Review: O-Chain's Active Spider Adds Suppleness & Silence

Nov 29, 2022
by Matt Beer  

Mountain bike drivetrains have evolved from sounding like a bucket of bolts rattling down the trail to something much less distracting thanks to the introduction of the clutch derailleur. In combination with narrow-wide chainrings, it's rare to drop a chain these days. In some cases, that silence and security may come at the cost of suspension suppleness due to the tension in the derailleur, especially on bikes with high anti-squat values that tend to have more perceived pedal kickback.

O-chain’s Active MTB Spider is essentially a chain damping system that claims to “release rear suspension” from the transmission. It does so by adding a floating element between the chainring and crankarm for either traditional bikes or eMTBs. Adding another component or level of complexity might seem like over-engineering, but the Active Spider stands to overcome what the clutch derailleur has undone, all in the name of suspension performance while still producing a stealthy ride.

O-Chain Active Spider Details

• Intended use: All full-suspension bikes
• 4, 6, 9, 12 degrees of articulation
• Aluminum 7076 T6 alloy body, elastomer bumpers
• Mounting patterns: SRAM, Shimano, Race Face, Hope, FSA, E13, Cane Creek, Brose (eMTB), Bosch, Shimano EP8
• Drivetrain specs: 52mm chainline, 30-36T chainring, 104 BCD
• Titanium chainring bolts included
• Weight: 128 grams
• Max rider weight: 100kg
• MSRP: €299
• More info: ochain.bike
In a literal sense, the spider rotates counter-clockwise a few degrees, independently of the crank. Small elastomers captured in the housing of the spider allow it to rock back and forth to help isolate the chain forces from the suspension movement, something the frame designers have tried to skirt their way around by often using more pivots or idler wheels. This does mean that it will require the rider to move the crankarm further through the pedal stroke to compress that elastomer before the rear hub engages, although the feeling is softer and less jolting than the pick-up in a hub with a low-degree of engagement.

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The Yeti SB160 without the O-Chain system.
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Once installed, you can see how the Active Spider lets the chainring rotate.


Details

The inner black portion of the spider fixes to the crank arm while the nickel-colored portion makes up the back half of the spider that the chainring mounts to.
The "End Stroke" etching shows how the black component rotates through the pedal to meet the gold chip that sets the degree of float before the chain is tensioned - in this case 6 degrees. 4, 9, and 12-degree chips are also available.
The second half of the floating housing uses a 104mm bolt-circle diameter spider and fits chainrings down to a 30-tooth.
Do not nourish yourself with these garnishes. They are elastomers, not Ju Jubes.

O-Chain machines their Active Spiders in Italy and offers anodized black or nickel-chrome treatments for all popular direct mount crank/chainring interfaces from SRAM, Shimano, Race Face, Hope, FSA, E13, and Cane Creek for bikes with 52mm chainlines. Each spider is machined from an aluminum 7076 T6 alloy and is compatible with chainrings between 30 and 36 teeth. This SRAM spider weighed 128g, as claimed, without the chainring bolts. E-bikes haven’t been left out either since O-Chain has kits to work with Brose, Bosch, and Shimano EP8 motor mounts too.

The component arrives in the 6-degree setting and includes the necessary parts to change that float to 4 or 9 degrees as well. Those three settings are aimed at enduro-style riding, however, there is a larger 12-degree float option as well. O-Chain recommends this setting for downhill bikes since they have more rear wheel travel, are often subjected to higher forces and don’t require as many half-pedal, ratcheting movements that are common while climbing.

A gold-coloured metal chip is stamped with the number of degrees (in this case “6”) that the spider can rotate freely - the smaller the chip, the more the spider rotates. Elastomers matching the size of the chip are then situated to soften the rotating half of the spider as the crank engages the chainring.

This only affects the forward rotation of the crank, although there is another set of round elastomers that soften the return of the spider as it reaches the neutral position and dissipates some forces of the ring if it is rotated in the clockwise direction.




Setup

Setting up the Active Spider is as straightforward as bolting on a 4-bolt chainring and spider. I began by using the 6-degree, stock configuration and didn’t need to play with the chainline spacing at all. If you do wish to mess with the spacing, O-Chain does sell bolt kits to move the chainline either 3 or 4.5mm to either side of the spider.

Installing Active Spider on the Yeti SB160 wasn’t a hassle, but I did have to move the upper portion of the chainguide well out of the way to clear the spider as it rotated around a 32-tooth Wolf Tooth brand chainring. That’s because the spider is bulkier than a direct mount chainring. This means that the upper portion of the guide doesn’t actually sit close enough to keep the chain from lifting off of the ring. Although I never experienced any derailments, a simple post-style upper guide without captive sides might be best here.




Price

From the outside, this clever device seems simple, but there are a number of intricate pieces placed inside. At €299 the Active MTB Spider isn’t cheap, however this is a one-of-a-kind component for an attentive rider looking to optimize their suspension characteristics.

Two other important considerations are the fact that each Active Spider is brand-specific to the crank interface and you will need to use a 104 bolt-circle chainring (BCD). There is no price difference between mounting-type for the standard spiders but the eMTB is slightly more expensive at €328. O-Chain includes the titanium chainring bolts with the kit but only guarantees fitment with their own chainrings that cost €62. The 30-tooth costs 10€ more because those integrate the female end of the bolt connection.

Additional equipment, service kits and replacement parts are also available through distributors or O-Chain’s website. The 12-degree elastomer kit cost €19 and the service kits are €28.




The wax-paper seal has kept the inner workings of the spider clean and creak-free so far.


Maintenance and Warranty

Opening up the O-Chain to change the float is a bit tedious, so patience and steady hands are crucial. The color-coded elastomers are slightly curved, so it’s important to pay close attention to their orientation to avoid damaging the device. A chart depicting each auxiliary elastomer is provided and the switch doesn’t necessarily require removing the spider from the crank itself, but it does make it clumsy to handle the half with the pedal attached.

Throughout the course of the test, the O-Chain was subjected to both apocalyptic dust and buckets of rain but never produced any creaks or unwanted noise. The chainring bolts and housing hardware never wiggled loose either. Throughout the test, the system remained solid feeling underfoot and not once slipped or felt questionable.

The only component that I would question would be the thick, waxy paper seal between the housing halves. I do wonder how well that would hold up to an entire winter of grit and bike washing.

In terms of the warranty, O-Chain offers a two year guarantee for the original owner, with proof of purchase. When you do need to replace any parts from normal use, grease seal and bolts are available, plus, there’s a full rebuild kit for about 50€.




Even with the success of narrow-wide chainrings, I still advocate for top guides and skid plates on any mountain bike. There's no doubt that the O-Chain Active Spider calms down chain oscillations, but some adjustments may be needed for smaller chainrings.
A chainguide without overhanging walls, like this one, could be lowered to the optimal height for 30 and 32-tooth chainrings without contacting the spider.

Ride Impressions

O-Chain’s Active Spider theory to reduce chain forces sounds like the bee's knees on paper, but how does it operate in the real world? On my first ride, it was immediately apparent that there was magic happening under my feet, but that didn’t come without some acclimatization.

The first reaction you will have with the O-Chain is the newfound “give” that the pedal stroke has compared to a fixed spider. Surprisingly though, that lag is not as severe or abrupt as the feeling of a low-engagement hub. The soft-touch engagement that the elastomers produce is similar to a sprag clutch found on the Onyx brand of rear hubs.

On most mellow climbs a rider continues to spin the cranks in a nearly continuous motion, so the elastomer will stay compressed without any noticeable lag in the chain tension. It’s only when you stop or ease your input on the cranks do you feel that float again. The 6-degree setting never bothered me, even when I had to ratchet my way through some pinch points or hop up a step on the trail. For this reason, I never installed the 4-degree option and hoped to gain more on the descents from the larger of the two choices. Moving to the 9-degree elastomer chip is where my crank inputs took slightly more effort and attention.

I primarily spent time riding the 6-degree setting because that didn’t deter my climbing ability and the reward while descending was clear as day when the bike encountered the first set of bumps. Initially, I thought I lost pressure in the rear shock because the sensitivity of the suspension was incredible. After double-checking the shock pressure and heading out for another ride, it was apparent that the Active Spider had added a serious amount of performance to the bike.

Not only did it allow the rear suspension to move into the travel effortlessly, it also reduced movement in the chain as it oscillated down the trail. Now the Yeti SB160 was already an impressively quiet bike, but on large hits, you could still notice when the chain thumped against the rubber protector on the chainstay. That feature did its job well, but the O-Chain improved that element of damping even further.

Another bike I had the chance to briefly try the Active Spider on was Cotic’s RocketMax. Both bikes came equipped with SRAM AXS derailleurs that have been noted to produce more chainslap. That seemed like the perfect opportunity to test the capabilities of how the O-Chain system could reduce chain feedback. It shouldn't have been any surprise that the Active Spider made the ride plusher and quieter.

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In terms of pedal kickback, that can be a tricky topic to dissect. What I can confidently speak to is the fact that the Active Spider brought a sense of riding downhill without a chain. This was most noticeable on repeated square edge hits, like braking bumps.

