• Nick Orloff

    I bought one for my CX bike, which is running SRAM 1X … I think my early very unscientific testing match your review, and as I had to pay for mine (rather than being lent one to review) they’ll have to reduce my climbing speed before I switch back to a round chainring.

    A word of warning: they take FOREVER to get out of stock sizes back into stock.

  • ebbe

    It might be worth mentioning that some people get serious knees problems on ovals, while for other people ovals can releive knee pain. I guess they just have to “happen to agree with you”.

    Secondly, I believe that most manufacturers recommend that once you go oval, it’s best to do a) give it some time to get used to them (which fits with your experience Matt) and b) go oval on all bikes

    I have one 44T which I got for free (webshop screwed up my order) but still haven’t tried it because, at least that’s what the shop said, I’d ideally have to swap all my bikes to ovals. Did you ride other bike as well in the test period Matt?

  • Troy van trienen

    The discussion about Oval rings has always been a tricky one but here is my experience.
    I changed to the Rotor Q-rings for my track bike which have a 5% oval. the difference in the pedal stroke is the same as everyone comments so I don’t need to elaborate on it any further. The big difference I noticed was in respect to a reduced heart rate for any given effort and the Lactic feel in the legs that just wasn’t there any more during the first few minutes of warm-up.
    What I experienced was that I could hold a sustained effort for longer with the oval rings in events like 750m TT etc.
    I liked them so much I got the Q-XL (15% Oval) rings for my road bike. Again similar results with my heart rate being around 8bpm lower for my expected effort. Also the ability to maintain a strong effort for longer periods of time.
    I experienced less cramping when on longer rides on hot days too which is always welcome.
    The large oval size did make it more difficult to sit whilst climbing steeper gradients but easier to climb standing.
    Now what becomes the issue is that I was riding the 15% oval rings most of the time on my road bike then I had my track bike with the 5% oval and they now felt like round rings with a little lump on them and my Lactic came rushing back.
    Just to prove a point i got Standard size Q-rings for a spare bike which are 10% oval. The outcome is similar to the difference between the Q-XL and track rings.
    In summary what you deal with is that the rings with the largest Oval % will feel best but then anything else will feel harder and more “square-like” to use. So if you have more than one bike It can get expensive.
    Do I think they are better?……..YES with-out doubt but unfortunately I have changed all my bikes back to standard round rings for the consistency.
    This is a shame as they I Really Really like them.
    FYI I think that approx 12% oval would be the best amount to have and if all rings were this it would be just brilliant.
    Also I have never heard of anyone that uses the Oval rings hate them.. most change back for similar reasons as I have.. Consistency accross all bikes (N+1).
    PS: For Sale Rotor Q-Rings 39/53 and Rotor Q-XL 41/53 Suit 10Sp Dura-Ace or Sram (good condition)

    • Saeba R.

      But wouldn’t you risk dropping th chain on your track bike?

      • Troy van trienen

        Not at all because the oval is only 5% and designed for track bikes.

        • Saeba R.


    • Rodrigo Diaz

      I had a similar experience. I tested them on a TT bike with a Computrainer (so downstream, it doesn’t know what you’re pedaling, just measures the power as transferred to the roller).

      At TH power for a 10 min test I was holding the same power with a HR reduction of about 6 beats – so the same effort went from 166 to about 160 bpm. No differences in sprinting or short efforts, and probably don’t get me extra power either. I do find it easier to “grind” a very large gear in short situations like making a mistake and coming overgeared to a short hill. If it’s more than a few pedal strokes I’m still SOL. And also a bit smoother climbing steep loose surfaces. For that reason I put them on the CX bike as well.

      I did not find any difference in power generation, either peak or sustainable, just HR on long efforts. I don’t know if that’s worth anything tangible. I also ride round rings pretty much every day – my commuter is a fixed gear beater with round rings. So I didn’t find it hard to use different ovalities across bikes, but there’s definitely a difference when I use one of them after a long layoff. It goes away after 5 minutes.

