If you follow any kind of biking news or trends then I'm sure you are always hearing about the latest and greatest component in mountain biking technology that will make your riding easier and improve your Strava times dramatically. Many times these fads come and go but some stick around such as the 27.5 inch wheel and the 1x11 drivetrain which seems to be getting more and more popular.

Saris Cycle On Bike Rack
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Review Date: 03/04/2016
Product Rating
4 Star Rating: Recommended
And speaking of drivetrain fads it appears that the oval chainring is making its comeback thanks to the increased popularity of single speed front drivetrains. The oval chainring concept has been around for years but never really took off and was never really perfected. Now this review is for the Absolute Black oval chainring and not a debate about whether they work or not but we will touch on a few key points that make oval chainrings stand out as a viable option for your bike and we have experienced some of these benefits ourselves. Either that or we are just imagining it based on what we are expecting!

The first thing to mention is that oval chainrings should be used on 1 by drivetrains because you don't want to try and shift from one chainring to the other when they are not round. Absolute Black makes many different sizes for many different cranks so you should be able to find the right model for your setup. They suggest sticking with the same size (tooth count) as what you are currently using and also adding a couple of links to make up for the oval shape. We didn't have to do this and it worked fine so it may only apply to some models. We tested the SRAM Oval GXP direct mount model on 2 different bikes. This model replaces the entire spider and bolts directly to the crank saving you some weight.

Absolute Black Oval Chainring

After bolting on the chainring (which requires removing your cranks for this type) we took it out for a test ride and did notice that difference in pedal stroke and felt the oval shape. This only lasted a few minutes and then after that the sensation was completely gone. The theory behind the oval chainring is that it smooths out your pedal stroke and reduces the "dead spot" which allows for more comfortable riding and less stress on the knees. For one of our test riders it actually got rid of his usual knee pain that he felt after long rides. The chainring is also designed to give you more traction allowing you to make it up those steep loose sections without spinning the tire. We noticed that it did help this a little and also improved traction when standing up on climbs. It's hard to say if it makes climbing any easier but does seem to make is less stressful on the legs and knees.

Absolute Black Oval Chainring

The Absolute Black oval chainring is a well-made piece even though it's a little on the ugly side and it comes in a variety of colors to suit your designer needs. It's made from cnc machined 7075 Txxx Aluminum with an anodized finish and should last quite a long time. They also say it will improve your chain life as well. You can get them for many crank manufacturers such as SRAM, Shimano, Cannondale, RaceFace and E*thirteen. Installation is fairly easy and should take about 15 minutes depending on what kind of bike you are putting them on and your bike mechanic skills. The direct mount model will cost you around $66 plus shipping and if you go the standalone ring route it will run you around $54 plus shipping. You can check out the Absolute Black website for more information and to order your own.

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