I am kind of in the same boat - What crank length is best?
Even though I have had a 29er for over 6 months, it gets very little use, so I am like a beginner on it. I ordered some 125’s, 110’s, 140’s from uni.com to experiment with. They are relatively inexpensive and you can swap them out fairly easily.
The following perspective is based on little experience, so take it with a grain of salt.
I like the 110’s for level boulevard riding where the street lights are far apart and the roads have wide bike lanes. Start up and deceleration is slow, but speed picks up and for me, seems scary.
It sucks for hills, though.
I moved up to 125’s and they feel better with more control. My top speed on the computer showed 11 mph - that’s “movin” on one wheel for an inexperienced rider like myself. Though, I know many can ride faster. Like others have said a UPD at that speed or faster is challenging.
I took the 29er with 125mm cranks out recently on some offroad with gentle hills. I felt like I was struggling to get up what seemed like hills that should not have been that hard to ride up.
A week later, I went up part of the same trail with 140’s and noticed a bit more torque, but still struggled with the hills. On a descent, I ran it up to 10.9 mph, so that tells me the slightly longer length got me more torque, but didn’t really scrub off speed.
My next experiment will be to go with the 150’s. I started out with these when itwas a 28er, and I remember it feeling really slow on the flats.
I will probably end up riding with 140’s, for all around riding, but if I take it off road more, I will probably go with the 150’s to start and maybe work down as “practice makes the master”.
In summary, one can ask questions to narrow your choices, but I think investing in some cranks and just experimenting is the way to go, if you can afford it.
One last thought, I have a brake on my 29er. It started as a drag brake, but I am going to experiment with a standard brake lever to give me (I hope) more stopping power. A brake helps to slow you down when the legs can’t do it quickly.
Nathan says he can idle on a Coker with 125’s. I can’t even do that on my 29er with 140’s. Mike Fule likes short cranks and he no doubt feels control with those shorties, but it really is based on experience.
****sorry about the redundancy in this post. Klaas Bil must have posted just after I started composing this, still I feel like sharing my experiences.
Good luck, Uni