Absolute Black Oval Chainring for Race Face Cinch Cranksets - Review

Jun 2, 2015
by Richard Cunningham  

Race Face Turbine Cinch direct mount chainring Absolute black oval
Pairing Absolute Black's direct-mount oval chainring with the Race Face Turbine Cinch crankset gives the rider the option to determine where the sprocket will be most effective in the crank's rotation. The 32-tooth oval is roughly a 30t at the small diameter and a 34t at its widest point.


Serendipity, perhaps, but when Race Face developed the 16-tooth splined interface for its Turbine Cinch crankset, it answered the prayers of Marcin Golek. Golek is the founder of Absolute Black, and a staunch believer in elliptical-shaped chainrings as a superior method to deliver power to the ground. Marcin discovered through testing his un-round chainrings that differences in leg length, and the rider's position over the crankset require slightly different "timing" in order to ensure that the major axis of the chainring was in position when the rider was producing peak torque.

The concept is not new. Rotor, the world's most famous oval chainring maker, offers a number of timing options for exactly those reasons. Turns out that the 16-tooth spline interface of the Race Face Cinch crankset offers three useful timing positions for the Absolute Black chainring: "Neutral" (Marcin's preselected position that he believes will work for just about everyone), and either 22.5 degrees ahead or behind that point. The drive-side quick release feature of the Race Face crankset means that the chainring can be re-timed in less than15 minutes, without removing the bottom bracket axle from the frame or breaking the chain.

Absolute Black is headquartered in the UK, where their design, marketing and testing takes place. The chainrings are CNC-machined from 7075-alloy aluminum in Poland and then finished in the UK. Chain retention of their narrow-wide tooth profile is warrantied for 12 months and you can get them with 30, 32, or 34 teeth, in green or black anodized colorways. Our 32-tooth oval ring weighed 60 grams and carries an MSRP of $66 USD. Absolute Black also makes a full range of oval chainrings for SRAM direct mount and the most popular four-bolt cranksets.
Absolute Black

Race Face Cinch direct mount chainrings Absolute black oval and RF standard

Oval Sprocket Theory

For those who are not up to speed on oval chainrings, the concept is not a re-introduction of Shimano's 1980s-circa BioPace. The major axis of the oval chainring is timed to arrive as the leg develops peak power, while the smaller, minor axis is timed to arrive near the "dead-stroke" to increase the mechanical advantage of the crankset when the legs provide very little power. Theoretically, the result is more constant torque is generated around the crank circle. For mountain bikers, that means more climbing traction and the ability to maintain momentum in situations that require high power output. Worth noting is that oval and a round chainrings with equal numbers of teeth will propel the bike forward at the same speed at a given rpm, so only power delivery and leverage rates around the crank's circle are affected. On the same subject, switching to an oval chainring causes little or no change in chain length as it rotates, so the rear derailleur cage doesn't rock wildly back and forth with every pedal stroke.



Ride Report

Installing Absolute Black's chainring to the Cinch crankset was surprisingly easy. The Race Face drive-side crank pops off the end of its 30mm shaft with an eight millimeter Allen wrench. A threaded retention ring fixes the spider (or direct-mount chainring) to the crankarm, which fits a readily available splined bottom bracket cup remover (Park Tool BBT-20). To index the oval Absolute Black chainring, you line up a dot machined near the spline with the crankarm. The entire process takes about as long as it does to read this article - which encouraged me to try all three timing positions with the oval ring and also compare it with the stock, 32-tooth Race Face ring on the same trails.

We used the Commencal Meta V4 to test the chainring. Its 72-degree seat tube angle is slacker than most trailbikes, which should have favored retarding the sprocket one click counter-clockwise, and initially that seemed best, with a very gradual transition from the larger to the smaller axis of the sprocket. Advancing it one click clockwise had the opposite and negative effect - causing the leg to speed up dramatically as the knee reached full extension. Climbing a steep grade with a smooth surface revealed that retarding the sprocket one click felt better because that was the position that caused the sprocket to perform and feel much like a round chainring - a strong acceleration, followed by a brief lag. If there was any doubt, both the round and the oval ring left the familiar broken line scratch marks on the dirt. When I returned the sprocket to the middle position, the broken lines created by each power stroke on the pedals were smoother and closer together - an indication that I was making torque where my legs had previously been coasting around the crank circle.

Race Face Cinch direct mount chainring Absolute black oval and Park BBT-22 tool
The Race Face lock ring is installed using a standard splined bottom bracket tool, like the Park BBT-22. The crank is self-extracting, which makes an easy task of switching chainrings or timing.


I decided on the middle position even though there was a distinct pulsing, created by the legs speeding up as the oval sprocket turned through its smaller axis - a sensation that made it awkward to spin the cranks at my 90 rpm cruising pace. Two, maybe three rides later, the pulsing sensation was gone and I could spin the cranks as well as with the round ring. I normally ride a 30 tooth chainring on a 27.5-inch-wheel bike, so the 32-tooth ring put some heat into my legs on the steeps, but that helped to clarify where I was making up ground and where I may have been slower with the oval rings.

There was no doubt that I was consistently faster when climbing technical terrain, because I could keep the cranks turning in familiar situations where I had flailed on the pedals using the round ring. I lost some momentum on trails where the grade changed constantly, because I found that I was shifting gears more often with the oval sprocket. That said, I could hang in a taller gear for a longer duration than I could with the round ring if I was willing to slow my cadence slightly and gut it out.