This sensation may just offer flat pedal riders more security when it comes to keeping their feet in place on the pedals. Proving that is difficult. I didn’t exactly set out to try and blow my foot off of the pedals, but without the O-Chain there is more perceived feedback through the chain and ultimately your feet.

You might ask, why do I need to spend 299€ when a hub with low engagement is less prone to pedal kick back. While the jury is still out there on the physics behind pedal kickback and the instances of when it actually occurs, those hubs don’t remove the amount the chain gets pulled by the suspension. (?) and they definitely don’t reduce the amount the chain oscillates.

Even in the 6-degree setting, which is still higher than some low-end hubs’ engagement, the benefits are very clear on the descents with minimal drawbacks while climbing. If I had the choice between riding a bike with a fixed chainring and hub with 36 teeth (that would engage every 10 degrees), or the O-Chain Active Spider in the 9-degree setting and a hub like the Industry Nine Hydra that picks up the crank input every 0.5 degrees, I’d opt for the later for its ability to isolate the chain from the suspension and provide a quieter ride.




Pros

+ Improves the compliance of the rear suspension
+ Reduces pedal kickback considerably
+ Calms down chain oscillations which leads to a quieter ride
+ Soft pedal feel is more pleasant than a low engagement hub


Cons

- Lag in chain torque makes ratcheting through technical sections feel strange at first
- Upper chain guides positioned for 30 and 32-tooth rings can contact spider



Pinkbike's Take

bigquotesThe chain forces that the Active Spider isolates is quite impressive. I believe there is both a physical improvement to the suspension performance when the chainring can rotate to a degree, plus it adds a qualitative bonus by reducing the noises caused by chainslap. The small amount of lag in the pedal stroke is a tradeoff that is worth coming to terms with if the bike in question is susceptible to chain feedback. Matt Beer



282 Comments

  • 342 11
 Buys Hydra for the engagement. Buys O-chain and negates the benefits.
  • 23 1
 ...not to mention the tiny bit of extra energy it saps.
  • 20 3
 @pinkbike: pinkbike.com has has DNS errors and has been unreachable numerous times today and yesterday. Just FYI

www.isitdownrightnow.com/pinkbike.com.html
  • 110 0
 @suspended-flesh, it should be fixed now. Hopefully. Levy plugged the big extension cord back in.
  • 35 3
 I thought people buy hydra for the crappy enduro bearings
  • 19 6
 @Frank191: Naaah. It's the horrible drag when you're coasting.
  • 10 0
 @Frank191: But, but.. Enduro!
  • 16 1
 @mikekazimer: make sure to thank him for me.. I was so bored I did real work today
  • 4 0
 @mikekazimer: is that why BRAIN was down too?
  • 16 0
 @speed10, no, I think that was a different extension cord.
  • 8 0
 @mikekazimer: seems like that outside money ran out quick. But glad the powers back on!
  • 2 0
 Yeeeeee
  • 39 0
 O-chain certainly has their target market locked in with the "Pros" of their system:

Improves compliance of your over-engineered "efficient" frame with super high anti squat

Reduces pedal kickback from your high engagement hub

Quiets chain slap from your $800 derailleur (assuming you can hear anything besides your obnoxious hub...)
  • 2 0
 More for DH bikes like the Sender
  • 4 3
 I have a set of Vespers and using the Ochain, I will say it was a noticeable difference and love it. A ratchet hub with ochain lag increases lag engagement vs Vespers w/ ochain lag brings it to a traditional hub lag engagement. I'm curious to try the WRP centrehub tho... the downside to ochain, it requires frequent service.
  • 1 1
 @diggerandrider: thanks for the tip, I have Vespers and Hydras and both have kickback. Vespers on the Ripmo, Hydras on the Ranger.
  • 7 0
 @mikekazimer: just be honest - the O-Chain broke your server
  • 9 0
 @mikekazimer: did you plug the quantum harmonizer into the photonic resolution chamber? Or would that have caused a parabolic destabilization of the fission singularity?
  • 1 0
 @diggerandrider: what service? Mine recently blew the seals and creaked like crazy. Kind of hard to track down service kit but finally did
  • 6 0
 Someone explain to me why this has a listed max rider weight? The riders weight should be irrelevant given that no weight goes into the chain or the chainring as it is taken by the cranks, BB and frame... The chainring is only recieving pedaling force. Surely a lighter rider with strong legs could exceed by power output the equivalent weight limit during a steep climb or someone riding this on a DH track could exceed it by force and inertia?
  • 3 1
 Or directly buy bikes with low AS/ pedal kick-back and progressive ratio (i.e. well-designed kinematics) and stop the linear ratio/high PK mafia...
  • 1 0
 @StromloSlayer476: don't forget the phenolic resin
  • 1 1
 @bunjiman82: that means it's the weakest part of the system
  • 1 0
 @bunjiman82: Good point. There are only two things I can think of 1) nobody would buy it if it had a maximum wattage listed. Most non roadies don't know their maximum wattage and those willing to guess probably guess way high. 2) maybe it's not about overall power output but initial shock of the system while it's engaging. Even if overall power is lower a large person could send quite a bit of force through the drivetrain off the line simply by stepping down.
  • 3 0
 @bunjiman82: Without talking to their engineers, best guess is it's relevant for average torque values. Someone weighing more will produce more torque all things equal compared to someone weighing less. That being said, chains do not have max rider weights, so yeah, it is a little scary that this part is weaker than a sram sx chain.
  • 2 1
 @lyzyrdskydr: my $3K bike has none of those "problems". Well O-chain has convinced me, no need to upgrade anything because it will just make things worse.
  • 1 0
 @dpars63: that's a decent expectation thanks dude, but yes... Scary I Defo have a preference for non breakable parts when I put the pedal down!
  • 1 0
 Who's tried this on low engagement hubs like Hopes? Idgaf about the clutch, noise, or chain slap, I just want my bike to feel more chainless on descents.
  • 1 1
 @diggerandrider: traditional lag? Onyx already feel like they are driving through a spring.....
  • 170 0
 I’m going to put this on my hardtail
  • 20 0
 I'd put it on a "rowdy Enduro" hardtail but for a "hardcore trail" Enduro it seems like overkill.
  • 6 6
 That's what she said...
  • 2 0
 Will help with chainslap!!!
  • 3 0
 Instant plushness.
  • 6 0
 Since what we're all likely feeling is the chain whipping around and not the hub engaging due to chain growth, a HT actually be a good application for it.
  • 1 0
 @UtahBrent: I was also thinking that. At least testing it might help understand what is actually doing, or not doing
  • 2 0
 @UtahBrent: wondering if it may help with square hits under braking or landing on awkward edges..it's making my brain hurt trying to think how it may actually have any benefit on a HT. Gut feeling it ain't gonna do shit.
  • 1 0
 @UtahBrent: Pedal kickback is felt when the rear wheel goes through the travel pulling the chain backwards, in-turn rotating the cranks backwards. Chain growth is not a thing on a HT so it would make no difference!
  • 1 0
 @dwils995: I think you missed my point. " Since what we're all likely feeling is the chain whipping around and not the hub engaging due to chain growth".

It's been debated a lot on PB whether chain growth can actually occur fast enough to overspeed the rolling of the wheel and engage the hub pawls. I'm of the assumption that it cannot, and that what we actually feel in the pedals is the chain pulling on the sprocket (and pedals), simply because it is bouncing up and down..creating spikes in tension.

The bottom length of chain is damped by the cage tensioner...the top, all the force goes into the sprocket.

Under this assumption, this device would help on a hard tail as well. Although one could argue that rear wheel accelerations are less on a hardtail because it is resisted by the riders weight more.
  • 1 0
 @UtahBrent: following this discussion, I watched the Huck to flat videos from the value field test, and the upper chain span certainly flaps downwards (why do they film from non drive side?). If the chain to make this bow shape can't come from pulling the wheel forward, it'll have to come from pulling the crank backwards. So the ochain might actually do something on a hard tail. Not saying it would, and I'm not spending £300 of my own money to find out, but perhaps someone can!
  • 61 0
 Not sure why the blue ball markings make me smile. but they do. so there's that....
  • 35 0
 The "Blue Ball" marking separated and in a different direction from the "End Stroke" marking had me wondering if this wasn't a ploy to mess with the mentally immature... as I also giggled a little.
  • 12 0
 gigitty
  • 53 1
 I like burritos
  • 10 0
 fuzzy slippers
  • 11 0
 Loud horns are loud.
  • 6 0
 borrito
  • 9 0
 I love lamp
  • 6 1
 @yourrealdad: are you a moth
  • 8 0
 piña coladas and gettin' caught in the rain
  • 1 0
 Meaty
  • 2 0
 @dave119: if you’re not into yoga and have half-a-brain.
  • 4 0
 All kids like Log.
  • 2 0
 @Chuckolicious: hah, kids love log takes me back!
  • 1 0
 @littleskull99: But… It’s Newww! Big Grin
  • 1 0
 @littleskull99: HAPPY-HAPPY-JOY-JOY!!
STIMPY...YOU 1D10T!!
  • 38 1
 I love that people are trying out things like this. But I'll stick with my quiet 36 POE rear hubs and continue work on carrying more speed through chunky bits.
  • 16 1
 This is the way.
  • 2 11
flag thenotoriousmic (Nov 29, 2022 at 11:04) (Below Threshold)
 Agreed, I’ve even taken a pawl out of mine so I’ve got more wiggle room when moving about in awkward tech sections but would still be interested in trying an O chain.
  • 12 0
 @thenotoriousmic: Doesn't a hub engage with multiple pawls simultaneously?
  • 3 0
 @IntoTheEverflow: yea I was wondering about this too. Even with offset pawls removing only one would create a gap in the degrees of engagement wouldn’t it?
  • 15 0
 @lyzyrdskydr:
But the difference is that a 10° engagement hub doesn't always engage at 10°, that's just the maximum amount of movement but it could also be anything from 0-10° depending on where the pawls happen to be located in the drive ring at any given time.
  • 4 0
 Ochain s effects are most noticeable when the rearwheel is locked, with your hub the give in such a situation is randomized between 0 abd 10 degrees. Yes i run a frame with an absurd amount of antisquat.
  • 3 3
 @DC1988: It's amazing to me that people don't understand this.
  • 1 0
 @DC1988: Absolutely. A huge miss not to point this out in the article.
  • 1 5
flag thenotoriousmic (Nov 30, 2022 at 8:34) (Below Threshold)
 @IntoTheEverflow: some do some don’t but yeah there’s usually more than one pawl engaged at all times but you can pull one out and the only difference is less engagement obviously and the remaining pawls are going to wear faster. Never slipped and I’ve got it packed with grease as well to keep it almost silent.
  • 31 0
 This isn't doing what it is claimed it does.

