Lighten Up — Cranks

article and images by Nick Salazar   •   Feb 23, 2011

There are but three contact points on any bike: the bars, the saddle, and the pedals. All three are ripe areas for weight savings, as we’ve already explored at the front end. For this installment of the Lighten Up series, we’re headed South. Between the cranks, chainrings, and pedals, we’ve got a lot of grams to shed. So let’s get started.

Our crank of choice for this build is the Lightning SL Carbon. It’s a lightweight crank that’s very heavy on features. For a really detailed analysis of the various light crank options, definitely have a look at the Fairwheel Bikes Crank Shootout. They did a fantastic job of analyzing them all, so we don’t need to reinvent the wheel there.

The Lightning SL crank is the perfect balance of what we were looking for. It’s one of the lightest cranks out there, bested only by the THM Clavicula and the AX Morpheus. But it overtakes both of those cranks in three areas. First, it features a nice narrow Q-factor, which is arguably better aerodynamically, and is preferable ergonomically for many riders. Second, it has an interchangeable spider, meaning you can swap the cranks from compact to standard without buying a new crank. That spider is also Quarq compatible, so adding power is an easy option, and results in the lightest powermeter crank available anywhere. Finally, this beauty is available in any size from 160mm to 190mm, making it the most usable of any light crank out there. And it is plenty stiff to boot. If the crank looks familiar, that’s because you may have seen its progeny before. Specialized bikes loved the Lightning design so much, they bought the patent for it, and currently manufacture it themselves as their S-Works crankset, spec'ing it on their highest-end rides.



  • Lightning SL Carbon Crank
  • Fibre-Lyte Carbon Chainrings (50t 36t)
  • Extralite Chainring Bolts
  • BB30, Standard English, or PressFit Bottom Brackets available
  • 544g complete (with BB30 cups)

Lightning SL Crank

Pros   Cons
  • Versatile fit options from 160mm to 190mm
  • Nice narrow Q-factor
  • Works with compact, standard, or Quarq spiders
  • Very stiff, very light
  • 30mm spindle means it’s not compatible with some press-fit systems (i.e. the Speed Concept’s BB90).
    UPDATE: Lightning says it can now custom make BB90 cranks, for those so inclined.

Easily our favorite crank out there. We can’t wait for the BB90 version.

4.5 stars


Read the full review here.