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Absoluteblack

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Interested to know who is riding oval chainrings (of any brand), who isn't and why not? 
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ljsmith

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Reply with quote  #2 
I'm not riding oval rings.  I had Biopace rings back in the 90s, they didn't seem to offer any benefit.  Now I realize every single oval ring manufacturer swears up and down they are so much better than Biopace, but it just seems a little gimmicky to me.  If they were all that great I think SRAM and Shimano would be all over it.  This is what Sheldon Brown has to say about them:

The major problem is that this design tends to hurt people's knees. The high gear when the cranks are horizontal encourages the rider to push too hard, and we all know that pushing too high a gear is a common cause of knee problems. In addition, the low gear when the cranks are vertical means that the knees are moving extra fast when they are changing direction from going up to down and vice versa. This "whiplash" effect caused most users to abandon elliptical chainwheels. Ever since the chain driven bicycle was invented, elliptical chainwheels have been re-invented and re-abandoned for the same reason every ten or fifteen years.
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Absoluteblack

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Reply with quote  #3 
To answer your points in order:

I too had Biopace rings on my first Shimano cranksets. I didn't hate them, but I never, ever believed they made my ride 'better' in any way. 

SRAM and Shimano like to lead technology streams wherever possible. They don't often follow technical developments that they can't control with design patents. The Oval horse is well clear of that stable. This is why the marketplace for Oval rings is healthy with other brands all doing brisk business. 

Next, I really like and respect Sheldon Brown.

Not everything that is written in a theorised way, is borne out in reality. The passage on the effect on knees, delicate, sensitive or otherwise from pedalling oval rings is cloudy at best. For a start there's no mention of what level of ovality he's referring to. Naturally, radically ovalised rings will made pedalling funky, and could well create the effects mentioned.

One quick thing to also mention here. Humans are awkward machines. We are a motor with two large, slow-stroking pistons (our legs). If you looked at our power delivery on a climb - or for poor spinners, even on the flat - on a trace, the line would look like the alps: All sharp zig-zags up and down. 'Spike (torque), pause, Spike (torque), pause, Spike (torque) etc..' Human's just aren't designed to produce linear power and torque. Pro riders with a butter smooth million mile spin can manage smooth much of this sharp pulsing, but for the average rider (on road or off) a punchy pedalling action it's a reality.  And this only gets worse with fatigue..

For riders like you and me, Oval rings help take the points off of those spikes - changing the delivery trace to more of a fluid waveform. It's not a total cure and oval rings can only do so much to help. But help they do. 

I digress, back to your points regarding Sheldon.

At the levels of ovality Absoluteblack (and most of the modern 1x oval ring brands are working to), which is actually quite modest, the effect of there being a nominal 'high' and 'low' gear from the oval ring effectively disappears in use. Between your brain and the natural in built ability for muscles to learn and adapt to new, or tweaked movements most riders take about twenty minutes of pedalling an Absoluteblack oval before any sensation from the rings shape is learned by the legs and begins to feel as round as the ring you used to use.

What you're left with is this. A spin that's as smooth (or smoother) than you used to have. And this, the reason I got involved with AB, especially for MTB, traction. Where I live in the UK it's wet and very hilly. Short steep greasy climbs. Traction killers. You're always trying to balance the torque delivery with the tyre condition, and the available traction in the given section of trail - the addition of an AB oval ring (the only one I can vouch for) gives the rider a bigger window on those power phases of the pedal stroke - where blindly punching too hard or over estimating the tyre/trail friction - will lead to a spinning of the rear wheel. With the AB oval ring you get the sensation that you have more time in that power phase, increased clarity to sense, through the cranks, how much you can press on the pedals.

The net effect is that I am able to climb these short, steep, slippery climbs more effectively and with greater levels of control. Absoluteblack has never made any claims with regards to adding power, just better delivery of what you have.

Try one of our oval rings (when you next need a new ring). I truly believe you'll like it. If not we'll swap it for an round ring (yes, we make these too). I'm confident that you wouldn't be calling me for that service.  
 
I hope that's helped. 

