At Interbike last year I wrote about some new products from e*thirteen and finally, after a few good months of testing, I’m ready to share my review of the Downhill crank and LG1+ chainguide. Read on to see how these components performed on the trail!
e*thirteen DH crank
The new e*thirteen Downhill crank has some unique features that I don’t think any other manufacturers have matched yet. The massive 30mm heat-treated and nickle-coated spindle features a polygon interface, resulting in 100% mating surface contact. The spindle is forged and machined 7050 series aluminum for exceptional stiffness and strength without adding too much mass. All unnecessary material has been removed from both the spider area as well as the back and sides of the crank arms which keeps the assembled weight down around 870 grams, including bottom bracket. Of course the actual weight will vary depending on the spindle length (113mm or 123mm) and crank arm length (165mm, 170mm, or 175mm).
Due to the unique 30mm spindle size and corresponding bottom bracket shell, e*thirteen includes the tool required to torque the shell in place. Speaking of the bottom bracket, this unit is a bit different in the installation phase. It comes together very much like a BB30-type system using a wave washer on the thrust side and shims on the non-drive side, all pressed onto the bottom bracket bearing shields.
Along with the DH crank I also installed the LG1+ chainguide on my DH rig. The LG1+ is one of the lightest guides that e*thirteen has available (second only to a new carbon unit which just hit the market). The LG1+ mounts on the existing ISCG05 tabs on your rig or with the use of the provided adapter (an ISCG OLD version is also available). Made of lightweight machined aluminum and impact resistant thermoplastics on the guard, Taco, and Tech 3 Stealth Idler pulley cage, the LG1+ represents a top tier product. To further reduce weight, alloy bolts and hardware were incorporated into the Taco and Idler as well. The Taco, Tech 3 Stealth Idler pulley, and rear plate are all adjustable to fine tune the chainguide and ensure a perfect fit.
Installing both the Downhill crank and LG1+ on my DH bike took a bit over an hour since there are some critical steps and measurements that must be made accurately for these units to work correctly. Following all the documentation is paramount. I would not recommend installing either product unless you are comfortable using Vernier calipers and other precision measuring tools.
Installation starts with carefully measuring and checking that the bottom bracket shell has been faced and that the opposing sides are parallel. After this the BB shell must be within +/- 0.50mm of the appropriate shell width, otherwise things will start to go south. Once that is done, installing the BB cups (and required spacers) is easy using the provided tool and a torque wrench. After that you’re going to have to follow the directions carefully to find the correct number of shims for your bike. On my bike I ended up with three shims and one spacer on the crank side for the correct BB positioning.
Don’t put away the tools just yet because now it’s time to correctly space and place the LG1+ chainguide. To save some time I looped the guide on the drive side then placed my crank and torqued it in place. After that I carefully started adding the washers provided with the LG1+ to get the correct chainline. It’s a bit tricky fitting in the washers once the crank is in place, but here’s a tip: cut a piece of thick card stock to look like a miniature shuffle board paddle to hold and feed the washers. Once the chainline is done, fit the Taco and the Tech 3 pulley correctly (the back is indexed with the corresponding chainring). Fortunately the e*thirteen instructions are clear and nicely illustrated.
On the trail
During my testing I certainly struck more than my share of rocks with both the crank arms and the bash guard. Fortunately my Banshee’s ISCG mounts are very robust and they didn’t suffer at all. The LG1+ chainguide, unlike other systems including the SRS+, transmits impact forces through the fixed bash guard into the actual mount and then to the mounts themselves. By the end of my tests with the LG1+, I did find some hairline cracks on the replaceable portion of the guard. I’m guessing I would need to replace the lower guard (a $50 part) some time in the future, perhaps after another couple dozen hits.
As for the overall performance of the Downhill crank and LG1+, they both worked well together. The crank is definitely one of the stiffest I have ever ridden – standing on the pedals through rock gardens, doing 10ft+ drops and everything in between, these felt solid. One of the things I personally love doing on the bike is to pump through the flatter sections of the slopes and boost it over obstacles. With a decent platform pedal these cranks really do a great job at keeping me on the bike, and when I land there’s no hint of flexing. Having periods of extended dusty conditions and even times of drippy mud, the bottom bracket showed no signs of ingesting any debris. After every ride I typically take the bike apart and inspect all the points of stress and so I’m happy to report that the crank shows no signs of failing any time soon.
Other than the small cracks which started to develop on the replaceable bash portion of the chainguide, the LG1+ performed flawlessly (cracks could have started due to an incompatable lube I used, see e*thirteen for further details). Not once on even the gnarliest slopes did the chainguide drop my chain. Another great thing was the silent performance of the LG1+ – if I didn’t look down I would have forgotten it was even on the bike. Some other brands cause chain rub on a block or wear guide, which does two things: first, it generates noise. Second, it induces drag. For me, I choose drag free whenever possible.
For $300 you can get the DH crank (no chainring as you gotta get a 4×104 BCD) while the the LG1+ is $150. I would definitely recommend the crank to anyone as it can take a beating for a long time. I would reserve the LG1+ more for the competitive person or someone who needs to get their bike as light as possible. Otherwise the SRS+ would be a better choice simply for longevity reasons. Check out e*thirteen for yourself and see these and other cool items including sweet 1×9 and 1×10 gear.
Thanks to the folks at e*thirteen for providing these products for review.