Review: FSA SL-K Light Triple MegaExo mountain crankset

This spring, after one too many rides cursing my on-trend mountain double, I clicked to the fact that I should really be in the market for a mountain triple.  Don’t get me wrong- the double was just fine for racing and in rolling terrain (though the extra front shifting I did was a surprise)- but there are some climbs that come late in a long day that just aren’t any fun with a double.  Setting some more obvious choices aside, I decided that FSA’s least-expensive carbon fiber model would make for a more interesting review.  After several months on FSA’s SL-K Light Triple MegaExo, it’s disappointed only by working very well and making for a decidedly uninteresting review subject.

Combining an aluminum spine and 24mm chromoly spindle with lots of unidirectional carbon fiber, the SL-K Light is a handsome looking crankset.  The unidirectional carbon has a good amount of visual depth, especially in sunlight, and the silver rings seem nicely finished (though black would probably make the 42 outer look less big coming from the double). The 855g claimed weight (845g claimed) damages- if not quite breaks- carbon fiber’s promise of light weight, only managing to undercut Shimano’s FC-M780 XT triple/BB by 5g.

Mounted on 120mm and 140mm trail bikes, the SL-Ks and their rings have shrugged off the kind of rock strikes that would make anyone who remembers early carbon cranksets nauseous.  They’ve suffered the indignities of my riding with surprising grace.  The outsized graphics are beginning to suffer from my duck-footed stance, however, and could probably have stood a few more layers of clear coat.  The FSA cranks aren’t markedly stiffer than anything else I’ve ridden recently- a shade stiffer than e*thirteen‘s and on par with most others.  The 7075 aluminum chainrings, while not quite on Shimano’s level, do shift very well.

The provided MegaExo external bottom bracket spins freely, with ‘just right’ preload consistently provided by a non-drive side wave washer.  One of the reasons that I was drawn to the SL-K Light was the nominal 24mm spindle size that it shares with Shimano cranksets.  This I had hoped would allow me to wring some more life out of the half-spent Shimano bottom brackets in my toolbox.  Unfortunately, one or both companies are fudging that measurement and preventing cross-compatibility.  Given the ubiquity of Shimano (and Shimano-compatible) bottom brackets, this seems like a misstep on FSA’s part and could be a headache should a BB seize while traveling.

Really, though, the biggest argument against the SL-K Light Triple MegaExo comes at the cash register.  At a suggested $520, they’re a full $200 more than the aforementioned XTs.  The SL-K crankset’s extensive OEM spec also undermines the premium implied by their aftermarket pricing.  I’ll be the first to admit my desire for carbon cranks (after all, I did buy them myself, albeit on sale), but absent a measurable weight or stiffness benefit, the SL-Ks really are a tough sell.

marc

www.fullspeedahead.com

Comments

tae - 10/06/11 - 11:22am

I’m just waiting for the day when everyone admits that 2×10 isn’t for them and comes back to the 3×10 fold.

Jeremiah - 10/06/11 - 11:58am

You gotta remember that not everyone needs a weanie gear.

Steve M - 10/06/11 - 12:10pm

$200 premium for 5 grams of weight savings. Lets see- 454 grams in a pound, 454 /5 =90.8. 90.8 x $200 = $18,160 per pound. Whoa- better re-check my math.

bart - 10/06/11 - 1:56pm

nice review! 1x, 2x, 3x – it’s a choice. Now that there’s a choice we will never see “everyone” on any of them. It’s more about riding conditions and objectives. 3×10 works great when I’m pulling my kid. 2×10 works great for 2 hour races. 1×10 works great for ultra-marathons. It’s awesome that we have high quality options!

Topmounter - 10/06/11 - 2:16pm

Other than being more complex and having more redundant ratios, what are the benefits of a triple nowadays?

Seth - 10/06/11 - 2:43pm

I used my triple to create some nice scarring around my right calf and ankle. Too cheap to pay anybody else to mutilate my body for me with branding, tattooing or other scarring.

halfwheel - 10/06/11 - 3:31pm

Review forgot to mention the added bonus of having pedal threads de-laminating, and FSA non-existant customer service for those affected with this feature out of warranty.

Joshua Murdock - 10/06/11 - 4:10pm

Hey, that looks like a good old Maverick Durance, if I’m not mistaken…

Anyway, I think it’s good to have different options. I run 1x, 2x, and 3x in different situations. They all work.

It’s just like the wheel size debate, or the hardtail vs full-suspension argument. Nobody is right or wrong. Both are good choices.

It doesn’t matter if you ride 1×10, 2×10, 3×9, 2×9 or 1×1. All you need to worry about is “do I have fun and enjoy riding my bike?” If the answer is “yes”, then you’re just fine, whatever you ride.

dgaddis - 10/07/11 - 6:46am

@Topmounter: The benefits are simple: wider gearing range. Lower low, bigger big.

alloycowboy - 10/07/11 - 11:09am

Nice cranks, but what bugs me is Shimanos insistance that a 42 tooth big chain ring is big enough for all cyclists. I guess their thinking is that everyone is a racer and racers seldom go faster then 40 KPH on the race course. Well not everyone is a racer and every day cyclists need taller gears for long decents so please give us back our triple ring 44 tooth big ring crankset Shimano!

Marc - 10/07/11 - 1:09pm

Murdock,

You’re right- that’s Zelda, a 1st generation Durance… After thousands of hard miles, she’s been fitted with a shorter fork and lighter parts for faster ‘foothills’ riding and replaced with a 2nd generation (140mm) Durance for big days out. The design hasn’t changed much in ten years- and I still haven’t found a bike that I would rather own.

mb

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