Top-Shelf Subcompact: Praxis Zayante Carbon

Top-Shelf Subcompact: Praxis Zayante Carbon

The singularity of purpose with which the folks at Praxis have applied themselves to, first, chainrings, and then cranks is impressive. As the company has grown, so has the sophistication of their products. Along with FSA and Rotor, they are one of the first manufacturers to offer subcompact cranks. I rode the alloy Zayante crank in a subcompact (48/32) configuration last year on a bike from Masi and thought it a terrific addition to that bike.

Praxis has now come out with a carbon fiber version of the Zayante, the aptly named Zayante Carbon.

Let’s start with fit and finish. No matter how much more appropriate a crankset’s gearing may be to your fitness, if the thing looks like a second-rate run at Tiagra, I wouldn’t want it on a bike equipped with an upper-end group. The Zayante Carbon has an understated matte finish that looks great in place of a SRAM Red crank.

When Praxis decided to do the Zayante Carbon, they committed in a big way. It’s available in a number of configurations. It comes in four lengths: 165mm, 170mm, 172.5mm and 175mm. For chainring options they offer the standard 53/39, mid-compact 52/36, compact 50/34 and subcompact 48/32 plus a ‘cross-specific 46/36. It can also be run 1x; those choices include 38, 40 or 42. Praxis pre-pairs (as opposed to prepares) the chainrings in order to make sure the pins and ramps are positioned properly for the best possible shifting. They mount to the crank by a direct-drive spider.

Our test cranks with 48/32 rings in the 172.5mm length weighed in at 625 grams; that’s without bottom bracket, of course. The cranks go for $325 at retail, which isn’t much more than some cassettes.

Praxis opted for a 30mm spindle on the Zayante Carbon and spec it with their M30 bottom bracket. The M30 BB uses Enduro precision bearings and straight out of the box it spins better than any other bottom bracket I’ve encountered. I expect the spin will only improve once the seals are broken in better.

While I think it’s great that Praxis offers the Zayante Carbon in a full range of options, I suspect that as an aftermarket replacement, this crank is most likely to be ordered in the subcompact flavor. I do wish that they’d offer a 46/30 as well as the 48/32, but any reduction in chainring size is welcome.

So who is likely to benefit from subcompact rings? I’ve got a long list. There are people like me who aren’t quite as strong/fast as they once were. There are also riders who live in places with crazy steep grades on roads both paved and unpaved (that’s me, too). Consider, as well, that for newer riders who don’t have the strength to turn big gears yet. Giving them more gears on the low end to get over hills can make being a new cyclist less daunting. Consider also that with gravel bikes as you increase tire circumference the effective gear you’re turning gets larger as well.

Having a lower gear when you need to get over a hill is useful, full stop. That said, a subcompact crank does more than just give a rider one easier gear. Subcompacts make more of the cassette useful. That final cog used to be called the bail gear, the notion being that it was reserved for when you’re at the end of your rope. A crank like this is a chance to dictate what the end of your rope looks like.

Final thought: Spending more time in the big ring is a kind of incentive.

 


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20 comments

  1. Kimball

    More subcompact choices is a good thing!
    Hopefully Praxis or FSA or someone will soon offer a subcompact tandem crankset. Paired with Di2 it seems like an ideal setup for many tandem users.

  2. Neil Winkelmann

    48/32 doesn’t seem to be different enough to 50/34 to warrant changing crank-sets. Agree, offer 46/30 and we’re getting serious.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      I know it doesn’t look like a big change on paper (or pixels), but it really does make a worthwhile difference. The big thing about 48/32 is that for manufacturers trying to stick with a 110mm BCD, you can just squeeze those rings on that crank. Of course, with the way Praxis did the rings on this crank that’s not an issue, but it does help explain why some manufacturers look at it.

    2. Neil Winkelmann

      Going bigger at the back is obviously also an option. I can run a 34 x 34 on a regular Shimano compact setup with and Ultegra 8000 rear derailleur. For now, I can’t see the need for lower than a 1:1. But we’re all getting older….