Pinkbike's Take:
bigquotesTo end on a practical note, Absolute Black's take on oval chainrings provides its most palpable benefits during those moments when you are pushing the pedals in earnest, especially against a lot of resistance, like plowing through sand or mud, working up a steep grade with variable surfaces, or getting up stepped rocks and roots. Pitted against a round ring, it pedals about the same over smooth, flat terrain and when topping rolling climbs out of the saddle. Speaking to the timing aspect of the Race Face/Absolute Black marriage, I ultimately didn't need it with the Commencal's 72-degree seat angle, but in retrospect, I had the option to experiment and make an educated decision. Plus, retarding the timing allowed me to get used to the sensation of the oval sprocket by moderating its effects, and then move up later to the optimal timing. Initially, I was worried that the oval ring would work my knees more than I wanted. After switching back to the round ring for the remainder of the Commencal review, however, I was reminded of the constant pulsing (which we have all learned to live with) and ultimately, the oval sprocket proved easier on the knees. If you own Race Face Cinch cranks, and you have 66 bucks to burn, Absolute Black's oval chainring would be well worth a try. - RC



MENTIONS: @COMMENCALbicycles, @absoluteBlack, @raceface,


190 Comments

  • + 99
 My roommate bought one. He complains less about his sore knee so I'm stoked on it.
  • + 15
 I had terrible knees, riding 3/4 times a week with the other days barely being able to walk and random throbbing pains. Changed the chainring to an absolute black oval ring and have had significantly less knee problems. Not saying the new ring is the sole reason my knees are better, but there has been far less pain whilst riding and far less whilst away from the bike.

Performance wise, they are great! Ease of a 30, speed of a 34 ring I'm not so sure, but I would buy another one, and that I think says the most
  • + 7
 For only $66, why not try it? If your knees feel better, then it's worth every penny.
  • + 0
 I ordered one last week bit haven't taken delivery yet. This talk of alleviated knee pain is sweet music to my ears. A nice surprise for sure.
  • + 1
 interesting, my knees always hurt but I'm 9spd and i bet this is not 9spd
  • + 2
 I am also on 9 speed. Nine and ten are the same, just the chain is different on the outside (but not the inside)
  • + 15
 I had a terribly bad breath... like squirrels would drop off trees when am riding. Since i've switched to oval rings the problem has vanished ! Brilliant ! Now trying to hover the oval chainring above a lost love picture... am sure she'll come back now !
  • + 1
 9spd will work, you may lose a little chain retention but if you ride hard u'll be running at least a top guide already anyway
  • + 2
 I don't want to pick nits, but I don't think chain retention will be any different on 9 or 10 speed, since the internal geometry of 9 and 10 speed chains is the same. A ten speed chain is narrower on the outside owing to thinner plates and shorter pins, if I am not mistaken. Is that not so?
  • + 2
 You should probably look into physical therapy to mitigate your knee pain if you haven't
  • + 2
 As I said, I'm "Not saying the new ring is the sole reason my knees are better, but there has been far less pain whilst riding and far less whilst away from the bike." The big thing is "I would buy another one, and that I think says the most"

I have been to therapy, and that has certainly helped also, however the pain did come back whilst on the bike. With this new ring it simply hasn't
  • - 2
 If you got knee pain after a ride, 1- ride more cause they are weak, or 2- go see a doctor.
  • + 1
 As I said, "I had terrible knees, riding 3/4 times a week"

also

As I said, "I have been to therapy, and that has certainly helped also, however the pain did come back whilst on the bike. With this new ring it simply hasn't"

.............
  • + 3
 If your getting knee pain mostly from rideing your bike and not other acrivities I would check out your cockpit size. A bike that is the wrong size and setup will do exactly what you described to your knees. Find your local bike shop with a fitting program and see if there are any alterations they can make to your cockpit before considering a new frame size.
  • + 1
 I just took delivery of mine, 104bcd, 32t. It says on the pack if you want to use 9s you have to use a 10s chain. Now I'm confused, as I believed them to be the same internally. Does it really make a difference? If so, why?
  • + 1
 In answer to my own question if anyone is interested, I think I know why. The 32t has a small radius of 30t, which is why it needs the built in washers to space it off the back of the chainring tabs of the crank. Using a 9s chain will cause contact between the back of the two small axis tabs and the chain. In which case, the 34t will be fine with a 9s chain.
  • + 1
 Is it just thinner outer plates? Did not know that. Assumed the inner plates were thinner too, which would affect the internal width of the outers. What you say does seem logical however. You are likely correct. Learn something new every day.
  • + 2
 Thank you for your humble response Gabe. You've got to be right though, not me. The inner width of 9 and 10s chains are the same, but the pins are narrower on 10s and the plates themselves are thinner. Therefore the distance between the outer plates must also be narrower. This doesn't make any difference on a narrow sprocket or a narrow/narrow chainring, but on a narrow/wide it will make a difference. If the ring is designed for 10s the 9s chain will be too baggy causing inferior retention as you originally stated. If the ring was made for 9s, a 10s chain would not fit.
  • + 3
 jaame- you are correct.
inner plates are same on 9 and 10spd chain. But outer plates are different. 9spd chain has wider outer plates so chainring/chain will fit loose on thick teeth.
So in order to keep good retention 10 or 11spd chain is needed. If we were to make 9spd narrow wide compatible chainring then 10/11 spd chain would not fit.

To be more interesting 10 and 11 spd chains are identical internally! in both narrow and wide links, but the outer dimension of outer plates on the 11spd chain is thinner. So chainring sees the 10 and 11 spd chain as exactly the same one, but outer diameter of 11 spd chain is thinner = more clearence between cogs on the cassette = less rub in the mudSmile

Concluding you can use 10 or 11spd chain with your 9spd cassette and they will perform great.
  • + 2
 Thanks for the clarification!
  • + 3
 People being nice to each other on pinkbike?
Companies being honest about backwards compatibility and not trying to force you to upgrade cos your drivetrain is over 15 minutes old?

Mind. Blown.

Well isn't this lovely! Hugs all round Razz
  • + 2
 No point being a c*nt if it's about something useful, not just "Looks like a session" or some shit
  • + 39
 BUT ITS NOT BLACK!!!
  • + 5
 It says they come in black or green.
  • + 51
 but that's not absolutely black! :O
  • + 1
 Mine is Razz
  • + 5
 Touché.
  • + 2
 Our main color is black. So every chainring we make we offer in black. But we also have few more colors to offer nowSmile
  • + 19
 Non-round chainrings do not improve maximum power. I completed my master's thesis in a biomechanics lab where a fellow Ph.D. candidate undertook a series of studies to determine if there were any situation where a non-round ring may be beneficial. There is none.

gradworks.umi.com/36/74/3674000.html
  • + 3
 Flats or clipless? I think there is a bigger difference using one with flats.
  • + 3
 your move Absolute Black...and Rotor
  • + 6
 @Kitejumping flats or clipless shouldn't make a difference. The reason non-round rings don't work is due to the degrees of freedom at the ankle. Cycling power comes primarily from muscle action at the knee and hip. Additionally, preferred movement at theses joints is cyclic. At its simplest the ankle adapts to the new ring shape so that your knee and hip retain their original motion.
  • + 1
 @dungeonbeast that's exactly what I was going to type! (based on what I think I understood from the PhD abstract). It's really nice to see some proper science going down!

