Modern tech, bikes, and components were lost on me over the previous few years. Sure, I talk about all that here at “work,” but in my personal life, I have spent more time looking backward, not forward, with bikes. Maybe it was because all the major manufacturers wanted journalists (if I can even call myself that) to review new gear that wouldn’t hit consumers for another year or so. Or perhaps I felt like there was inherently more to learn from the past than new tech and its marginal gains mantra.
Having spent a lot of time curating a few vintage builds, re-evaluating my own stable, and pouring over old bike catalogs, there’s something about the aesthetic found in the 1980s and early 90s mountain bike components that hits the nail on the head. Be it the eeWings cranks, those nifty Cyber Cranks, or these Engin Cycles Port Royal cranks, what’s old is new again in terms of design silhouette.
When I first saw these cranks, I immediately felt like they were an homage to the first gen M700 Deore cranks by Shimano, which did in fact come in black. (Ritchey Commandos were specced with an all-black Deer Head group!) Yet, the thing I liked about them the most was the slim profile, 30mm spindle, and the fact that Engin Cycles, a framebuilder I hold in deep regard and respect for, machines these in Philly!
The Port Royal Cranks are named after a gnarly hill in Philly, relatively close to Engin’s workshop, where Drew and his team make high-end custom bikes, stems, seat post collars, and these very cranks!
So before we jump into why I love these cranks, let’s talk about why these cranks exist.
I’m just winging it here, but I guess Drew and the Engin Cycles team weren’t into many modern crank offerings. Particularly within the mountain bike space. I’ll agree. Everything is thick, chunky, and designed for “optimal power transfer.” While the latter is a real concern, flexy cranks ain’t fun; I will say there’s more to crankarm design than just metrics used to write marketing copy for performance cycling products. Sure, cranks should be performance-minded but raise your hand if you’re competing at the UCI level. Ok. Now raise your hand if you love US-made cycling components that look damn good. This review is for you. But first… the elephant in the room:
MUSA is Expensive
Cottage industry design, fabrication, and finishing are of the utmost importance to me. The pandemic has proven that putting all our manufacturing eggs in the overseas basket has its pitfalls. Not to mention shipping raw materials all over the globe and the manufacturing process itself in countries with zero worker safety or environmental regulations. Unfortunately, the price point is the main barrier to acquiring cranks like this. To manufacture products here in the USA takes a lot of upfront costs.
Some of the overhead in manufacturing is as obvious as material and labor, but other factors include insurance, environmental fees, refuse recycling, and finishing expenses. All of these points add up, resulting in a +/- 30% margin for the producer of these products. This oversimplifies economics and cottage industry finances, so take it with a grain.
The bottom line is, it’s just not that profitable for large companies to produce products like mountain bike or gravel bike cranks here in the USA, so we’ll have to rely on small domestic makers to fabricate beautiful products like this, and yeah, they won’t be cheap by any means. At least Engin has vertically integrated its manufacturing (by owning its mills and lathes), which drastically cuts cost in the long run.
You don’t hate the cost of these cranks; you hate Late Capitalism. Right?
Now, with that out of the way (lol), let’s look at these cranks.
Look at that beausage timeline!
Port Royal Cranks
What’s great about these cranks is they’re available with two different spindle lengths for boost (mtb) or non-boost (gravel/road) setups. They’re also compatible with SRAM 3-bolt chainrings, so if you already have a 3-bolt chainring you like, you can swap it over. Unlike the 80s/90s era cranks these took inspiration from, they use a modern 30mm spindle.
Each crankarm is machined from US-made 2024 aluminum to achieve the highest and safest strength-to-weight ratio. 2024 is a very tough alloy and is the perfect material for bicycle crank arms. Those fancy extracting bolts and caps, which are available in a few colors, are made from 6061 aluminum as well.
Engin does a great job explaining the spindle widths and third-party bottom bracket cups required for these cranks:
“There will be two spindle lengths, one designed to work on both 73mm and 91.5mm bottom brackets (MTB) and another to work on 68mm and 86.5mm bottom brackets (Gravel Road). The needed BB cups are determined if you have 68/73 or 86.5/91.5 bottom brackets. 68mm and 73mm shells get external bearing assembles. 86.5mm and 91.5mm shells utilize internal bearing assemblies.”
Once your bottom bracket is selected, the correct spindle, a 3-bolt chainring (I’m digging this e*thirteen ring!), and the entire system comes together via a spring steel wavy washer to supply bearing pre-load. There’s no finicky pre-load collar to break or strip in the middle of bumfuck nowhere!
These cranks are offered in standard and heavy-duty versions, in both the non-boost (gravel) and boost (MTB) configurations. The heavy-duty has reinforcements on the backside where the standard duty is carved out. These reinforcements are designed with heavier riders or people who are hard on equipment. The weight penalty is 60 grams for the HD version.
Eagle-eye review viewers will notice these cranks have a hollow backside, denoting they’re the standard duty cranks, typically used in gravel and XC mountain biking. So why are they on a doinker bike like my Starling Murmur and why is a 200lb middle-aged man plowing through chunder on them? Drew wanted to see if I could or would bend them from “normal” use on this bike. Even though these cranks have ISO 4210 Pt 2: 4.13, 4.13.6 – 4.13.7 approval from a licensed ISO test facility, sometimes, real-world, rigorous testing is helpful.
As you can see, so far, so good. I try not to pay attention to how many miles I’ve ridden something, but it’s high country season and I’ve been spending a lot of my rides on the Murmur this year. While I’ve yet to bend these standard duty cranks, I’ll keep an eye on them.
While I can’t offer any flex data, wind tunnel testing, or other metrics, I can say they pedal smoothly, and I haven’t felt like they’re lacking in any way for our local riding. Now, if only my bike fit didn’t cause so much shoe rubbing. ;-)
Review disclosure: Engin sent me these to review, and I’ve since bought a heavy-duty set just in case something does happen to them. I am in love with their look and feel, and I think they look great on the Starling Murmur!
See more at Engin.