Ask Pinkbike: Carbon Cranks, Winter Bike Setup, and Slow-Rolling Tires

Jan 9, 2018
by Pinkbike Staff  
Ask Pinkbike Header

Here at Pinkbike we get inundated with all kinds of questions, ranging from the basic "Can I have stickers" to more in-depth, soul-searching types of queries like if you should pop the question or what to name your first child. Ask Pinkbike is an occasional column where we'll be hand-picking and answering questions that have been keeping readers up at night, although we'll likely steer clear of those last two and keep it more tech oriented.

Carbon Crank Conundrum

Question: Pinkbike user @andrewcuellar asked this question in the all-mountain, enduro, and cross-country forum: I'm looking to upgrade my cranks to carbon but I'm wondering if it's worth it. Let me know if you've done it, and if it's worth it.

bigquotesThe answer to this one is simple: No, it's probably not worth it to ''upgrade'' to carbon cranks unless, of course, you're all out of things to change on your bike and you'd like to drop some weight. When it comes to upgrades, there are things that make sense as far as an instant performance advantage goes: lighter or stronger wheels, better tires or suspension, or adding a dropper post if you don't have one already. And then there are those "upgrades" that, while cool, don't really make much (or any) difference to the rider on the trail.

You didn't say what cranks you're looking to swap out, or which model of carbon crank you're considering, but it's a safe bet to assume that you'll likely drop a few hundred grams if you're going from an average aluminum crankset to a high-end carbon option. But does that make a difference on the trail? Not one iota. The weight will add up, however, if you're on a gram murdering spree and just want the lightest bike possible. Unless that sounds like you, there are probably better things to spend your money on.
Mike Levy

Blackspire s new carbon cranks and direct mount narrow-wide chainring
Carbon cranks look the business and are usually lighter than aluminum arms, but the performance advantage is negligible.

Winter Bike Setup?

Question: Pinkbike user @Kiotae asked this question in the all-mountain, enduro, and cross-country forum: Temps here in Virginia are cold (for us) and I don't have much experience on the mountain bike in sub-freezing temps. I noticed today that I seemed to have way less cornering grip than normal and felt like I was getting bounced around more than usual. Tire pressures were in the low 20's on 29x2.4 Ibex's. Dropping the pressure down to 18/20 helped, but still felt like there was a lack of cornering grip.

Is this normal for cold weather and I just need to adjust my riding accordingly? My thought was that it was a combination of the ground being more frozen than I'd experienced before and the tire rubber not liking low temps. I'd been out in some low 30's conditions with no problems, but this was mid/upper 20's after some single digit nights.

bigquotesBike setup for below-freezing temperatures can be a little tricky – air and oil behave differently when the mercury plummets, which means your bike isn't going to feel the same as it does on a warm summer's day. Reducing your tire pressure was a good first step, but you may want to turn your attention to your suspension next. Typically, you'll need to speed up your rebound by a click or two; otherwise your bike will feel sluggish and less willing to leave the ground. Don't forget that you changed your settings when the temperatures rise, though, or you could be in for a bouncier ride than you want.

There will also be a learning curve as you get accustomed to riding on the frozen ground. Aside from the surprise ice patches (always a good time), the soil won't have as much give to it when you really push into a turn – it's faster, but less forgiving than riding in warmer temperatures. Staying loose (appropriate clothing helps here) and as relaxed as possible will help you be prepared to deal with the wider variety of trail conditions that accompany winter rides. 
Mike Kazimer

Fresh powder in the valley Picture Adrian Greiter
Winter riding can be challenging, but a little extra preparation and a few bike setup tweaks can help make it more enjoyable.

