There’s more to this crankset than a regular one with the granny gear removed. Since elite level crosscountry racers seldom use the lowest gears on a standard drivetrain, the 2×9 does away with them and tweaks what’s left to make it more useful. The standard 22- and 32-tooth rings are replaced by a single 29-tooth ring, with both rings positioned closer to the frame. This nets a lowest gear combination that’s a tad easier than you’d otherwise have with the 32 and a better chainline when using all the rear gears in the big ring. FSA promises light weight and superior stiffness through their hi-tech hollow carbon construction; throw a ceramic bearing bottom bracket into the mix and you have a serious sounding piece of gear with an eye-watering price tag.
Having the chain rings further inboard did decrease their clearance from the chainstay on our test bike, though this never caused any problems in use. The ceramic bottom bracket bearings are ludicrously smooth with next to no drag, which is most noticeable when you give the arms a good spin with the chain off the bike; you’ll get a good several laps out of them, compared to the relatively sluggish movement you’d expect from a standard unit. On the bike it’s hard to perceive the difference, but bear in mind that the savings in wattage that they claim to offer adds up to fractional improvements in overall speed, and the kind of person who takes an interest in gear at this level is likely to embrace whatever advantages come their way, no matter how tiny.
As advertised, the arms are about as stiff as they come––impressive, considering how light they are. Shifting is excellent despite the larger jump in chain ring size, though the simpler setup means you effectively do less of it.
Is it worth the expense? People are known to spend extraordinary amounts on their bikes just to make them lighter; this crankset will certainly satisfy that urge, but with the added bonus of improved race-specific functionality. If you like your lowest gears, but are attracted to the quality and low weight of this crankset, FSA produces a triple ring version that’s only a little heavier, which is well worth a look. If your focus lies squarely on pure speed, the 2×9 might be just your thing. JOSH WRIGLEY