This doesn't negates any kickback.
This doesn't reduce forces from clutch.
It does something else.

- Kickback
If the wheel is spinning fast enough and the cranks are still, there can't be any kickback. Because there will be no torque at the freewheel, so no chain tension, so no kickback. But what is fast enough?
Let's takes some well chosen numbers, so the maths are easy but that are in the ballpark of what would be expected.
A bike with 150mm of rear wheel travel, 1:1 ratio at the drivetrain (so 28t front, 28t rear for exemple), 30° of total kickback from 0 to full travel, (that's a high value but exists on many bikes on big cogs, measured with still wheel), and 750mm of wheel diameter (29er with serious tires).
This bike would use 5mm of travel for 1° of crank rotation from kickback, or 200°/m. Meaning a serious 1.8m/s suspension speed at wheel would give a 360°/s, so 1 rotation per second, and an even more serious 3.6m/s suspension speed would give us 2 rotations per second.
The wheel has a perimeter of 2.355 m so to go fast enough to disengage freewheel it would require a 2.355m/s (8km/h, a bit faster than fast walking speed) for 1.8m/s hits, and 4.710m/s (17km/h) for a 3.6m/s hits. Both of these scenarios are using wheel travel speeds that are unlikely to occur at those bike paces. That means kickback while coasting is a really unlikely thing. So there is no way to reduce a thing that doesn't happen. And that is a "disengaging freewheel" maths, not "engaging a freewheel with some ° of play".

Forces from clutches are in th sub 100N range. That means the chain inertia alone in enough to overcome it. Chain slaps happens so it proves that point. This is a negligible thing... And chain tension uses a ratio to action the suspension that is the same idea as you'd find in a single pivot bike between shock and suspension. But the chain is much closer to the IC than the shock on a single pivot. So any force in the chain that isn't close to a force existing in a shock would be negligible anyway, even at much higher numbers than 100N. So there is no way the clutch forces can matter outside placebo plane of existence.

But, I do think the Ochain is doing something. It removes rider input from small angles. If you look at the stairs videos, look closely to the crank movements: there is some up/down movements that are coming from rider input. This has several causes, like geometry and left/right leaning of the bike, rider correcting his fore/aft position, or reflexes, mistakes, or parasitic movements... These movements can put tension on the chain as they happen at speeds in the same range as pedaling speeds or higher. There, the few ° of lag from the Ochain can totally prevent these movement from creating any force in the drivetrain. Thus creating a real feeling of "lack of chain", that would be easy to confuse with kickback effects. Note that even if the speeds are in the ballparks, I lack more precise values or real datas to prove or disprove this point.
  • 8 1
 Interesting!
I didn't check the math, but your last point may be what brings a final and conclusive explanation to the "does pedal kickback actually happen in real life" debate.

It is baffling how unscientific are even some of PB's article's (for example the variables taken into account when doing "efficiency tests" on "multiple laps"). Our cognitive biases can be so strong, that taking a step back to see the situation as a whole is necessary, and that's what you're doing.
  • 4 0
 thank you for putting the numbers down. this is awesome feedback.

How about that:

www.pinkbike.com/news/review-hxr-easy-shift-crankset.html
  • 4 0
 @monsteratl: This is a front freewheel like a trial bike.
regarding kickback it don't help at all, that's the same thing as a freewheel in the hub, but without the drivetrain ratio. You can remove the freewheel in the hub with the HXR.
The Ochain have some degrees of play, backed by some "spring", it adds to an existing freewheel in the hub that have to stay there.
Those two systems aren't doing the same thing so I don't really know what I can say?
  • 1 0
 Well said
  • 3 0
 And what about when your on the brakes, through braking bumps?
How about with the wheel intermittently locking on hard braking?

It does exist
  • 4 0
 @englertracing: Braking or not, if your wheel is spinning fast enough it doesn't matter.
If your wheel is locked, The kickback isn't the same as what a software like linkage will show. It will be much lower, even in the negative values (wheel will turn around IC instead of being lifted vertically if that makes sense). That means the slack in the chain will be enough to hide kickback. And "intermittent" locking probably means too little movement to create much effect anyway.
If you brake enough to skid but the wheel isn't yet part of the swingarm, it will be a linear combination of these two effects, so still no kickback.
You could feel kickback on braking if you are pre-tensioning the chain, as a mistake, parasitic motion, or for whatever reasons. In this case, and this is the last point I made in my first comment, Ochain can delay the moment where kickback happen or erase it if the pre tension is minimal, but in this case the "real" kickback (from the bike) has minimal effect VS the rider's input. And that's precisely one of those cases where I do think the Ochain is creating a "chainless" feeling
  • 3 0
 @englertracing: To build on what @faul is saying:

The wheel intermittently locks when there is little or no pressure on the contact patch. The same forces (or lack thereof) that permit locking are likely to allow the suspension to extend, i.e. yes, the wheel may not be "spooling out" chain, but the suspension is not increasing chain tension at that time.

When the wheel connects with the ground, there will be a period when the total suspension system (including the tire) begins to compress and the wheel's rotation is not yet fully up to speed. The exact details of this transition are unknown to me, but it seems likely the wheel will be back up to speed before the chassis suspension has compressed enough to create significant kickback, even if the hub engages promptly.

Maybe the inertial forces of the chain could create a tug on the pedals during this event, but I suspect this force is small, relative to other forces on the pedals. Maybe the inertial forces of the chain are the main culprit behind the perception of kickback. Again, I doubt it, and we could test this by creating an extreme version of the STFU Bike device with tubes that tightly constrain the upper and lower runs of chain, or rigid bars of the same mass as the chain in place of an actual chain.
  • 1 0
 @faul What it would do, and what I would want it for, would be to absorb kickback in slow, technical sections where I can feel kickback that saps my ability to maintain momentum. FWIW, I'm on 130 mm bike with 16 deg kickback and Onyx hub.
  • 1 0
 Interesting theory here on kickback vs small inputs from riders...
but I do have three questions:
-where is this 1.8 m/s suspension speed coming from? Has anybody with a telemetry setup found/published realistic values for vertical wheel speeds during bumps or is this a guess?
-the statement "unlikely to occur at those bike paces" seems misleading as you tend to coast in a gear that allows good pedaling cadence for when you need to sprint- albeit the kickback is theoretically lower in high gears, but also you would expect the speed the suspension moves is higher too, so analyzing a few design cases is maybe the best way to think of it.
-can we rule out a third, even simpler hypothesis that the chain slapping around that mad produces noticeable feedback? Of course it could also be any combination of these three distinct phenomena with varying importance.

