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Oval Chainring Pros and Cons | Yay or Nay?

Oval Chainring Pros and Cons
Written by Cobie Brown

A newcomer in bike technology, oval chainrings were designed keeping the human physiology in mind. They help maximize the power of the stroke and reduce resistance while riding uphill.

But how reliable are they? We’ll look at both sides of the coin and see if they can be relied upon to ride your bike every day.

Oval Chainring Pros and Cons

The Good

  • Great pedaling efficiency

You can stay on top of your cadence and get a smoother pedal stroke with the oval chainrings since they’re more responsive compared to the standard round chainrings.

It’s easier to pedal over the technical sections with oval chainrings. They react well with gravel bikes as you pedal along.

  • Torque to the rear wheel

An oval chainring gives you the most even pedal stroke and surprisingly smooths out the rough and bouncy cadence. The augmented torque to the rear wheels escalates your overall traction.

  • Technical climbing

If you are into mountain biking and technical climbing, the oval chainring will grant a superior power throw to the rear wheel and give you maximum traction to climb up the rocky stuff a lot better.

  • Less pressure on the knee

The non-uniform curvature of an oval chainring decreases your knee strain, so it’s easier for you to ride through the dead zones.

  • Improved acceleration capacity

The oval chainring will empower your pedaling stroke and acceleration capacity. You will especially feel the difference when you start pushing right from where you stopped.

  • Better traction

The consistent and smooth power delivery grants your rear wheel more propulsion. The oval shape becomes particularly useful when you ride on snow or such slippery surfaces.

The Bad

  • Knee pain

This is one of the most common downsides of riding with an oval chainring. Some people have gone through knee pain, especially in their first few days of the oval chainring experience.

Experts have called this problem a whiplash effect. This may not harm you as many riders haven’t had any issues whatsoever.

  • Higher possibility of chain drop

Chain drop is another big issue with oval chainrings. This mostly happens as you shift between different gears.

  • Weird to begin with

If you have always been on the standard round chainring, it may seem pretty weird to get a taste of the oval ride.

Some people may never get over the strange feeling of riding with your oval chainring.

  • Muscle discomfort

Certain muscle miseries may take place if the oval chainring is new to you. Don’t try high gears when you have bad knees or back pain.

Top Oval Chainrings

1. Absolute Black

oval chainring pros and cons

The London-based AbsoluteBLACK is the brand that produces the finest German-aluminum oval chainrings in the world.

Absolute Black user reviews –

Pros

  • They feel naturalistic and easy-to-use
  • Promote better cadence
  • Reduce pressure on the joints during long-distance cycling
  • Ensure ultimate steep hills climbing experience
  • Proliferate traction for superior balance
  • Stylish and inviting look

Cons

  • The absolute black chainring may not make much difference on big hills for pro cyclists when compared to a beginner or an intermediate-level rider

2. Wolf Tooth Oval Chainring

oval chainring pros and cons

The Wolf Tooth Components is another brand that makes great oval chainrings, precision parts, and other cycling accessories for you to experience versatility and speed.

Wolf Tooth user reviews –

Pros

  • Easy to install
  • Smooth pedal stroke prevents convulsion
  • Efficient steep climbing
  • Powerful crank round for maximum output
  • Elliptical outline increases traction over rough and shaky terrain
  • Lessens muscle soreness and lower back troubles
  • Simple and lightweight

Cons

  • The moving derailleur affects your shifting between gears. Some users faced this issue while pedaling and blamed the jerky derailleur.

How Oval Chainrings Work

According to the passionate British biker Jake Brookes, 

“The idea of an oval chainring is for increased pedaling efficiency and minimalizing fatigue by gearing up your bike when your legs are at their strongest, and gearing down the bike when your legs are at their weakest.”

For instance, a 32 tooth oval chainring will act like a 30 tooth ring throughout the recovery stage of the pedal stroke or when your legs generate less strength.

And the 32T oval chainring will act like a 34 tooth when your legs generate maximum strength during the power phase of the pedal stroke.

From the mechanical and metabolic point of view, it’s an attempt to eradicate the dead spots in our pedal strokes.

What Pro Bikers Think About Oval Chainrings

oval chainring pros and cons

  • Oval chainrings are fairly faster than the round standard chainrings
  • You feel less pressure on your knees for long-distance biking
  • There is a short “getting used to” phase or learning curve for beginners
  • Since cycling is therapeutic to your back and the knees, the oval pedal stroke may cause issues if you have pain in those parts of the body
  • There is no significant difference between the round and elliptic chainrings
  • Great for intense racing and high-effort riding
  • Your benefits are limited if you don’t prefer aggressive riding
  • Oval chainrings may become the mountain biker’s joy
  • Feels a little weird when you first get on
  • Oval chainrings provide excellent traction for technical and longer climbs
  • Supports a good quick start after you have stopped the bike

Round vs Oval Chainrings

oval chainring pros and cons

A standard round chainring maintains unchanged torque and force transfer throughout the entire way around your stroke.

on an oval chainring, the power output and torque output will be different on the tops and the sides for its shape.

When the oval chainring is vertical, you call it a power zone. Here, a 32-tooth chainring will feel like a 34 tooth chainring as you crank it forward.

When your oval chainring is in the horizontal position, you call it a recovery zone. Here, a 32-tooth chainring will feel like a 30 tooth chainring. This means you will have a smoother power transfer from your leg muscles to the rear wheel.

FAQs

1. Do pro cyclists use oval chainrings?

Ans: Yes, pro cyclists have used the oval chainrings for quite some time. Famous Tour de France winners like Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome, and other pros have a passion for these elliptical chainrings.

2. Do oval chainrings work on road bikes?

Ans: Surely, oval chainrings work on road bikes. In most cases, they’re more efficient than regular round chainrings. You’ll ride more miles using less force once you get on over your oval chainring.

About the author

Cobie Brown

Born and grew up in Colorado, I chose to work in the field of what I liked most, biking. I’ve been working as a full time mechanic in the cycling industry for over 13 years. I started BMXing when I was just a 6-year-old kid and got hooked from the very first day. Then I started riding and not a single day went by since then that I didn’t touch my bike.

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