Though I would assume being clipped in lets cyclists put more force into the pedals at slow cadences because they don't need to worry about slipping off the pedals.
  • + 10
 I couldn't give a shit whether it makes more power or not. I like the feel of the oval better than a round ring.
  • + 4
 Advancing or retarding the timing on a cars engine creates 0 new HP but it def increases your ability to tune its power band to suit different tracks.....same principle here and worth a try for little $....
  • + 4
 Kewl... Very informative. I have 2 questions.

1. How many experiments did you design to prove your master thesis ?
2. How many experiments did you design to disprove your master thesis?
  • + 3
 "Chainring eccentricity with similarly matched pedal speeds reduced knee (-10%) and hip (-5%) angular velocities, while metabolic cost and cycling efficiency remained unaffected."

Wouldn't your knees and hips moving slower be better for them? Thus oval chainrings would be better for your joints?

Analyzing pressure on the joints using each type of chainring might be the next step in this study.
  • + 3
 @acali that is the only valid reason to ride non-round rings, personal preference.

@ov3r1d3 engine power and human power production aren't completely analogous. You aren't tuning a power band to work at specific parameters in a person. Additionally, optimal cadence for power production wasn't different between round and non-round rings, so this isn't an issue.

@BrightBulbPhoto These studies were actually conducted by a colleague in fulfillment of his Ph.D. I helped in data collection and ergometer design/maintenance. They studies also weren't designed to prove or disprove either chainring orientation as better, but rather collect data and analyze post hoc for differences. We just as happily would have reported that non-round rings were better if it were true. Hope that makes sense.

@Rasterman not necessarily. Muscular power production is dependent on two main factors, force production, and shortening velocity. In an isolated environment, faster shortening velocity would require less force production, while slower shortening velocity would require higher force production. There is always a trade-off.
  • + 13
 @dungeonbeast, I assume from the description of the redundant DOF in the ankle joint effectively negating the eccentricity of the pedal stroke that the data collection was based on clipless pedals with the ball of the foot placed over or very near the pedal spindle? This is a very road cycling style approach and I would expect you might find you collect quite different data using flat pedals and a more mid-foot position as is not uncommon when riding a mountain bike. Muscle recruitment between the two pedalling approaches is quite different and the mid-foot position significantly reduces the DOF at the ankle and is generally a far more stable riding position to adopt on unpaved surfaces, such as dirt. Smoothing out power output of the pedal stroke sounds like a pretty tangible benefit when standing to pedal a technical climb and dropping RPM accordingly to maintain traction. Sounds like your friend has a few more scenarios to consider before we declare oval rings pointless.
  • + 3
 I second @Nutcracker, particularly 'sprinting' up really steep climbs in very easy gearing, I have found that I get much more traction with an oval ring than without. The fact that it works against in you in your power stroke really discourages the wheel spinning out.
Aside from this, my limited knowledge in biomechanics prevents me from making any additional arguments Wink
  • + 14
 [I'd better say something or they'll think I'm stupid.]
  • + 5
 All these idiots finding it better for them when out on the trail. Don't they know in lab tests it doesn't provide any benefit?
  • + 1
 I also read a couple of studies about the benefits of shorter cranks. Apparently the lever length deficit makes less difference to efficiency than the reduction in pedal velocity. I'm going to pair my absolute black ring with some 165 Zee cranks to see if it's any different from a round ring, 175 crank combo.
  • + 1
 I'm inclined to think a non-round ring is no real benefit, if it's the larger radius under power how would it be beneficial to having a round version of the larger radius?
  • + 2
 I think it is supposed to see you through the dead zone more easily as the radius there is smaller. Whether or not it actually works is another matter. I just want one to complete the 2015 Enduro look, and no I'm not kidding.
  • + 3
 @dungeonbeast 100% compatible power production analogy wasn't my goal, doesnt need to be either to be "valid" the principle is the same whether your lab results agree or not. You really don't think nearly every set up you do on your bike isn't tuning your power band for endurance/comfort/performance?!?! Ive yet to see one of these rings claim "unleashes hidden HP" rather, tuning your personal preference . You could do a thesis on wide vs narrow bars, wheel size on and on, and you know what negates any absolute findings pro or con or indifferent? Personal Preference individual body type and or rider ability....also you mention that they "don't work" don't you mean don't outperform? Riding flats doesn't make me any less powerful but it sure prevents me from utilizing all of my available power....no lab results needed for consensus haha......
  • + 0
 Ask Bradley Wiggins if oval rings work as advertised.
  • - 1
 The theory of operation here is blindingly obvious. Your legs are strongest as they approach full extension. This is why it is easier to leg-press more weight when you scoot the seat back on leg-press exercise machines. This is also why people put their seats up for distance and (non-techy) climbs. And, even more importantly, your legs can't put much force into the pedals when the cranks are vertical.

So oval rings give you an effectively smaller chainring when your legs have very little mechanical advantage, and an effectively larger chaining when your legs are at their strongest. What's not to like about that?

I won't dispute your findings because this stuff is too simple to argue about. You were probably perfectly correct in your measurements and conclusions. You just weren't measuring (or thus drawing conclusions about) the things that make these chainrings better than circular rings.

