For the most part, length has remained a relatively overlooked part of the best mountain bike cranks, and most riders and bikes have been using either 170 or 175mm units since the birth of biking.
That being said, over the past couple of years we’ve been seeing the best e-MTBs using shorter cranks to improve ground clearance for continuous pedaling in technical terrain, but right from the off it was obvious this wasn’t their only advantage; the shorter overall stance provided better balance when descending and the smaller peddling revolutions when spinning in lower gears felt effective and efficient.
My first experience with Hope’s voyage into stubby cranks was on the bike of a particular world cup downhill racing superstar in Morzine this summer. Even from one brief encounter, I could feel the shorter cranks' performance benefits to the gravity side of mountain biking. With this in mind, I’ve been putting Hope’s all-new Evo 155mm units to test across a wide variety of terrain.
Design and specification
As with most of Hope’s extensive product catalog the Evo 155mm cranks are designed, manufactured, and tested in their futuristic factory in Lancashire, UK. The Evo’s arms are forged and then CNC machined from 7150 series aluminum to ensure they’re strong, stiff, and appealing to the eye. The highly compatible 30mm spindle uses a different 7075 alloys to further boost strength and stiffness. The spindle itself is available in different lengths to accommodate all bottom bracket widths, including those of downhill and fat bikes.
The Evo’s now feature a self-extracting axle/crank arm interface which should make installation and removal much easier than earlier generation Hope cranks.
While I tested the latest 155mm variant, Hope also offers 165, 170, and 175mm options for riders wanting a more conventional crank length. Regardless of length, all Evo cranksets are available in all of Hope’s signature anodized colorways.
Installation was a breeze, and with just two hex keys and a small amount of pre-load adjustment, I was ready to ride. Hope also includes a chainring installation tool in the box which smooths out the fitting process even more – I opted for Hope’s Spiderless retainer chainring which costs $70 / £55 and it performed flawlessly throughout the testing process. It’s also worth noting that your saddle height needs to be adjusted in line with the shorter crank length – for example if you’re switching from 170mm to 155mm crank arms your seat post will need to be raised 15mm.
Out the gate, the feeling of shorter cranks was more noticeable than I was expecting but it only took a ride or two for them to feel normal. While the Evo’s are stiff under power, in terms of pedaling efficiency I came to two contradicting verdicts depending on pedaling style and cadence. Under large, high-gear power outputs the short 155mm arms don’t feel like they deliver the power as effectively as longer 170/175mm units. On the flip side when spinning in easier gears I found the smaller pedaling circle to feel comfortable and efficient, even when climbing for long durations – think access-road transitions often found at enduro races. It also goes without saying that the additional clearance when peddling through janky terrain is notably better.
Any doubts I had about pedaling efficiency soon went out the window when I began descending though, and the increase in balance the Evo’s short 155’s length provides feels like a substantial improvement through technical terrain, especially when it's steep. With my feet being closer together I felt very centered on the bike which meant I could attack harder and push through compressions and out of berm pockets with a more positive effect. I also found the shorter stance width made it easier to place the bike exactly where I wanted it on the trail meaning both my line choice accuracy and general smoothness improved.
Although it’s hard to say whether it’s due to the Evo 155s suiting my shorter-than-average proportions or not, when testing back-to-back with 170mm cranks I found that riding with a shorter stance offered a reduction in fatigue when descending for long durations, too.
Riding shorter cranks offered a way bigger benefit to feel, control, and line choice than I was expecting, and luckily Hope’s brilliantly executed Evo 155mm crankset now brings these performance attributes to the masses. This performance doesn't exactly come cheap though, but the finish quality and detail do solidify the investment. I for sure won't be taking them off my bike any time soon.
While I don’t think the feel or pedaling characteristics of the stubby 155mm Evo’s will be to everybody's tastes, they’re a brilliant upgrade for gravity-loving riders who struggle with pedal clearance and/or value a shorter stance. XC or more long-distance riders may want to look at the 170 or 175mm Evo options which still offer the same build quality and stiffness under power.
All in all, I think we’re going to see way more brands bringing shorter cranks to their lineups in the very near future. Are shorter cranks what's needed for MTB geometry to be pushed even further?
Tech specs: Hope Evo crankset
- Price: $320 / £255 / €320
- Sizes: 155, 165, 170, and 175mm
- Colors: Black, orange, purple, silver, red and blue