The Best Single Speed Cranksets: Road & Track Cranks Reviewed
The top five single speed cranksets on a budget, reviewed
If you're building up a fixed gear bike, you're probably aware of the many different parts and brands vying to be a part of your bike build. To ensure a worry-free pedaling experience, it's very important that you select a good quality, single speed crankset. That being said, figuring out what to look for and what to avoid can be crazy difficult.
There are so many different brands and styles you'll run into. What's the difference between fixed gear and single speed cranksets? What about track? Which parts are suitably high quality, and which parts are shoddy garbage?
There's also a lot of conflicting information about what's actually necessary and what will actually fit the bike frame you currently have.
This article is meant to help anyone who is building up a fixed gear bike, and wants help tracking down the best single speed cranksets on the market. We'll take a look at some of my favorite fixed gear cranks on the market today, giving a brief review of each one and offering pros and cons. I'll also touch on what you should look for versus the unnecessary "fluff".
Let's get started!
Things to pay attention to:
It's not that hard to find a great, trustworthy, affordable single speed crankset. There are some things you'll most definitely want, and some things you'll most definitely want to avoid. Here are a few suggestions to help keep you on the right path:
- Avoid "no name" brands:
I'm not really a big brand enthusiast, and I'm usually pretty open-minded. That said, in the world of single speed crank sets it's really easy to be burned by an unknown company.
The thing is, there are a lot of bicycle parts manufacturers. The vast majority are in China or Taiwan. That isn't a bad thing, most bike components are crafted there. However, unknown brands tend to cut corners. That means anything from cheap quality metals, inconsistent finish work, or shoddy alignment; it all adds up to a higher likelihood of a part failing you.
- Be aware of tooth count:
Each crank has a different chainring tooth count (that's the number of little teeth the chain hooks onto). This is one of the biggest factors in how a fixie or single speed will ride. Going up by a few teeth can make a bike a lot harder to pedal uphill, or a lot faster on straight stretches.
I'd look for single speed cranksets that match what you currently like. Smaller chainrings are better for steep inclines and hilly regions, while higher tooth counts are better for flat areas and high speed. My personal 'go to' ratio is around 16 or 17 teeth on the back cog, and 42 to 44 teeth on the front chainring. It's a great ratio for a mixed ride, since you can handle the occasional hill.
- Buy the 'set', not individually:
Unless you're positive it'll work, I don't recommend buying cranks piecemeal (meaning one single side). Each set is meant to work in tandem. The crank arm length, for example, needs to be the same. If it's different, you'll notice it. Some cranks slot into the bottom bracket differently, meaning that if you get mismatched arms, they can end up at right angles to each other (which looks hilarious by the way.)
Whatever single speed crank you end up with, just make sure it's a set.
Retrospec: A good, attractive 'fixie' crankset in multiple colors
This Retrospec fixed gear crankset is a wonderful option for someone seeking to put together a slick fixie build and save some money without compromise. It's well suited to multiple uses, great if you're seeking to upgrade your fixed gear, single speed or track bicycle
Whatever your intended usage, this is a nice choice because it combines light aluminum alloy single speed crank arms with a steel chainring. These two materials make a good combination because the chainring ends up being more durable.
Retrospec's offering is a a three-piece crankset, and it comes in 44, 46 and 48 teeth depending on your preferred gearing. It's intended for square tapered bottom brackets, and it is compatible with 9/16" threaded pedals.
As mentioned before, I'd run the smallest front chainring if you expect to ride in a hilly area, or go for the 48 if you crave speed on those flats.
At under $50 this is a budget-priced crankset for fixed gear or single speed builds of all types.
Origin8: A classic-style single speed bicycle crankset, strong and light
This Origin8 Track Crankset is a popular seller for good reason. It has a definitively classic look that works well with both vintage inspired track builds or colourful fixies built to catch your eye.
Oh, and it's light, tough as nails, and priced extremely well.
The set comes equipped with a 46 tooth chainring, which is a good all-around crank for various conditions. It's made out of forged aluminum alloy, which makes it as strong and light as you'd expect.
This inexpensive track-style crankset fits any bike with a square bottom bracket, and you can choose between 165mm, 170mm and 175mm lengths. If you're unsure, just grab a tape measure and make sure you'll have enough clearance. They are drilled for 9/16" pedals.
It's worth checking out Origin8's fulll lineup of cranks for sale; they're a solid brand with a pretty impressive reputation.
Sugino RD2: High quality, gorgeous, messenger-style single speed cranks
In the fixed gear bike realm Sugino has enduring popularity and appeal. Their Messenger series is pretty venerable; little has changed in quite a few years. And why should it? These attractive cranks are light, strong and match well with both modern and classic builds.
They are built from cold-forged aluminum alloy for a subtle and unique finish, and they work with the square taper bolt in most modern bottom brackets used on fixed gear bikes. As you can probably gather, they're stinking light too.
This particular one has a 46T chainring and 165mm length, which is a good all-around tooth count for city or suburban riding.
These are a step up in price, but they're one of the top cranksets for bike messenger-style fixed gears due to premier build quality. They are a great investment.
FSA Vero: A high-end aluminum road / fixie / single speed crank set
FSA stands for 'full speed ahead', and they're a mid-to-high range producers of single speed crank sets today. A lot of premium fixie builds will utilize an FSA drivetrain because they've worked hard to garnered great reviews and a solid reputation over the years.
This is called the Gimondi, and it's made from 7075 forged aluminum alloy. This one is stunningly beautiful and tastefully restrained in its design. Like most good cranks, it has a full factory warranty should you run into any issues with it.
The set comes in at a delightful 584 grams, and it has a 42 tooth chain ring. Like the others here it fits with a square taper bottom bracket and 9/16" pedals, and its built to work with a 3/32" chain.
It's not the only FSA crank you could choose from, but it's probably the least expensive.
State Bicycle: A slick, fixie-friendly crankset that's a good bargain
State Bicycle Co. has cornered a sweet spot in the fixed gear craze: inexpensive gear that looks great on anything.
This is no different: a great crankset for fixed gear bikes because it offers excellent manufacturing quality and a sturdy chainring coupled with a low entry price point. There are a lot of colors available, so you can choose based on the style of your ride. State is less subdued as a whole, but I'm a big fan of their whole aesthetic.
The whole thing is forged alloy, with the arms themselves being 6061 aluminum, and the chainrings being stamped. It comes with a 46T chainring and 170mm total length, which is a fairly well-rounded ratio, though I'd probably recommend it for a less hilly area or for achieving higher speeds. It's compatible with 1/8" chains.
If you're a fan of colour and turning heads, I'd definitely check out State's awesome and inexpensive fixed gear cranksets, they're quite a bargain.
A note on chain alignment
Whatever crank you end up purchasing, make sure you're precise in your installation. Attach the cranks to the recommended torque.
Also, be aware of alignment. The number one complaint I hear about is clicking chains and premature wear.
If you experience these symptoms, check that your chain is a) the right size for both your chainring and your rear sprocket, and b) that the chain runs nice and straight between the two.
If the chain runs at too much of an angle, you'll experience annoying clicking and jumping, not to mention early wear on these components. You'll also risk losing the chain entirely; bad news on a fixed gear.
If the alignment isn't quite right, don't fret. You can make little adjustments to improve functionality, usually by using spacers. I find that a local bike shop can be a huge help in this.
Thanks for reading and good luck!