Just do some A/B testing (that was a pun) and you'll feel the difference. It's not night-and-day, but it's also impossible to overlook.
  • - 3
 If the dead zone is a dead zone, the ring is taking no force, hence its radius is not relevant.
  • + 12
 I have an Absolute Black, Oval on my DH rig. Now I know half of you who read this went...Wait, What??!!
I am telling you tho. It essentially puts a power-band on your cycle.
I have been running it this season, and so far it is quite nice to have. Tho it took a little use to having to down shift into a harder gear to stand climb the hills. A somewhat counter intuitive procedure. It has also been a little tricky to set-up. Regardless. This is a great product, that I am well over the initial cost. Coming from a life-time of 3x8 or 3x7 speed drive-train systems. Absolute Black's oval chain ring made my intro to 1X drivtrains, a good one.
Highly Recommend these products.
  • + 1
 Edit. Should say.... Tho it took a little time getting accustomed to, having to down shift into a harder gear to stand climb the hills
  • - 7
flag jumpman2334 (Jun 2, 2015 at 10:20) (Below Threshold)
 climbing on your DH bike?? Righhhhhhttttttttt.
  • + 1
 do you run a chain guide too?
  • + 4
 @jumpman2334 Absolutely. No Shuttles here. Can't ride one bike out, carrying another. @Gasket-Jeff Not the newer more common style. I opted for an older BB hanging, high sided plastic guide. Simliar in style to this Blackspire, www.pinkbike.com/photo/12301284
  • + 2
 You up-shift into harder gears. Down shift is for easier gears.
  • + 2
 with oval blades, there's more ground clearance (theoretically), could be important for DHers :-)
  • + 3
 @panaphonic perhaps. But I follow the direction of the chain. Not the crowd.
  • + 0
 @vhdh666 I like your thinkin. Smile
  • + 6
 If you have to pedal it ain't steep enough.
  • + 1
 LOL @hillatoppa Absolutely. Wink Who said I stay on the bike all the time. Razz
  • + 1
 Totally agree, there faster and less knee strain. More a case of higher rpm within the rotation due to lower power requirement in the dead zone.
  • + 1
 UPDATE! I have since switched to an E-13 SRS ISCG 05 chain-guide. Like this... www.pinkbike.com/photo/12601812
And have run into ZERO problems. Just make sure your 'standard' style chain-guide, can accommodate sizes larger than the Oval chain-ring than you intend to use. I found it helps with clearance.
Example. I run a 34T oval in a chain-guide sized for 36T and up.
This also gives the option to switch out the 34T oval for any larger sized standard ring. Not sure if/when that will happen. As I just found out that AbsoluteBlack now stocks 36T ovals... Smile Smile Smile
  • + 9
 I am personally more interested in these kind of upgrades instead of "upgrading" my wheel size. Also i like the "easier on the knees" part, i would really like to give one of these a try.
  • + 8
 When I hear a MTBer complaining about knee problems, blackmailing everyone on importance of right pedaling technique, right RPM, right way to install cleats, Q-factors and other crap, I get a sense that he is in the wrong sport in the first place...
  • + 0
 What I've done is stopped using clipless pedals except when I'm racing, and stopped riding uphill.
  • + 5
 jaame - I'd argue that sticky shoes like 5.10 coupled with really long pins are potentially worse for your knees than clips because you can't move your foot at all in any direction. It is virtually as bad as shoe cage. Again, I would be terrified to run up the hill or walk stairs for more than 1 storey, if I was so concerned about how can my pedaling stroke or shoe type affect my knees when riding MTB. Road bike or fire road rally is a different story, as those guys sit in the same position for tens of hours a week. I heard a story from PB user Robbiebriers who complained on unbearable knee pain when riding a fat bike on few days into a touring ride, but Q factor on that thing is huge compared to what some folks pussy on, like Sram XX1 cranks with 156 vs 162 Q factor. Knee stress and Marathon running on asphalt/concrete - anyone? I personally have big issues with cold, I cannot ride with bare knees under +15C. I cringe when I see a dudes commuting to work without knee warmers in winter, but I have no intention to start a FB group if you now what I mean Big Grin
  • + 4
 I vote Waki for global president. Or better for Supreme Philosophy King of the Universe
  • + 1
 I don't use Fiveten, I use Adidas that cost me about twenty quid. I also use Spank pedals with the pins half way in because all the way out I feel like my feet are just on the pins, not the cage. Different people have different knees. Cycling for a long time really hurts one of mine, but walking does not. I've done the Everest base camp trek before, the cheap 20 day way, with no pain. Two hours clipped in is too much though. I've got a mate who had to give up football at uni because of knee pain when kicking the ball. Now he's 36 and doing 100 miles a week on his road bike with no problems.
  • + 3
 So jaame, are you implying, that there's no one single unifying idea for humanity or even MTBing alone, that would save us all, take away all suffering and leave everyone stoked? But what about... 650B...clipless... gearbox... Pike... 440+ chainstays... sub50mm stems... Fest series... deconstruction of UCI... Freetrade... Jesus... Atheism...?
  • + 2
 I heard a comedian once say "I dont believe in God, but Im not an atheist, there is a difference, atheists are @sshole$ who like to argue with everyone about everything"
  • + 1
 Gasket-Jeff, I am glad that you pick on that one. I am in the not-golfers club. We meet on the golf course and talk about how not to play golf.
  • + 1
 Well FIFA has the biggest chance to save the world now!
  • + 1
 Clipless pedals have saved my knees.
  • + 6
 Hi Guys,
Marcin at absoluteBlack here.

Many thanks for the comments, especially from people who already used it and know how it feels like.


to sum few things up:
* This is not Bio-pace. Most of you already know that, but seem there is still a lot of people who do not read article except bottom lineSmile biopace was clocked wrongly and situation is much more complicated than this to explain here. In simple words new breed of oval rings like ours are Completly different to old technology. You can't compare it even. Only "oval" word is a common thing.

* Our rings DO NOT generate more peak power. See our website - we never claimed you will generate more power with them.
absoluteblack.cc/raceface-oval.html


What we DO claim is:
1 Your traction will improve Greatly due to smoothing out of your pedal stroke (power to pedal).

2 Your mashing style of pedaling will suddenly smooth out and you will feel you pedal very constantly and easy

3 You will see great improvement riding clipless or flats. With flats people usually see even more benefits as this group tends to mash morethan people riding clipless

4 You will ride quicker - this is bit complicated to explain. You will not ride quicker because of "more power" but because of smart distribution of power you already generate. Oval ring smooth out your delivery of power to the rear wheel in that way where you get less of slippage and more constant/ steady pedaling. So because your pedaling is now more constant you do not waste energy and not go out of pace due to rear wheel slip. All this will get you to the top of the hill quicker. On top of that ovals utilize your muscles in different way so you also get less tired. This also contributes to greater speed because you can keep same speed for longer. This ultimately means that you will cover distance from A to B in shorter time than with round ring. Simple.