      I never thought about using them on a track bike but apparently Marianne Vos was winning WC events with them.

  • Paul Jakma

    Do your Verve infocranks support oval rings? As you note yourself, the cadence with oval rings varies significantly more within each rotation. This can have ramifications on the calculation the powermeter makes, depending on what assumptions it makes about interpolating cadence between sampling of cadence.

  • D0rk

    I run an AB ring on my MTB. I found that they really help with lower cadence situations and when standing. Two areas that I don’t think apply as well to road riding as they do for MTBs.

    • Michael Sproul

      Yep, I found exactly this. No real noticeable difference when you’re spinning normally but they feel really good when you’re grinding over a steep techy style section or you’re hoofing it over the top of a hill.

    • OverIt

      Have to say I LOVE mine. Most noticeable as mentioned on the 1*10 29er MTB, in low cadence situations where there’s no time to backpedal into a better crank position to get over a tricky obstacle, they really help you drive through things.

      On the road, similar thoughts. Noticeable improvement to HR and leg ‘burn’ into long stretches of headwind and climbing at lower cadence. I think at high cadence, the impulse time is so short that oval is not so beneficial perhaps??

  • Aaron Heaysman

    Good article, to the point. I was hoping to try oval chainrings, got absolute black but they don’t fit my cranks, if q-rings don’t fit I don’t think I’ll be overly worried about it after reading this and other comments.

  • absoluteBLACK

    Thanks a lot for the article Matt.

    The only point I would like to make is that most power meters including Verve Infocrank interpolate cadence based on full rotations and time. That means power is read a bit incorrectly. Power is measured as torque and cadence. But cadence in that crank is averaged over one full rotation as they make assumption that your cadence is consistent over 360deg. So while torque is sampled many times over one rotation, the cadence is averaged.
    This is true with almost every single power meter on the market.

    As you correctly pointed cadence changes slightly within one rotation. Most people does not feel it because it improves their pedaling so much that they feel “smooth” rotation. Some people do feel it for 1-2 rides and then it fades away. Usually people who feel it for 1-3 rides have already very good pedal stroke to start with. People who doesn’t feel it almost at all when first time on oval ring are usually less experienced riders(I would call this group aspirational riders who spend less than 10h week riding). We learned that over time and feedback.

    But fact is that cranks with oval rings accelerates and de-accelerates slightly over full pedal rotation. This makes measuring power a bit more tricky.
    The only true power meter that will show differences is Pioneer because they sample cadence in (I think) 20 points over pedal rotation and that also corresponds to same points where torque is measured. So you get true data.

    I would like to also stress that we DO NOT claim you will get more power with oval rings. This is not really possible. What you get is smoother pedal stroke and that translates to improved cadence which translates to a bit more speed. But most importantly you feel it’s easier to ride uphill and you get less tired at the end of the ride. This is very consistent feedback we get.

    The important point to make also is that if you are professional or semi pro, you already have a great pedaling stroke mastered over countless hours. Such people will not feel a massive benefit of improved “smoothness” of pedaling as they pedal already great. But people who are not spending over 6-10h a week riding will most likely never learn how to pedal “perfect circles” . This is where most people are and oval rings help a lot.
    Interesting part is that most of us usually look at Pros, what they use. We all want to use what pros use as this “must be clearly better”. Now in light of what I just wrote we get to interesting point. Pros don’t feel ovals help them as they already have mastered pedal stroke, so most of them don’t use it. Where ovals actually really work is with non pro riders…. who look what pro riders use.
    This is why they never been in the mainstream yet, but it is changing now.


    • OverIt

      Agree here, you’ve got to be able to sample torque during the stroke and rate of change of acceleration per stroke. I’m no power meter guru, so someone else would have to confirm.

    • RayG

      How do you manage to go faster up the hills without generating more power?

  • mckillio

    Does an oval chainring weigh less than a comparable round chainring?


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