   
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Nebo

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Reply with quote  #4 
+1 for oval on my mtb and gravel bike. This should be an interesting thread.
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TheHammerdog

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Reply with quote  #5 
I got a set online called Doval oval rings and I just love them. Feel more efficient, have choice of the amount of ovalization....I chose smallest. Works great.
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RoverAl

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Reply with quote  #6 
Interesting thread and no I am not riding ovals not aware of them. Are you representing a company about these rings?
Thanks
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Dubz_Detroit

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Reply with quote  #7 
Purchased a Absoultblack a few years ago, it messed my left knee up that I had to go back to round. Still have problems to this day with the knee. Oval is not for everyone.
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xhx

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Reply with quote  #8 
I started using an oval Wolf Tooth on my single speed a few months ago. 42/40t. I'm a masher anyway so it didn't require any adjustment period.
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Absoluteblack

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Reply with quote  #9 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dubz_Detroit
Purchased a Absoultblack a few years ago, it messed my left knee up that I had to go back to round. Still have problems to this day with the knee. Oval is not for everyone.


I'm genuinely interested in how you came to the conclusion that the oval was responsible for your knee issues?

The shape of the chainring, with a conservative level of ovality - as per most brands oval MTB rings - doesn't ask more or less pressure on the pedals from the rider than a same size round ring, or any significant spike in effort at any point in the rotation of the the oval ring.

I'm sure your pain was/is real, I'm just not sure you're looking at the right area for blame. 
Cheers.

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Absoluteblack

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Reply with quote  #10 
Quote:
Originally Posted by RoverAl
Interesting thread and no I am not riding ovals not aware of them. Are you representing a company about these rings?
Thanks[/QUOTE

I work on behalf of Absoluteblack. I'm a believer in the benefits of oval in general - through personal experience. Give them a try. With Absoluteblack there's always the option to swap your oval for a round if you really decide it's not for you. A pretty fair deal, that is risk free for you. 
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Dubz_Detroit

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Reply with quote  #11 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Absoluteblack


I'm genuinely interested in how you came to the conclusion that the oval was responsible for your knee issues?

The shape of the chainring, with a conservative level of ovality - as per most brands oval MTB rings - doesn't ask more or less pressure on the pedals from the rider than a same size round ring, or any significant spike in effort at any point in the rotation of the the oval ring.

I'm sure your pain was/is real, I'm just not sure you're looking at the right area for blame. 
Cheers.



Little background for you. I have been riding SS bikes for over 15+ years with a round 34 tooth chain ring with absolutely no problems with my knees. Switched to a oval 34 and on the first ride climbing I felt a "pop" in my left knee. The oval chain ring felt much more difficult to turn over and I feel the oval is what caused the pain to develop in my knee. Maybe the oval caused it, maybe it didn't. But I do know how I felt the 15+ years before the oval and decided to go back to round.

 Good luck with your product, I hear a lot of positive reviews about them. They just are not for me.

Cheers.
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Absoluteblack

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Reply with quote  #12 
Hi Dubz,

I'm sorry to hear your story. As a cyclist, we need our knees in tip-top condition, so I feel for you.

As you were kind enough to tell me about your background, here a little on mine... 

I've been riding and racing MTB's since 1987, rode a few World Cup's back a long time ago (to no great glory). Spent twenty years in the cycling media as a reviews editor. I rode and tested pretty much everything of note. Having been burned with Shimano's efforts in the late 80's, I wasn't keen on even trying oval. So, when I was approached by AB to help, I agreed only if I could test the rings first. If I liked/believed it worked, then we'd talk, if not, AB would get them back, no harm done. 

Needless to say, through gritted teeth (I truly expected to hate the experience) the oval feel melted away in the first ride and more importantly, I found myself holding traction on slippery, borderline traction climbs - that I know I've struggled with when the only difference was the chain ring. I actually did back to back tests with a spare crank as part of my due diligence. 

I've been on oval ever since.

I try to tell this little story, as I feel I'm just a an average Joe, like millions of others, but I do have a very developed sense of what's happening on a bike. Hopefully I can help a few other riders make the most of their physical abilities. 

Cheers.
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jhueber1

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Reply with quote  #13 
I'm interested to hear more stories of people riding oval.  I signed up for DK200 this year and plan on running single speed.  I'll be converting my Ti-Warbird over and thought of going with an oval ring that I could then pair with a 1x11 setup in the future.  Any thoughts on oval single speed setups for gravel would be great.  
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Absoluteblack

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Reply with quote  #14 
Hi JHueber,

I've not ridden the DK200, it looks like very definition of an epic day out. SS sounds like a major undertaking, best of luck to you.