5 These rings WORK on singlespeed with no problem!. Chain growth is extremely small. You do not have to have chain tensioner or anything like that. Way you set it up is to tension properly the chain when biggest part of the ring is at 12 o'clock. The at every other point tension will be just a bit smaller. This also means you will not put any strain to your bearings or cogs. Simple. on SS oval works miracles.

6 Your clutch will be absolutely fine. In extreme cases(long cage) cage moves only about 1mm at the lower pulley. This is less than distance causing clutch to work! So really you do not have to worry about that.

7 It does not require long time to get used to. On average 1-10 minutes.! So people say it takes them one ride. Some people say they do not feel any strange feeling at all from the start.


We sold by now Huge amount of oval rings and we do not have a Single customer (!) who would be not happy with it or did not see a positive difference. People love it.


We are so Confident in this product that I will personally swap your oval ring to our round one if you will be not happy trying it for 3-4weeks. You can call us crazy but they simply work like it says on the tin. This is best single bike component you can get to your bike and greatly improve your ride from the start.
  • + 8
 these are the types of reviews and stories i needed back when i was in finals week.
  • + 5
 Been running a DOVAL 16% oval ring on my XC bike for 6 months. Used to have regular knee pain after hard/long rides on my RaceFace 32T, however that's effectively eliminated even though I moved to a 38T (2 reconstructive knee surgeries in my 20's didn't help). I'll run them as long as I can on any bike that i'm running 1X. Oh yeah, it seems a good bit faster, but probably taking fewer rest days to ice my knees is a factor there too.
  • + 4
 Definitely messes with my head to hear that it causes "little or no chain growth." @RichardCunningham, is the chain growth small enough that this design could be run on a singlespeed without a chain tensioner, or is there enough chain growth to make this impossible?
  • + 4
 I do.
  • + 5
 I would think that chain growth is determined by changes in the circumference of the chainring as the cranks rotate. If the chain is nominally contacting half of the chainring, and we can say that the oval-shape circumference (34T + 30T + 34T + 30T) averages out to that of a circle (32T) at any half circumference, then this seems to make sense. But now if the chain actually contacts more or less than half of the chainring, the chain will grow and shrink with crank rotation.

....I think.
  • + 3
 I'm a single speeder and they say it works. However I haven't forked over my dough to try. Apparently we should be the ones to say if it has merit but I haven't heard from the A$S at mtbr yet.
  • + 5
 I can confirm it works on a single speed and it works very well.

I have been running it since April with no issues, as expected. Not a new thing to me, as I previously wore out 3 Rotor Q-rings over 3-4 seasons. As they became harder and harder to come by, and increasingly more expensive - I was happy to find Absolute Black last year. I ordered one in the fall and had it ready to install on my XT crankset this spring.
I feel no difference between it and the 34t Q-ring. The shape and timing are identical to Q-ring mounted in the middle bolt position.

And no, you don't need to run a tensioner or anything else with it on a single speed. Either of the rings (Q-ring or AB) will work and retain the chain just fine. Just make sure that you set up tension with the ring's "peaks" at 12 and 6 o'clock - that's where the chain is the tightest. Everywhere else there's a little growth, but it's not significant enough to cause any issues, especially under tension.
  • - 13
flag HutchJR (Jun 2, 2015 at 12:21) (Below Threshold)
 the spring on your derailleur will pull the derailleur back to get rid of any chain growth.
  • + 4
 In point of fact, there's NO change in chain length/tension because its always the same number of teeth engaging the chain regardless of where you are in the pedal rotation whether a ring is round or oval. What there is though is a visual movement of the chain runs (upper and lower) up and down and that fools people into believing the chain tension is increasing/decreasing when in fact, it isn't. For real monkeying with someone's brain, use it on a concentric BB pivot frame with a seat stay link singlespeed full suspension (such as a Kona A) and totally befuddle the uninitiated. What people are feeling as "tension" is the difference in the leverage ratio applied to the chain by the different lobes of the ring. When its in the 30 zone it feels lighter and in the 34 it feels stronger (the tension).
  • + 1
 No, I run it on my single speed WITHOUT a tensioner!!! It works! There is a video on the AbsoluteBlack website and it shows the cranks spinning backwards and the rear derailleur pulley isn't moving at all. It works!
  • + 1
 oh right
  • + 1
 had a Q rotor on my track bike . chain tension does vary but not significant
  • + 2
 I have been riding a handfull of different brands. Most oval rings have a tiny bit of eccentricity that wiggles the derailleur's jockey cage 1 to 4 mm. Two did not move the cage at all. Also, worth noting; many round rings have similar eccentricity and also wiggle the take-up cage. When setting up a single speed, you always set the chain tension with the chainring rotated to its tightest position.
  • + 1
 Look on the absolute black website. There's a cool video of it! Wacky as hell to watch!
  • + 1
 @deeeight - there definitely IS a change in tension. I have been on oval Q-rings and now Absolute Black on my single speed exclusively for about 4-5 years now.
As I said, with the bike in the work stand and spinning the crank (either way), chain is the tightest with the ring's "peaks" at 12 and 6 o'clock position. It definitely and noticeably slackens anf tightens throughout the full rotation.
I'm not talking about feeling or tension felt under power, strictly about the fact that chain tension is not constant.
  • + 5
 Been selling them for a while now....i slapped one on my bike too... sorta old skool like the old Bio Pace stuff (sorta). We also sell oval wheels which can increase your speed by 1/2 Pedal stroke for each rotation.
  • + 3
 I am very much considering new XT cranks when they are available, so I hope they get that bolt pattern available by then.

Look how many people are still comparing to Biopace? Have you guys ever read a single article, including this one, about new ovals They ALL mention how they are completely different. SMH.

