Over the years, mountain bike gearing has matured as drivetrain technology evolved. Rear cogs have increased in number (and range), while chainring counts have steadily declined. The once-ubiquitous triple crank has all but been replaced by double-ring cranks. And during this transformation, frames and rear hubs have become wider. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to deduce that the aforementioned growth has forced cranksets to become become wider. What if you prefer a crank with a narrower tread (aka, q-factor), though? Thankfully, Sugino’s ZX801D is one of a handful of cranksets that offer 2×10 compatibility and a narrower stance.
Like its on-road counterparts, Sugino’s ZX801D crankset utilizes forged alloy arms and a hollow, 24mm chrome-moly spindle. Whereas competitors’ cranks feature 64/104mm or 80/120mm bolt circle diameters, the ZX801D is spec’d with the more traditional 74/110mm pattern. Crank arm lengths range from 160mm to 175mm in 2.5mm increments. Inner chainrings are available in 24, 26, or 28t. Matching ramped-and-pinned outer chainrings are limited to 40t or 42t. A single-speed version–the ZX-SS–is also available. Q-factor for both models is 156mm.
As one would expect with a $500+ crankset, the ZX801D’s fit and finish are outstanding. Installation was straightforward, and didn’t require special frame preparation or proprietary tools. The chainrings ran perfectly true, and the bottom bracket exhibited less seal drag than comparable Shimano units. Clearance with the stock 26/40t chainrings proved more than adequate, and the crankarms cleared our test frame‘s chainstays by 3mm (4mm on the non-drive side).
For our testing, the ZX801D was paired with a Shimano XT front derailleur (controlled by a microSHIFT XCD shifter) and Wipperman Connex 10sB chain. Shifting between the 26t and 40t rings was quick and quiet. Even with the minimal chainstay clearance, the crankarms never came in contact with the frame. The ZX801D’s narrower q-factor made for efficient and comfortable pedaling. While the 156mm tread is wider than what’s typically found on most road cranksets (145-150mm), the ZX801D is 10-15mm narrower than many competitors’ 2×10 MTB cranks.
After riding the stock 26/40t chainrings for a couple of weeks, it became apparent that the 40t outer ring was a little on the tall side for yours truly. Since Sugino doesn’t offer a smaller outer ring, I contacted chainring manufacturer Blackspire for advice on how to obtain lower gearing. The Canadian company recommended their SuperPro 74/110mm BCD chainrings in a 24/36t ratio. While the 36t chainring is technically not an outer chainring (it’s intended for use as the middle position on a triple), performance was not compromised. It should be noted that, however, the 36t SuperPro chainring lacks the anti-jamp pin traditionally found on outer rings (although there have been no issues with overshifting).
During GRAVELBIKE’s extended test period, the ZX801D has proven to be a fit-and-forget component, requiring only the most minimal, post-installation maintenance (limited mostly to checking bolt tightness). Even when exposed to harsh winter conditions (and the requisite post-ride cleaning), it’s been noise-free. The real benefit for me, however, is the cranks’ narrow stance. No longer do I spend the first half of my ride waiting for my knees to adjust to a wider crank. Thanks to the Sugino’s narrow profile, comfort and efficiency are greatly improved.