Race Face Next XC Cranks Review

by Brian Mullin on July 31, 2009


I have been testing the Race Face NEXT XC crankset for 3 months now, and it is very lightweight, highly engineered, very trick looking, and best of all it is extremely stiff.

Happiness is a nice Stiff one

The Race Face NEXT XC crankset system is comprised of the EXI bottom bracket, the drive side arm with bonded CrMo spindle, the non drive side arm, and arm protection end caps. It comes in a very pretty box with everything very nicely laid out.

Race Face has been making carbon cranks for 10 years, and they spent 2 years of extensive R&D to create these 100% carbon cranks. The workmanship, innovation, design, materials analysis and artistry of that allocated time really shows in the quality of this product. The cranks are manufactured in their British Columbia Canada manufacturing facility.

Carbon Fiber 101
The history of carbon fiber starts out in 1958 in the hands of a freshly minted Ph.D. in physics, Roger Bacon. While working at Union Carbide Parma Technical Center located outside of Cleveland, he was doing carbon arc testing using stands of rayon, and he created some deposits, which contained carbon fiber whiskers. Unbeknownst he may have also created the first carbon nanotubes?

Carbon fiber is composed of carbon atoms bonded together to form a long chain of extremely thin fibers about 0.005–0.010 mm in diameter. Thousands of carbon fibers are twisted together to form a yarn, the yarns are used in several processing techniques: the direct uses are for prepregging, filament winding, pultrusion, weaving, braiding etc. It is usually then combined with an epoxy resin to form a composite material. Carbon fiber needs precursors for its creation, and either rayon, PAN or pitch is used. The mostly widely used precursor is polyacrylonitrile (PAN), which was researched by the Japanese in 1961, and then developed by Japanese and the British. Using PAN as a precursor creates much higher strength and higher modulus fibers.

In a nutshell: carbon fiber is a high strength, high stiffness material that when combined with a resin matrix creates a composite with exceptional mechanical properties.


Construction
The Race Face NEXT XC all carbon crankset has big flat, and broad, and hollow cranks arms that have a very subtle carbon patterning to them. The patterning is really only noticeable to close inspection, and looks a bit more like someone took a cross section of a rock crystalline structure, showing off large phenocryst (crystals).


During the construction process, the crank arms have all unnecessary material removed from the center core, so they have none of the typical internal aluminum spines that most carbon cranks use. They use a pre-impregnated proprietary carbon material that is sourced from the North American aerospace industry, and supposedly is the same material used on the much delayed Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The composite material is cut it into the required shapes, and it is then laid up around a core, cooked at temperature, and compressed under 8 tons of force! How the core is removed is a trade secret.

The pedal and spindle inserts, and the CNC CrMo spindle is molded and bonded in place for strength, lighter weight and durability.

Installation
The new EXI interface external bottom bracket system is easy to install or remove with standard tools and has a fully adjustable chainline. The bearing cups are triple wiper sealed, and the bearings are filled with Phil Wood grease, which should provide good long term durability.


Installation steps:
1) Lube the threads of each bottom bracket cup, insert the drive side BB cup and tighten it to 47 N-m, insert the non drive BB cup and tighten it to 47 N-m.
2) Lube the race on the crank arm spindle, insert the spindle with its nifty guide cap into the BB, give it a few taps so that it lays flush against the bottom bracket, remove the spindles guide cap.
3) Lube the spindles spline and the non drive side crank arms threads, put on the non drive side crank arm 180 degrees to the drive side crank arm, tighten it down with a torque wrench with a 8mm socket to a monstrous 61 N-m (it takes a lot of turning to get it there).
4) Done!

Impressions
The set came with a very trick set of ‘Pedal End Boots’, which go over the end of the crank arms to protect them. I am always bashing my pedals and crank arms into rocks, so I really like these, not only for the protection they offered the crank arms, but the subtle cushion, they provided to me on impact with rocks. I am willing to put up with the small weight increase (16g) for these on any bike.

The CNC 7075 aluminum chainrings (22/32/44) shifted quite nicely using their patented S.H.I.F.T. technology, and when I did miss a shift once, the hollow arms made a unique ping noise. Do they shift as well as XTR? Close, but no, they are not yet at that magic XTR shifting level. The cranks did not come with the newer turbine shifting, so I can’t comment on its shifting abilities.


While out riding I really noticed how stiff these cranks are, they give me instant power access and there was no noticeable slop in the system from them. I like to do a lot of slow speed and hard torque moves on technical terrain, which really puts a lot of stress into the drivetrain system, and these cranks were incredible in that realm. I found myself moving down one gear on some of my rides due to the increased ability to apply power to the ground. They offered fast acceleration and provided a snappier feel while cranking and mashing on the pedals. I could make some ugly technical climbs that I haven’t been able to do before or at least could now do with better style.

Weight Specs(175mm size):
Pedal end boots 16.3 g
Right arm, spindle, chainrings and bolts 448.6 g
Left arm 171.6 g
Bottom bracket 112.8 g
Pedals washers 3.4 g
Total 733 g
Total w/ extra’s 752.7 g


Bottom Line
This is an amazing lightweight crankset, that is all carbon (outside of the CrMo spindle and pedal inserts), has incredible power transition to the wheels, looks great and has very cool bash guards for the crank arm ends. They are the stiffest, and snappiest cranks I have ever used with shifting that is close to XTR (but not quite). Crackalicious!

Strengths:
-Stiff
-Lightweight
-Arm end caps
-Carbon

Weaknesses:
-Pricey
-Not quite XTR shifting

Specifications
Sizes: 170mm and 175mm
Material: Carbon fiber composite arms with CrMo spindle
Chainrings: 22/32/44 – 100% CNC 7075 aluminum with S.H.I.F.T. technology
Bottom bracket: external EXI system with triple seals and Phil Wood waterproof grease
Weight: 730 grams (with included BB)
MSRP: $774

Value Rating: 3.5 Flamin’ Chili Peppers
Overall Rating: 4.5 Flamin’ Chili Peppers

Purchase Race Face Next Cranks

Race Face Next XC Crank url: http://www.raceface.com/components/cranks/1/

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous December 27, 2009 at 9:23 am

Hi! What's the q-factor on these? Thanks, Harri

Reply

Brian Mullin - Gram and Pastajet January 14, 2010 at 6:07 am

As far as I know they are 170mm

Reply

Anonymous May 28, 2013 at 6:16 pm

Total crap… Mine broke after 2 months, and the race face customer service is a total joke. No warranty for my broken crankset…

Reply

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