Studies may show power production may be the same, but seems these tests are limited. Assuming perfect pedaling, sure, but a) standing mashing pedals is different than sitting and evenly pedaling, b) smoother power can provide more traction than bursts of power, despite same total power. Nor do the tests seem to acknowledge joint pain, that lots of people report as being a significant improvement with ovals. Lab tests and reality aren't always the same.
  • + 1
 They already do have bolted available. I know because I own one....
  • + 1
 New XT/XTR pattern?
  • + 1
 yes coming in 4 weeks.
  • + 1
 Awesome
  • + 1
 Oval ring does not give you extra power, but you use less power for the same effort, more efficient in climbing. I have been using it for over a month, my climbing is a bit faster, and I have more energy left when I reach the top. I use 1 gear higher on most climb now, so my 40t cog is rarely used now.
  • + 1
 Not sure about the oval stuff, but AB makes NW rings in 64 BCD and bashguards in 104 BCD. Which makes for very cost effective ghetto 1x10. I run my original 11-36 10 speed cassette, but ditched the front derailleur and 24/36 double rings for a single 26t plus bashguard on my 29er. Lost a half gear at the bottom end (not a big deal it turns out) and a whole bunch of range at the top (not a big deal for me, but might be for others). Haven't dropped a chain since.
  • + 1
 Is the auto-extracting feature of Cinch is the same as EXI one?
I ask that because I nearly trashed my Turbine crackset the last time I tried to auto-extract it. The (alu) bolt was completely stripped, requiring to replace it.
Now I prefer to use my old ISIS crank extractor instead (much more stronger non-moving threading in the crank).
  • + 1
 This ring is legit! I spend 4 hours at the local trails testing it out on some dirty climbs and no knee pain!. Climbing is actually smoother because the dead spot at the 11 and 5 is reduced. That being said, I got some serious leg pump from riding this ring no doubt a result of more muscles firing than with a round ring.
  • + 0
 Its a pretty part, but that green anodizing doesn't seem to hold up very well, as seen in the last picture.

Are the benefits of oval chainrings more pronounced at lower or higher RPM? I see the pro peloton guys doing time trials with big 53T rings, doing 90 RPM.

Those cranks are sweet but the machined area near the crank bolt bugs me as it looks impossible to clean. The coarser machining steps will get grungy the first ride, and stay that way. Its not a part of a crank where I want things hidden by dirt.
  • + 1
 I agree with the dirt collecting part, but this article was about the oval ring. I have a rf nw and the anodizing wears off pretty quickly like the oval ring in the pic, which is not surprising if your bangin gears all day long, plus it is hidden behind the chain so i don't really see an issue.
  • + 3
 Been ridding an AB oval ring for 2 months now, it really does work! Does not make it easiler, just smother on the climbs (which then makes it more comfortable for long climbs). Not noticeable on the flat or downs mind
  • + 1
 @MDRipper thx for bringing it back on topic.
Agreed, I just took a look at a blue RF n/w 32t ring I used for 6 months and the anodizing is scuffed on the chain contact parts. Would be interesting to know how long RC ran this green ring to get it looking like that. Its not really an issue, but its awesome when coatings are indestructibly strong.
  • + 3
 no sort of anodizing/chrome/finish stands up against metal-to-metal contact. Plus, the only places that show wear on the ring are where the chin sits anyway.
  • + 2
 That ring had about 32 hours on it when I shot the pics, with four good slogs in wet or rain conditions. Black rings hide it better, because the crud replaces the anodized finish ;-)
  • + 4
 There will always be an initial wear of the anodizing layer on teeth. This is where you get most friction. But I can assure you that after this initial "wear" of cosmetic layer there is no more progress of eating teeth material for long time. So if you look at this same ring in 5 months it will look almost identical.

Our rings hold more than 12 months with normal regular use. This is more than any mainstream brand on the market currently. And if you are a casual rider and chainge your chains regularly it will hold few seasons...

This "wear" is almost not visible when chain is on the ring.
  • + 1
 Thanks for the info.
  • + 1
 I've been running this ring for a few months. Worked better than I though. You don't feel any weird feedback which is what I expected. My derailluer arm does move a tiny bit.
  • + 2
 I have had a few of AbsoluteBlack's oval chainrings and have used their cogs in every size they make. They are quality products and their customer service is great.
  • + 0
 wow whats next girvin flexstems or zoom aero bars.....how about a rehash at the tioga wheel disc......can i have an oval cassete to go with the front ring.....just to add more craziness to the mix as the the chain jumps.....i guess a lot of this stuff does come round again.....i remember gary fishers bikes being 29ers way back when too. :-) oh and that 2k rockshox rs1 is as flexy as in the youtube vids when turning the handlebars and gripping the wheel with your knees....so yep just buy a sid. some new stuuf is cool though and i like stuff that works but im not sure some of this is good. but hey if it fixes peoples issues with poorly knees then thats worth it anyway.
  • + 0
 As the article states, this is not Biopace. If I remember things correctly, Biopace was designed to smooth out the torque by having a longer lever at the dead point and a shorter lever at the stroke. Modern oval chain rings such as this one are designed opposite to Biopace - they are designed to take advantage of your legs being stronger at the stroke phase - they are Biopace with a 90 degree shift.
  • + 2
 it looks similar to even earlier designs than biopace.....so im not sure whos correct but aparrently biopace was a move away from simple elipse chainrings according to this site it makes me think that biopace rings are better than these?
www.sheldonbrown.com/biopace.html
  • + 1
 I just looked at my bike and I don't think the chain lengths will occolate as much I thought (30-34 lengths), but it will change. I still think consistent tension on a chain is best for single speed.
  • + 1
 Wouldn't this thing put your rear derailer cage link into a cycle of forward and backward movement, although small? Over time I could imagine the return spring would break.
  • + 1
 On my XT cranks with Zee rear mech, I get about the same movement as on my other bike with cheap cranks and a round chain ring.
  • + 2
 On a chainring with a total circumference is 32 teeth, the chain is always engaged on half of the total circumference, or 16 teeth. Sometimes that's 16 teeth on an oval that's stretched vertically, sometimes that's 16 teeth on an oval that's stretched horizontally, but it's always 16 teeth.
  • + 2
 I love my B-Labs oval rings, It works very well...

www.b-labs.org/oval-chainring
  • + 1
 if any one is interested in running an ovalized 2x and 3x drive train Ridea makes em, they also make 1x rings.
www.rideabikes.com/index.html
  • + 1
 Great timing as I'm in market for a direct mount ring. For Sram BB30 it's only $62.00. That beats everyone else and adds some new tech to boot. Sold...
  • - 2
 If you suffer knee pain, you are not alone.

