Race Face SHI12 Ring NSMB AndrewM.JPG
REVIEW

Race Face SHI-12 Cinch Chainring

Words Andrew Major
Photos Andrew Major
Date Feb 2, 2021
Reading time

It's A Cinch

I find it impossible to talk about Race Face crank systems without talking about CINCH, their delightful chainring mounting standard. I've owned a couple of pairs of CINCH cranks and ridden a fair few more and have never had a chainring come loose. I absolutely treasure the fact that their engineers took a few minutes to look in their toolboxes and design the lockring around a legacy tool that's both globally prevalent and relatively inexpensive.

CINCH even has its own motto. It's even pretty good. What other chainring-mounting systems can say that? And without being too cynical about the bike industry, it's about endless forward compatibility.


CINCH System is designed to work with your next bike, the bike after that, and the bike after that." - Race Face

I have a few pairs of Race Face cranks in my own fleet. On my commuter bike I stomp on a set Aeffect R arms with their 24mm spindle running on a decade-old Chris King bottom bracket. On my single speed, I have a sh*t-kicked set of anodized-blue Atlas cranks. And on my dual suspension bike, I've run a special set of Turbine cranks for a few years now.

So, CINCH is the best? I'll entertain a debate that the 3-bolt, T-25, mounting system that SRAM, CaneCreek, Blackspire, and others use is also good and they, also, didn't find it necessary to invent a new tool to put a chainring on a crank. Heck, their Torx-25 tool is an infinitely-more available option. I, personally, find the CINCH interface to be less finicky, but then I remove and install a lot more chainrings than the average rider. The good news is that while Race Face doesn't currently offer their SHI-12 rings in the 3-bolt standard (CINCH and 4/104 only) they do make 3-bolt compatible narrow-wide rings so it feels like only a matter of time before this review will apply to your DUB cranks as well.

Race Face Turbine Cranks NSMB AndrewM (2).JPG

I've been running this SHI-12 ring combined with the only drivetrain that matters on two different bikes. HG+ shifting has been factory-level flawless.

Race Face Aeffect Cranks AndrewM

This is actually an Aeffect R crankset but the story is the same with all Race Face CINCH cranks. An old Shimano/ISIS BB tool is all that's needed to remove/install the cranks.

Moving along to the specific chainring I'm riding here. For a few reasons, that I'll cover below, I was eager to ditch the stock Shimano crankset and get my own set of Turbines mounted up as part of my review process. In order to keep hammering out HG+ shifts, for science, that meant not just any narrow-wide ring would do, but rather one that's compatible with the latest Shimano 12-speed drive system.

I have had impressive longevity out of Race Face's 7075-T6 aluminum chainrings in the past, but what makes this particular one special is that your 80 USD | 98 CAD (30t) buys compatibility with Shimano's 12-speed HG+ mountain bike drivetrains. Flawless compatibility for that matter.

Race Face Ring Bashing

I'm taking a step away here to dream for a minute. Sure, the SHI-12 rings, like Race Face's other 7075 rings, take a solid licking. Being machined from 4mm thick plate and all, you probably could have guessed. But, I still don't love the harsh sound of my expensive chain and ring being dragged over rocks or kachunking into logs and boulders.

I would love to see Race Face do a version that is either drilled with a 4/104 BCD chainring bolt pattern, in addition to the Cinch splines, to run a standard bash ring or drilled-and-threaded to run a, to-be-designed, Race Face one. Either way, it would be an inversion of the Wolf Tooth CAMO bash ring with the chainring acting as a spider.

It actually is possible to run a bashguard with a CINCH crankset and Shimano 12-speed by combining a RaceFace spider with their SHI-12 4/104 bolt chainring but the dream is cleaner and if the rings were just drilled and tapped it would mean the option for riders to upgrade after the fact. My bash rings are all thoroughly smashed and, as much as I may be a hack rider, I can't help but think there are other folks out there who would love the option to bolt a protective plate onto their CINCH rings.

Bash Guard Wolf Tooth NSMB AndrewM (8).JPG

I'd love to see Race Face's beefy CINCH rings drilled and tapped for an optional bolt-on bash ring. Like an inverted Wolf Tooth spider system.

M6100

I am rolling towards finishing up my write-up of Shimano Deore M6100, 12-speed groupset, but I swapped out the crankset a while ago for a few reasons, and this 32t Race Face SHI-12 CINCH ring has been doing the dirty work instead of the immediately obvious two-piece Shimano ring.

