Race Face Next SL Crank - Review

The Next “Next”

Race Face introduced a new product this year in their “Next” family.  It was rumored for a while – supposed to be a super duper light, super stiff and fantastic new crank.  Now the next Race Face Next SL is here, and I’m particularly interested because I thought the last version was pretty fantastic – how would they out-do that?2012 Race Face Next SL Carbon Crank

Comparison:  The Next Race Face Next SL

I was excited to get my hands on the next “Next”.  It’s a new version Mountain Bike crank that carries the same name as the one it replaces – Race Face Next SL – though it has very little resemblance to it’s predecessor.

  • The previous SL (pictured at the right) had a 24mm Titanium spindle; the new SL has a 30mm aluminum one.
  • The previous SL had a dedicated integrated spider; the new SL has a replaceable / changeable spider.
  • The previous SL was awesome light and stiff – the new SL is even lighter and from what I can tell, is probably stiffer and stronger.

I’ve ridden the “old” one a lot (how can I call it old, it’s fantastic!).  I have that crank on 2 bikes and I love it.  Hard to take one off to put on the new.
Weighing the Next

Review:  Race Face Next SL

Race Face is touting this new Next SL as “the lightest production carbon crankset on the planet.” I’ll trust their comparison, but of course, I wanted to weigh it myself.  Their web site says 540g for the crank equipped with 38/24 chainrings.  Interesting.  I measured virtually the same thing.  That’s awesome light for a crankset.

– Catch the full specifications list at RaceFace.com

Components of the Race Face Next SLNow we’ve established the weight claims, let’s look at the new “system”.

There are a lot of parts to this system – as shown in the image below:

  • Of course there’s the 2 crank arms:  the non-drive side arm having the 30mm spindle and a bearing pre-load adjuster.
  • The new separate spider and locking ring for attaching the spider.  (The spider shown here is the 104/64 BCD made for a 2 ring set.  Other versions like the SRAM style 2×10 and single rings are available.)
  • The chainrings (WickWerks 38/24t set), the bolts for mounting the chainrings, and the funky little spacer ring required to mount the small ring.  (More below.)
  • Finally, the 2 crank arm end protectors.  (More info below.)

I have no idea why they decided to have this extra little plastic ring for mounting the small chainring – why didn’t they just include that space as an offset on the spider?  Someone mentioned the single ring mounting, but with a replaceable spider, why not have a separate spider for that?  The design would be better without this added ring, and the mounting of the small ring would be more secure and stronger.  Post a comment if you have the answer.

Small Chainring SpacerWell, the little extra spacer ring is not hard to install, but it is another piece to mess with and it’s another place for mud and such to collect – and in my experience, it makes cleaning more difficult.  This is the one niggly detail that I would have done differently – and I say niggly because you really have to look at things close to find anything at all that isn’t very impressive about this crank.
_____

Crank Arm End Cap ProtectorsWith the previous version SL, Race Face included these fun plastic end-caps as protection for the crank arms.  (In 2 colors to choose.)  It was the first time I had seen the concept and I instantly thought it was genius.  I’m not sure if Race Face was the original inventor, but it’s cool.  I have an XX crank with several scars on the end of the crank arms from miss-judging rocks, so this concept was instantly a winner in my book.  Now I ride the previous version SL with scars on the plastic caps – not on the carbon crank!  The end caps are Awesome.

As seen in the images, Race Face has again included these end cap arm protectors with the new SL.  They add 17g to the crank, which to me is lightweight and very cheap insurance.  I suppose you could take them off for your big race if you were that concerned about weight.

Assembly:

Crank Spider MountingAssembly of the crank was actually quite straightforward.  Yea, there are a lot of pieces, but it went together smoothly …. and with tools I already had.  The spider went on with an older BB tool I hadn’t used for a while.  Super simple.

(In context of full disclosure, the spider was already assembled when I received the crank.  I took it off to see how they did it, and to see how difficult it would be to change.  It was easy with the old BB tool.)

Assembly and fit to the bike was also quite easy.  I put it on a BB30 bike and it worked great.  I also put it on a standard threaded bike with the included BB and that worked great too.  I have some reservations about the small cross-section bearings they use putting a 30mm spindle in a standard threaded BB shell, but it’s used a lot, so I guess it works.  The included BB is smooth running and seemed fine.  Of course, there are tons of different BB’s (and various adapters) available, so this crank should work on almost any bike.

Side Bar:  Why does Race Face call it “Next”?  I have a hard time getting my mind around the “Next” name because Walmart’s brand of cheap junky bikes are also called “Next”.  No relation, of course, but Why put that name on the nicest crank I’ve ever held?  Well, it’s only a name … but for me, a definite head scratcher.

Clearance for the Crank on the Bike

Conclusion:

Overall, I’m impressed.  This is a new benchmark for the industry and a really cool upgrade for any Mountain Bike.  We will have them available here at WickWerks.com pretty soon, so let us know if you want one.

The one big recommended improvement is, of course, a change to WickWerks Bridge Technology and a set of the Fastest Shifting Chainrings – then you’d have

the Worlds Lightest Crank with
the Worlds Fastest Shifting Chainrings.

I’m riding it, and it’s an awesome combination.