Mountain Bike Vs Road Bike Crankset Compared.


There are hundreds of different crankset options out there, but it’s hard to know which one is right for you. Actually, most beginners always ask which one is the better option between mountain bike Vs road bike crankset.

Mountain bike cranksets provide wider gear ranges, which makes them a good option if going uphill. However, if you’re going to ride over paved surfaces like roads or trails, then a road bike crankset is better.

MTB Crankset on a Road Bike - Mountain bike vs road bike crankset

Road bike cranksets provide more gearing options and lighter frames, which makes them ideal for racing.

On the other hand, mountain bike cranksets are sturdier and heavier and better for exploring unpaved terrain.

Could you be in a hurry? Here is a quick view of the best mountain bike and road bike cranks.

5 Best Mountain Bike And Road Bike Cranks Found On Amazon

1. SHIMANO Deore M6000 Crank Set – Best for mountain bikes

2. SHIMANO Dura-Ace 9100 Standard Crankset – Best 53/39T for racing

3. ALTUS CHAINSET FC-M311-L – Best for mountain biking beginners

4. SRAM S600 Cranksets – Best MTB crank set for budget

5. SHIMANO 105 FC-R7000 Crankset – Best compact Crankset for road bike

What’s The Difference Between Mountain Bike Vs Road Bike Crankset?

The main differentiator between Mountain Bike Cranksets and Road Bike Cranksets is the tooth count and gearing.

 Mountain Bikes are geared for climbing steep inclines, whereas Road Bikes are geared more toward maximum speed.

Specifically, a typical mountain bike has 42 teeth on the largest chainring and 22 on the smallest. On the rear cassette ranges from 12 to 28 teeth on the cogs.

On the other hand, a standard road bike has 52 on the largest chainring and 39 teeth on the smallest. The size of the cassette on a road bike is usually 11-21.

The other notable difference between the two drive trains is the length of the rear derailleur arm. The MTB derailleur has a loner arm since it has to deal with more chain links when shifted to the lowest combination.

For example, a mountain bike with a 42/22T chainring and a 28/12 has a difference of (70-34)=36 links.

On the contrary, a road bike with a 52/39T chainring and a 21/11T cassette has a teeth difference of (73-50)=23 links.

Therefore, a mountain bike requires a longer derailleur arm to take up the extra links.

Mountain bike cranks are designed to provide more torque and power and withstand the extreme conditions that mountain bikes may be subjected to.

Manufacturers use high-strength materials such as aluminum, steel, and titanium alloys for this purpose.

 Road bike cranks are not designed to work under extreme conditions like those of a mountain bike crank.

 Instead, road bike cranks typically use carbon fiber or lightweight alloys to reduce the weight while maintaining the required strength.

GANOPPER Square Taper Crankset with 30T 32T 34T 36T 38T 40T Narrow Wide Chainring

Mountain Bike Crankset

A mountain bike crank-set is very similar to others except for some differences. First of all, the cranks are made of steel or aluminum, but not necessarily aluminum. You will also find that most mountain bike cranksets come with two or three chainrings.

Most riders like to use the smallest chainring for climbing and the bigger one for downhill riding.

Since bike cranks are levers, MTBs have long cranks arms (170mm on average) for enhanced leverage. This feature is helpful when riding uphill.

An excellent example is the SHIMANO Deore M6000 Mountain Bike Crank Set, which has a crank arm length of 170mm. In addition, it comes with a triple chainring of 40-30-22T.

SHIMANO Deore M6000 Mountain Bicycle Crank Set - FC-M6000-3 (Black - 170MM 40-30-22T)

Road Bike Crankset

A standard road bike crankset has a 53/39T chainring, while a compact one usually features a 53/34T set. Because of their compact design, there is a slight difference between the Q-factor (overall width of an installed crankset) and crank arm lengths.

The regular road crankset has a Q-factor of 143mm, while the compact one has 159mm. 

The longer crank arms on the standard set usually lead to an additional leverage force acting on the feet, especially during sprints. 

Riders with wider hips or those experiencing knee pains during sprints can benefit from a compact crankset.

The compact road set has a shorter drive side arm which is beneficial for riders who are not efficient at transmitting power to the drivetrain.

Some causes of inefficient power transmission include poor technique, lack of strength, or even improper shoes.

This makes it easier for them to produce more power at the end of their pedal stroke when compared to a standard 53/39T set.

SHIMANO Dura-Ace 9100 Standard Crankset - 53x39 - Mountain bike vs road bike crankset

What Is The Best Crankset For Road Bike?

A good crankset will be lightweight, stiff, and durable. It will also have to adapt to different pedal types so you can use your bike with or without toe clips or clipless pedals. Here are the three best options for a road bike.

The first option is to go with SHIMANO Dura-Ace 9100 Standard Crankset (view on Amazon). This one comes with a CNC-machined crank arm and spider.

It uses Hollowtech II technology for the arms, which is lightweight and stiff.