Here's the link to Absoluteblack's CX rings http://absoluteblack.cc/cx-chainrings.html

Here's a video of an AB Oval ring set up singlespeed (on a 29er). To give you some idea about chain tension on the Warbird. 

You won't need to do anything with the chain ring when you come to gear up in rear. Hope some of this helps. 

Best of luck at the DK200!
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EddNog

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Reply with quote  #15 
Hi, all; new to this forum, though I've been reading the primary content from the front page for a long time now. Only decided to venture into these forums today.

I felt the need to chime in here, because I noticed the usual comparison to Biopace, but nobody has brought up the most important distinction and counter-point to the Biopace argument.

When examining how an out-of-round chainring functions, one needs to realize that the effect is to increase or decrease effective gearing ration throughout the pedal stroke. That much is obvious and clear, and all out-of-round chainrings do this. What ISN'T being looked at is how the gearing changes and at which points in the pedal stroke.

The fundamental flaw in the design of Biopace was that it absolutely ABUSED the rider's knees, because it forced a taller (harder) gearing in the pedal stroke phase where the least amount of leverage/power is available. ALL of the...I'll call them, "modern," non-round chainring designs function exactly counter to how Biopace is designed. Imagine reading that as Ecapoib, if you will.

With all of the modern out-of-round chainrings (I am not using the phrase, "oval," because I also want to include Osymetric in this category), the tallest/hardest gearing occurs when the leg has the most leverage/weight, during the power phase of the pedal stroke. MORE importantly, the modern designs SHORTEN/ease the gear ratio during the off-power/return portion of the pedal stroke. The effect is to reduce pressure on the knees. As mentioned previously, the net effect is also to smooth out actual power delivery to the wheels (hence many of the MTB-oriented rings being labeled as, "traction," rings).

I never judge anything without trying it for myself. I also test new theories with neither a positive nor a negative expectation, particularly given that different technologies will work differently for different people. That being said, I can only speak to my own experience.

My experience with oval rings began with absoluteBLACK's narrow-wide oval for M8000 4-bolt cranks. I decided that, since I was doing a 1x10 conversion on my hardtail, I may as well take that as an opportunity to experiment with an oval ring. The amount of ovality, the clocking and the looks of absoluteBLACK's rings were the most engaging to me, particularly as I had a limited selection given my crank, anyway. I used the stock, circular ring from Shimano (30T) for a while before making the switch, so that I had a good, baseline feel for how my bike performs in 1x10 configuration to compare against. The swapping of the rings was reasonably straightforward, although on my bike/setup, it necessitates uninstalling the non-driveside crank arm and sliding the crank off to do it.

I rode a good two weeks with the oval before making final judgement, but my final judgement was overwhelmingly positive. I found that out-of-the saddle riding became significantly more natural and comfortable to me, and that, indeed, my ability to maintain traction in steep climbing situations significantly improved. Moreover, I noticed that the mild knee pain I'd get after 3-4 hour long rides had completely disappeared. Specific to the M8000 crank, I also found absoluteBLACK's chainring to run dead silently, something I cannot say for Shimano's stock ring. After another month of riding, I also came to the realization that repeated climbing no longer fatigued me as easily as it did with a round ring.

My overwhelmingly positive experience with their ring on my hardtail convinced me to also try converting my gravel bike to oval. I purchased an absoluteBLACK 38T 110BCD narrow-wide oval, and installed it on my gravel bike, which already had a GX 2x10 long cage rear derailleur and Sunrace 11-42 cassette on it. After spending two more weeks riding my converted gravel setup, I was even further convinced of the benefits of using absoluteBLACK oval chainrings. I went from disliking out-of-the-saddle riding to really enjoying it, and the mild knee pain I occasionally got riding this bike also completely disappeared. Furthermore, I did not find that I really missed the taller gearing afforded me by a dual-ring setup.

