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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