The Slow Kind of Minion

Question: melias24 says in the All Mountain, Enduro & Cross-Country forum: This might sound a bit odd, or possibly even stupid to veteran riders, but I just want some input on this one. I have a 2017 Scott Genius LT 720 plus bike. It is an awesome bike, but it just doesn't feel right - very sluggish and heavy (I've yet to buy some tires that have less rolling resistance). It has Maxxis Minions at the moment (probably half the problem), and getting air, it just feels like a brick! I've adjusted the suspension multiple times, but still can't get it to feel right. I rode my mate's 2017 Trek Remedy RSL and I felt right at home. It was fast, felt lightweight and handles well in the air. Is my bike just setup wrong or is it just the characteristics of the bike?

bigquotesIt would help to know the type of terrain you are riding. I wouldn't run the Maxxis Minions unless you were tearing up your sidewalls, or your downs were dry and littered with sharp rocks. Maxxis Minions in the Plus size ride harshly and roll slower than a number of similar-sized tires with aggressive treads. Maxxis apparently scaled up their standard-width model to make a tougher option for Plus and, predictably, it is a bit too stiff and heavy (940g/1040g) to easily conform to the terrain. It's not bad, but it's not great either. Suppleness is the key to Plus performance.

Switch to the Addix 2.8-inch Schwalbe Nobby Nic tires. Nics have an aggressive tread pattern with a more flexible casing. Start with pressures around 14psi front and 18psi rear. Play around in 2psi increments (up or down) until you reach the minimum pressure you can run and still push hard in the corners without flexing the casings too much. The switch is sure to brighten up your Scott. My Ibis is on 2.8 Nobby Nics and rolls faster than with 2.3 Minions on the dirt (crazy, but true), while it's a tiny bit slower on the pavement. My home loop is dry, loose, with a number of three-foot booters and has lots of corners and boulder steps. I often ride my "dune buggy" there because of how playful it feels.

Schwalbe 2.8 Nobby Nic
Schwalbe's 2.8" Nobby Nic is an aggressive, lightweight (810g/910g), and fast-rolling Plus option.

Have some unresolved tech questions? Jump in the Pinkbike Forum and we'll look to answer it for next time.


