When we last tested Race Face carbon cranks, they were its super-tough SIXC double ring and bashguard-equipped model. For a crank that was marketed as useful for trail and all-mountain work, we were surprised by its low weight (650g). We were even more impressed by its class-leading stiffness, though perhaps we shouldn’t have been given the boxy design – Race Face are no mugs when it comes to making components that can stand up to hard-riding in Canada’s infamously hardcore North Shore scene.
We were excited by their cross-country race spec Next SL hollow carbon tech, so had to try it. Opting for the 38/26T, compact ratios (triple version also available) and in 175mm arm length, the system weighs in at an astoundingly light 600g. Race Face claim 595g (possibly without the plastic bottom bracket sleeve), a total helped by the use of a 6AL-4V titanium BB axle. By comparison, XTR in the same conﬁguration weighs 670g and an FSA K-Force weighs 739g – both use steel BB axles. So the Next is lighter, if only by the weight of an energy bar, and for racers that sort of thing matters.
We like the quick shifting from the intricately CNC-milled 7075 alloy chainrings. Purists will go on about the cleaner shifting of the cold-forged rings of Shimano, but you’ll be hard pressed to sense it. Fitting takes minutes thanks to modern outboard BB bearing design – they’re far better than the temperamental cup and cone units of old. They spin freely on the uprated Race Face BB, which is much more durable than the old versions.
Fitted on frames of near identical stiffness with the same pedals, the cranks felt plenty stiff against the XTRs. There was no discernible feel of the pedal-ends tipping out, even under a good stomp when bouncing up steep hills. Down in the saddle spinning, they were perfection.
The Shimano XTR transmission and chain moved like lightning between the two RF rings, and we never had to lift off the power to make the front shifts. Of course, modern (clean and lubed) shifters and chains help.
As for niggles, there are very few. Carbon looks scruffy about as quickly as alloy, but as the alloy XTR arms burnish themselves back to a bright ﬁnish, the carbon just looks dull. Protect with helicopter tape if it’s an issue for you.