Finally, I decided that I really wanted to convert my road/race bike to oval as well. I swapped out my 48/34 round rings with absoluteBLACK's 50/36 premium road rings. Again, I was met with a significantly improved out-of-saddle riding experience, and again I was met with noticeably reduced fatigue when dealing with lots of climbing. I never had knee pain issues on my road bike, so there was nothing to gain there. That being said, I did run into a negative to the oval rings on my road bike--with my stock rings in conjunction with the SRAM Red Yaw derailleur, I had access to all 20 gear combinations with zero chain rub and no need to trim. I spent 4 hours optimizing the front derailleur tuning after swapping rings, but I still could not fully eliminate chain rub at the front derailleur in the two most cross-chained gear combinations in either ring, effectively eliminating four of my 20 gear combinations. I wasn't too enthused with this, but as it so happens I decided to sell my steel roadie and upgrade to a new, carbon-framed, hydro-disc-braked beauty, and in the process, took advantage of the new bike's Force 1 drivetrain to change to a 1x11 setup for my riding. The new crank afforded me the opportunity to swap in an absoluteBLACK SRAM direct-mount 44T oval narrow-wide ring. I paired it up with a long-cage Rival 1 derailleur and a Shimano CS-M8000 11-46 cassette and am so, so happy with my new bike!

That sums up my personal experience with oval chainrings. For me, personally, they have COMPLETELY transformed my riding experience for the better. That being said, I do want to make two final points:
1) In my opinion, if you're a rider that tends to have a less smooth pedal stroke (or pedal squares), you have the very most to gain from changing to oval chainrings.
2) If you tend to have a very smooth pedal stroke (pedal clean circles), you likely stand to have the least benefit from oval chainrings.
3) Riders who favor a lower cadence and/or ride out-of-the-saddle more, also may benefit more.

-Ed
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DPCX

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Reply with quote  #16 
I was fortunate enough to get a sample set of Rotor 3D+ road cranks a few years back w/ Q rings and loved them. However, they were 53-36 and didn't get much use on my skinny tire road bike. I eventually put them on my gravel bike but swapped out the rings for smaller, round rings.

Fast forward to this past summer. I was able to get another pair of 3D+ 1X cranks for my cross bike and I decided to try out the 40t oval (Q) ring. Again, I noticed the difference but it wasn't until I had to pit mid race and jump on the B bike (with Easton cranks and round ring) that I really noticed. I like to describe it as the feeling of riding a bike with your usual cranks (I run 175 for CX) then jumping on a bike with 165's. It was really weird feeling. So much that I got a new 1X spider and ring for my old (2X) cranks so the bikes matched. I am a strong believer in oval. I also have a couple of friends who race at the highest level and they are sold on them too (yes, they are sponsored but I trust their judgement). 

So, there you have it. No techy jargon on why they are better, I just think they are (for me). [smile]
Now I just have to sit around and wait for Absoluteblack to make some rings that will fit on my Easton EC-90SL cranks (cross size, not mtn. I know they already do the Cinch for Race Face cranks). 

DP

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Jfkbike2

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Reply with quote  #17 
I do not use oval mainly because for the cranks I use XTR M9020 they are not made in a 36t which is what I prefer. I am in Florida so I do not need lower gearing. I see AB is going to make a SRAM direct mount in 36t boost which I might try on another bike when that becomes available. I would like to try them just to find out for myself if they help.
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Nubster

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Reply with quote  #18 
I ride an Absolute Black oval on my mountain bike. Can't say if it was an improvement or not. I didn't go from round to oval...started with oval. I wanted oval on my SSCX bike too but getting the correct ring was a nightmare...ordered three and kept getting the incorrect ring and all from different vendors. Mislabeled by someone 11745575_10153444710369291_6364715738167369700_n.jpg  and none of the vendors were interested in making sure I got the correct one and Absolute Black didn't seem interested in helping either so I said screw it and went round. If I go oval I'll probably go with a different brand other than AB because they weren't very helpful so I'd rather deal with a company like Wolftooth that seems to care a little more about customers.
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Absoluteblack

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Reply with quote  #19 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nubster
I ride an Absolute Black oval on my mountain bike. Can't say if it was an improvement or not. I didn't go from round to oval...started with oval. I wanted oval on my SSCX bike too but getting the correct ring was a nightmare...ordered three and kept getting the incorrect ring and all from different vendors. Mislabeled by someone

Hey, On behalf of AB, I apologise if the service you expected was not met. This isn't the way we endeavor to serve our community. I hope that in future we will be able to help you find the right ring for your needs and get it to you quickly. Thanks for posting the nice pic of your Kona with green oval Absoluteblack ring.
Cheers, AB 
11745575_10153444710369291_6364715738167369700_n.jpg  and none of the vendors were interested in making sure I got the correct one and Absolute Black didn't seem interested in helping either so I said screw it and went round. If I go oval I'll probably go with a different brand other than AB because they weren't very helpful so I'd rather deal with a company like Wolftooth that seems to care a little more about customers.
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