Cornelius Kapfinger is the brainiac behind the product line of sleek, industrial components from Intend. Based in Freiburg, Germany, Cornelius has designed, tested, and manufactured a clever array of parts primarily from aluminum, such as stems, locking headsets, and laser-cut steel rotors. Intend also has a range of front and rear suspension, including the limited edition Bandit USD fork
that incorporates half of an upper crown. Aside from the suspension, one of the standout components has to be the nifty Rocksteady Magic cranks that allow you to shift gears without pedaling, at least when the tires are rolling forwards.
Intend Rocksteady Magic DetailsSpecs:
170mm arm length, 167 Q-factorCompatibility:
30mm spindle, Race Face Cinch mountWeight:
700 grams w/ bearing & hardware (actual)Colors:
Black (raw is no longer offered)Price:
749€ (incl VAT), inc. lock ring toolMore info: intend-bc.com
By relocating the ratcheting mechanism to the crank arm, it replaces the need for a clutch in the rear hub. This means the chainring rotates around the crank spindle with a bearing and pawl system. A simple zip tie holds the cassette to the spokes and acts as an engineered fail-safe to keep your derailleur from exploding should something jam the constantly rotating drive. Weighing 700g in total with the necessary proprietary lock ring (included is the necessary tool), the crankset is targeted towards trail, enduro, and freeriding. The only required specifications are a bottom bracket to accommodate the 30mm spindle, noting that Intend insists on the use of an upper chain guide.Construction and Features
All of Intend's components have a raw, artisan vibe to them. Each pair of Rocksteady Magic cranks are cut to 170mm in length from 7075 aluminum once an order is made and do not use any steel thread inserts. From the outside, they look like a two-piece system, but the drive-side crank arm is mounted from the factory, while the non-drive side uses a preloading to draw the crank onto the 30mm spindle and is held by one sturdy looking pinch bolt. If you like a loud hub, the clutch mechanism in this crank arm will put Profile or Industry Nine hubs to shame - the ratcheting of the 47 points of engagement resonates through the frame.
The system is straightforward to install, but I had to manipulate the teeth of the supplied tool to get any bite on the lockring up to 20 Nm of torque.Installation & Setup
Intend is a boutique operation and Cornelius is very transparent in his craftsmanship, as he states on the service section
of the website, "With Intend it is important for me to play with open cards and let you know what you need to know before." He stands by his products, but isn't wasteful; some finishing imperfections are possible, but that doesn't warrant them unusable. He also reuses boxes from other vendors, so it was no surprise that the cranks arrived in minimalist, plastic-free packaging with clear instructions and its own lock-ring tool. As for the chainring, you'll need one specified to interface with Race Face's Cinch system.
All of the torque values are well stated and the install went fairly smoothly. The chainring did protrude inboard enough to keep the tool from perfectly matching the keyed slots of the lockring. I ran into the same problem with two different chainrings, which made it challenging to achieve the 20 Nm of torque. A quick modification with a punch allowed a firmer connection against the lockring's teeth. The rest of the bolts use standard equipment, like a cassette lockring tool and a 5mm hex key. A step-by-step instructional video for the Rocksteady Magic cranks and other products are listed on Intend's YouTube channel
You'll also have to resort to a thin zip tie to work with a Shimano cassette due to the gaps between cogs compared to a SRAM one. The small zip tie didn't last more than a couple rides at which point the drivetrain reverted to safe mode, letting the hub freewheel.
The bulge of the crank arm around the drive-side spindle interface hides the magic clutch bearing that does all of the freewheeling.Ride Impressions
Since the introduction of larger cogs and 29" rear wheels, shifting from the middle of the cassette to the top requires more rotation of the rear wheel and takes a longer amount of time. Gearbox bikes' most valuable selling point is the fact that you can shift without pedaling. The Rocksteady Magic cranks give you that same benefit on a traditional frame, thanks to the constantly rotating chain. Now, you can select a necessary gear well in advance of any inclines where obstacles may impede pedal strokes.
