The US$430 SRAM Force carbon compact crankset has made me a believer, and as somewhat of a bike bit Luddite in the past, this is a glowing testimony to the Chicago company's foray into the road scene.
And what a debut. SRAM stepped up its crankset manufacturing capabilities tremendously by acquiring Truvativ in September 2004. SRAM's foray into carbon soon after assisted mightily in the evolution and development of the SRAM Force road gruppo, and the component most people spot first on a bike is the crankset.
The 780g (with bottom bracket cups) compact Force crankset not only has a conservative 5-arm spider look, it packs plenty of performance for a larger rider like me.
SRAM benefits greatly from its nearly 10-year experience with drivetrain engineering and manufacturing, thanks to its first acquisition of the century-old German Sachs brand. Chains, cassettes and derailleurs perform best in tandem with a dedicated, sometimes proprietary, chainring configuration, and SRAM has honed its hard-anodized and coated Powerglide chainrings.
The woven 6K carbon arms with threaded aluminium pedal inserts held up well the past several months. There are no noticeable scuffs on the clearcoat, and the alloy chainring bolts held tight, never needing tightening. Installation was a breeze; the GXP Team aluminium cups were perfectly threaded, and the two-piece crank, after a few taps of the rubber mallet, were snug and ready to ride.
As I've told several people over the years, tall people, regardless of how much they weigh, produce "tall weight" when standing or sprinting out of the saddle. This in turn torques the frame, cranks and bottom bracket, testing the combined stiffness of all that matters. That, coupled with my 6'1", 185-pound Belgian physique, can wreak havoc on whippy frames and components. The SRAM Force compact carbon cranks were as stiff as they needed to be, never once rubbing the chainstays or causing either foot to shift around on the pedals. This, on two different steel frames.
At US$430 the SRAM Force compact carbon crankset is competitively priced against those offered from FSA, Zipp and generic models from unknown brands. SRAM has certainly stepped it up with its Red gruppo, in effect slotting the Force closest to Shimano's Ultegra SL gruppo. SRAM need not worry for the time being, because Shimano is sticking with its tried and true forged alloy cranks, launching a US$1,300 carbon Dura-Ace in 2008. The Force crankset is a spot-on, no-nonsense star, worthy of anyone's upgrade wishlist.
© BikeRadar 2007