There are some things that are constant, they may evolve but can you reinvent the wheel?
I have been curious to try oval chain rings ever since reading an excellent article about them a while back on James Wilson’s site. Now, thanks to my support from absoluteBLACK I have one of their oval chain rings to find out for myself.
Off round chain rings are not a new idea, back in the late 80’s Shimano championed their Biopace system. Seriously flawed, users complained of knee and joint pain. Time has thankfully moved on, and the oval chain ring is not the oval ring of the past. AbsoluteBLACK’s offers gains and benefits over conventional round rings.
“Absolute Black oval chainrings deliver power more smoothly to your rear wheel. This means you are better able to generate and maintain, constant cadence. Because oval chainrings reduce the peak loads on knee joints, riders using them get less stress on the joints (knees) and therefore are able to keep certain level of effort for longer. This results in higher average speed.” (source absoluteBLACK.cc)
With the timing and shape being completely different to that of the Biopace rings, comparisons between them are less apples and oranges and more like apples and tuna.
Out of the package it was immediately obvious these were not your average narrow wide chain rings. The oval shape was subtle, but enough to make you look twice if you didn’t know it was not a round chain ring. The asymmetric tooth profile is superbly detailed and shaped to hold the chain and move dirt and oil off of the tooth’s face.
AbsoluteBLACK offer a 30 day trail period, if oval is not for you they will swap it for a round one; as a brand ambassador I was still more than ready to make use of this trial period.
Fitting the ring was a straightforward affair with the 32 tooth ring having built in threads, once on and with a fresh new chain it certainly scored in the good looks department. One thing to note is if you are running a top guide, make sure to adjust and check the height of it to avoid it hitting on the high point of the oval!
It was time to hit the trails and to see how the theory applied to reality. The initial test ride would be on some newly cut trails that were steep and loamy, hitting them blind would mean drive train worries would need to be the last thing on my mind.
Clipping in I was expecting to feel something very pronounced through the pedals, a pulsing in the torque. Being completely honest, it felt natural, very quickly it didn’t feel strange at all and most importantly I noticed I was losing my fellow riders on the fire road climbs.
It encouraged a smooth, even pedal stroke, but it still felt good even at lower cadences, one thing I was concerned about was that it would have a “sweet spot” in terms of cadence, but it just doesn’t.
When the terrain turned steep it again performed flawlessly, we have all gotten used to not dropping chains thanks to 1X and narrow wide chain rings, in this regard the oval ring performs perfectly and inspires confidence in your drive train. On more pedally trails the extra gains in power and torque led to faster acceleration and less fatigue in the legs.
My initial feelings are that I will not be needing the 30 day trial offer, the additional power in the strong part of the pedal stroke provides a noticeable enhancement to performance and encourages a smooth pedal technique. Long term durability is not a concern as the build quality is just so good, with the grinding paste of Scottish dirt doing nothing to take the shine off of the teeth’s anodizing.
I’ll no doubt be returning with some long term assessments once I have a few months of turning oval under the belt, but for now I can certainly recommend them.