Quickly, this became an effective and intuitive way to shift. Vancouver's North Shore has abundant sharp changes in topography, even on primarily downhill trails, which is where this component was highly useful. For example, steep descents where you don't want to change your balance, but will need to pedal out, like a deep ditch crossing. Even while coming to a resting spot, the Rocksteady system is effective and becomes second nature, like downshifting a vehicle while approaching a stop light.
Shifts also take place in a shorter amount of time, since the chain moves in relation to the speed of the wheel. The chainring is often rotating rapidly, faster than you could turn over a full revolution of the cranks. Even though the chain is rolling through the drive quickly, the shifts also sounded quiet and calm. I can't say what kind of increased wear this would put on the chain without a substantial long term test with controlled variables, but it could be argued that a higher percentage of shifting is done with less load on the chain. When the cranks were stomped on, the engagement and sound reminded me of a Hope Pro 4 hub. There were never any hints of the clutch slipping or missing a beat.
Throughout the test, I tried the RockSteady Magic cranks on three bikes: a Norco Range, an Orbea Rallon, and a Canyon Spectral 29 CFR. Issues quickly presented themselves on the Range with its idler wheel to navigate the high-pivot suspension layout. The top of the chain routing became slack when the bike bounced down compressions on the trail, accompanied by a cacophony of noises as the chain struggled to stay engaged on the cassette. Thoughts of the wheel chewing the derailleur to bits played through my mind, but somehow it survived until I could remove the zip tie and allow the rear hub to freewheel.
I spoke to Cornelius regarding the dilemma and he explained that the system must use the second-generation SRAM derailleur that features increased shrouding around the lower pulley wheel from the cage. The derailleur spec checked out, B-tension position was spot on under sag, and all of the torques were revisited. Our best guesses were that the chain wrap around both the cassette and chainring were insufficient due to the high pivot design. Oddly enough, Alex at T.E.B.P had tried the Rocksteady Cranks on his Kavenz VHP 16
without a hitch.
One other thought that might explain the chain skipping issue could be due to how close the chain rides to the rubber along the seatstay of the Norco Range. As the chain bounces against that material out on the trail, it might have enough friction to slow the feed to the chainring and cause it to become slack. That means that there could have been excessive tension put on the derailleur cage and portion of chain below the swingarm, causing it to skip off of the cassette.
With that theory fresh in my mind, I proceeded to install the Rocksteady Magic cranks on the Rallon, a frame built around a Horst-link suspension design. Unfortunately, the same skipping dilemma persisted, this time on a full Shimano-equipped drivetrain. The Rallon's rubber-coated chainstay also sits quite close to the chain, which could have caused a similar problem to the Range where the chain feed was delayed.Update:
After further discussion with Intend to debunk the chain feed issue, I installed the cranks on a brand new Canyon Spectral 29 CFR with a BSA bottom bracket and Shimano drivetrain components. The stock Race Face chainring (not pictured in the video above) was also transferred to the Magic cranks and all torques were diligently respected.
From the first rotation of the drivetrain in the work stand, it was immediately apparent that friction from the crank’s clutch or the chain and ring interface were not an issue here. This simply baffled me. On pavement, in dry conditions, the difference in timed trials with and without the Magic crank system proved to be indistinguishable. No measurable drag or drivetrain problems were experienced during this test.
Was it because this bike had a brand new BB? The Norco Range also received a new BB treatment when the Rocksteady Magic cranks were installed. That BB was also reinstalled after the first trail tangle to make sure all components were properly aligned. I can only report on what was experienced.
Switching back to a traditional drivetrain, I missed the functionality of the Rocksteady Magic cranks. The theory and craftsmanship behind these cranks put them in their own league, especially given the price and exclusivity. As for the chain feed issues, I would advise speaking to Intend first to inquire about which frames they have had success with. If you're looking for a new gadget that will change when and how you shift on the trail, then this component is certainly appealing.
The ability to shift without pedaling is addictive+
Quick, solid engagement
Loud clutch engagement may not be for everyone-
Unexplained chain feeding troubles arose on two of three test bikes