There has been no change in the "dynamic chain engagement" with the 12-speed drivetrain coming from the ring. The Race Face ring had the typical cosmetic wear after the first few really mucky rides but chain retention and chainring wear have both proven excellent thus far.

I achieved a few benefits from ditching the Deore crankset. First off, the crankset I have has Shimano's longer-axle Boost setup - it's actually an M6120 crankset - which means a 55mm chainline compared to a 52mm chainline for my CINCH cranks. I know 3mm sounds like nothing, but when I'm grinding away in the low gears a chainline that is any straighter to the 32t ring is going to cut down on the wear of both the chain and ring.

Also, as the fuddy-duddy who prefers slacker seat tube angles, it probably isn't surprising that I get along better with 175mm cranks than the 170mm arms that Shimano supplied. Once I made the switch I found myself punching out more back shifts under load - in the name of science of course - just to see how the HG+ drivetrain would otherwise hold up.

Race Face SHI12 Ring NSMB AndrewM.JPG

This is after a handful of dirty, dirty rides on my Marin Alpine trail. I mated the CINCH ring straight to the well-used CN-M6100 chain that I had already been testing.

Race Face SHI12 Ring NSMB AndrewM.JPG

Just recently on the Banshee Titan. The wear in the anodizing hasn't increased much. I did have to switch the chain out to accommodate the much longer rear center on the Titan.

I'm seeing a number of new Shimano 12-speed bikes coming stocked with Race Face cranksets and SHI-12 chainrings and I think it's great to see choices in both original equipment and the aftermarket. My North Vancouver perspective is that Race Face has done an excellent job of having chainrings and bottom brackets in stock through the current global supply troubles - much better than their larger competitors.

The CINCH Shi-12 rings are a premium product at an SRP of 80 USD | 98 CAD for a 30t, and a bit more as you go up in size, but my ring has been wearing exceptionally well for aluminum - similar to my Renthal 1XR to date - and most importantly the performance is indistinguishable from the stock ring's chain retention with the HG+ drivetrain. Many folks who experience this for themselves will likely be buying a Shimano 12-spd bike equipped with Race Face cranks, though Race Face also sells plenty of aftermarket cranksets, and I think they'll be very well served in terms of performance and product life.

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Comments

Bikeryder85
+1 Andrew Major
Bikeryder85  - Feb. 2, 2021, 3:09 a.m.

Great write-up! Quick question though...why longer cranks for the slack seat angle? I also prefer a slacker SA but at 5'6" have been wondering about shorter cranks (170 instead of 175), but now you have me second guessing myself!

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Feb. 2, 2021, 7:49 a.m.

I feel the slacker position lends itself to pushing a bit harder gear and the longer cranks just ‘feel’ better to me doing that.

With a super-steep position I never feel like I can create power anyways so it’s spin-spin. Though I have largely solved the seated position on the Banshee with an SALab saddle pushed all the way back and some 175mm cranks so maybe it’s just safe to say I prefer them all the time. 

I do have fairly long legs for my height (5’9”) so that could be a factor too. Though I know plenty of taller riders who prefer spinning shorter cranks.

Reply

Bikeryder85
+1 Andrew Major
Bikeryder85  - Feb. 2, 2021, 12:20 p.m.

Thanks for the feedback Andrew, I am also long of leg and short of torso but may still give 170s a try at my height.

Reply

Vikb
+3 Andrew Major goose8 Cr4w
Vik Banerjee  - Feb. 2, 2021, 6:02 a.m.

Thanks for being a Slacker and being willing to talk about it. ;-)

All my MTBs currently have RF Cinch cranks on them. It's a nice system and hasn't given me any grief...once I fully appreciated the limitations of the 2mm bolt holding the pre-load adjuster in place. I've used a combination of RF and Wolf Tooth rings with good results from both.

I've owned a variety of RF products over the years and the few times I needed to contact them for support they've been very helpful.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+2 goose8 Vik Banerjee
Andrew Major  - Feb. 2, 2021, 7:43 a.m.

Both my pairs of CINCH cranks that have adjusters (30mm axle Turbine & Atlas) have been upgraded to the (metal) CaneCreek eeWings bearing adjuster. It’s much better. Do wish RaceFace would go back to metal here as the bolt size is less of an issue that the coarse thread in plastic pulling out.

