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Lightning Cranksets

Old 04-06-15, 09:13 AM
  #1  
merlinextraligh
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Lightning Cranksets

I know this must have been discussed somewhere in this forum, but a quick search didn't pull up a thread.

Specing out a new Calfee, and debating between a Lightning crankset and FSA.

I've seen claims that Lightning is more than a pound lighter, and although its substantially more expensive, I'm thinking if we're spending this much for the bike, might as well go all in.

One hesitation is that I've heard of some people having problems with Lightning not being stiff enough.

Also I want to have flexibility in exchanging chainrings. I want to be able to switch from a 53/39 to a 50/34 using the same crankset. My understanding is that this is doable on the FSA with a modified inner chainring, not sure about the Lightning.

So what are people's experiences with Lightning cranks? Also what BCD did you spec for the Lightning cranks, and what chainrings?
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Old 04-06-15, 10:42 AM
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If I was specing a new bike I would also consider DaVinci Cranks. Light, reasonable price, very adaptable. However they still use the square taper which has worked well for MANY years. Tandemgeek uses them with good success.l
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Old 04-06-15, 11:21 AM
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Originally Posted by merlinextraligh View Post
I know this must have been discussed somewhere in this forum, but a quick search didn't pull up a thread.

Specing out a new Calfee, and debating between a Lightning crankset and FSA.

I've seen claims that Lightning is more than a pound lighter, and although its substantially more expensive, I'm thinking if we're spending this much for the bike, might as well go all in.

One hesitation is that I've heard of some people having problems with Lightning not being stiff enough.

Also I want to have flexibility in exchanging chainrings. I want to be able to switch from a 53/39 to a 50/34 using the same crankset. My understanding is that this is doable on the FSA with a modified inner chainring, not sure about the Lightning.

So what are people's experiences with Lightning cranks? Also what BCD did you spec for the Lightning cranks, and what chainrings?
Doesn't Lightening allow for different spyders to be bolted on essentially the same arms? If this is true - you could do two sets of rings on two different spyders and just bolt them on.
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Old 04-06-15, 12:14 PM
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We have had Lightening cranks for 4 years now and they have been great. One bottom bracket bearing became rough after about 7000 miles and I changed it out. It is actually quite easy to change the spider so you can go with 53/39 or compact 50/34. the tool costs about $25 to do it and you just loosen the lock ring and change the spider. Raise your derailleur and have a different chain and off you go. I suspect you can do it in about 20 minutes. Lightening uses their own bottom brackets due to the large axle. They also makes spacers to accommodate different rear spacing to allow a correct chain line. Their customer service has been very responsive when I ordered spare bearings and spiders for our travel kit. We have not had any issues with stiffness. We are currently using Praxis chain rings and they shift very well with DI2. Basically they are a modular system so very easy to make changes. We recently went from 145 spacing to 135 (142x12 thru axle) and just removed the spacer and put a different right side bottom bracket cup to get the correct chain line.

Last edited by akexpress; 04-06-15 at 06:44 PM.
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Old 04-06-15, 01:53 PM
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I am currently using the FSA SLK Light cranksets on two tandems and a Lightning set on another. I much prefer the Lightning. It is quieter and more trouble free. There was an earlier post of someone breaking a set during a race that is a little bit concerning; but, we are a light team who does not put out much power. So not an issue.

The Lightning can be customized anyway you want. You can even change out the spider if you borrow/purchase their special tool. We opted for the triple (74/130), but only mounted two chainrings (DI2 double). This leaves a little more flexibility than the compact spider. Make sure they send you the stainless steel bolts as the aluminum version they originally sent me broke the first week. A quick phone call had the correct version in the mail the same day. Also, the BSA BB version I have works really well. The design is much better than the FSA version. But if I was having another frame built, I would consider the BB30 for future upgrades.

Their installation instruction is atrocious, but customer service as AK stated is very responsive to follow up questions. Not an issue if Calfee is installing yours. But, let me know if you are installing your own. I made few mistakes in the installation that you can avoid.