I do agree that placing the blame on the clutches makes little sense, too.
  • 3 0
 @IsaacWislon82:
1) 1.8 m/s is a speed I chose to round the maths. That's gives 1 rotation/s at the crank.
If you look at an histogram from a data acquisition of an average rider on a rough (and average or fast) track, You'd have a curve that starts high, with most of the time between 0 and 1m/s, then will start dropping between 1 - 1.5m/s to 2-2.5 m/s, and then you'll have the tail with rarer events at more than 3.5-4m/s. It can vary with suspension setting and rider's skills, but the 1.8 m/s is something already serious, that you'd expect from riding at more than 4 or 5 m/s (bike speed), and with a cogs that gives much less than 30° of kickback. I also did the maths with the 3.6 m/s, that is in, or at the start of the tail of an average histogram, and that also require a bike speed that's quite low.
2) I did the maths for a case that was the most likely to give kickback, but still plausible, and that gave a minimum bike speed that prevent kickback from happening. Yes, in a real bike, you'd coast probably faster with a gear that gives less kickback... meaning in real life kickback would be even more unlikely while coasting.
3) A 100g upper part of the chain with a 10gs acceleration would weight 10N, half of which would have to be loaded on the chain ring, and a third would be lost by trigonometry, meaning that you'd have about 3N hitting your cranks when putting 10Gs accelerations on your bike. That not considering real chain slap but a more homogeneous distribution of chain links position around a hyperbolic cosine, so it's a High value. 10Gs at the chain, long enough to be more than acoustic vibrations, is a big hit. A 36t chain ring (smaller will decrease the results), have a 73mm radius, so with 160mm cranks (bigger will decrease the results), it will put an extra force in the pedals of about 1.3N.
1.3N at the pedals, without calculating the vibration mode of the chain, elasticity or inertia of the cranks, and ignoring counter effects from lower link, that's pretty much no effects at all.
  • 1 0
 @faul: Once again to add to what faul is saying:

On most current bikes, the chain runs close chainstay, limiting downward movement of the chain's upper run. The lower run of chain is still free to bounce, of course, which can be minimized by a Bionicon C.Guide or similar, though the movements of lower run of chain tend to counteract typical kickback forces.
  • 31 2
 " Lag in chain torque makes ratcheting through technical requires some acclimatization" - Was this written by AI? I had a stroke reading this.
  • 19 5
 hate to see you in traffic if that gets ya goin.
  • 15 0
 People: AI will take over the world

AI: “Lag in chain torque makes ratcheting through technical requires some acclimatization”
  • 3 0
 Midjourney purchases Outside.
  • 29 5
 So in the first Yeti shop video, he doesn't hold the crank arm and yanks aggressively on the rear wheel to guide it through the travel. And on cue somebody dropped a whole tray of bearings on the floor. In the 2nd shop video, he moves it carefully while holding the crank and the guy who was meant to drop the bearings clearly missed his cue.
  • 8 1
 Yeah, I watched those two videos twice and I have no idea what they're supposed to be showing me given the crank is kept stationary in one and not the other.
  • 5 0
 @trellis-opportunity-red: He's showing in the first video how the chain grows when he cycles the suspension, but he can still hold the pedal steady. The second video shows the pedal moving up when the chain grows. Even if he was holding the pedal in the second video it would have moved up, but not holding it showed that it wasn't him that was moving it. The pedal probably would have moved in the first one had he not held it but just a little pressure with his hand (mimicking the weight of your foot) he could keep it still.
  • 2 0
 @gtill9000: sorry you had to explain that
  • 20 0
 Do a blind test where you put someone on the same bike with a low engagement hub, and then on the bike with a high engagement hub and an o-chain and see if they can tell the difference.
  • 17 0
 Bonus points for the one who can still afford a beer at the end of the ride
  • 1 0
 I would love to partake in that experiment. First time I’ve had noticeable pedal kickback was on a bike that came with a high engagement hub, and the O-chain solved it.
  • 22 1
 @pinkbike please fix your DNS setup.

(its not just the autoplay keeping engagement low)
  • 8 0
 Is this why Pinkbike is not working on my mobile currently?
  • 1 1
 Yep. Need 3 double U before the pink bike
  • 3 0
 @Telebikes: it wasn’t working all day yesterday and most of today for me on Shaw wifi and data, even with a vpn, but it worked just fine yesterday on bell data, but not today. But now it works.
  • 2 0
 @the-one1: nah man that didn't work either. I was down on mobile and PC for almost a day.
  • 20 5
 So, it takes about 4 pounds to rotate an XT 12s mech cage most of the way around (maybe 150 degrees, pulling from the bottom pulley axle) without the clutch on, and about 10 pounds with the clutch on. It takes hundreds of pounds force on the rear wheel to move my suspension far enough for chain growth to move the cage just 20ish degrees. The force that a clutch could add against suspension movement is neglible at best. Besides, unless you're setting sag with the clutch off and riding with it on, the force is already part of the system, so it's really nothing. If you think it matters, take a couple psi out of your shock and there, now you've offset the clutch force (probably by too much).

In another test, with 0 PSIg in the shock (equalized chambers, too) it took an average of 15 pounds to move the rear wheel through about half the travel (150mm total) with the clutch on, and an average of 14 pounds with the clutch off to move it the same distance. For reference, with 280ish PSI in the shock, it takes over 220 pounds to move through about 30% of the travel. So, again, the clutch any doing shit to the suspension. Got to be closer to 4-500 pounds to get half travel, so that's like a quarter of a percent at best that the clutch would add to the spring rate. And again, it's always part of the spring system, lower your spring rate and you can offset it if you feel you have to.
  • 6 0
 Thanks for the stats, super interesting. So that essentially takes the derailleur clutch part out of the equation.
  • 9 0
 As i understand it, the clutch is a damping force rather than a spring force so even if you had a clutch 10x stronger it wouldn't affect sag (unless it was so strong that you couldn't move the suspension at all). The derailleur does of course have a spring in it which does, on some minute level, affect sag on most FS bikes. I'm just nitpicking though, in general i agree that the derailleur shouldn't make a difference worth caring about in anything remotely resembling a normal setup.
  • 5 3
 Well said. This is an expensive gimmick looking guy a problem to solve
  • 6 0
 @justinfoil, the clutch is a friction force, not a spring, I don't think you are comparing it in the correct way. The effect of the clutch should be compared to stiction in the seals of the shock, not to the spring rate of the air chamber. I guess the best comparison between clutch on and off would be on a coil shock with the damper piston removed or disabled? I don't know the actual values of stiction forces in damper seals, but people go on and on about how coils are so much smoother on initial travel so at least to some it is significant.
  • 6 0
 @justinfoil completely missed the point. As mentioned above, the clutch is not a spring. It resists movement, not force. Once "moved" (rotated), it doesn't take more force than with clutch off, to keep the derailleur in a rotated position.

It is more comparable to sticky stanchions, which is something we all hate.
It's just that the leverage ratio of our rear suspension makes all this "sticky feel" of shock seals and derailleur clutch, quite small to be noticed.
  • 3 0
 @Uuno: And how does it "resist movement"? Does it not take a "force" for resist movement? Dampers are measured in force, just like springs. The difference is that springs change force depending on distance moved, and one-way clutches change force depending on direction moved, and dampers (generally*) change force depending on movement speed.

All I can tell you is that the scale displayed different values when moving the cage or wheel with the clutch on versus clutch off, and this was quite repeatable.

*(yes there are position sensitive dampers, but they usually depend on bypasses or conditional circuits, and if the movement speed is beyond what the bypass can handle, or when the conditional circuits are engaged, then they again become speed sensitive. And obviously leaving out things like closed-loop electronically-controlled dampers such as MagneRide or such)
  • 2 0
 @justinfoil: In your experiment, what was the breakaway force (lowest force that produces an actual compression of the damper?) Was it different with the clutch on? How did you record the values you quoted, do you only have static, steady-state values at the end point or were you using some kind of logging system to record a time trace?
The point Uuno was trying to make (I assume) is that the friction clutch only exerts force against the direction of movement during this movement. Take a handlebar in one hand and grip it strongly. It now takes force to rotate the bar, but once you stop the rotation there is no force needed to prevent it rotating back. The bar is comparable to the derailleur pivot axle, the gripping hand is the clutch.
  • 1 0
 @ak-77: The clutch doesn't exert force only when moving, it exerts force only in one direction. That can be seen in my first test. It might be easier to conceptualize if you swap the scale for a weight: if the cage was oriented so that a weight could hang down from it, it would hold ~10 pounds statically with the clutch on, and only ~4 pounds statically with the clutch off.

RE: breakaway force, I don't have a trace, this was in my garage with a bike/luggage scale, repeated a few times and averaged. But if you think the breakaway force of the clutch is a big deal, just watch some slo-mo of a mech cage in actual riding conditions. Even with a clutch, the cage is constantly moving as the chain gets bounced around, thus the breakaway force is constantly being overcome by just the mass of the chain. It's really not going to have much effect on the suspension, since that has multiples of the rider's mass working to overcome the breakaway force of the entire system.
  • 1 1
 @justinfoil: I would say the clutch exerts force only when moving AND only in one direction.
And I am not sure what is a big deal and what is not. Coil riders say breakaway force of air spring seals is a big deal. So I am trying to find out how that compares to clutch forces before I form an opinion. I thought you might have some data on that.
  • 1 0
 @ak-77: Breakaway force of coil vs. air is trivial. Vastly overrated. To put it in perspective, think about a telescoping fork:

• Far greater surface area of seals.
• Far greater surface area of bushings.
• 1:1 ratio, not 2.6:1 (average, obviously varies by bike).
• Can be subjected to bending moments in the ballpark of 1000 ft⋅lbf.
• Transmits force primarily to delicate hands, vs. robust feet.

If we can accept the friction of a telescoping fork, the difference in friction between modern air and coil shocks shouldn't even be a consideration.

