Lighten Up - Cranks

 Feb 23, 2011 article & images by Nick Salazar

  • Lightning SL Carbon Crank
  • Fibre-Lyte Carbon Chainrings (50t 36t)
  • Extralite Chainring Bolts
  • BB30, Standard English, or PressFit Bottom Brackets available
  • 544g complete (with BB30 cups)

There are but three contact points on any bike: the bars, the saddle, and the pedals. All three are ripe areas for weight savings, as we've already explored at the front end. For this installment of the Lighten Up series, we're headed South. Between the cranks, chainrings, and pedals, we've got a lot of grams to shed. So let's get started.

Our crank of choice for this build is the Lightning SL Carbon. It's a lightweight crank that's very heavy on features. For a really detailed analysis of the various light crank options, definitely have a look at the Fairwheel Bikes Crank Shootout. They did a fantastic job of analyzing them all, so we don't need to reinvent the wheel there.

The Lightning SL crank is the perfect balance of what we were looking for. It's one of the lightest cranks out there, bested only by the THM Clavicula and the AX Morpheus. But it overtakes both of those cranks in three areas. First, it features a nice narrow Q-factor, which is arguably better aerodynamically, and is preferable ergonomically for many riders. Second, it has an interchangeale spider, meaning you can swap the cranks from compact to standard without buying a new crank. That spider is also Quarq compatible, so adding power is an easy option, and results in the lightest powermeter crank available anywhere. Finally, this beauty is available in any size from 160mm to 190mm, making it the most usable of any light crank out there. And it is plenty stiff to boot. If the crank looks familiar, that's because you may have seen its progeny before. Specialized bikes loved the Lightning design so much, they bought the patent for it, and currently manufacture it themselves as their S-Works crankset, spec'ing it on their highest-end rides.

Bling Rings

We paired it with an exotic set of Fibre-Lyte chainrings that weigh just 80g for the pair. The choice was obvious, both from a weight perspective, and also an aesthetic one. The 3k weave on the Fibre-Lyte chainrings matches that on the Lightning crank arms. Plus, these are among the stiffest rings out there (Quarq reports that they calibrate very well on a powermeter setup), and their only drawback, other than their price, is the extra care that must be taken not to shift under load. To be fair, it's never a good idea to shift under load.But doing to excessively can lead to a chipped chainring tooth. Moreover, they won't last you quite as long as steel rings, but I've gotten several thousand miles out of each set of Fibre-Lyte rings I have ordered, and I always come back for more. They're just too awesome. The final weight for this system, including the crank arms, spider, chainrings, and the bottom bracket, weighs in at astounding 544 grams. That's several HUNDRED grams lighter than a Dura-Ace system.

To finish off these wonderful cranks, we set them up with some very rare, exotic, and insanely light pedals. Look in the "Related Articles" section below to read about them.

Lightning SL Crank

  • Versatile fit options from 160mm to 190mm
  • Nice narrow Q-factor
  • Works with compact, standard, or Quarq spiders
  • Very stiff, very light
  • 30mm spindle means it's not compatible with some press-fit systems (i.e. the Speed Concept's BB90). UPDATE: Lightning says it can now custom make BB90 cranks, for those so inclined.

Easily our favorite crank out there. We can't wait for the BB90 version.
Rating: 4.5

Fibre-Lyte Chainrings

  • Very stiff, very light
  • They shift beautifully (especially with Di2)
  • The 3K weave looks amazing
  • Prone to chipping if abused
  • Don't last quite as long as steel rings

Lovely rings, but must be used with care
Rating: 4.0

Tags » cranks,  fibrelyte,  lightenup,  lightning
  • Carbon crank? Check. Carbon chainrings? Check. These things are just gorgeous.
  • The finish on the Lightning cranks is beautiful, and matches the Fibre-Lyte rings perfectly.
  • The rings have ramp-profiled teeth for better shifting, but you still have to be careful not to upshift under load.
  • The branks assemble via a herst joint that makes assembly very easy.
  • The UFO crankship is coming in for a landing!
  • With an interchengeable spider, lots of length options, light weight, and super good looks, we can't really find any fault about this crank.
  • You can run a compact spider, shown here, or a standard 130mm BCD, or even a Quarq spider, all on the same crank arms.
  • The complete set, including rings and bearings, comes in at an impressive 544g.

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