It also comes with an integrated bottom bracket, where you can change between standard threaded or BB30/PFBB30 axles without any issues.

The second option is to go with SHIMANO 105 FC-R7000 Crankset (view on Amazon). This one comes with a CNC-machined crank arm and spider.

 It uses Hollowtech II technology for the arms, which is lightweight and stiff. It has a built-in Chain Spotter on both sides of the arm so you can shift without any issues.

You can use it with your road bike, where you’re using the 11-speed version of Shimano Ultegra.

If you’re using an older version, you can simply buy the speed adapter, so you keep upgrading your bike over time.

Mountain bike vs road bike crankset - Best Crankset For Road Bike

What Is The Best Crankset For A Mountain Bike?

Before going out and choosing a crankset, you need to figure out what type of riding you will be doing.

 Cranksets are offered in many different variations depending on whether you want to go fast or climb the steepest hill.

There are single chainring cranksets, double chainring cranksets, and triple chainring cranksets.

A good crankset for a mountain bike will be strong enough to withstand the hard riding that it will endure while you’re riding on trails.

If you’re headed out on hill climbs or to conquer an enormous mountain, then a triple chainring crankset is best for you.

Triple chainring cranksets are usually found on hardtail mountain bikes because they give riders the option to choose from different gears depending on the terrain.

Some of the best cranksets for a mountain bike include the following:

Mountain bike vs road bike crankset - Mountain Bike  close up

1. Shimano ALTUS CHAINSET FC-M311-L

The ALTUS CHAINSET FC-M311-L (view on Amazon) model is one of Shimano’s most popular MTB cranksets. It is inexpensive yet highly effective with its forged aluminum alloy arms and steel bolts.

2. SRAM S600 Crankset

This crankset comes with 42/32/22 chainrings, so you can easily customize your gear ratios to fit your riding style. SRAM S600 Crankset’s (view on Amazon)classic square-taper design provides the perfect balance of lightweight and strength.

Can I Use A MTB Crankset On A Road Bike?

Mountain bike cranksets aren’t compatible with road bike bottom brackets, except for the square taper BB. The problem is that the crank arm length and pedal threading are different.

 A road bike pedal will only attach to a mountain bike crank if it has a quill, which most newer cranks don’t have.

 Even older road pedals won’t work with a mountain crankset because of its larger diameter bottom bracket spindle and longer spindles in the arms.

 All the same, by installing an MTB bottom bracket to a road bike frame, it is possible to install a mountain bike crankset on-road bike frame.

Trying an MTB crankset on a road bike

Frequently Asked Questions (Mountain Bike Vs Road Bike Crankset)

1. Are Longer Crank Arms Better?

Longer crank arms are better than shorter ones when it comes to riding uphill. Like in using a crowbar, the longer the effort length, the better leverage you get. However, longer cranks may adversely affect a rider’s cadence.

2. Are Shorter Cranks Better For Knees?

Shorter cranks reduce the extent of the knee and hip movement. As a result, they provide some relief to a rider from the discomfort caused by longer crank arms.

In addition, shorter crank arms are better for triathletes who need to conserve their legs for the run. The arms provide higher cadence at lower leverage.

3. Are Carbon Cranksets Worth It?

Carbon fiber cranksets are strong but delicate in case of an impact. All the same carbon fiber cranksets are lighter than those made from aluminum at the same strength. Because of this, its use in bicycle cranksets has become common.

Another issue is cost. Carbon fiber is expensive to produce, but aluminum can be mass-produced easily. This makes it much cheaper to use aluminum in bicycle parts.

However, while impact-resistant carbon fibers are useful on airplane wings and soldiers’ helmets, they do not provide the durability needed to build cranksets for bicycling. 

4. Is Crankset Worth Upgrading?

You don’t have to upgrade your bike’s crankset if you are comfortable with the one you have. High end cranks are lighter in weight, but the difference in performance is minimal. All the same, if the current set has chainrings that are worn out, it is advisable to get a new crankset.

5. Do Lighter Cranks Make A Difference?

Lighter cranks have been shown to increase sprint performance, but not general cycling performance.

For endurance cyclists, lighter weight doesn’t necessarily mean lighter crank length – it just means that the hammers are made of stronger alloys.

 The cranks still have to be long enough for an efficient stroke length.

Lighter cranks generally have less inertia when turning. Generally, this results in a slight increase in torque per watt.

Also Read: Are Cranksets Interchangeable?

Final Word – Mountain Bike Vs Road Bike Crankset

Mountain bike cranksets provide a wider gear range, for those who need to climb hills. Road bike cranksets are better suited for racers and those with flat terrain.

If you’re looking for a crankset to help you tackle uphill terrain, the best option may be to invest in a mountain bike crank.

On the other hand, if your goal is all about speed racing, then a road bike crank would work better.

Before purchasing a crankset, check what type of bottom bracket your bicycle has to ensure compatibility.

Bike Finest Team

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