That said, maybe we shouldn't be so willing to accept it. I'll spare you my soapbox ranting about the potential superiority of linkage forks ... for now.
  • 1 0
 @ak-77: A one-way ratcheting clutch definitely provides a force even when not moving. That's kind of the point: to _prevent movement_ in one direction while allowing free movement in the other. It cannot prevent movement without a force, that's just basic mechanics.
  • 1 0
 @justinfoil: I should have been more precise in my wording, my bad. It's a friction force, so it is a reaction force that doesn't exist unless something is pushing against it, which is quite different from a spring force. Indeed when you are pushing against the clutch and it is not yet moving, the friction force can be higher (static friction) than when it is moving.
But once it is steady in one position there is no force needed to keep it there.
In your experiment with the scale, that last part is important. Unless you record a time trace, it is very hard to tell what the clutch force is, because any value of the clutch force between 0 and the static friction will give the same sag.
I will just go ride my bike and let the pros with full telemetry setups figure out whether this system has any merits.
  • 7 0
 I use one, works great. Makes the DH bike more quiet. The biggest thing I noticed other than suspension performance is a reduction in feedback. I've had some ankle issues from poor mobility and after long or harsh dh runs would have a lot of pain and tightness. That's all gone now. Would consider using on my trail bike now as well.
  • 9 2
 "On most mellow climbs a rider continues to spin the cranks in a nearly continuous motion, so the elastomer will stay compressed"

In that case, pedal bob should never be an issue, on any bike, either. At least on mellow climbs. Except that's where most people notice and hate it...
  • 4 0
 Could be continuous motion but not circular motion causing pedal bob?
I think what they are saying is if you stay on the pedals this thing stays engaged just like a hub would.
Pedal bob is generally caused by the legs/body going up and down acting on the suspension. It's not necessarily an efficient motion but it is typically continuous.
  • 3 0
 @grldm3: "Pedal bob is generally caused by the legs/body going up and down acting on the suspension."

That's one component of it, and one of the reasons why 100% anti-squat doesn't eliminate bobbing, but the main causes is moments about the instant centre due to chain tension and linear acceleration.
  • 8 0
 I haven't tried it, but I only know that mathematics and physics are not opinions or sensations, it makes me laugh to see the pedal kickback test video with the wheel stopped.
  • 7 0
 That's exactly the issue: It works only when the wheel isn't turning, such as when coasting with the rear wheel locked. When the wheel is rotating, the cassette is "spooling out" chain faster than chainstay growth can "reel it in".

I've done extensive calculations on this (it's part of my job) and the ratio of impact to forward movement required to create kickback (with the wheel free to rotate) is greater than anything actually observed, other than maybe a trials-style wheelie drop.
  • 3 0
 @R-M-R: Precursor to this question: I know very little about any of this but, isn't the system benefits and general kickback viewed under heavy braking in rough terrain? Not so much free spooling impacts. Or is the ratio so large it'll only be felt as you lock up the wheel?
  • 8 0
 @BeesNest: Braking doesn't matter if the wheel is turning (while coasting). It's all about whether the wheel is spooling out chain. If the wheel is turning, it's essentially impossible for any kickback to occur, let alone problematic kickback.

If the wheel is locked, kickback is possible. Whether it's problematic is a separate question - and if it is problematic, it's another question whether the solutions are worth their drawbacks.

If the drivetrain is engaged via pedaling, kickback is inevitable. This presents a complex question of the ideal balance between kickback and anti-squat. Indirect drivetrains (ex. idler sprocket) can offer high anti-squat with low kickback (and different - possibly better - compliance), but they introduce other issues, such as weight, drag, and inconsistent geometry.
  • 17 11
 Watch any huck to flat slomo video, the chain goes super loose and flap about on impact to the ground. On most suspension designs, the upper portion of the chain goes into compression, i.e slack, as suspension goes up. How does this sit with the science of how this device is meant to work, it doesn't!

But everyone who has an OChain loves it, so something is going on.

"Calms down chain oscillations which leads to a quieter ride" is the truth and a very valid one, but I just find it weird that something is marketed when the science is so clearly wrong.

Discuss....
  • 6 11
flag thewanderingtramp (Nov 29, 2022 at 9:17) (Below Threshold)
 Why not buy one and try it rather than speculating from the sidelines.
  • 7 1
 After reading this I would imagine that it could just be a matter a feel. This review starts out by talking about tension and how clutch derailleurs have friction etc. But the comparison videos with the yeti still show that the derailleur is moving (maybe slightly less?) with the Ochain. But that tension is still there acting on the suspension just the same.

It could be that the ochain is more just acting as a type of shock absorber for your feet so you don't feel some of these forces more so that its actually eliminating them.
  • 14 0
 The reason why chain flopps is because cassette when freehub is not engaged can spin in any direction, combine it with sprung bottom portion and you get flippy floppy upper portion.
But here is the catch if the freehub is not engaged ( rear wheel spinning) then o- chain cant work because the hub picks all the rotation from kickback.
The reason why it works is because:
A) it dampens chainslap which is what most people interpret as kinematics caused pedal jick back
B) it allows suspension to move when freehub is locked (wheel not spinning)
The verdict on if this is worth 300euro is up to you
  • 16 4
 You can also see the top of the chain go into compression and become super slack in the two "riding down stairs" videos Matt posted, much like the phenomenon you described in huck to flat slo mo video. And sure enough, the top of the chain is more slack in the video with Matt's standard drivetrain than the video with Ochain.

The rear center length grows as the suspension compresses, called "chain growth." The rear axle is moving away from crank as you bottom out. The derailleur has to extend to accommodate the chain growth, and the cassette and chainring need to rotate to allow the chain to "grow." Unfortunately, because your feet are holding a traditional crank and chainring in place, the chain can't grow evenly on the top and bottom. The cassette rotates and allows the bottom to "grow" faster than the top, and the derailleur spring and clutch are acting as a spring and damper resisting the movement.

Here's how and why I think Ochain works- Ochain allows the chain to grow in all places simultaneously. The cassette can spin, the chainring can spin, and here's the fun part: because the top of the chain can slip and move, the bottom of the chain doesn't have to "grow" as much. If there's less loose chain in slack at the top of the drivetrain, that means the bottom of the chain doesn't have to grow as much, meaning there's less movement in the derailleur, and less spring force and damping from the derailleur resisting your suspension movement. Thus- smoother.

And none of that has anything to do with hub engagement, because hub engagement doesn't occur above rolling speed.
  • 3 0
 @thewanderingtramp: that’s the problem with MTBing, very hard to “try” stuff without just having to bite the bullet and pay. We have to read reviews and theorize on cost vs benefits. New tires, brakes, drivetrain, wheel sets, bars, etc. most things you buy and try are considered used right away and can’t be returned.
  • 6 1
 Is it any more complicated than this decouples the motion of the chain (whether due to it slapping around, or due to suspension movement) from the motion of the pedals?
  • 5 0
 @The-Spirit-of-Jazz: That's a really good simplified explanation
  • 4 0
 @TEAM-ROBOT: I thought brake jack doesn't exist Wink jk
  • 2 0
 I raced a chainless DH race a few years ago and was surprised in how big a difference it made. Whether it was “pedal kickback” or not, idk, but no chain made the bike feel much more plush and responsive. Take your chain off and do a few DH runs, it’s free to try.

I haven’t tried this device mostly because of the price, but if it can replicate the no chain feeling it’d be worth it to me
  • 1 0
 No? Just think about IC placements (typically always above the centre of the BB). Now think about how rotating around a point above the BB affects the distance from the wheel to the BB.
  • 1 0
 @SCCC120: The guy owns a bike company and gets things trade im pretty sure a quick call saying hey id like to try this would have him sent one, i mean its not like according to him any component that makes it onto one of his bikes needs to be worthy LOL, for the average joe however yes I agree with your sentiment
  • 1 0
 @dthomp325: from my experience, it’s pretty close.
  • 5 0
 @thewanderingtramp: As someone who also runs a bike company, I made that call, got the oChain and we've been testing it for around 6 months now. Thats our normal testing window give or take.

At first our team was sceptical, and maybe its not doing anything, but after a while they need to service them (One downside) and they take it off.... Only then to realise it was doing its thing all the while and the bike feels totally different without it and not in a good way.

It's not the be all and end all - I don't run one as I have different priorities for my bike than our Enduro riders and it has its downsides, but yes it works and yes I would recommend one to anyone thinking about it if speed is what you're after, it makes a difference.

They go on sale on our bikes in Jan ( in theory when we get stock in ).
  • 1 0
 @benpinnick: damn you and your objective first-hand experience! Dont you know this is a comments section? Keep up the good work!
  • 5 0
 @The-Spirit-of-Jazz: actually his observations are completely subjective, not objective, since they are based on (his teams) personal observations about how the bike ‘felt different’.

Objective experience would be based on some kind of data or facts. Like in this case if you want to say this makes a bike faster, you’d have to present some data like time trials of runs with and without the ochain showing the ochain consistently outperforming the times without it.
  • 3 0
 @sino428: this is more like it Wink
  • 9 0
 This will make a nice addition to my Boone Ti twist crank and Ignite bottom bracket.
  • 9 0
 Swapping the O-chain right video to the left really gets my OCD going Smile
  • 3 0
 That was confusing. Not my OCD, just logic.
  • 5 0
 It's interesting the physics behind this. The only real benefit I can think of is a guaranteed dead space when for pedal kick, whereas a low engagement hub might engage either almost instantly or a bit later, on average 50% of the amount of engagement it has. I'm also thinking that maybe the Ochain negates the chain slapping by allowing the chainring to rotate around the cranks a bit and therefore help reduce the chain slapping frequency when compared to a chainring. A full physics report from Seb would be sick.
  • 5 0
 I'd love to see some numbers on how much force a clutch mech actually adds to the suspension.

