E*thirteen sent us this XCX Carbon crankset to test out and give our honest opinion with no strings attached. Needless to say, I ended up putting these XCX Cranks through what I believe to be a more than reasonable test for XC cranks.
E*thirteen has been around for many years, probably more than many of us have even been riding mountain bikes. With these years of experience, E13 has been able to create some of the most innovative products money can buy and that is exactly what they were able to do with the XCX Race Carbon Crankset. It is claimed to be the lightest production carbon crankset on the market. This term has been used by many companies over the years, including many industry veterans like SRAM and Race Face. But you must ask yourself, “Is lighter always better?” Not to call them out but Race Face had quite a spike in popularity in their Next SL G4 Cranks after making the same claim but as time went on, an increase in failures and destroyed cranks began. This isn’t exactly the cranks fault or the company’s fault as the classic featherweight design we hear on every marketing campaign covers up the finer details that these cranks are intended for cross country or light trail use, not so much Enduro use.
If you are a racer or just the classic weight weenie, cough, Jeff, cough, then getting the lightest components can often be a habit that is hard to break. People get hung up on trying to make their bikes lighter and lighter as if it were going to make them a faster rider that they overlook key attributes in a product’s classifications. The E*thirteen XCX Race Crank is an XC / Trail rated crank. What does that mean? Well, that means you probably shouldn’t be installing these on a bike with more than 120mm - 130mm of travel in the rear. You certainly can, but we would not recommend it. Bikes with travel ranging from 130mm and up are more categorized under the All-Mountain / Enduro side of the market. Those bikes see a lot of abuse and the cranks being the most weight-bearing component on your bike need to be more structurally sound as you ride gnarlier and gnarlier terrain. If you want a trustful “Enduro” rated crank then check out the LG1R EN Cranks here.
Lighter Cranks help eliminate a lot of excess weight on bikes. Naturally, XC / Trail bikes tend to be a lighter bike since they offer a smaller travel range and less of a need to withstand heavy abuse like a DH bike would need. Decreasing the weight on your bike can help it roll fast and can also make your bike more nimble, allowing you to maneuver the bike around or over obstacles with less effort and who wouldn’t want that?
The XCX Carbon Crank from E*thirteen offers just about everything you would want in a lightweight XC style crankset. A Lightweight 30mm aluminum spindle, self-extracting crank bolt, Direct mount compatibility to match with a UL Ultralight Direct Mount Chainring, Smooth lines, and a stealthy black finish. Here are some more specs for you to check out:
Spindle width: 68/73mm Boost or Non-Boost
Arm Length: 170mm, 172.5mm (68mm spindle only*), 175mm
Spindle Diameter: 30mm
Weight: 385g w/ 32 UL Chainring
Bonus Items: Crank Boots and a happy bike
Installing these suckers is super easy! If you are familiar with what type of bottom bracket your bike requires you will just need to swap your existing one out for an e*thirteen threaded of press-fit BB. Once you have that dialed, Throw on an E13 chainring, which uses the same tool as their bottom bracket (tool included in the box), and slide that spindle right on in... Get your head out of the gutter… Once you bolt on the right arm, you can use the preload adjuster to make any micro-adjustments needed for a perfectly snug and operating crankset. Now we can go ride!
I didn’t actually get to hit any loam here in southern California so I rode the closest thing I could find to it. Sand. The first couple rides were local to the shop, a few water tower laps if you are local and/or know the area. Nothing too big but a decent climb with some chunky downhill to get into the flow of things. Although I did mention not riding these on an enduro bike or using them on gnarlier trails, I really wanted to push them to the limit. More than just your typical XC ride on a boring fire road.
Lap after lap the cranks felt consistent but there is quite a noticeable flex in the crank arms themselves. Something I expected given the weight and intended discipline of the XCX cranks. I grew to enjoy this flex as it made those harder hits and small bumps less strainful on my legs and hands. At no point did I feel like the flex was overwhelming, meaning I never felt as though the cranks were going to fail at any point. They still felt like a durable platform for trail/enduro riding.
After a few local laps, I decided to push the cranks to their limit and ride one of the local DH jump trails, Woolsey, commonly ridden by the older DH riders. This place screams early 2000’s freeride, featuring big doubles and big drops. Taking a 120mm 29” trail bike to a trail like this probably wasn’t the best idea but the results were surprising, to say the least. A few hucks to flat later and we were getting comfortable.
After a few laps, we decided to hit the “big jumps” going in blind and matching the speed of the rider in front, I sent it. The only problem was I didn’t send it quite hard enough. Frame casing the double which resulted in a dented downtube and a crushed carbon headset spacer. The impact was big enough to destroy the rest of the bike but the cranks held up just fine. The Chainring strayed true as well with nothing more than a minor scratch to take home as a souvenir. A couple of minutes with a multi-tool and we were back on the trail pedaling our way to the car. Chain line straight and the crank chugging along.
Weeks later the cranks still feel as solid as the day I put them on. Through rain, mud, and dust, the bottom bracket held up just fine and I have still yet to feel and grinding or decreasing in how freely the bearings spin which is a good sign considering how fast normal 30mm bottom brackets tend to wear out.
*I will be working on a long-term review to include in this article in the next couple of months so keep an eye out for any updates!
“Not having spent month’s of time on the cranks I can’t speak so far as to the longevity of the XCX cranks but I can say they held up to a lot more than I was expecting considering their intended design was for XC and or gravel use. After countless drops, jumps, rock gardens, etc. the E13 XCX Carbon Cranks hold more to their reputation than just being the ‘lightest production carbon crankset.’ In my eyes, E*thirteen blew this crank's competition out of the water by creating the most durable ‘XC’ crankset I have seen and ridden to date. Not to mention they are also some of the cleanest looking cranks I have seen.” – Reamonn Ryan