shell sizes if needed (*cough* fat bike swap).
Flipping the cranks over you’ll notice the 2nd change: Race Face has machined out 6 sections of material for weight savings. Despite less material and an approximately 30-gram lighter weight than the previous iteration (most weight savings is from the lack of spider and chainring bolts), Race Face claims that riders will see an increase in stiffness when compared to past models.
When it came to installation, the Cinch system really shines. The provided instructions give a pretty straightforward and visual walk-through to make the installation process pretty foolproof.
On The Trail
When it comes to cranks, I desire strength and durability; strength needed to transfer as much energy as possible to moving my bike faster, and durability to withstand the impacts, mud, and dirt that can wreack havoc on one of the most abused areas of a bike. I have no prior experience with previous versions of the Atlas line of cranks to confirm or deny the claimed increased stiffness, but I was completely satisfied with the ironclad support that the cranks provide when it came time to get out of the saddle. And when things got rough or coming down from a bit of air time, it was nearly impossible to register any flex in the arms. I expected the machined recessed areas of the cranks to collect mud quite easily but never noticed much accumulation after a muddy ride.
Just like most narrow-wide chainrings these days that are paired with a clutch derailleur, the RF Cinch Narrow Wide ring worked flawlessly and we never experienced a dropped chain.
Long Term Durability
I’m no heavyweight (165 lbs on a good day) so I’ve never been one to ride cranks to the point of failure, but during testing we never found durability to be a concern. Burly rock strikes to the crank arms, that sounded terrible at the time, thankfully resulted in just scratches with no structural or mechanical issues. I even managed to bash a tooth on the chainring but still had no issues with keeping the chain on. Cosmetically, I was happy to notice was the barely any sign of the dreaded ‘shoe rub’ which can quickly wear the finish off of most cranks. With the ease of installation/disassembly, I know that when it comes times to service the BB it will be a painless and quick process.
Things That Could Be Improved
My biggest gripes came during installation. To install/change the spindle, the required 16mm allen wrench is one that most won’t have in their arsenal of tools, and you might find yourself making a quick trip to the hardware store or local shop for that step of the process. Our cranks came with the spindle installed so only the 8mm allen was required. The second is the 2mm allen that is used to secure the preload adjuster. Be VERY careful tightening this down as I can see this stripping out quite easy (think of the old ODI lock ring allen bolts).
In regards to the Cinch system and its modular design, I would love to see more competitive pricing in their spindle pricing, which would truly make it a design where you could have a set of cranks to potentially last you a few bikes. Spindles costing almost half the price of a new set of cranks makes it a bit tougher to buy into that theory.
What's The Bottom Line?
For those riders looking for a durable and strong set of cranks that could handle abuse across a wide range of riding styles and disciplines, the Atlas cranks tick off all the check marks on that list with no major flaws. If you’re intrigued by the Cinch system and its advantages but are counting grams, you might be better served with the SixC crankset. But, for the value-minded who aren't concerned with saving every possible gram, the Atlas cranks look to be in it for the long-haul in terms of both their durability and ability to adapt to future standards, should they come... and we know they will.
For more information, visit raceface.com
About The Reviewer
Justin Schroth has been riding mountain bikes for over 15 years, experiencing first hand the evolution of the industry from thumb shifters and MCU cartridge forks to carbon fiber frames and single-ring all mountain bikes. As an East Coast rider, he loves trails with a combination of jumps, technical downhills, and the occasional loose corner for some foot out action. With a Mechanical Engineering degree, Justin's instinct is to always consider how it works over how it looks. After many years of racing the Northeast Norba and Collegiate series, Justin hung up the race plate and his diploma to go behind the camera at Lucent Productions, creating mountain bike video content for several clients such as Highland Mountain Bike Park.