I fully believe the Active Spider helps fight pedal kickback, since I've ridden with a loose direct-mount chainring and could both hear and feel it moving with the suspension movement.

But I also believe it could be equaled by minimizing chain growth in the suspension design at the cost of anti-squat. You claim that smooth pedalling will just squish the elastomers and keep them squished, with no "ring bob", per se. So the same should be true for the suspension: it will squat a bit and stay squatted, no bob.

I'd rather the more consistent traction under power of a lower anti-squat* than lower effective chain growth from what is effectively a stretchy chain.

*(Rear wheel downward force (normal force) less dependent on anti-squat trying to extend the suspension, meaning any pedal force changes have big impacts on rear wheel traction (static friction)
  • 4 1
 "those hubs don’t remove the amount the chain gets pulled by the suspension."

Yes, they do. A 20 degree, 18 POE, hub is, on average going to allow the cassette to go 10 degrees backwards before pulling on the chain. A 3.6 degree, 100 POE, hub, is going to allow an average of 1.8 degrees of movement before grabbing. That _will_ allow more suspension movement before pulling on the chain, over 5x more on average. Yes, above some wheel speed to suspension speed ratio, it won't matter. But considering how many people talk about how chainless is amazing for suspension feel, the system is under that ratio enough that it matters.
  • 4 0
 You're absolutely right. I'll just add some detail about the wheel speed to suspension ratio required for kickback to not exist.

It's all speeds beyond a trials-style wheelie drop. For noteworthy kickback to occur, we're looking at a compression event near the maximum for which shocks are designed, at a brisk uphill pace - and that assumes the hub engages promptly.

Different story if the rear wheel is locked, though. In that case, the cassette is not "spooling out" chain, so kickback is more likely.
  • 3 0
 I do think that the absence of a chain matters but I think some of it could be perception when actually riding without a chain. Removing the chain at a minimum will make the bike more quiet, and also eliminate a lot of vibration of that chain slapping around. I think that alone can make the bike ‘feel’ smoother. I always feel like my bike is riding better when it’s quiet, even if the shit making noise was just something like a creaky bottom racket or some cable slapping.
  • 4 0
 @sino428: Completely agree, plus the psychological component of knowing you need to ride more smoothly to carry speed, since you no longer have the option to pedal your way out of a mistake.
  • 3 0
 Low engagement hubs still kick back. Say your almost around the the next engagement ( 2 degree away ) then the kickback will hit hard. It’s a mixed lotto with low engagement hubs, but it’s a sure thing with high engagement hubs.
  • 4 0
 Is the advantage/effect of the O-chain only felt on longer travel bike? Would it improve the suspension performance on an XC or shorter travel trail bike?
  • 3 0
 All else being equal, less travel means less maximum kickback, so the maximum possible benefit is reduced (assuming the effect is due to suspension, not chain bounce).

Also, short-travel bikes are usually for applications where weight and pedaling performance are more important, so the drawbacks are more significant.
  • 2 0
 Does anyone know the name of the company that already makes a competitor to this? If I remember it works a lot better- it freewheels in both directions with very little drag, but just like an engine starter as soon as you turn the cranks it engages the chainring, so there is less lag and sponginess when beginning your pedal stroke.
  • 3 0
 I think you mean Williams Racing Products? Super interesting system, but it requires you to use a fixed rear hub.
www.williamsracingproducts.com/shop/p/centrehub-pre-order
  • 4 0
 seems to be williams racing products
  • 6 0
 Dang, I guess we will never know Wink
  • 1 0
 UPDATE: so looking at The WRP, its the same thing as the Intend freewheeling chainring, which is NOT what I was thinking. Those freewheel in one direction. There is a chainring out there that can freewheel in BOTH directions when not pedaling, but when you begin pedaling forward, just like an engine starter, a clutch engages and now you have engagement.
  • 3 0
 @hamncheez: I believe WRP makes one that goes in both directions. I've seen videos of it on Trinity MTB's Instagram.

www.instagram.com/p/ChRRY7Qham6/?hl=en
  • 1 0
 @hamncheez: WRP was like the intend cranks for a bit but has been working with the dual clutch now, afaik
  • 1 0
 @matmattmatthew: Yup that was it!
  • 2 0
 @matmattmatthew: I would love to see a review of the Centrehub next
  • 3 0
 @wburnes: At this point maybe just wait till he has the version 2.0 with the two-directional centrehub released though.
  • 1 0
 @alanbonk: What is the purpose of two directional centrehub movement? I don't get it
  • 2 0
 @wburnes: I'm a little fuzzy on understanding it myself and as I understand it he's still working through some patent protection (from the podcasts I've listened to), but basically I think it would work like a bmx freecoaster but in the chainring rather than doing it in the hub. So you would have a fixed rear hub and a chain that would always spin. Just the cranks would disengage from the chain in pedal kickback events/dh usage. Link to bmx freecoaster as a reference: dougsterbob.com/2020/02/19/bmx-specs-freecoaster-hub-explained
  • 2 0
 The HXR easyshift cransket is similar option, hit me up if you interested:

www.pinkbike.com/news/review-hxr-easy-shift-crankset.html
  • 2 0
 As the mark of a good hub tends to be the degrees of engagement where less is better and this is essentially an expensive way to add a softer engagement... curious he impact it may have on hub design if people are asking for this and enjoying what it offers.
  • 31 1
 No the mark of a GOOD hub is how long it survives being hammered the rest is just noise and drag and stupid bollocks on instagram spinning their noisy shit wheels.
  • 3 0
 @thewanderingtramp: I agree- I tend to run DT350's for that very reason. As the selling jargon goes though the POE wars were a thing regardless of whether I believe it or not... I'm just curious as these appear to be two conflicting principles...
  • 1 0
 @thewanderingtramp: yep pro 4’s and 240’s are the best hubs. Just work and don’t do anything weird or give you tinnitus. Can be serviced with a penknife.
  • 1 2
 The mark of a good hub is how quiet, fast engaging, reliable, and lightweight it is. Noisey hubs are shitty hubs; any noise or heat or vibration being generated is evidence of an inefficiency.

The ideal drivetrain would be a gearbox with an ultralight rear hub, and something like the WRP Centrehub on the chainring.
  • 1 0
 @thenotoriousmic: Pro 4 only with a steel freehub. Otherwise I'll be using the penknife trying and failing to get the cassette off
  • 2 1
 @wburnes: would be interesting to get a measure of the wasted watts (and wear) in a chain constantly spinning during coasting? Certainly would be in the same ballpark as a freehub, or more.
  • 2 0
 Big plus is the ability to pedal through junky stuff when riding flats. Haven’t thought about the reason for this effect, but besides the reduced pedal kick (which hugely depends on kinematics) I was blown away on how I’m finally able to pedal in flat/uphill ruff sections.
  • 3 1
 And people complain about internal cable routing make working on a bike too difficult. Here we have a product that you have to completely disassemble just to set it up before you can even install it. There to make any adjustments you have to take your done train apart to the take the component apart to change the internals before reassembly. Bike ships will be charging hours just to fit a chain ring that is normally 3 torx bolts
  • 2 0
 This looks like a solution looking for a problem, HOWEVER if folks like this there may be a market for some type of soft engagement provision for high-engagement hubs, something like a clutch or magnetic-assisted pawl drive that brings the power on smoothly instead of an "on/off" switch type engagement
  • 3 0
 Hey @mattbeer - can you arrange a follow-up feature with multiple timed runs using three set-ups on a gnarly trail.
"Chain vs. O-Chain vs. No chain"
Preferably with a few riders to add more data points.
Cheers.
  • 1 1
 @chakaping With the amount of snow on the ground in Squamish right now, there likely won't be any biking for while.
  • 1 0
 I agree with the premise of the proposed test, but I suggest either replacing the "no chain" scenario with a fully constrained chain (ex. extreme version of the STFU Bike, with full-length tubes to eliminate effects from chain movement) or doing both the no chain and constrained chain tests.
  • 1 0
 I own one and it's on my Propain Hugene (140mm, it's a bike with a lot of PK and i ride flat pedals) and i'm very happy with it. I can't explain what's happening but it's more confortable, it's really surprising (9° installed).
One neg point : since i installed it, it tends to unscrew the crankarm. Now i check it before every ride.
  • 3 0
 I'm only considering one for my EP8 powered e-mtb because of the F&**(KIN HORRIBLE NOISE it makes when descending. Like a bucket of marbles.
  • 6 1
 Onyx hubs have high POE and a little give, win win
  • 5 0
 One of my favorite features of my Onyx hub is the soft engagement instead of the jolting clank of other hubs.
  • 1 0
 And now that I think about it, having the “give” in the hub instead of the spider means that you have more give in the lower gears where you’d have more pedal kickback. So, win, win, win.
  • 2 2
 Yeah, but they still allow pedal kickback. Instant engagement means "no degree" float. Love my Vespers but don't exaggerate their benefits.
  • 4 0
 I love the onyx hub- quite- and soft- honestly my bike feels so much better after swapping just the hub.
  • 2 1
 The problem is the weight and cost. My Onyx hubs are like 400 grams (157 superboost, DH bike). Increases the unsprung weight which negates, to a certain degree, the benefits of an o-chain (improved rear suspension, and calm riding feel).

