The 10 Best Mountain Bike Cranksets
This wiki has been updated 20 times since it was first published in November of 2018. Any experienced rider knows that almost no bike comes with top of the line components as standard. If you are looking to improve the power transfer efficiency from your foot to the pedal, the best way to do that is by upgrading your crankset to one of the models on this list. We've included carbon fiber and aluminum options in a variety of price ranges, so there should be one to suit every need. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
November 19, 2020:
The crankset is the component of a bicycle that connects to the chain via toothed sprockets called chainrings. As part of the drivetrain, it converts the reciprocating motion of the rider's legs, through the crank arms and pedals, into rotational motion used to drive the chain, which in turn drives the rear wheel. In this ranking, we have selected cranksets across the price range, from entry-level models, suitable for novices who want to customize their gear ratio set up, to professional models for serious riders who want to shave precious grams from their overall weight.
This current update has brought several changes, as newer, more advanced models have become available and older models have been fazed out. The FSA Vero was removed due to issues with rapid and heavy tooth wear. In its place, we chose the versatile FSA Gossamer Pro, which can be used on a mountain bike or a road bike. It is more hardwearing than the Vero, however, it's still not the best choice for serious off-roading. We also added the Shimano M361 Hybrid as a good entry-level option as it can easily be disassembled, allowing the chainrings to be replaced with any setup. The high-quality Sram XX1 GXP was replaced with their latest iteration, the Sram XX1 Fat Bike. This still features the unique square-tooth design, while now it has improved stiffness and a lower weight, thanks to the carbon crank arms.
At the top end of the scale, the Shimano 6800 Ultegra was already a highly respected choice, however, the latest version, the Shimano Ultegra R8000 is lighter than its predecessor, with a fatter profile for optimum stiffness and power transfer, while its tapered crank arm and 4-bolt spider pattern give it a more streamlined, aerodynamic look. Finally, we added the Shimano Dura-Ace 9100, which is their top of the line model that features a hollow chainring with an improved stiffness-to-weight ratio. As you would expect from Shimano's lightest crankset, it is rather expensive, and only serious professionals would truly appreciate the saved grams.
November 28, 2018:
A lot of factors go into identifying the best cranksets. The goal is to find the perfect balance of stiffness and weight. Ideally, they should not flex at all under heavy load, yet they need to be made of materials known for being lightweight, such as aluminum or carbon fiber. This often means that some compromise must be made. Our ranking only includes models that were able to balance those two aspects without compromising too far in one direction or another.