  • + 303
 All Hail Minions. If you're slow with them, you're slow.
  • + 228
 Thirty PSI in my Minions. I don't care about your opinions.
  • - 39
flag nxrezzn (Jan 9, 2018 at 14:09) (Below Threshold)
 @tbmaddux: it's 60
  • + 39
 @tbmaddux: need to go fast so I ride clipped in
  • + 39
 @thedriftisreal: i can't help that i always win
  • - 11
flag jammf (Jan 9, 2018 at 17:48) (Below Threshold)
 @arrowheadrush: Minion sin? stop this spin!
  • + 24
 More sponsors than you’d believe.
  • + 29
 Emergency Red Bull stuffed up my sleeve
  • - 14
flag cheezeweazel (Jan 9, 2018 at 18:33) (Below Threshold)
 @WasatchEnduro: Emergency Redbull stuffed up my sleeve...
  • + 25
 @cheezeweazel: I don't wear pads I only wear neck brace
  • + 21
 I beat Lopes in the a-line race
  • - 10
flag texican (Jan 10, 2018 at 5:20) (Below Threshold)
 There's a reason EWS Fenians don't ride Minions.
  • + 12
Aerodynamic find on my GoPro.
  • - 6
flag High-Life (Jan 10, 2018 at 9:55) (Below Threshold)
 Anyone try 27.5 (3.0) in winter snow slush mud? Is it drastically better than 2.35?
  • + 14
 Eight inches in the rear, no homo
  • + 0
 @tbmaddux: lol, I need almost 30 psi in my minions anyways because fat.
  • + 3
 @mattdennison : shuttling laps with my semi-pro crew
  • + 76
 Yes you should definitely upgrade to carbon cranks. Also let me tell you about my negative ionic alkaline water that increases hydration levels up to 7% better than regular water and comes in a cool bottle
  • + 10
 Yeah but is it natural, organic, and un-filtered?
  • + 8
 @unclemuscles: non GMO single origin or GTFO... I also bought Whey protein powder with BCAA and L-glutamine written with giant letters on the package, however I struggle to find one that would not contain these according to the list on the back... i found best results with BCAA+ But if you really want results the BCAA++ is the way to go along with BCAA++ Xcarb. Lean branched carbs my friend.
  • + 11
 Only if its lactose free water thats been flavored by barley and hops. Sweet hoppy water. 7% sounds right.
  • + 1
 @unclemuscles: and lactose-free vegan pls kthxbye.
  • + 32
 and if you stay addicted long enough you end looking and feeling like steve bannon - disheveled, chronic alcoholic, unemployed...haha, fuck that guy
  • + 4
 Fuck trump and all his minions
  • + 18
 @mtbakerpow: Sounds like you would be sore afterwards...
  • + 1
 @mtbakerpow: no need to cry here dude, this is a mountain biking website.
  • + 20
 ok completely off topic but is it just me or do these fu!@#ing YT ads actually make you want to buy anything BUT a YT !
  • + 8
 those ads make me sick, i boycott YT for polluting my computer with that crap.
  • + 22
 The only popups I get are for viagra Smile
  • + 42
 @Matt115lamb: The only popups I get are because of viagra too, buddy.
  • + 4
 @wpplayer18: Mine are all Masengill
  • + 17
 Until you can accept the honest truth that you are slow, you'll never be fast no matter how much money you throw at your bike! Get you some Richie Rude time!
  • + 11
 I TOTALLY disagree with what the responder said about Minions.
Firstly, I didn't see where the question-asker said anything about the kinda terrain he rides, secondly they ride 'harsh'?
Compared to what? I bought a set of 3" Minions the day they hit Maxxis' website, and proceeded to ride them down rocky, silty, sand-over-blue-groove, and thick sand(y) trails(these soil conditions all exists on my local trails), and not only did I find they had a VERY compliant ride(they made my forks feel 100% better over chatter, as they soaked up the majority of chatter, and a lot of braking bumps. Apart from that, they immediately showed MUCH better traction than any other MTB I had ever ridden on. One high-speed off-camber braking area comes to mind. Every other tire would allow the back end of the bike to slide as soon as I broke, but the MInions kept the bike tracking straight and stable.
My first run on 'em netted me a personal best, taking 2 seconds off my previous.
I liked 'em so much I put 2.8s on my DH bike for Snow Summit, and they rode with the same confidence.
In the conditions I ride these tires in, to say that Nobby Nics would work better is plain ridiculous. My bike came with the Schwalbes, and in their 2.8" size, they slid around more than 2.5" Minions/High Rollers. Matter of fact, the whole reason why I switched to the MInions was because I needed to replace the NN's because they performed so poorly for me. Their small(er) tread blocks just aren't tall or big enough to grip thick(er) loose terrain, nor clean themselves out good/quick enough like the MInion or HR2. Or even Schwalbe's own Magic Mary or Hans Dampfs for that matter
And again, the dude who asked the question(s) didn't mention what kind of terrain he rides in. Under these circumstances, telling him the MInions are his problem and the Schwalbes are his answer shows ignorance and a lack of understanding of tires in general, and compound and tread design specifically, on the part of the question answerer
  • + 15
 pretty sure that snowy pic is the run-up to the Bender Sender....
  • + 26
 Life's too short not to go big - gotta go big

