Oval chain rings have been around for a while now and when it comes to oval, Absolute Black are the brand that comes to mind straight away. They have been paving the way with oval chain rings for a number of years now on road and mountain bikes, but does it really make a difference? We whacked an Absolute Black Oval Chain ring on the Enduro bike and put it through six months of testing, here’s our thoughts….
RRP: $119.99 AUD, £65.99
The Nitty Gritty
Absolute Black Oval chain rings are designed to improve torque delivery and enhance efficiency. So what does this mean? It means that an oval ring is designed to put greater power and leverage through the pedals when they are between 1-5 and 7-11, where your power and leverage is greater; they also make it easier when the pedals are in the other positions, improving efficiency by decreasing resistance. So basically, where your legs are stronger it makes it harder to increase power, where your legs are weaker it makes it easier, to save energy.
There’s a number of different scientific ways to say that they are good and make climbing easier, whilst making your acceleration better. In fact Absolute Black manage to break it down in a pretty nifty video on their YouTube channel, you can check that out below..
Absolute Black Oval chain rings are available for just about any configuration from direct mount to spiders, 12 speed and everything else in between. They come in road and mountain, single speed or multiple chain ring setups in a variety of colours. So we have now established they can look good and fit just about any bike variety, but how do they perform?
The Absolute Black oval has been on my Giant Reign for the last 6 months and has had a work out across the country in a variety of conditions. It has climbed up to Black Stump at Derby, around the trail network at St Helens, in and around most of South East Queensland and has done it’s fair share of miles. To be fair it has held up to a fair share of abuse and looked good doing it (the gold colour way adds a fair amount of bling) with an equal portion of ups as there was downs. After all, the only reason we go up is to go down, it’s a necessary evil to point the bike downhill.
What you notice when you have your first ride on the oval ring is how different it truly feels, in fact it can be a bit off-putting. It doesn’t take long to get used to it though, soon you barely notice the difference as your body adjusts your technique to match the pedal circle of the oval chain ring. On the climbs it certainly feel easier with less resistance and an easier manner to maintain pedal momentum. We certainly felt it helped with the climbs and the overall fatigue at the end of the ride, the 32 tooth feels like a smaller chain ring on the climbs, more like 31, not quite as easy as a 30 tooth. It feels a little more than a 32 on the descents but not quite as much as a 34 tooth, so maybe a 33 tooth.
One thing we did find on the descents is that standing sprints definitely didn’t quite feel the same. Perhaps is something you get used to, it’s not something you often do flat out except at races. Sprinting did feel a bit clunky in the middle gears and felt a bit smoother when you shifted down to the lower gears. In all other aspects we liked the feel of the oval chain ring, for steady delivery of power on the trail it felt great. On the climbs it felt easier and on the trail it certainly seemed more efficient, would I put one on a downhill bike? No, but for a trail bike or any other bike they make sense.
The Final Word
Like many aspects of mountain biking, oval chain rings are perspective based and each rider will have a different experience. Overall, I thought it was a welcome addition to the enduro sled and will definitely be adding it to the next one as well. I myself need every little bit of help I can get when it comes to the climbs and if an oval chain ring helps even a little bit, then count me in. They are light, look good, are well machined and made to fit just about any bike. If like me you need help on the climbs or you want to improve your efficiency then give one a go…..