    3. The Shovel

      I switched to a 48/32 Zayante carbon, put on a medium cage Ultegra 8000 derailleur, and went with an 11-36 SRAM cassette. Shimano says 34 is the limit with the 8000, but it handles the 36 with ease. This gives me a 24″ gear for winching up steep hills. On long rides, the extra spinning definitely helps my legs. With my 50-34 and 11-32 cassette my lowest gear was 28.7″ Big advantage.


    4. Author
      Padraig

      That’s an amazing setup. You’re ready for a Grasshopper (or the Red Kite Ronde et Vous).

  3. Scott

    I’d be a buyer of the 48/32 if it had a 24mm spindle. Running Di2 wires through the bottom bracket is hard enough already without reducing clearances.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Great point; you’ve just illustrated, for better or maybe worse, why the T47 standard was dreamt up.

  4. Lyford

    The other piece that’s missing from the market is a subcompact with arms less than 165mm. When you think of the population of riders who would benefit from a subcompact, and realize how many of those are also smaller riders, that’s not a trivial customer base.

    I sometimes ride with someone who is 5’0″ with short legs. On 165s her knee and hip angles are much more acute than mine(5’9″ on 172.5s), and she has trouble making power at the top of the pedal stroke. She can’t be the only one….

  5. Mark

    While we are getting more choices for chainrings these days, I do wish manufacturers would offer at least a few choices in the now-unfashionable lengths of 177.5mm and 180mm. At 6’4″, I still like 177.5’s.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      I think if the center of the bell curve really starts to adopt subcompact then you’ll start to see someone offer the crank in those longer lengths.

  6. Jeff

    I would go for it as well if it had the 24mm spindle that would fit the Trek proprietary BB90, can’t understand why neither Praxis, FSA or Rotor has come up with a solution for that?

  7. Dan Murphy

    As a 64-year-old guy, I know a subcompact is in my future. Not near-future, but future. Currently in NH doing some riding, and have hit a few dirt roads with ~20% grade that I’ll need some help on soon. I descended one hill I know I can’t climb right now – maybe I’ll give it a shot tomorrow.

  8. Ken3737

    I have this crankset with the 32/48 rings. It seems to check all the boxes and the price is right too. I can use my DA 11/28 cassette and still spin up some of the steeper Sonoma Co. hills. Praxis are nice guys too. This crankset was due to be released in March, but they kept pushing the release date back. After waiting a couple of months, I came close to giving up on them, but to reward my loyalty, they held back one of the first released cranksets for me.

  9. scott g.

    FSA make 48/32 and 46/30 crankset at couple price points.

    Easton has 46/30 and 47/32(not a typo) for their 90SL crankset.
    I’ve riding a Sugino OX601 for years, 24mm spindle, 46/30 + others.
    For cheap skates, IRD Defiant 46/30, square taper, 94 bcd, so there is
    supply chain for other ring sizes. Great for Eroicans too, fauxthentic
    vintage look.

  10. Jay

    For riders with ultegra, da, and 105 cranks, Absolute Black makes subcompact ovalized rings in 48-32 and 46-30. Yes, the 46-30 fit on 110 bcd cranks. Work like a charm, in my experience. Ovals took me maybe 10 minutes of riding to get used to, and the oval is clocked to feel like you’re getting an extra low gear in climb mode. Good answer for Trek owners, like me, as well.

  11. Velo Kitty

    It looks nice… but why didn’t they make it compatible with a BB386EVO bottom bracket? Well, we know why. Because they want to lock you into buying their expensive bottom brackets.

    Also, I suspect the chainring bolt patterns are proprietary. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.) Not that Shimano actually releases specifications for their 4-bolt asymmetric pattern.

  12. Velo Kitty

    > straight out of the box it spins better than any other bottom bracket I’ve encountered.

    p.s. That means absolutely nothing. Hambini Engineering has a series of good videos on youtube that covers bearing basics.

  13. Velo Kitty

    Some other thoughts:
    1. Their proprietary 30/28 mm spindle means that you will not be able to get a replacement bottom bracket if they go out of business.
    2. Their bottom brackets with external cups seem to require their proprietary “Praxis M30 BB Tool”. They could have used an existing spline pattern.

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