*eats shit
  • + 11
 While I agree there are more important upgrades to do to a bike (wheels, dropper post, etc.), I did notice a difference with the carbon cranks. They feel stiffer and I could actually feel the weight difference (I spin-to-win a lot, so maybe that has something to do with it?). Carbon cranks would be the last upgrade, but now that I've done it I don't regret it. - Al
  • + 2
 I agree. I have a couple of sets of carbon cranks and you can notice the difference. Maybe it's just because they are plastic and I think I can feel the difference when there isn't one. Who knows.
  • + 3
 I think you can notice the stiffness if you a heavier rider and/or are coming from cheap aluminum cranks. I have RF SixC 165mm cranks on my DH bike and can't tell a difference in stiffness from aluminum Saints I had on my previous bike. I can tell a difference in stiffness from cheaper/lighter aluminum stuff though... I do weigh 210lbs which matters here.
  • + 3
 @gramboh: To be fair Saints are also mighty stiff. I weigh 230 pounds and totally feel a difference. I had Sixc cranks on my last bike (Canfield Balance) and always thought it was a gimmick. With my new build I went cheap and got XT's. Holy smokes is there ever a difference! I can actually push down on my pedal and see the crank flex. That being said lighter riders probably wont have as much as an impact on crank flex.
  • + 1
 I personally LOVED the difference in feel between my XT cranks and the SixC cranks I switched to. Weight savings I didn't really care about, the bike was still 32 something pounds... but I could tell the difference in stiffness right away.... That increased stiffness likely followed the change from a 24mm spindle to a 30mm spindle... but for someone like me, who's neither a professional, nor a racer.. for me to be able to distinctly tell the difference between how the two different cranks felt, it made the purchase worth it to me.
  • + 8
 Switching to nobby nicks may well help the bike feel lighter and less sluggish to improve things but I think you failed to address the other possibilities, soft suspension can make it feel heavy and slow, as can the setup. The comparison to a remedy is also always going to make it feel worse as the remedy is a shorter travel, lighter bike without plus tyres. Sounds like the remedy better suits the trails as the genius LT is naturally a burlier bike.
  • + 6
 No kidding. First things first, you're comparing a sub $4k bike to an $8k bike. That Remedy is going to likely weigh 3-4lbs less than the Scott, have better suspension (both dampers and linkage), better wheels and bearings, and it's not a PLUS bike! Second, they are two different bikes, not much different, but ride characteristics between each of those bikes is quite different. The Remedy will be quicker, lighter on it's feet, and responsive. The Scott will have a more planted, stable feeling.

RC, if you had done just a bit more research, you would have seen that his bike came with Nobby Nics out of the box. Lately, it seems as if you've just been re-hashing the thought the person has already had, and running on a tangent with that, steering them in a direction that provides little to no benefit. As opposed to providing insightful and knowledgeable advice, maybe enlightening them with something they may not have thought of. You know, what someone is hoping for when seeking expert advice.

My personal advice, seek an overhaul, or at least have it inspected for one. Even if your bike is only a year old, lots of wear and tear can happen that can dramatically diminish on trail performance. Have it checked out by a good mech. Make sure ALL of your bearings are in good shape, your drivetrain has life, wheels true, suspension seals fresh and suspension settings set well for you (this is where it really pays to have a good wrench). If all is good there, next step would be to invest in a good wheelset. There is nothing like a light, snappy, stiff wheelset to improve the feel of your bike, and you don't have to spend a lot of money piecing one together either. Also, if you spend the money on a good hubset (despite changing standards) they should last you many, many years. Hope hubs laced to a WTB Asym rim with double butted spokes builds an incredibly stiff wheel with near-perfect triangulation, reasonably light, and won't break the bank. Even better with when built with straight pull hub and spokes.
Next step would be shaving weight where it will make the biggest differences: Crankset, cassette, cockpit, etc. The parts spec'd on that bike are not light, and you can make massive savings in weight with a few select parts changed out, especially if you're still on a base level 2x drivetrain.
  • + 4
 @mtnbykr05: totally agree with you on most points, especially the wheelset idea, a new smartly built wheelset makes a world of difference compared to cheap one that is often speced on full bikes, and agree there is more things that should be looked at in a expert response than tyres.

Just not sure you got the right spec for the Genius, you said it comes with Nobby nics, it doesn't, it comes with the minion DHF mentioned so maybe RC did look. Also you mentioned the 2x drivetrain, while swapping that out for 1x is a great idea this bikes already comes with 1x11 NX/GX drivetrain.

