TRUVATIV NOIR 3.3 TEAM CRANKS $386
The life of a crankset isn't an easy one. Nearly all the forces applied to the bike by the rider must travel through cranks, which also get bashed, quite unapologetically, into rocks, roots, or worse. It's noteworthy then when a major manufacturer designs a crankset out of a delicate material like carbon, a crankset such as TruVativ's Noir.
Constructed from an alloy spine and wrapped with unidirectional carbon fiber, the Noir crankset weighs just 800 grams including the bottom bracket. That's 80 grams lighter than TruVativ's aluminum Stylo cranks and just slightly heavier than Shimano's 790-gram XTR. They come with hardened 7075 T6 alloy chainrings and a GXP Team bottom bracket with a whopping eight seals. Installation is a snap--the external bearing cups thread directly into the bottom bracket shell and the non-drive arm tightens onto the spindle with an 8-millimeter hex wrench.
Once installed, I treated the Noir cranks like any others I've owned. So instead of simply climbing fireroads and racing with the Lycra crowd, my Noirs went onto a 5-inch trail bike. They've seen action everywhere from Gooseberry Mesa in Utah to Lake Isabella in the Sierras as well as regular duty on local favorites. All these trails have abundant technical rock features--supposedly the arch nemesis of carbon fiber.
I managed to nick, glance, or just full-on smash dozens of granite or sandstone outcroppings. I've had my cadence interrupted countless times by obtuse rocks, pitching me sideways and leaving the cranks quivering in shock.
As a result, the cranks have picked up quite a collection of scars; they're not so pretty anymore. I lost track of how many times I've caught a crankarm, but after almost a year of abuse, as far as I can tell, all the damage has been limited to the cosmetic variety. They have no perceptible flex, the bottom bracket still spins smoothly and the rings still shift well, thanks to their hard-anodization treatment.
Of course the Noirs are not designed for all-mountain or freeride abuse--they are cross country cranks meant for spinning, not sending. Several carbon, or otherwise lightweight, cranks are on the market right now, but Noirs have one of the lowest cost-per-gram ratios of any crank out there.