The options for crank arms can feel a bit overwhelming. From crank length to spindle compatibility and even colors, it can take a few tries to dial in the crank arms that work best for you. And that’s okay. Crank arms are what connect you to your bike and allows you to push power through the drivetrain. This is a crucial component regardless of your skill level. As many riders consider which crank arms are best for them, there is often one other main consideration to make when choosing a crank arm: material. Here we’ll dive into the benefits and drawbacks of titanium crank arms.
Titanium has often been a material utilized in high end components in the cycling world. Most bicycle components including crank arms are produced out of aluminum or carbon, but titanium is often touted for its performance benefits like weight, stiffness, and durability.
Weight has always been a major comparison point for bicycle components. Riders generally want something that is competitive, if not lighter, to the components they are already riding. Most titanium and carbon can often be similar from a weight perspective when it comes to crank arms. The highest end carbon crank arms will almost always also be the lightest crank arms, but titanium can often be very similar in weight. For example, the Cane Creek eeWings Road Titanium Crankset weights just 395 grams. Aluminum is generally the heaviest of the three materials.
Crank stiffness is incredibly important when considering crank arms for two reasons. First, a stiffer crank can provide better power transfer. As you put force into a crank arm, the less deflection it has, the more power will be transferred into your drivetrain. There will always be losses as power is transferred to the wheels, but a stiff crank can help minimize those losses. The second and often less thought reason that stiffness is so important is for comfort. This primarily comes into play for mountain bikers. A stiff crank might be great for power transfer, but on long descents, a stiff crank will absorb less of the bumps and rattles of the trail which leaves a rider’s legs to absorb these impacts. This can be tiring and cause accelerated fatigue depending on a rider’s leg strength and endurance. Titanium is praised for it’s stiffness as Cane Creek claims their eeWing titanium crankset is 20%-30% stiffer than carbon cranks. Aluminum and carbon can both vary in their stiffness, depending on the type of aluminum or carbon composite and layup that is used.
It’s vital that a crank arm is durable. From rock strikes on a mountain bike to power spikes on a road bike, a crank arm needs to be able to withstand the forces of the rider and the surrounding environment. Titanium and aluminum are both very durable materials and can withstand a high level of abuse. Carbon is very durable to forces applied in the direction the carbon is designed for, but can become fragile when forces are applied in directions it was not designed for. Titanium cranks like Cane Creek’s eeWings MTB Crankset are popular among enduro riders for the stiffness and reliability that titanium provides.
The Bottom Line for Titanium Crank Arms
Weight, stiffness, and durability all interact with each other in different ways depending on the material of a crank arm. The benefit of titanium cranks arms are that they can be competitive with the weight of carbon cranks and be both ultra stiff and durable. While this may have all the benefits that some riders are looking for, it does come at a premium price. Some riders may be looking for an ultra stiff crank which aluminum cranks can be, but with a weight penalty when compared to carbon or titanium. Some riders may want an ultralight crank arm, but without the extra rigidity that can fatigue rider’s legs on long descents. Titanium crank arms are worth it for riders looking for a lightweight, stiff and durable crank that are willing to pay a premium price.