See spec below:
  • + 1
 @maglor: I kept getting mixed search results, of which I think was 2016 models or the non Lt version. Either way, 1X NX or 2x Deore, neither are light.
  • + 8
 Without trying to sound snarky is it really a surprise that a plus bike with a pair of big ass minions feels sluggish? I'm not sure why that's even a question.
  • + 5
 Yes dhf’s need to be ride fast and agresive,or they feel a little bit harsh or slow and then too Much of a tire ,run hr2 they are easier and more mellow,and really good on almost all conditions,but still not the fastest in rolling kind
  • + 5
 Carbon cranks are a great upgrade, save over a pound in some cases and a bit stiffer IMO. wheels are the best upgrade tho. Minions rock, once you get them up to speed you can monster truck all the gnars, I run 29 x 3.0 minions Smile
  • + 4
 1. I've had my Atlas olde tyme alu cranks and they have been flawless and look rad.

2. I have a 2.8 minion on my plus bike (front) and think it's a blast. yes, it's slow, but you can run that tire so soft without self steer or squirm, it's amazing. I've ridden schwalbe nics & rocket ron 2.8s and didn't find the grip much better than 29 Dampfs. The 2.8 minion was the first plus tire that I felt offered a real change, everything else had to be run too hard and just bounced.
  • + 4
 I found the carbon six c cranks to be the antidote to the twisting crank arms I experienced with aluminum race face cranks that I previously had. The twisting was only during hard climbs and with the wide flat pedals I have. I think it is how I pedal, but there was perceptible flex with aluminum arms. The six c carbon cranks are much better at resisting torsion.
  • + 5
 From my experience NN are good and fast rolling tires if you ride in dry conditions but there is no comparison to DHF / DHR2 2.8.
  • + 10
 Magic Mary
  • + 1
 @Kamba6: MM is also excellent!
  • + 1
 My experience on the 2.8 nice as of 1 year ago was. The rear tire felt like it was falling off the rim every turn in grippy conditions. I am a heavy guy but kept inflating the tire till I got to 28 psi and the feeling never went away. For reference I now run a 3.0 Kenda havoc at 18 psi.
  • + 5
 When the temperature drops, things can freeze and you don't get as much traction...

Seriously, is this a 3rd grade science class? What kind of question is that?
  • + 2
Interesting suggestion on the softer compound for winter times. I talked to the Maxxis guys at Bozen festival once and they said that I should opt for the harder versions! But their focus was on wear, not grip. In winter your soft tire will wear much faster as it can't stand the cold as good as harder compounds. For grip it might look different.
  • + 2
 > For grip it might look different.
Doubtful. On the German Maxxis page they specifically advice *against* using the 3C MaxxTerra and MaxxGrip compounds on anything below 6°C (that's 43F for you imperial republican democrats), and they specifically point out the reduced cornering performance. I don't believe the author has too much experience on cold weather riding. I also don't know why the international Maxxis page doesn't list this "feature".

It's there on the official German page (conveniently auto translated for you folks):
  • + 1
 I was going to comment on this. Soft rubber works great in the cold. Soft, slow rebound rubber does not. The pores in the rubber are more open when it’s slow rebound rubber, so liquid water gets in and freezes.

