by Lee Trumpore
It wasn't long ago that carbon crank arms were only found on the bikes of the gram-counting XC crowd who had money to burn. But just as carbon frames are becoming commonplace under the world's most abusive DH racers, it's fast becoming the material of choice for the rest of their components as well. Race Face is the latest major brand to throw their hat into the DH/All Mountain/Enduro crank ring, and at 540 grams the redesigned SixC Cinch cranks are still light enough for the XC crowd, but now stiff and sturdy enough to put up with the abuse of DH racing.
Race Face SixC Cinch Crank Highlights
- Completely redesigned for 2015.
- The crank arms are completely hollow with all unnecessary material being removed from the centre core - no internal aluminum spine. Hand laid up and manufactured in Canada with US sourced carbon.
- Industry standard 30mm spline interface CNC machined from a newly commercialized aluminum super alloy that is 20% stronger than 7050 alloy (the alloy commonly used in this application).
- Removable spider option of the Cinch interface system offers the ability to convert between existing chainring standards while remaining flexible to future developments.
- The interchangeable spindle option of the Cinch Interface system allows you to use the same crankset with 68/73mm and 83mm frames.
- Intended use: AM/Enduro/DH
- SIZE: 165, 170, 175mm
- BB: BSA30 ( 68/73 & 83 ), BB92/BB107 press-fit, PF30/PF30-83
- 540g ( 36T DM, 165mm, 83mm spindle, w/o BB )
- 580g ( 36T on spider, 165mm, 83mm spindle, w/o BB )
- 695g ( 24/36/Bash, 175mm, 68/73mm spindle, w/o BB )
- RING CONFIGURATION:
- Direct mount N/W Single Ring ( 26/28/30/32/34/36 )
- 2x with Bash - 22/36/Bash, 24/36/bash
- 2x no bash - 22/36, 24/36, 24/38
- N/W Single Ring/Bash
- N/W Single Ring
- COLOR:Matte Carbon
- Sixc Cinch Cranks with Direct Mount N/W Single ring ( no BB ) - $499.99
- Sixc Cinch Crank 2x ( no BB ) - $599.99
- Sixc Cinch Crankarms ( no rings/BB ) - $459.99
- Cinch 30 BB - $59.99
At $500 my first impression is that these cranks certainly aren't cheap. But when you consider that they are made in Canada with US sourced carbon, and that the finish quality is simply outstanding, the high price tag comes a bit more into focus. Out of the box the SixC Cinch cranks look amazing with a clean, raw carbon layup and flawless aluminum machine work. The large diameter crank arms seem like they're just asking to be stomped on while the direct mount narrow-wide ring gives the whole package a nice minimalistic feel.
If it seems like I'm getting a bit carried away with aesthetics it's because these cranks simply look the business, and in a market saturated with expensive component choice that's no small detail. Beyond appearances what is immediately most apparent is the weight, specifically the lack of it. With a 30 tooth ring mine tipped the scales at a bit over 500 grams, or about 1/3 of a pound less than the high end aluminum cranks they replaced.
On the Trail
I had no issues with installation (aside from the BB sleeve which I'll touch on later) and had everything out of the box and onto the bike in under 15 minutes. The pre-greased bolt and spline interfaces and the thread lock on the BB threads were appreciated attention to detail, and really something that should be expected on any component at this price point.
Under foot the SixC cranks feel much like their appearance suggests. There is no perceptible flex, just stiff responsive power transfer through the pedals. Though it may be just in my head, I'm convinced that I can notice how worn my seasons old shoes have become far more on these cranks than when I get on my other trail bike.
Passing the parking lot sprint test is one thing, but the true measure of any crankset, especially a carbon one, is how well it performs out on the trail. After a month of regular riding I've not needed to adjust or service the SixC cranks once. A quick check before writing the review and the BB cups, crank bolt, and spider are as tight as they were on the first ride. I've had issues in the past with other cranks that use a similar threaded bearing preload design, specifically with it slowly rotating loose and allowing the crank arms to develop a bit of play. Race Face opted to machine their preload collar out of aluminum and use a pinch bolt to hold it in place (as opposed to the spring-loaded plastic of similar designs found elsewhere), and this has created a system much less prone to coming loose. Another small detail worth mentioning are the holes drilled into the collar that allow it to be rotated with the end of a small allen key. Anyone who's tried to rotate a preload collar after a few months of grime has built up on the tight threads will appreciate this addition.
I don't have any prior experience with the Race Face narrow-wide chainring so I can't offer any long-term assessment. However, I've yet to drop a chain and even after a few run-ins with rocks and one off trail excursion into a tree it's still running straight and true.
Things That Could Be Improved
The fit, finish, performance, and appearance of the Race Face SixC Cinch crankset have all been nothing short of fantastic. Tolerances are tight, small details are accounted for, and setup was a breeze.... well almost. It may have just been my frame, but the internal plastic sleeve/seal between the two BB cups put noticeable pressure on the spindle once everything was tightened down. Unthreading the cups a bit solved the problem, but I'm not sure running a slightly loosened BB is wise long term solution. I probably could have trimmed a few mm off the edges but instead I opted to remove the sleeve completely (which I usually do anyway, in this case for the sake of testing I installed everything according to the instructions). It's not something I consider to be a big deal, and I actually find it easier to clean and service my BB bearings without the plastic sleeves installed. It's something to take note of when installing these cranks on your own bike so you don't mistake the resistance for overly preloaded bearings or a misaligned spindle. There's also a very good chance this was an isolated issue.
Long Term Durability
Cranks are among the most abused components on our bikes, and often the only one to make direct contact with the ground on a regular basis. So far the included guards have done a nice job fending off blows from rocks and other trail obstacles leaving the crank arms themselves looking relatively unscathed. The not uncommon problems of bolts, spiders, and BB's coming loose over time have not presented themselves at all with the SixC and given the fairly exacting tolerances I don't foresee these being problematic in the future either. As for the carbon question, that comes down to your own comfort level with the material but given its current success in other DH applications I certainly don't have any concerns.
What's The Bottom Line?
Light, strong, stiff, and handmade in Canada the Race Face SixC cranks certainly lived up to expectations on my all-mountain bike. Though still not exactly cheap, with the quality finish, attention to detail, light weight and performance on offer here you can be sure you are getting what you pay for. Real long-term durability is the true test of any cranks, but so far the SixC's have been rock solid and free of any real issues. If tough carbon cranks are on your upgrade short-list, these surely need to be towards the top.
For more information, head on over to www.raceface.com.
About The Reviewer
Lee Trumpore has been riding bikes for more than 20 years on just about every material and technology the bike industry has come up with. In more than a decade of professional DH racing, Lee won a Collegiate National Championship and was a mainstay at major North American races as well as occasionally snagging a last page result in the World Cup series. Testing prototype components and suspension setups was common during his racing days. He has a smooth, light style on the bike even while holding it wide open. An East Coast native, his favorite trails are fast and flowing technical descents with as many corners as possible and just enough moisture to keep things interesting. Nowadays, rather than racing the clock, he'd rather enjoy a rad descent after a hard pedal to the top. A closet nerd with a Master's degree in education policy Lee currently lives in Taipei, Taiwan where he splits his time teaching mathematics to the next generation of computer geniuses and behind the lens as a photo mercenary for Vital MTB and other industry clients.