Onyx hubs are the best hubs on the market for any bike without rear suspension.
  • 1 0
 For reference, the NonPlus 157 superboost hub is 176g, and the DT Swiss 240 is 211g.
  • 1 0
 Anyone done a back to back comparison with clipless pedal and flat pedals? Just wondering how much benefit there is with an O-Chain for clipless riders? Relatedly, why not do a back to back test with a lower engagement hub?

On that low engagement hub vs O-Chain benefit, my hypothesis is that the low engagement hub, if it offered similar benefits, would be less consistent by comparison given the same degrees of rotation (when accounting for gearing ie: having a 32t chainring and a 32t cog selected) since we don't know where in the hub pawl 'pickup window' (eg: half way into a 6 degree pickup point window means that you are really at 3 degrees effectively when the rear wheel takes the hit and then tugs on the upper section of chain thereby generating pedal KB). So, you may need a VERY low engagement point hub to get similar benefits to the O-Chain. Something like a 28 or 32 POE hub would yield an average (median) engagement angle of between 6.5 to 5.5 degrees if we assume an equal distribution of pickup engagement within the full window of 12.85 to 11.25 for the 28 and 32 POE hubs respectively.

Hope that makes sense to someone other than me!
  • 1 0
 I usually really enjoy reading your articles, Matt, but this one needs some proof-reading and cleanup.

Also "the jury" is not really "still out there on the physics of pedal kickback". The how, when and why is decently well understood.

The question really is, wheter or not pedal kickback actually matters during riding. And there's some pretty solid research suggesting that in most scenarios it doesn't. (See: Gerth, M., Haecker, M. & Kohmann, P. Influence of mountain bike riding velocity, braking and rider action on pedal kickback. Sports Eng 23, 1 (2020))
  • 3 2
 Lots of comments here about people trying to use logic to determine if a product works instead of just trying the product. I use an O-Chain on my Canyon Sender and it makes the bike feel like absolute money. Same sensation as removing your chain.
  • 1 0
 Built a killer DH bike and put an Onyx Vesper on it for that sweet sweet silence not realizing the instant engagement also meant instant and constant pedal kick-back. I was wondering why my 42 year old ankles were sore getting off the chairlift with my Canfield, by not the V10 I rented at Whistler. Bought the O-Chain and now I have the silence and the smooth ride.
  • 1 0
 so you recommend this for the new jedi?
  • 1 0
 I only ride high pivot with idler so no need as no kickback to fix with all that plush rearward travel my 160 ebike feels like a dh bike and my dh bike feels like airplane landing gear..
  • 2 0
 In the stair videos it looks like it's not working too well lol it looks like the both still have about the same pedal kickback
  • 1 1
 I've thought about clutch derailuer s. They don't allow the chain to pull in . Make a clutch derailuer that allows about 10 degrees of motion before clutch kicks in . I think clutch derailuer causes issues . Really nothing feels better than chainless .
  • 4 0
 the problem there is the clutch helps keep the chain on the chainring. Without the clutch, the chain slaps around more and can come off the chainring easier. (having experienced this in the homemade days of 1x drivetrains)
  • 1 6
flag Sshredder (Nov 29, 2022 at 16:44) (Below Threshold)
 @Spencermon: I guess the part about ten degrees of rotation before clutch kicks in went over your head whoosh! . But hey thanks for explaining what the clutch is for . Obviously I have no clue .
  • 2 0
 @Sshredder: how would you achieve your 10 degrees of rotation? The knuckle of the derailleur where the clutch sits is at a different angle of rotation depending on what gear you are in. Where would you staring point be and how would you achieve the 10 degrees of slack from each theoretical staring point (position of the RD in each gear)?
  • 1 0
 @sino428: you'd have to build a freewheel in between the pivot axle and the friction element of the clutch I guess? It would make fro a much more complex system
  • 1 0
 @ak-77: exactly, I’m sure it could be done, but then you are taking about a much different and more complex part.
  • 1 0
 @Sshredder: your idea is bad and you should feel bad
  • 1 0
 @Sshredder: but on a more serious note, you are suggesting that the chain has more slack in it because the derailleur clutch doesn't take up the slack for 10 degrees. I'm guessing (not an expert) that this will greatly increase chain slap. and I'm still going to stand by the thought that it will be less effective at keeping the chain on the chainring. (sorry for explaining a clutch to you)
  • 2 0
 What disturbs me the most about the slow huck to flat vids is the violent chain whip. Wondering if the ochain is damping some of this.
  • 2 0
 After watching those videos and having the same thought I got one of the cascade components chain guides that also has a bottom guide. No more chain hitting the ground!
  • 3 3
 It’s pretty incredible! Hard to describe just how good it is and what it feels like. Rock one on a SC Tallboy and ride flat pedals. My feet on a DH track are *almost* as comfortably planted as they are on my V10 without one. *almost being key word*
I’m truly a fan and looking forward to one on my DH bike now. Both bikes have Onyx hubs and it’s a great pairing. I basically feel all the advantages of the ochain but practically zero of the cons regarding increased slack in engagement.
Highly recommend to anyone to give them a try
  • 3 0
 Pair this with an i9 hydra, and your engagement will feel very ok
  • 3 0
 Reads article Logs onto to Alba distro and buys ochain.
  • 3 0
 Two blue balls, it'll be stiff then.
  • 1 0
 If the feeling is there on the trail I think these guys are on to a winner. It will be interesting to see how long it takes for other manufacturers to follow suit.
  • 3 0
 DUDE! Where's my comment?
  • 2 1
 How long will the elastomer last ? Why not just a lower engagement hub ? Or a bike with less kick back to begin with?
  • 1 1
 Low kickback means-simplified-low antisquat and a wobbly ride combined with a forward axlepath. I had an old propain tyee which was just that. My new high antisquat bike combined with ochain is so much more fun.
  • 1 0
 It is an interesting product. Seems like it could be legit, but I just wonder if the elastomers will get worn out quickly if climbing a lot.
  • 1 0
 American Classic 225 hubs had a much better implementation of the same feature. Had they managed to communicate and sell the benefits, they wouldn't go bankrupt.
  • 2 0
 This doesn't affect me, I'm a sensible weight, but why would it have a 100kg rider limit?
  • 2 0
 Just turn the clutch off and wrap the chainstay. With the narrow wide chainring I've never dropped a chain.
  • 2 0
 Just another thing that can creak or brake on a bike. If there is a private mechanic included, i‘m in.
  • 4 4
 I also remember multiple wise people saying that this does not work because they calculated that PK disappears above certain (quite low) speed Smile
  • 16 0
 That's true while the wheels are rolling. Now lock the rear brake (even for a fraction of a second - watch some some slow-mo footage) and PK is back in the mix. That factor accounts for more braking feedback than most people realize, which is the main reason O-Chains have become popular with actual fast people.
  • 2 3
 @DirtCrab: I don't think so, when you lock rear wheel, ok, but when you do not lock it, it spins with the speed of the bike... If you ride 30km/h and slow down to 20km/h, your rear wheel does not slow below 20km/h if it's not skidding ...If you lock rear wheel, you lock it for a fraction of a second and not very often.
Also I remember OChain videos with ochain working when the wheel was not locked.
Anyway, I don't want to say that Ochain does not work, tried riding with no chain and it was marginally but noticeably smoother. What is interesting is a general mismatch between science based predictions and reviews.
  • 4 0
 @lkubica: long story short just because Ochain has nothing to do with freehub engagement doesn't mean it does nothing. I don't think this is a case of the Ochain people lying to customers, I think it's a case of a company selling a product to customers that offers real benefits that are hard to understand or explain. I gave a longer explanation of how (I think) OChain works somewhere else in these comments.
  • 1 1
 @TEAM-ROBOT: If you mean the theory related to upper chain growth (which I think is correct), it's hardly not related to freehub engagement, I mean, the upper chain cannot grow only when the hub is engaged. Otherwise it will just pull more chain "through" the rear mech.
Also I think that front freewheels does not do the same things as ochain (as suggested in some posts above).
Anyway, would buy it but I like using my 30T oval and would have to switch to a round 30T or 32T oval or buy a bigger cassette, so just need to wait when my drivetrain dies.
  • 3 0
 @lkubica: With a normal chainring, upper chain growth is restricted whether the freehub is engaged or not. Your feet are preventing the chainring from rotating and preventing the chain from growing up front.

Here's another thought experiment: which "grows" more as the suspension compresses- the top of the chain, or the bottom? You can see pretty clearly in the "riding down stairs" videos from Matt in the article that the bottom of the chain is growing significantly more on the bottom than the top, which means the cassette and the crank both need to rotate to move chain slack from the top to the bottom. If the chainring can't move, the cassette will have to rotate twice as far to accommodate. Even when it's freewheeling, the cassette can't rotate instantaneously, resulting in more chain slack trapped at the top of the chain even while the bottom of the chain is growing as fast as it can.

