RACE FACE ERA CRANKSET REVIEW
CARBON CRANKS FOR THE LONG HAUL
Photos & Words by Dario DiGiulio
Stand at any trailhead long enough, and you’re sure to see plenty of Race Face cranks roll by. They’ve been dialing in their lineup for some time, improving and changing things as needs and trends evolve. One improvement that’s been a long time coming is the durability of their carbon crank offerings – some of their past iterations have been plagued by reliability issues, and some will still shy away from their carbon cranks as a result. With their all-new Era crankset, Race Face promises a crank that will outlast your bike, so you’d expect it is up to the task, but is that actually the case?
As an all-new redesign, the Era comes with a whole host of features that are unique in the Race Face lineup. Most of these decisions have been made with strength and durability in mind, while keeping weight down. To alleviate one of the primary modes of failure seen on the Next R cranks, Race Face is now bonding the pedal inserts directly into the carbon. Addressing the problems that can arise from foot rub on a carbon crank, Race Face has opted to equip the Era cranks with a stainless-steel scuff plate in the most rub-prone area of the face, keeping them looking fresh for the long haul. They’ve managed to do this while reducing the weight compared with the outgoing Next R cranks, with the Era sitting at a scant 483g with a 32t chainring.
The Cinch system is alive and well, meaning chainring swaps should be easy, with plenty of cheap and durable replacement options out there both from Race Face and aftermarket. They spin on a 30mm aluminum spindle, have a 176mm Q-factor as standard, and can run with a 52mm or 55mm chainline. There are 7 color options offered for the cranks, and 8 different boot colors to customize your ride. The Era crank can be purchased in a choice of 165mm, 170mm or 175mm lengths to suit your preferences. Though these aren’t the shortest options out there, it’s nice to see a 165mm option, given the compelling arguments being made for shorter crank lengths across the board. Topping off the updates, we have a newly minted lifetime warranty on these cranks, promising no BS, no hassle, and even extending to crashes. They don’t come cheap though, retailing for $499.99 USD / $649.99 CAD / 489.00 EUR.
After picking these svelte carbon arms up from the Race Face booth at this year’s Crankworx, I got to work using and abusing them. They’ve been on my personal bike since, and have seen tons of pedal, shuttle, and race mileage over the past few months. Despite plenty of crashes and hard hits, the Eras remain unfazed, though they do show some signs of abuse. This is only cosmetic, and so far, the abuse has only amounted to some nicks and scratches, which makes them all the more handsome in my eyes. My pedaling style tends to rub crank arms down, not as bad as some, but enough to show after only a few weeks of riding. The Era’s stainless steel rub plate has done the trick, shielding them from any undue wear and tear despite plenty of rotations – this is a really neat inclusion, and looks pretty damn good too.
I opted for the 165mm length, which is the shortest arm Race Face offers for the new cranks. I wanted to try out the shorter-crank trend that’s starting to gain traction and see how it shook out for someone tall and lanky like myself. Despite being 6’3” and leggy, the 165s felt natural and comfortable to pedal. I strongly prefer an upright riding position, so the more open hip angle allowed by shorter cranks enhances this comfort even further. On the descents, the tighter foot spread feels great in corners, and allows for sneaky little pedal accelerations in between features. At this point, I see no reason to go back to longer options, as these shorties have been comfortable and confident in all circumstances.
As a small note, I initially had some fitment issues with the Race Face bottom bracket, namely with the plastic tube that bridges the two cups. That said, I’ve had similar issues with other bb’s on my Stumpjumper EVO Alloy, so it’s probably more to do with the frame’s bottom bracket shell than anything else. Essentially, it’s too tight to get the plastic sleeve to slide in correctly, so it gets in the way of the crank spindle upon installation. Something to keep in mind, depending on your frame specifications.
Both chainring and bottom bracket wear have been pretty good so far, even as we descend into the dark and cold season here in Bellingham. I had some creaking in the chainring interface during the dustiest moments of the summer, but as things bedded in and got wet, the noise disappeared. Removing, cleaning, and regreasing Cinch mount would achieve the same result. I’ve seen more seized bearings in the Pacific Northwest slop than just about anywhere else, so nothing can be expected to last an entire season, but this Race Face bottom bracket has held up reliably so far with no signs of slowing down.
The Wolf’s Last Word
Emerging from the shaky history of their previous carbon cranks, Race Face’s new Era promises reliability and packs strong performance, albeit at a hefty price tag. I fully expect to be running these cranks in a year, two years, as long as they survive.
Price: $499.99 USD / $649.99 CAD / 489.00 EUR
Weight: 483 grams (w/ 32t chainring, hardware, boots, washers)