e*thirteen Helix Race Alloy cranks REVIEW
LIGHTWEIGHT ALLOY BEAUTIES
Words by Robert Johnston | Photos by Finlay Anderson
Cranks may be the least impactful product to the performance of your bike: so long as yours are strong and stiff enough – and of an appropriate length – you’re unlikely to transform the performance of your bike through an upgrade. That said, they’re not an insignificant component on your bike, and a quality crankset can offer up a chance to save some weight or add a touch of class to the look of your bike, as well as giving tuning options to improve ground clearance or increase leverage. e*thirteen recently released the Helix Race Alloy cranks – a beautiful aluminum crank offering reasonably low weight and the strength capable of attacking gnarly enduro trails. After seeing these bronze beauties in the flesh at Sea Otter earlier in the year, I was excited to get a set in to test and see if their performance matched their killer looks. They proved to offer quality all around – keep on reading to learn all about them.
With the Helix Race Alloy cranks, e*thirteen wanted to produce a truly high-end offering manufactured from aluminum. The crankarms are made from forged 6066-T6 aluminum, which is post-machined to give a unique look and minimize the weight without sacrificing strength and stiffness. Connecting these crankarms is a forged 7050-T7 spindle with a 30mm diameter, which uses e*thirteen’s P3 spindle interface in a two-piece design, with a self-extracting bolt system to make fitment and removal quick and simple. The APS, or Adjustable Preload System, offers easy tuning of preload to keep the bottom bracket running smoothly. Speaking of which, e*thirteen offers bottom brackets separately to fit most major frame standards with 68/73mm shell widths.
The chainring interface is unique to e*thirteen and so requires the use of their Helix chainrings, available in 28-34T options in either steel or aluminum. These rings use a flip-flop design which allows them to work with both Boost and Super Boost chainlines. The Helix Race Alloy cranks come fitted with crank strike boots to keep them looking fresh for longer, with clear protection tape included to keep the faces fresh. A neat little touch are the pedal washers, which are secured with a double-stick adhesive to keep them in place and ensure optimal strength at the pedal-crank interface.
The e*thirteen Helix Race alloy cranks are available in 160mm-175mm lengths in a choice of black or bronze (tested). 165mm cranks and spindle weigh in at a respectable 554g, roughly 80g heavier than comparable Shimano XTR cranks. Regardless of the option selected, the retail price is $279.95.
The e*thirteen cranks proved to be no more difficult to fit than any other option, though it’s essential that you have the correct bottom bracket tool to install their threaded offering, which is included with the cranks when buying. Otherwise, it’s simply a case of greasing the appropriate parts; torquing the driveside crank to spec; then dialing in the APS adjuster until there’s no side-to-side play. I found that this APS needed a slight adjustment after the first couple of rides, and didn’t need to be touched for the remainder of testing.
As I expressed in the introduction, there’s not much of a performance gain to be obtained from cranks, in my eyes. Sure, you could shave 100g with a set of carbon fiber cranks for an extra $100+, but I’d suggest you’re unlikely to feel the merits of this expense when the weight is concentrated in between your feet. What you may be able to gain from changing cranks is being able to join in on the short crank movement, with companies offering options down to 150mm these days in the pursuit of increased ground clearance and potentially improved descending stability. Sadly e*thirteen hasn’t hopped on this trend, with the shortest offering in the Helix Race Alloy at 160mm. However, what they’ve absolutely killed with these cranks is the look and attention to detail – they may just be the sexiest alloy crank I’ve laid eyes on. Thanks to the crank boots and clear protective tape, they’re showing limited signs of wear too, with the anodizing holding up well to rock strikes and other wear.
In terms of feeling and performance, I can’t say that these cranks stood out for any particular traits. They blended into the background when I was riding, which in my eyes is a good thing. And as soon as I was off the bike, they stood out for all the right reasons. There’s not been any signs of creaking or excessive bottom bracket wear during testing, so if you’re in the market for a solid and stunning alloy crank, I’d say they’re an option worth considering. If you’re looking to spend money on a performance upgrade, then unless you’ve got some seriously heavy or flexy cranks currently, you could almost definitely benefit your bike more with money spent elsewhere.
The Wolf’s Last Word
The e*thirteen Helix Race Alloy cranks look incredible and went about their business without issue. While unlikely to transform the performance of your mountain bike, if you’re in the market for a premium alloy crankset then they’re absolutely worth considering.
Price: $279.95 (Crankarms only)