Those who appreciate the limitations never have issues but there are lots of ham fists about (had no issue selling on my plastic RF adjusters to folks with stripped ones).

Reply

tehllama42
+2 Andrew Major RNAYEL
Tehllama42  - Feb. 2, 2021, 8:03 a.m.

I love the interface, just wish there some oval offerings.
I feel slightly awful even showing up and prattling on about 'the chainring is the wrong shape', but for the entire argument of 'slack seattubes, long cranks', going to oval is the other big part of that equation that makes it work well overall.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Feb. 2, 2021, 8:32 a.m.

Love the Oval on my single speed; especially with flat pedals. 

On the geared FS bike I can take it or leave it. I prefer to run one with flat pedals, but not a deal breaker.

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tehllama42
0
Tehllama42  - Feb. 2, 2021, 8:51 a.m.

Flat pedals are the other part of that equation, which for me make it almost a forgone decision.  I do forget about that during winter riding.

Reply

Bikeryder85
0
Bikeryder85  - Feb. 2, 2021, 12:24 p.m.

Do the ovals make that big of a difference? Been curious about that as well as crank length, but haven't been convinced by the pseudoscience that I found thus far.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Feb. 2, 2021, 12:30 p.m.

On my single speed I really notice the difference in torque control, especially with flat pedals. I slip the tire less often on climbs. Sitting pushing the big gear up hill or sitting spinning the way-low gear on flat road / gravel feels much more natural. 

As the drivetrain gets less direct (adding gears and suspension) or if I clip-in I notice the benefits less. But based on my extreme #1FG case if the Oval and Round rings are the same price I’m Oval every time - there’s certainly no negative.

Reply

tehllama42
+1 Andrew Major
Tehllama42  - Feb. 2, 2021, 12:45 p.m.

Depends entirely on pedaling style, and other setup stuff.  On flats, with a bias towards stomping on pedals or leaning on glutes, it's a subtle but significant improvement everywhere, and actually helps with some anti-squad characteristics on FS bikes.

If you pedal nice circles, are very much RPM-based, especially clipped in, then it's the epitome of a marginal difference, and in this case I'd say the HG+ chain retention is likely preferable.

For something like a singlespeed HT where you can't guarantee nice circles, then I'd say look into it.  If you're a bit of a hack when pedaling, it can make sense all the way up to an all-mountain FS rig

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Feb. 2, 2021, 1:10 p.m.

Nice. This is as good a synopsis as I’ve read anywhere.

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Feb. 2, 2021, 1:11 p.m.

*edit - WolfTooth is doing oval ('elliptical') rings for SHI-12 so I’d be surprised if RaceFace doesn’t add the option on the future.

edit+ as does Blackspire per comment below.

Bikeryder85
+1 Andrew Major
Bikeryder85  - Feb. 2, 2021, 1:53 p.m.

*edit* Thank you guys for the replies! I'm a former* single speeder who's still rides a hardtail, so I do tend to mash occasionally. I spin circles better than I used to, but I can't help but feel like with a hardtail any boost in traction could be a game changer.

AndrewMajor
+1 BadNudes
Andrew Major  - Feb. 2, 2021, 5:01 p.m.

*cough* “reformed single speeder,” huh?!?! WTF is that?

You mean a relapsed multi-speeder?

Vikb
+2 Andrew Major Agleck7
Vik Banerjee  - Feb. 2, 2021, 9:14 a.m.

I think Wolf Tooth makes an oval Shimano 12 speed ring RF Cinch compatible.

Reply

rnayel
0
RNAYEL  - Feb. 2, 2021, 9:25 a.m.

While not by Race Face, Blackspire makes an oval Cinch ring. I have one mounted to an RF NextR on my hardtail, works great.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Feb. 2, 2021, 9:27 a.m.

Shimano 12-Spd compatible?

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Feb. 2, 2021, 11:50 a.m.

Nice; hadn’t seen theirs yet.

Reply

gdharries
+1 Andrew Major
Geof Harries  - Feb. 2, 2021, 9:19 a.m.

If you're running 12-speed XT, do you need a specific Shimano 12-speed ring like this or will a standard Narrow Wide (in my case, a Blackspire Snaggletooth) work fine?

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 Geof Harries
Andrew Major  - Feb. 2, 2021, 9:29 a.m.

Shimano 12-spd chain needs a SHI-12 compatible ring (lots of brands make them). You can run any N/W ring if you run a different 12-Spd chain but you lose the advantages of HG+

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 Geof Harries
Andrew Major  - Feb. 2, 2021, 9:30 a.m.

