There was a collective "Wait, what?" when Cane Creek released their 400-gram, all-titanium crankset last April, and then more of the same when we scrolled down and saw the $999 USD price tag.
It's not completely out of left field - Cane Creek does have a history from way back with a similar looking design - but most of us associate the North Carolina company with stout suspension forks and four-way adjustable Double Barrel shocks.
Cane Creek's eeWings (say ''/ee/-wings'') sport titanium everything; arms, 30mm spindle, pedal insets, and even the fixing bolt and washer are made from the pricey metal. That explains the MSRP, then, with the brushed silver setup going for around twice the price of many carbon fiber cranksets. If you want to be this different, it's going to cost you. Some of those carbon options come pretty close to the eeWings' 400-grams weight, too, but not many get the go-ahead for enduro use like these.
Cane Creek eeWings Details
• Intended use: trail / enduro
• Grade 9 Ti-3Al-2.5V titanium arms
• Grade 5 Ti-6Al-4V titanium spindle, Hirth joint, chainring interface, pedal inserts
• 30mm titanium spindle
• BB compatibility: BSA 73mm, PF92, PF89.5, BB30 (external bearing only), PF30 (external bearing only), 392EVO
• Chainring compatibility: X-Sync
• Lengths: 170mm, 175mm
• Warranty: 10 years
• Weight: 400-grams (arms, spindle, preload assembly, fastening bolt and washer, 1.75mm spacer)
• MSRP: $999 USD
Much titanium, very little weight. At just 400-grams, the eeWings are very light. At $999 USD, they're also very expensive.Why Titanium?
Can I take a stab at what you're thinking? How about, "Why would someone pay twice as much money for something that's not carbon fiber and, while very light, only weighs tens of grams less than other airy arms?" Because titanium. And according to Cane Creek, that fact makes them much less likely to end up in multiple pieces when you clang them off of rocks and whatnot. ''Titanium just brushes those hits off, so the eeWings can withstand a lot more abuse than other high-end cranks and not end up structurally compromised or broken,
'' said Sam Anderson, product manager for Cane Creek.
''At the same time, they are incredibly stiff, so more of the energy you put into each pedal stroke makes it to the back wheel and helps push you up and down the trail.''
Also, look at them. Look.
There are all sorts of other feathery cranksets to choose from, but let's consider two common options: Race Face's Next SL G4 arms and SRAM's XX1 Eagle DUB SL cranks. The former is said to weigh 430-grams, including a 32-tooth direct mount chainring but no bottom bracket, while the carbon Eagle arms come in at a claimed 420-grams with a chainring. XTR? The Race 1x crankset weighs a claimed 474-grams (without any hardware), so they're all in the same ballpark when talking about the scale. But all of those cost around half as much. Oof, they're probably more robust than carbon cranks, sure, but these things are something that you buy with your heart, not your brain.
Except for the alloy preload collar, everything is titanium, even the 30mm spindle. Construction
The arms come in either 170mm or 175mm lengths and are made using Grade 9 Ti-3Al-2.5V titanium, while Grade 5 Ti-6Al-4V was chosen for the 30mm spindle, chainring interface, pedal inserts, and the impressive looking Hirth joint. What the hell is that? I didn't know until my buddy, Google, helped me out, and it's apparently a way to join two ends of a shaft, usually via tapered, radial teeth.
Roadies out there might have seen a Hirth joint at the center of Campagnolo's spindle (they've been using it for eons), and the two sides are joined by applying an axial load (from the crank bolt) to cause the radial teeth on each end of the spindle to interlock.
The left and right arms use the time-proven Hirth joint to connect.
At this point, it'd be silly if the crank bolt (left) wasn't titanium. Chainrings mount via SRAM's X-Sync spline (right).
The preload assembly is the only part of the entire crankset that isn't titanium, but it ain't plastic, either, unlike what's used on some other high-end options. The machined aluminum adjuster sits on a threaded ring up against the non-drive side arm, and it requires a 2.5mm hex to adjust.
The preloader can also be used on SRAM or Race Face 30MM cranks, and Cane Creek sells it separately (with a titanium bolt, of course) for $29.99 USD.
I briefly considered a bare titanium hardtail frame for the eeWings but then realized that I'd be building a bike around a crankset. Instead, I put them on the Linkage Larry where they've been trouble-free.Performance
If I were to blindfold most riders and send them out on a bunch of different cranksets, I bet there's very little chance that any of them would notice a real performance difference between the arms. Same goes for these silver beauties, too. They're light as hell, sure, and they're going to feel flex-free to anyone who has less horsepower or less weight than Richie Rude. That's probably you, at least on the watts front.
It's worth noting that Cane Creek says they're 20 to 30-percent stiffer (presumably compared to some carbon cranks), and that they come with a 10-year limited warranty, too.
So the eeWings aren't going to do anything better for you when it comes to outright performance, but I have no trouble believing that a chunk of titanium is going to brush off a pointy piece of granite much easier than so and so's carbon arms covered in a sticker and some clearcoat. I can't recall breaking a carbon crankset, but I've seen it happen and can understand why some riders might be a little gunshy about the whole carbon splinters in their legs thing. That said, I'll happily run carbon cranks (or handlebar) - I don't share the same fear - but I can see why you might not.
Anyway, I've had the eeWings on the trail since April of last year, and on a few different bikes now as well, all without a hint of trouble. They're still dead-straight, and while they certainly look used, I like the matte finish that's developing. You can easily turn up the shine with some Scotchbrite, too. Can't say that about your plastic cranks, can you?
Cane Creek recommends a good slathering of ti-prep, which I did during the quick and simple installation, and both the Hirth joint and the direct-mount chainring interface have been groan-free since the first day. The titanium crank bolt calls for a big ol' 10mm hex key instead of the 8mm that you'd usually see, so you'll probably want to pick one of those up if you don't have one in your toolbox. Either way, the bolt stayed snug.
As with any crankset, you can get some heel rub if you're cleats are positioned a certain way, but I didn't have any contact with my ankle bones. That hurts like hell when it happens, so I'm always happy when it doesn't.
Cranksets are a tough one to review if I'm completely honest. You know, they didn't bend, they're stiff, and I trust them more than carbon arms. I could say the same thing about a few other cranks out there, however, so you're going to really want some titanium in your life to justify these gorgeous things. Pinkbike's Take: