Wow! That’s a mouthful.
Ok, let’s start at the beginning. About four months ago, I managed to completely wreck both chainrings on my Stumpjumper. When I say wrecked, one of them was the same shape as a pringle. Fortunately for me, it happened a few hundred yards from the door so it wasn’t a total catastrophe.
Not a massive problem: just go online, pick up some fresh ones and crack on. Actually, no. Specialized, in their wisdom, fitted a spectacularly specific “custom” chainset on the Stumpy, which left me trying to source two fairly specific chainrings. Neither of which were available from actual shops.
Why is one chainring better than two?
I dropped into my local bike shop to ask for answers. The manager took one look at it and told me it was time to embrace the one-by revolution. 1x chainsets only have a single chainring and no front derailleur or shifter. It’s a simpler, lighter and less mud-catching set up. The other advantage is that, once the chainring is freed of responsibility for making the chain come off the ring easily (to aid shifting), it can be shaped to help keep the chain on. This is usually achieved by having narrow and wide teeth to match the chain.
The downside was that I would have only ten gears not the “twenty” I had until now. I’ve put that in speech marks because there are a lot of duplicate ratios in those twenty. He reckoned I wouldn’t notice the loss. Apparently, it was an easy swap.
Why an Oval chainring?
That’s the premise. How do they work in real life?
Oooh, Who’s a pretty chainring then?
Actually, there’s no such thing as a pretty chainring. When I opened the box, I was greeted by a very nicely machined piece of metal. The narrow-wide teeth were clearly present, along with some machining that clearly helped to do something. It wasn’t so intricately machined that I feared it would be a mud magnet, nothing fancy but everything in place. There was also sensibly black anodising covering the aluminium. For an item that cost a measly twenty-two quid, it looks pretty impressive. It looked ready to rock.
Lovely. But how does it ride?
Some components are game changers. Your riding will never be the same once you’ve used them. This chainring is not one of them. Other components are so utterly anonymous in use that you completely forget you have them. It is one of those.
On the first ride, it felt a little funky for about a minute. Then it became normal. Then I forgot about it. Four months later, I’ve forgotten that it was ever new. I honestly can’t tell you whether it has delivered on any of those claims to better grip etc. What I can tell you is that it works. Uncomplainingly, unfalteringly and anonymously. All the time. If that is the sign that something is working properly, then this chainring delivers in spades. It doesn’t feel funky, there is no feeling of pulsing, it just feels “normal”. Which is high praise.
Here’s a video of it in action.
How about the chain, does it stay on?
Disclosure: I also have a dangler chain device and a clutch rear mech. However, it (and I am aware that I am jinxing myself here) hasn’t dropped once. It hasn’t slipped once. I’ve had not a single instance of chain suck. As far as I can tell, it’s been flawless on that front.
How about the gears then, is ten enough?
Right, nerd stats alert:
My current setup is: 32T chainring, 11-36T 10 speed cassette, 29er wheels.
This was my biggest fear: would I run out of gears? Would I spin my legs out at just the point where I wanted to put the power down? Or, worse, would I run out of gears going up hill? I live in the South Downs so, whilst my local riding lacks vertiginous rocky ascents, there are plenty of long steep pulls.
I have found myself in the bottom gear on many occasions. On some of them I have had to just put more power through the pedals rather than spinning. On only two occasions have I actually run out. One was on a steep path near the house where I wasn’t really warmed up and was stalled by the undergrowth. The other was in walking boots, on flats, at the end of a long day, trying to ride with people on foot up a steep road. Neither could be solely attributable to the bike.
At the other end of the cassette, the only time I’ve noticed the lack of gears has been on tarmac descents. That’s not really where my bike should be performing anyway, so I’m not that bothered.
Is this chainring any good?
Four months of riding and it hasn’t put a foot wrong. I cannot really fault it in any way, shape or form.
In a world of shiny carbon and expensive suspension, it is really nice when something that costs so little is a genuine upgrade.