This is a known issue with any slow rebound soft compound rubber tires on rock crawlers and off road trucks. It’s one of the reasons the race only tires aren’t certified for the street.
  • + 1
 @husstler: e 13 race tires feel like ice on ice for that reason -magic mary in addix soft is fine
  • + 2
 While playing with tire pressure in low temps make sure you are manipulating pressure in the environment you will be riding in. If you're pumping up your tires indoors around 70 degrees and then ride in below freezing your pressures will drop.
  • + 1
 If your local trails are frozen up good and hard, try a set of Schwalbe Ice Spikers on your usual steed. Unreal grip on hardpack snow and solid ice. The harder and icier it is, the better. Just make sure you break them in per the instructions.
  • + 1
 Riding in snow can be really fun if the temps right. Anything deeper than 4-5" and it should be packed in with snowshoes first. The knobbiest DH tires are good, Surly Bud and Lou tires are insane in the snow! I felt bad for my friends with fatbikes running the stock tires when we shred lazymans entrance to the porcupine TH. Great snow lap if there is any left!
  • + 4
 Buying carbon cranks is like buying crack...
  • + 15
 There are probably more benefits to taking crack (My carbon XO cranks have been great though)
  • + 8
 Once you try it, you'll never go back. Bicycle addictions are like drug addictions, only twice as expensive.
  • + 8
 @rnayel: yeah I steal from my family, gone all thin and lost my teeth
If she found out about the money I spend on my addiction!
  • + 3
 @WAKIdesigns But if you try to put it up your nose you will really have a bad trip.....
  • + 0
 Crack is whack. But you can't whack carbon cranks. So... No.
  • + 0
 hay pinkbike or anybody,can you tell me what year fox decided to change the thred sise (made bigger) in rebound damper top caps,my 36 rc2 cart top cap thred is smaller than my 2014 tallas damper,so gutted it works so well fits in every way appart from the top thred is about 1mm smaller Frown
  • + 2
 My experience and Schwalbe say - Soft compounds get proportionally harder at cold temperatures than hard compounds - below zero dramatically so.
  • + 3
 Leave the Minion up front, Nobby Nic or Rocket Ron the rear. Oh and get carbon cranks, you’ll fly.
  • + 1
 I once used lathe oil for fork bath oil. it was really good until I had too ride in cold weather, where the fork locked solid until it warmed back up.
  • + 1
 Once the temp gets cold enough, tire compounds can harden enough to be quite dangerous. You won't have much grip and will bounce around a lot.
  • + 3
 And this gets worse the softer the rubber is.
Maxxis 42a knobs feel like Lego bricks around freezing temps.

That seems like the worst advice @mikekazimer could have given.
  • + 1
 Yes, tires do get harder in the cold, no matter the compound. That's why a tire with more siping can be beneficial - the tread will be able to conform to the terrain. @pyromaniac, that chart is interesting, I hadn't seen that before.

However, I still think a softer compound can be beneficial, depending on the terrain and temperature. It's really a matter of experimenting to see what works best where you live. In some locations winter means temperatures way below freezing, while in other spots (like where I live) the temps tend to hover between 32 and 45-degrees F.
  • + 3
 @mikekazimer: A softer compound would be beneficial if it was still softer at the colder temperature, it seems like the argument is that the softer compounds are only softer at above freezing temps. I honestly doubt many of the main mountain bike tire manufacturers are worrying about how their tread compounds function well below freezing. The market would be really limited, most people riding mountain bikes at those temperatures would be riding on snow which is a different game, or ice which is different again. For ice my favorite tread compound is sheet metal screws screwed through the tire carcass so they stick out 1/4" from the tread. And you do get some rolling resistance (anecdotally about a gear lower pedaling for me). For snow I am sure the compound could make a difference but everything I have tried is like a rock at really cold temperatures. I find the most aggressive tread pattern without big blocks best for snowy trails, the big tread blocks are absolutely terrible should it be ice or hard packed snow. I live into Northern Manitoba and therefore have some insight into cold weather bike traction.
  • + 1
 @pyromaniac: even more the 40 a cst (maxxis) rubber found on 2017 e 13 tires
  • + 3
 @mikekazimer: My point is that the softer the compound the earlier and the more it hardens in cold temperatures.

I experienced that first hand. 60a rubber is generally ok at all temperatures. It does get harder, but that's no big deal. 42a hardens drastically below 5°C (Lego bricks).
  • + 1
 @pyromaniac: glad to learn my cheap hard tyres give the most consistent performance throughout all the seasons!
  • + 2
 It's an awesome bike but it doesn't feel right... doesn't sounds like an awesome bike to me lol
  • + 2
 Ha, I switched from NN2.8 to DHF2.8 up front on my 429T and couldn’t be happier, LOL reverse course.
  • + 4
 Can I have stickers?
  • + 1
 Dont buy carbon cranks but do buy Shwalbe - what sort of dumb ass koolaid are these guys drinking?
  • + 2
 You have to get steel cranks, keep that weight low
  • + 1
 The Minions feels slow because it was a plus bike. Problem solved.
  • - 3
 I want carbon cranks simply for the fact that they all eliminate the need for a stupid crank puller. Things piss me right off.
  • + 1
 So does any crank that isn't square taper/Octa/ISIS
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