Review and photos by Johan Hjord
e*thirteen is a brand that most people will associate with chain retention systems (aka chainguides), and rightfully so – the original e*thirteen guide and bash combos were certainly among the most innovative designs out there at the time, and could be found on many a bike whether it was at a World Cup race or at weekend warrior basecamp.
In 2010, e*thirteen was acquired by and became part of The Hive, a company that was at the time mainly producing cranks. The e*thirteen brand was kept alive, and has since then grown to include not only guides but also cranks, wheels, and pedals. e*thirteen is the main brand of The Hive today (which also includes Chub Hubs and revl road bike brakes).
e*thirteen’s current catalogue features three main product families, LG1 (Downhill), TRS (Enduro), and XCX (Cross Country). Each family contains cranks, guides, and wheels. Furthermore, several levels are available within each family (Race, Plus, and Base), which ensures that there is essentially an option on offer to suit any application and budget.
We’ve been riding the LG1+ cranks together with a Guidering chainring for the last couple of months. Here is the report on how the combo fared out on the trails (also check out our separate review of the LG1+ Chainguide).
The LG1+ cranks are impressive straight out of the box. The design is contemporary, and the attention to detail and the level of workmanship is very high. Everything from the materials used to the finish have a quality feel to them, and the way the cranks look had us eager to get them on the bike straight away. Note that the cranks do not come with the BB, so if you forgot to order the appropriate BB you won’t be able to fit anything at all straight away – the main spindle on the LG1+ is 30mm in diameter and won’t fit any other BBs. Perhaps the standout feature (certainly one of the most talked about) on e*thirteen cranks is the crank arm/spindle interface. The “Polygon 3 Lobe Interface” was designed using a German DIN standard that, among other hi-torque applications, is also used for tank transmissions. The idea behind applying this standard is to provide 100% spindle to crank arm surface contact and to avoid the degradation that can occur in splined interfaces. With our tank-like legs we were immediately reassured by this feature.
- Arm material: EXA+ Aluminum
- Arm length: 165, 170, 175mm
- Spindle material: EXA+ Aluminum w/ P3 Connect Interface
- Rings: Optional Guiderings / dual Shiftrings
- BB shell: 68/73 or 83mm
- Chainline: 51mm / 56mm
- Color: Blackout w/ gold spindle
- Weight: 721g
- MSRP: $274.95
The BB (remember that you need to specify and order the correct BB with your cranks) is easy to install. The provided adapter allows you to use a standard Shimano BB tool to tighten the e*thirteen BB, after you check the required number of spacers depending on BB/chainline. You then fit the cranks a first time, tighten down the interface to a certain degree (not fully), check the number of shims (there are numerous shims of different thickness provided with the cranks) required to pre-load the BB bearings, remove the crank arm, add the number of shims required, re-install the crank arm and tighten down to torque spec. If this sounds a bit complicated, it’s not really, it is just a bit tedious and may require a little trial and error to get right. All cranks need to provide some mechanism for adjusting to variances in frame design and such, this system just feels like one of the more clunky ways to address it.
Note: Since we received the cranks for this test, e*thirteen launched “APS,” an “Adaptive Preload System” which does away with the shims in favor of what seems to be a far superior solution – basically a tool-less bearing preload mechanism that allows you to simply install the cranks, torque to spec, and then hand-tighten the APS adjuster until there is no play between the BB and the crank arms. We would have to test the new system as well before expressing our opinion on it, but it certainly appears to be a better solution and one less prone to trial and error. Less wrenching time + more riding time = good.
On The Trail
The gold standard for any cranks is set and forget. The best cranks can literally be left on a bike for years, with little to no maintenance, and will keep going strong through it all. While we have not had years on the LG1+ cranks (so far), we have ridden them hard throughout winter in various conditions, and they haven't required any adjusting or service. The bearings are still running completely smoothly and there is no play either in the crank arm to spindle interface or between the crank and the BB.
Under foot, the cranks feel as stiff and solid as any competitive offering. Whether it be mashing the pedals up a climb or slamming the bike down after a clumsy drop, these cranks don't flex. At all. Bashing the pedals and crank arm ends into rocks and other obstacles also did little to no harm – even the surface finish seems to hold up exceptionally well to abuse. The graphics on the cranks arms themselves are beginning to show the traditional wear from the shoes rubbing against them, but this occurs on all cranks and here it seems to be very moderate if anything.
Things That Could Be Improved
We are not fans of the shim-based bearing pre-load system – and apparently neither were e*thirteen, since they have just introduced a new system for adjusting the preload (mentioned above). With that taken care of, we see very little room for improvement elsewhere on these cranks. We had some minor issues with the chain ring bolts working themselves loose over time – this shouldn't happen when properly torqued, but keep an eye on it nevertheless as we saw it once or twice (a drop of Loctite will bring peace of mind here).
e*thirteen’s Guidering was specifically designed for single chain ring setups. This means it lacks the shifting ramps machined into the teeth that allow the chain to move easily between chain rings on a traditional dual or triple crankset. This also means it does a great job of keeping the chain on and pedals very smoothly.
- Ring material: EXA+ Aluminum
- Thickness: 4mm
- Bolt circle diameter: 104bcd
- Compatibility: 8, 9, 10, 11 speed
- Ring sizes: 32-33-34-35-36-37-38-39-40
- Colors: Silver, green, red, gold, blackout, blue purple
- Weight: 30-61g (the 34t weighs 43g)
- MSRP: $39.95
On The Trail
Fitting the chainring was easy, the part is manufactured to fine tolerances and well finished. The colors are great, and the intricate machining looks good and helps keep the weight down. Note that we ordered separate chainring bolts to add extra bling – they come standard in black with the cranks. The ring holds the chain very well thanks to the ramped design of the teeth and the part of the ring that contacts the chain. Furthermore, it's compatible with 8, 9, or 10 speed chains – we tested ours both on 9 and 10-speed setups with no issues to report. Pedaling the bike is quiet and smooth.
The anodizing looks good and is durable. The color has started to wear off on the teeth after the miles we’ve put in on the ring, but this is to be fully expected and does not cause any performance degradation. The graphics are equally solid and don't show any signs of wearing off any time soon.
The ring is available in sizes ranging from 32 to 40 teeth in singe tooth increments, which means you can fine tune your setup to the degree required. We ran a 34T on a 10-speed setup with 11-36t cogs on the cassette, which is a versatile combo allowing for both climbing and descending on just one chainring.
In summary, the Guidering is a solid part, perfectly matched to the LG1+ Cranks (but it can of course be mated to any other standard cranks as well). It looks great, performs flawlessly, and should last you a long time.
What’s The Bottom Line?
e*thirteen has put a lot of innovation and development effort into their product lines, and it really shows on the LG1+ family of products. These components have proven their worth time and time again at World Cup racing level, and we are happy to report that they are also exceptionally well suited to everyday trail hacking use and abuse. The cranks offer stiffness and robustness in a design that saves weight and performs perfectly, and with the recent addition of the Adaptive Preload System they should be “fit-and-forget” easy to install and set up as well. Complement your cranks with the excellent Guidering (and why not the LG1+ Chainguide as well) to really set your build off!
More information at The Hive.