Sedentary way of life, stress, poor posture, extra weight or round chainrings can contribute to knee pain.


OVALDISK® brand offers complete SAFE, EFFECTIVE & SIMPLE solutions for knee pain sufferers regardless of age, gender or profession with unique patent protected invention.
  • + 2
 I tried Ovaldisk - it took a lot of water to help swallow it.
  • + 1
 I hope it ;lasts better than their other products, been hugely disappointed by Absolute Black stuff I've bought.
  • + 0
 What happened to Shimano BioPace.............? What has changed in the market to make the Absolute Black BioPace rings different? Other than 1X set ups
  • - 4
flag thatshowiroll (Jun 2, 2015 at 11:25) (Below Threshold)
 Seems like a BioPace to me... and yes, I'm old enough to have had a lot of experience with BP in my old road bike.
  • + 6
 BioPace was a failure because it could never show actual benefits of increased efficiency. Also if you look at the different shapes, they are actually opposite to each other. The BioPace has a "lower gear" at the same spot where the newer oval rings have a "higher gear".
  • - 1
 maz-o, it's articles like this without any facts and data that make it appear that some company is just digging up some old bones trying to present them as the latest fad..............only to fleece those that didn't live through Shimano's attempt. Facts and Data
  • + 7
 Bio-Pace was a failure because Shimano got their chain ring rotation geometry completely wrong, it was the polar opposite of what was actually needed!

ovalised chainrings are not new, they have been used in road cycling for many years including those originally made for EGG, by Highpath a small UK engineering company. Eggrings were used by Chris Boardman when he smashed the world record on the Lotus superbike, as well as many other Olympic record holders.

www.cornant.uk/eng/eggs.html

When done correctly like Rotor or O-Symetric, it can work very effectively.

ep1.pinkbike.org/p6pb12026507/p5pb12026507.jpg
  • + 3
 @hampsteadbandit neither Rotor or O-Symetric rings improve maximum or sub-max cycling power.

gradworks.umi.com/36/74/3674000.html

Both were used in this study, and I witnessed much of it take place, so I know it was sound science.
  • + 3
 As I recall, biopace's intention was to even out the dead spot in the stroke at the cost of the peak power spot.... so where you got the most leverage it effectively reduced the gearing and then increased it where you had the least leverage. That made weak riders more efficient but it punished fit riders... especially racers who had it forced upon themselves. The original biopace gave way to biopace HP where they changed the lobe profiles to not screw over strong riders who knew how to pedal already. Then they just abandoned it completely. If they'd made it JUST a commuter/hybrid bike spec feature, it probably would have done ok. Also the 5-bolt rings meant you could adjust the timing somewhat by changing how the rings were fitted, and a lot of mechanics put them on WRONG for the rider, which just made things worse.
  • - 2
 @ibergman is right. Every rotation of the crank will experience 4 changes in chain length... the 30 tooth length and the 34 tooth length, each twice. I guess it could stay on a single speed for a while, but you really should have consistent chain lengths with single speed. 30 tooth would get extremely tight and that's hard on the hub, and the 34 tooth would sag and risk derailing.
  • + 1
 If you look at the video, you'll see that it works fine on single speeds. Even better, if you put it on a single speed, you'll see it works fine too. 7 months on 2 bikes without any chain drops here.
  • + 1
 Nope. You're only looking at the diameter measurement along one axis, and that's not the whole picture. When the vertical axis is equivalent to a 34t ring, the horizontal axis is equivalent to a 30t ring. They average out, no matter which angle the chainring is at.

Another way to look at it: the total circumference is 32 teeth, and the chain is always engaged on half of the total circumference, or 16 teeth. Sometimes that's 16 teeth on an oval that's stretched vertically, sometimes that's 16 teeth on an oval that's stretched horizontally, but it's always 16 teeth.

Realistically of course the chain doesn't always wrap around PRECISELY half of the chainring on most bikes, so there is a TINY variation in total wrap, but it really is tiny. I run one of these on a single-speed with tensioner and the tensioner doesn't move enough to notice.

However I have one of these on a Canfield Jedi where the wrap is smaller than usual due to the upper pulley (it would be a lot less than half, but the chainguide compensates somewhat by adding wrap on the bottom). The derailleur does move enough to notice, but the movement is very small.
  • + 1
 Why do you have the tensioner then? Every one admits theres play, but not enough, if you loose a chain and smack yourself id say thats enough play to be concerned about. If there is enough change in length to allow the chain bounce of even once, I am against it. I ride a true SS and I've lost a chain before from chain stretch or lack of propper tension. Not fun and I avoid it. True SS has more tooth contact with the front cog than half. That's cool for you guys to run an oval ring but not me
  • + 1
 My true SS with 32 tooth has 18 teeth engaged with chain... always.
  • + 1
 I have the tensioner because I have rear suspension, and the pivot is not concentric with the bottom bracket.
  • + 1
 ive always wanted to turn one of these so that it ruins your stroke on a friends bike just to mess with him!
  • + 0
 You can find exactly that kind of ring on ebay!

Just search for "biopace."