I should say that I haven’t tried to run a non-Shimano chain with HG+, I’m going off other peoples’ experiences.

Reply

mammal
0
Mammal  - Feb. 2, 2021, 11:30 a.m.

By "advantages or HG+" do you mean their "hyperglide" capabilities? If so, I would have thought that would only really involve the cassette/chain interaction, and that that ring/chain interaction wouldn't really have an effect on shifting...

At least that's what I was hoping, as I'm upgrading my setup to Shimano 12spd next season, and hoping to continue running the steel Eagle ring I have on my NX cranks (they're cheap and last forever).

I'd be interested to hear what others have been saying.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Feb. 2, 2021, 11:49 a.m.

Teeth on the ring have a specific shape to work with the HG+’chain that’s needed to run the HG+ cassette. Haven’t messed with it myself because I’ve talked to a few people that I trust who say the HG+ chain doesn’t interface properly with other N/W rings. 

As with anything, you can always try it yourself. Not a road I need to go down as when I wrap the Deore drivetrain review I’ll be playing with something different.

Reply

nickbb10
+1 Geof Harries
Nick Black  - Feb. 2, 2021, 9:19 p.m.

It works. Used my sram eagle chainring with shimano 12spd, it is noisy in the granny gear once things get dirty. I swapped to a shimano 12spdchainring profile after I wore out the eagle and it is much quieter, almost like it was designed together...

Reply

gdharries
0
Geof Harries  - Feb. 3, 2021, 5:13 a.m.

That's good to know. What ring did you buy; a Shimano product or something else?

Reply

nickbb10
0
Nick Black  - Feb. 4, 2021, 4:43 p.m.

Switched over to a shimano mt900 crank w/wheels manufacturing pf30-shimano 24mm BB, was tired of the PF30 setup. The new SLX chainrings are a bargain at 32 usd! Have already broke even with the new crank purchase vs eagle chainring pricing.

Reply

andy-eunson
+3 Andrew Major Mammal Velocipedestrian
Andy Eunson  - Feb. 2, 2021, 12:42 p.m.

North Shore Billet are making Shimano 12 rings for Shimano, SRAM and Race Face now. $70 Canadian. 

I’m with Andrew on the slacker seat angles. Tall guys are being sold a Bill of goods on steep angles. It’s cheaper to sell all frame sizes with the same rear triangle. It’s not more efficient because steep angles cause a rider to sit more upright.

Reply

DemonMike
0
mike  - Feb. 2, 2021, 7:51 p.m.

Hmm never seen that bash ring before.

Reply

Bikeryder85
+1 Andrew Major
Bikeryder85  - Feb. 4, 2021, 2:59 a.m.

Sorry Andrew,  my post above should've read FORMER single speeder NOT reformed, (autocorrect, edited above) no disrespect! Definitely a relapsed multi-speeder though! Once I build up my knee strength back up I may make my Cotic 1FG, it kinda begs for it....

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Feb. 4, 2021, 6:51 a.m.

Hahahaha, I was just teasing. 

Q) If you’re at a trailhead and someone there’s a single speeder how will you know?

A) Oh, they’ll tell you! (Ba Dum Tissss!)

Hope your knee sorts itself out! (Whether you ditch the gears or not).

Reply

ridestuff
0
Derek Baker  - Feb. 7, 2021, 1:42 p.m.

Such a shame that such a nice crank from Race Face needs a part from another company (thanks Cane Creek!) to make it feel it's worth the money you spent...

Reply

Warhorse
0
Warhorse  - Feb. 12, 2021, 5:19 p.m.

I really like RF cranks (especially the CINCH interface) and have had about a dozen over the years with excellent results (except pre-CINCH SIXC cranks which failed at the carbon spider-twice). After a few years without a new bike build, I built 2 boost 29'ers this past year, both w/ CINCH cranks and shimano 12 speed drivetrains (cassette and chain). In BOTH cases the boost, shimano compatible 32T RF chainring was really loud in dusty conditions. No chain suck or retention issues, just LOUD. Sounded like sandpaper. I am pretty meticulous about drive train cleaning and set up. I thought about bringing a tooth brush to clean my drivetrain mid-ride. Changing to a Wolf Tooth ring (32T, boost, shimano 12 speed compatible) fixed the problem on each bike. Anyone else run into this?

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