CJ
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Old 04-06-15, 05:02 PM
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I am also mulling over getting some Lightning cranks. Interestingly, they will build to suit, which for us is needed to get a Q-Factor compatible with my stoker (rear no wider than 158mm). With Di2 we are restricted to 2 chainrings, so the need for a wider axle for a triple spider is not needed. Lightning effectively produces these cranks per order, and so a custom axle length/q-factor is not a problem and no extra charge (per phone call with them).

Regarding BB30, the standard BB is quite narrow and I do not think it is ideal for tandems. Perhaps going with BB386 (or whatever Lightning suggests) is a better option. Going with a typical BSA BB (english threaded 68mm shell), Lightning provides threaded external bearings (much like FSA's BB386 setup) to convert to Lightning's 30mm axle diameter. So you do get the added advantage of external bearings rather than cramming them into a narrower shell (BB30 setup). I'm not sure if the bearing size or count differs between the two setups from Lightning. If FSA keeps making tandem cranksets, I would not be surprised if they move those to BB386 per most of their other current crank configs.

I have a set of Praxis 52/36 rings on my race single and much prefer them to the Dura Ace 9000. The Praxis rings do not flex and shift great. I don't get paid to ride DA, and so happy to toss them to eBay. Gone.

BTW, if the reference to shredded FSA cranks was concerning a prior post from me, to clarify, that was from pairs of male Aussie trackies putting out some 2000 watts, and their single chainring setups are not typical to what we use on the road.

Last edited by twocicle; 04-06-15 at 05:09 PM.
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Old 04-08-15, 12:51 AM
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Fairwheel bikes included the Lightning cranks in their recent test, see here. They were less stiff than their competitors in absolute terms, but performed well on the stiffness-to-weight metric because the weight is so low.

That data even shows deflection values for driveside vs non-driveside crank arms. The comparison between the two sides shows how much is lost due to the axle. Here, the Lightning crank actually performs slightly (although maybe not reliably/significantly) better than Dura Ace, suggesting that the 30mm axle is doing it's work. This may be a big advantage on the rear of a tandem to transmit the captain's efforts to the drivetrain, especially if you have a traditional BSA-threaded bottom bracket, in which most other 30 mm axles won't fit.

As mentioned by others, a big advantage of the Lightning cranks is the customization of the crank length and axle length, and interchangeable spiders. I had a set on my single bike for a while, but they certainly weren't without issues and were not as maintenance free as I'd like. I've since sold them to a friend, who is happy with them, and I've gone back to my trusted Shimano's.
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Old 04-08-15, 12:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Chris_W View Post
Fairwheel bikes included the Lightning cranks in their recent test, see here. They were less stiff than their competitors in absolute terms, but performed well on the stiffness-to-weight metric because the weight is so low.

That data even shows deflection values for driveside vs non-driveside crank arms. The comparison between the two sides shows how much is lost due to the axle. Here, the Lightning crank actually performs slightly (although maybe not reliably/significantly) better than Dura Ace, suggesting that the 30mm axle is doing it's work. This may be a big advantage on the rear of a tandem to transmit the captain's efforts to the drivetrain, especially if you have a traditional BSA-threaded bottom bracket, in which most other 30 mm axles won't fit.

As mentioned by others, a big advantage of the Lightning cranks is the customization of the crank length and axle length, and interchangeable spiders. I had a set on my single bike for a while, but they certainly weren't without issues and were not as maintenance free as I'd like. I've since sold them to a friend, who is happy with them, and I've gone back to my trusted Shimano's.
It would be very interesting to see Fairwheels test a set of Lightning tandem cranks, because the rear is essentially 2-drivesides combined, not a driveside+nd as tested. Which means, for the rear tandem cranks you can forget the ND results. If we can assume the Lightning rear tandem driveside cranks are actually equal on both sides, then extrapolating the results (5.5 deflection) puts the rear cranks among the better cranks shown. The front/captain crank results are likely as Fairwheels tested.

FSA SL-K Light tandem cranks might be stiffer still (single DS = 4.4) and cost something like $700 less than the Lightning, but cannot be custom ordered and do not have reconfigurable spiders, albeit some 200gm heavier.