Seriously, that's what they are.
  • + 1
 No biopace was clocked different. Its all about the clocking!
  • + 0
 That's why I recommend Biopace in this case - remember than his goal is to ruin his friend's ride. ;-)

(I have Absolute Black's rings on two of my bikes, by the way.)
  • + 1
 im not buying him a chainring and fitting crankset just so i can troll him one day! gotta get him to get one all by himself
  • + 1
 Looks good and I would like to try one, if only they made them to fit 76BCD XX1 :-(
  • + 1
 Next they will bring back Elastomer Suspension.
  • + 1
 yep, my OCD doesn't like it.
  • + 0
 Anyone have any experience with oval rings and clipless? Considering I pull up as I go down, would it help or hinder?
  • + 1
 I realize he reviewed it clipless but anyone with specific experience?
  • + 1
 I have the AB 32 tooth since April installed in my SC Nomad 15, I used to run Woolf Tooth 30 T spiderless NW ring with XX1 groupset. I love the feeling of the AB ring, even going 2 tooth more than my WT ring, it feels the same in climbs, and here the climbs are veeeery steep. I'm running CB Mallet DH pedals and it fells great, the only thing with this oval ring is that your cadence should go a little lower, between 65 to 80 SPM not the usual 90 SPM, sometimes I found myself running a sprocket up, that mean if before the same trail I was running the 42T sprocket back with the circular ring, now I use the 36T sprocket with the oval ring, and I'm not feeling any extra load with it. I will buy another when wear it or maybe giving a try to Woolf Tooth which now they released their oval ring also.
  • + 1
 I have one and ride it clipless on a Meta exactly reviewed. I agree with the cadence thing, you do spin slower but gives you the feeling that you have more power to do so. I wasn't really sure what to expect at first but after getting some rides on it really like the feel. Not to mention it looks better, and was cheaper then a RF ring.
  • + 0
 Eagerly anticipating the new arrival of octagone chainrings. Then next year octa oval chain rings.
  • + 1
 Meta V4 is 74° effective SA
  • + 0
 So after this 27.5+ talk. Next is how oval a chainring delivers the best performance.
  • + 5
 theyve got you right where they want you.
  • + 1
 At least this is pretty cheap, and best of yet works just fine with your existing bike (assuming you're running RF cranks).
  • + 7
 Just wait til they come out with 26/27.5 oval wheels. It'll be sick.
  • + 1
 @speed10 I see your wacky wheel and raise you one eccentrically laced scooter... this is where mtb is headed next.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=9QC7OSTtyp8

That hideous wheel is actually kinda cool though. It looks square because of how the "ruffles" are arranged, but it's circular when viewed from the side. Math. Must be terrifying in corners though.
  • + 1
 (mind blown)

I want to ride that eccentric laced scooter...on a pump track.
  • + 2
 My egg is oval.
  • + 1
 oops
  • + 1
 Marketing...like Enduro!
  • - 3
 Hard to not think the 80's are calling - Hello Bio-pace.

Kidding aside, what is the difference between the Bio-pace rings from the 80s and these oval rings?
  • + 9
 It is very different, because the ellipsis is rotated ~90 deg from what Bio-pace was. I have one for 6 months now and my knees love it !
  • - 14
flag the303kid (Jun 2, 2015 at 10:05) (Below Threshold)
 Aside from maybe the materials they are using and the anodized finish, absolutely nothing. It fazed out in the early 90's and it will again. Working at a shop that sells tons of road bikes that come stock with Rotor Q-rings I can attest to the insane amount of pull of cranks we have sitting around from customers that opted to put a crank and chainring set up from the same brand that makes the rest of their drivetrain.
  • + 5
 Biopace had the peak of the oval in the dead spot not the down stroke, it effectively did the exact opposite of what new oval rings are trying to achieve
  • + 25
 I believe that the oval type chainring has much more merit. The barrier to the concept, beyond the sport's tenuous grip on yesterday's technology, has been the inescapable fact that non-round chainrings shift like crap, because the front derailleur is designed to move the chain in only one precise location. Change in one area of the bike, however, always creates changes in other, unexpected ways. The impending doom of the front derailleur and the rise of the one-by drivetrain has eliminated any benefit of using a matching crankset (beyond brand loyalty and asthetics), and in conjunction with the narrow-wide tooth profile, has opened the door for a serious and scientific exploration of the benefits of non-round chainrings that are designed to match human kinematics, rather than favoring ease of manufacturing and the quest for perfect front shifting. Folks like Rotor have bucked the negativities and proven the concept, but there is much more to learn and, without the barrier of a front mech, the doorway to that discovery process is wide open.
  • - 11
flag the303kid (Jun 2, 2015 at 10:33) (Below Threshold)
 Your absolutely right Richard and I totally understand the science is there both on paper and through testing. Once 1x is standard I'm sure this will become the new standard too. Then three years down the line something else will come out which will make something else a reality and we will be on square chain rings. Thanks for the censorship Pinkbike when someone tries to be simply critical of this industry and the "progress" that is making bikes so much better.
  • + 8
 Word. I just wanted to add that Wiggins and Froome won Tour de France using oval rings, so I guess u can consider them as race proven somewhere at least.
  • + 5
 Can't wait until hell freezes over and the pro peloton also move to single front chainrings with 46t rear sprockets. And "700c+" wheelsets. And 138mm rear spacing.
  • + 7
 Fabian Barel runs one too, just fyi.
  • + 0
 @RichardCunningham. Rotor's science is very shaky. I worked in a premier cycling based biomechanics lab when studying for my masters degree in exercise physiology. During my time there we did extensive research looking for any potential benefits of non-round chainrings. There are none.

Non-round chain-rings are still a marketing strategy, not a performance booster.

gradworks.umi.com/36/74/3674000.html
  • + 4
 I just installed a Wolf Tooth oval ring on my bike. I don't know if there is any extra power or not, but I do feel improved traction. Does your study address that in any way? Perhaps total power remains the same, but the peaks and valleys smooth out?
  • + 1
 @swassskier That's exactly the same experience I made with my AB oval ring. The torque distribution is smoother which is noticeable on technical climbs with limited grip. But I don't wanna ride it on my road bike, it feels strange in higher rpm and on smooth surfaces I manage to produce even torque distribution much easier by myself.
  • + 2
 And is it easier on the knees any? That alone is worth A LOT.
  • - 3
 snake oil
  • + 5
 try one and you will change your mind very quickly. I can even offer you swap to round ring if you will not be happy after 3-4 weeks of using one.
  • - 3
 Why dont' they bring the grip shif back too?
  • + 2
 It's been back for several years now... they have them for XX1 and XO1.
  • + 8
 I run Gripshift & oval chainring on my XC bike, but I did break down and take off the bar ends in 2014...
  • + 3
 because it never left.
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