With Ochain, the speed and volume at which chains can "flow" under turbulence doubles because the cassette and the chainring are now flowing freely. It's like doubling the size of a damper orifice- more oil can flow more freely.
  • 2 0
 @DirtCrab: Who goes fast blocks the rear wheel???
  • 2 0
 @TEAM-ROBOT: "With a normal chainring, upper chain growth is restricted whether the freehub is engaged or not. Your feet are preventing the chainring from rotating and preventing the chain from growing up front." I believe it is not true, this is where the wheel speed comes into play, and this is what most smart people claimed. When the freehub is not engaged the lacking chain is drawn from the lower chain portion and the derailleur cage makes up for both upper and lowe chain growth.
  • 2 0
 @lkubica: That's correct, the lower chain portion and derailleur cage makes up for both upper and lower. We agree. What I'm saying is it takes more time for the lower chain portion to do all the work, and that delayed time results in resistance in your suspension. Ochain makes the chain movement more instantaneous, thus removing chain forces as a drag on suspension movement.
  • 2 0
 @pk71: Literally everyone. Watch some WCDH slowmo footage, and pay attention to braking points. It's simply not possible to avoid locking the rear wheel for milliseconds at a time under hard braking. Fun fact: that's also the reason you wear out the braking knobs on your rear tire before your front tire. #themoreyouknow
  • 2 0
 @DirtCrab: It's cool on raw audio of WC riders (from a certain black and green website), sometimes you can hear the rider fighting a skid for an entire steep section of trail, where they're micro-locking up and letting the rear brake out over and over and over again, 20 times in 100 feet. PK would definitely be a factor there... but again, not because of hub engagement.
  • 1 0
 @DirtCrab: do they have ABS?
  • 1 0
 What are some options for the wall-less chainguides? Looking for something to work with my WolfTooth BashSpider.
  • 1 0
 The only model i found (except the Scott Scale specific guide pictured in the article) is the Cascade Component ISGC 05 chain guide that seems quite convincing but not cheap.
  • 2 0
 Bbbbbbbut but Seb said it doesn't work
  • 1 0
 So, and what about all this hubs trademarks aiming for ZERO engagement ?? its funny
  • 4 0
 I can say the same things only so many times.
  • 3 1
 @R-M-R: Ahhh, it's R-M-R, not RMR. I was worried you had deleted your account or something cos the RMR one didn't look like the account I used to knock heads with all that time ago. There are a few smart people on this site and you are one of them, it'd be a shame to see you go.

I must say you had me convinced (eventually) last time that regardless of whether or not I can feel the difference on a bike with no chain, I suspect these o-chains don't achieve much unless your rear wheel is locked (which is admittedly more common than many would like to admit). But that is certainly a glowing review. There is something going on here. I dunno what it is yet, but there is something...
  • 3 0
 @gabriel-mission9: I still read the news articles and am involved with bike design, I just lost patience with the forums.

The physics on suspension-related kickback is indisputable: while coasting, kickback due to chainstay elongation is effectively impossible.

That's not to say there's no tug on the pedals. Some possibilities off the top of my head:

• Momentary slowing or stopping of the rear wheel due to braking forces as it skips along the ground. Perhaps a small amount of kickback can occur when the wheel contacts the ground. This feels unlikely, but I haven't looked into it.
• Chain movement due to inertia. If so, I doubt it has a significant effect, as the inertia of the chain is small compared to that of the rider and the forces on the rear wheel.
• Maybe we lock our rear wheels more frequently that we realize. Kickback certainly can happen under such conditions.
• Placebo. Never rule out the psychological effects of adding an expensive gadget, but always look for real effects first.
  • 3 0
 @R-M-R: Yeah I agree the chain itself isn't weighty enough to cause any noticeable effect. I'm currently going with "the wheel locks up more often than we believe"
Still not buying an o-chain...I imagine that if they do anything they change ride feel, rather than race times.
But I also still maintain that my old super8 felt better with no chain. Perhaps thats a bit of an outlier as by modern standards it was borderline high pivot.

Anyway, I'll now let you return to ignoring the forums. It's probably sensible to be honest.
  • 3 0
 @gabriel-mission9: There's more chainstay growth on the Super 8 than some modern indirect (ex. idler) systems. A short front-centre, slower speeds, low grip tires - the Super 8 is as likely as anything to produce kickback.

... or maybe the damper just choked when pushed and the resulting harshness was felt through the pedals. It's difficult to distinguish chassis and damper properties by feel.
  • 1 4
 It's unclear why so many band aid solutions are being created for the lack of ability of the rear derailleur? The rear derailleur is the oldest part on a mountain bike. By adding a clutch everyone thought it was solved, but hence it wasn't. Now it is standard to add a rubber coating (from the factory) on the chain stay to quiet down chain slap. What happened to wrapping an old bike tube around it, or has mtn. biking become so gentrified with these 10K bikes rolling out that is no longer acceptable? Get rid of rear derailleurs and move on to an internal gearbox. Easier to maintain, sealed unit, and centered on the bike. What is the rationale for putting your most precise moving mechanical part at the end of the bike where it travels the most and is open to all sorts of abuse, just seems outdated and flawed when an internal gearbox is already out there and available. Zerode does this just fine. Others have already put out demo models with belt drives as well. Seems this O-chain is just another compromise for a poor rear derailleur? Is this the new "Hammershmidt"? We all know how that story ended up Smile
  • 8 0
 Probably because while it has some faults modern rear derailleurs are cheap, don't require a frame designed specifically for them, simple to set up and maintain, and are for the vast majority of people reliable enough that they rarely think too much about them.
  • 4 0
 @sino428: Annnnd you don't have to stop pealing to shift (wtf is that about) not to mention the horrible parasitic loss from a gearbox, yeah yeah eMoped, whatever, some of us still ride "bicycles".
  • 2 0
 And unless your pivot point is your bottom bracket you’d still need something (derailleur) to manage chain tension as your suspension travels.
  • 2 0
 @Dberdinka: I’m fairness to the gearbox bikes that is easily achieved with a tensioner tucked away in a more safe place.
  • 1 0
 @sino428: polishing a turd doesn't unmake it a turd.
  • 1 1
 TLDR: this is better than a slow engagement hub (usually cheap and reliable)
  • 5 0
 FYI the sensation of pedal kickback while riding doesn't really have anything to do with hub engagement. Common misconception, but not related. Watch the Vorsprung video in the link if you're curious.
  • 3 0
 @TEAM-ROBOT: Woah, is this the real Robot?
  • 4 0
 @jesse-effing-edwards: Unfortunately yes, I'm still procrastinating on MTB websites 15 years later
  • 2 0
 @TEAM-ROBOT: it's the golden era of innerwebz shit talkin man, don't wait until there's a butlerian jihad or something. Thanks for the comment!
  • 1 0
 @TEAM-ROBOT: www.youtube.com/watch?v=grNUgu0H9YA exactly what I was thinking. What are @VorsprungSuspension thoughts on the o-chain?
  • 1 0
 Some DH bikes benefit from it like the Sender
  • 2 1
 This is a really neat idea
  • 1 0
 Showing the O-Thang, followed up by Blue Ball.
  • 1 0
 I´d love to try this so badly
  • 1 0
 Hang on, so the 104BCD fitment means I can't run a 28t chainring?
I'm oot.
  • 1 0
 Will it work on my high pivot hardtail?
  • 1 0
 I think I'll replace the chain with a rubberband...
  • 1 0
 now my bike has Blue Balls?
  • 1 1
 Wouldn't a pair of lightweight cranks with some flex in them do the same thing? With less weight and less maintenance.
  • 1 0
 If this will take the rattle out of my EP8 then sign me up!
  • 1 0
 Just do it like Gwin. Drop the chain. Problem solved.
  • 1 0
 I just ordered one..You only live once, buy and ride as much as you can
  • 1 0
 Latter
  • 4 4
 Most idiotic idea of the month.
  • 1 0
 GET A HARDTAIL!
  • 1 0
 Why no superboost+?
  • 1 3
 I swear adding an extra chain link or two has the same effect as this.. an costs aboot 99.9% less
  • 1 1
 My Onyx hub: huh?
  • 2 5
 Blah blah blah. Buy one ride it. Then you will know. Game changer.
  • 5 0
 People said the same about power balance armbands and that was just a plastic sticker on a rubber band. that's why serious science use double blind tests. It may be a game changer, or it could be a game changer only if you think it is there.
  • 3 0
 @faul: Placebos work. That's pretty soundly scientifically proven. And not just for perception, they actually influence disease outcome. It's still mostly considered unethical in medical science to knowingly prescribe placebos even though they are effective, but in the bike world that's fine.
  • 3 0
 @ak-77: Yes, placebo works, that's what the point of double blind: seeing effects that goes beyond placebo alone. And that's why we can discuss the reality of technical effects even when riders' feedbacks are there. But there is no shame feeling positive effects of something that does "nothing".
  • 1 1
 Yeah Luca Shaw and little Troy know what they are doing
  • 1 1
 @faul: sure. But I feel that in the PB comment section, the role of psychology in performance is undervalued. I would argue that psychological effects will in most cases trump all these super marginal gain technological add-ons. If you're feeling confident you will rail those corners, time those jumps just right, if your mind is in the right place you will not feel the burn in your muscles as badly. We need good placebo's more than we need better gear.
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