Last edited by twocicle; 04-08-15 at 05:21 PM.
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Old 04-08-15, 03:32 PM
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I'm guessing they don't make a set for Santana's 160 rear end?
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Old 04-08-15, 03:59 PM
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Originally Posted by dvs cycles View Post
I'm guessing they don't make a set for Santana's 160 rear end?
The last I checked, they do make them for Santana's 73mm BB shell. This shell width is an old mountain bike standard.

Nice!
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Old 04-08-15, 04:05 PM
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Originally Posted by dvs cycles View Post
I'm guessing they don't make a set for Santana's 160 rear end?
I bet they do as they just include a spacer in the axle joint to make it longer. We had one in our 145mm rear spacing and removed it for our recent build with 135mm spacing
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Old 04-08-15, 05:23 PM
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yes, 73mm is among the long list of supported BBs...
Adaptability: Standard Road & MTB Bottom Bracket shells with BSA (English) threads, 68mm (Road) or 73mm (MTB), Italian threads, also BB30, BB86/BB91, BB90/BB95, Press Fit 30, OSBB, BB Right, and EVO386.
https://www.lightningbikes.com/cranks/index.html
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Old 04-09-15, 04:41 AM
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Originally Posted by twocicle View Post
It would be very interesting to see Fairwheels test a set of Lightning tandem cranks, because the rear is essentially 2-drivesides combined, not a driveside+nd as tested. Which means, for the rear tandem cranks you can forget the ND results. If we can assume the Lightning rear tandem driveside cranks are actually equal on both sides, then extrapolating the results (5.5 deflection) puts the rear cranks among the better cranks shown. The front/captain crank results are likely as Fairwheels tested.

FSA SL-K Light tandem cranks might be stiffer still (single DS = 4.4) and cost something like $700 less than the Lightning, but cannot be custom ordered and do not have reconfigurable spiders, albeit some 200gm heavier.
I had assumed that the difference in drive vs non-drive deflection values was due to the force on the non-drive crank needing to be transmitted through the axle before getting to the chain, which is why all of the NDS values are higher. With a design like Lightning, where the spider is separate from the crank arm, the crank arms must both have the same design, and so would otherwise yield similar results for both sides, which is not the case. If you look at the image of the test rig on the Fairwheel site, the cranks' rotations appears to be only restrained by a chain, which agrees with my assumption that it is axle stiffness that causes the NDS deflection values to be higher.

If that is the case, then the NDS values are very important for tandem setups because all of the captain's efforts must be transmitted through the stoker's axle, plus half of the stoker's effort. In addition, half of the captain's efforts are also transmitted through the captain's axle. Therefore, if both captain and stoker are putting out 200 watts each then 300 watts needs to be transmitted by the stoker's axle, and 100 watts of that also passes through the captain's axle. So 200 watts pass through only one axle, and 100 watts passes through two axles, so the deflection of a single axle causes losses that should be multiplied by 400 watts. Comparing this value to the single bike scenario in which only 100 watts would pass through an axle, and correct for the tandem having double the total power, it appears that axle stiffness is twice ([400/100]/2) as important for tandem cranksets (with crossover drive) as it is for single bike cranksets. So instead of ignoring the NDS results as twocicle proposes, I would put most of my focus on those values when comparing tandem cranks.

This also suggests that single-side drive setups make a lot of sense for tandems, because then axle stiffness is only equally important as it is on a single bike, rather than the importance being doubled with a crossover drive.

That would suggest that axle stiffness is twice as important for tandem cranks as it is for single bike cranks. How important the measured differences between crank and axle stiffness actually are in the real world is somewhat addressed at the beginning of the Fairwheels article.

Last edited by Chris_W; 04-09-15 at 04:46 AM.
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Old 04-09-15, 04:24 PM
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I currently ride with both the FSA SLK light and the Lightning and cannot tell the difference in the stiffness of the two cranksets. This is subjective as they are on different bikes with so many other different variables and we are a light and not so powerful team. Any extra data is a good thing, but interpreting how they apply to real life is the challenge. I do need to make more adjustments and replace the FSA BB more often than the Lightning.
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