The humble front chainring has seen an awful lot of change recently. We’ve binned the traditional 3 or 2 rings setup, added narrow wide to hold it on and now we’ve squashed it into an oval.
OneUp Components sent their 104 BCD Traction Chainring to test on the promise that it would smooth out the pedal torque during each stroke. It’s near impossible for humans to deliver consistent power all the way through the pedal rotation, therefore we end up with a ‘dead’ zone where we produce the least power through the cranks. The idea behind the oval rings is that we can increase the gear to make the most of the stroke where we produce the most power and minimise the dead zone by reducing the gearing. Sounds sensible but does it work in practice?
Egg shaped ring
Once fitted I flipped the bike upside down to try ‘cycling’ through the gears by hand, immediately it’s obvious that the chainring is switching between a 30t and a 34t range (effectively a squashed 32t chainring). One arm is far better than two legs at delivering constant torque so there’s a definite spot where things get harder then immediately the chain is trying to catch up with itself.
I’ve spent my entire riding ‘career’ on circular rings so on the first ride things felt a bit strange straight away. It felt like my legs were trying to play catch up at points but after a while I settled in and it became much easier to keep up a rhythm on climbing sections. I’ve spent the last few months with the Traction Chainring and it’s still on my bike, despite a nice selection of regular, circular replacements in the shed.
I can’t say that I’ve noticed an increase in traction in itself but I’ve definitely become less inclined to ‘stamp’ on the pedals to make up for the dead zone on tricky short climbs. I definitely pedal smoother now that its fitted, being able to keep a smooth pedalling style which should in theory be better for your knees. It would probably be more noticeable on a road bike where the ground conditions don’t change as often, sadly with many things in mountain biking it comes down to feel. The science behind it says it should work, and given the choice I’d definitely pick another oval ring to replace it with.
“I’d definitely pick another oval ring”
The chainring itself has performed well in a British summer and winter (they’re the same thing, right?). I’ve yet to drop a chain thanks to the narrow wide teeth and the 32t option has paired well with the 40t extender sprocket at the rear.
Don’t go throwing out your circular chainrings just yet, but perhaps consider the alternative when you’re in the market for a new one.
The Traction Chainring is available from OneUp Components for 58 USD, they’ve got a UK warehouse so you don’t have to worry about ridiculous import costs. It’s available in a whole bunch of mounts for nearly every set of cranks out there.