Find out whether Absoluteblack’s oval chainrings are worth the price tag in our in-depth review, including impressions after an entire year!
In this exciting world of cycling the technology is forever growing, so choosing the right product can be mind boggling. There are so many chain ring options out there, not just lighter ones but rings which can help you. And the only way to find out if a chain ring can really improve your efficiency is to test them. Which is just what I did!
For the first part of my test, I used the Absoluteblack oval chainrings on a ride from the west to the east of Portugal on my new Vaaru Octane 6-4 with the added bonus of, a set of oval chain rings given to me by James, owner of Vaaru Cycles.
I have used oval rings before, in the late 90s, and found that they were noisy and never ran quite right. So, what are these like?
Absolute Black is the name of the chain rings, a family business in London, and to be honest I’ve never heard of them, but if James puts them on the Vaaru bikes then the quality will be top.
James had put a red chain ring on, which looks very funky, there are also black and grey versions available.
So how did they feel? One thing which was worrying me was how smooth they were going to run. What can I say? They were so smooth I was blown away. I can’t compare them to the Rotor Rings. The whole pedal stroke felt solid and complete.
This is due to the thicker 5mm construction and a 6-point ramp and recess shifting design, shifting better than other brands of oval chain rings. I’m very much into cadence and the oval construction encourages this. On the climbs I felt as though I had an extra kick so, with panniers on my bike, this was a massive help. It’s as though the pedal stroke was being assisted but in a very smooth and unobtrusive way.
When I was riding with the guys I definitely felt I’ve got an advantage here. Best keep it to myself - happy days!
Shifting from big ring to small was also very smooth, which surprised me - no chain drop - spot on.
When on the big ring and pressing on, I was flying. Once you’re in your rhythm it seems easier to hold at speed, much easier than being on a conventional ring, again very smooth, and I can feel the stiffness of the ring (15% stiffer than Rotor) and the power from legs is unbroken on your pedal stroke and the transfer of torque to the rear wheel seems more direct as appose to a traditional round ring.
I rode these rings for 700k with 1000m of climbing in 5 days in some of the most demanding climbs in Portugal and I can honestly say they were a massive advantage, also your legs do keep fresher for longer.
For triathlon and duathlon, they would be perfect as they take a lot of strain off your legs, especially from your knees and if you’re a cramp sufferer.
Speaking for myself, the issue is that I don’t want my fellow riders to have them as I can definitely say I have an advantage and feel the need to put them on my other bikes.
These rings have totally shifted my thinking of the oval ring to a 100% positive conclusion. These are the business! But I’d heard a few people discussing whether they can be used with power cranks. On to the next part of the test!
Oval Chainrings and Power Cranks - The Perfect Cycling Combination
I decided to use the power2max power cranks, as these are the cranks I use on my bikes currently, and they look the business! With the unique look of the Absoluteblack Oval Chainrings and the sleek design of the power cranks, these two are a perfect match. They complement each other impeccably and they both stand out for how amazing the quality looks.
The chainrings are very easy to fit, they come with bolts and full fitting instructions on the website. They have just one mounting position when you fit them, then you are set to go! There is no changing of settings for different terrains (like some other brands) due to the unique shape and sweet spot on the chainring. The chainrings are light (52T is 135g and 36T is 36g) and being made from top materials and CNC machined these really are a great product.
Linking my power cranks via my Garmin, I set the power display at a 3 second delay, meaning you get a reading of the actual power every 3 seconds on your Garmin screen. The readings were very smooth, not jumpy at all, meaning the oval rings weren’t affecting the information coming from the cranks to the Garmin. These smooth readings continued during the whole two months period I have had both products working together on my bike.
I have put together a short video demonstration of the Oval Chainring and the Power Crank below.
The rotation of the chain rings was very smooth, no dead spots, just keeps your pedal stroke nice and smooth. The chainrings feel nice and rigid, assisting you to keep the power on through your pedal stroke. You can really feel them saving you energy as you pedal, helping you finish the rotation of the crank, in turn saving energy and taking pressure off your knees.
The beauty of having power cranks with the chainrings is that you can observe how well the chain rings perform, helping you to keep your cadence the same as you change gear and maintaining the desired power required, especially when climbing.
In summary, Absoluteblack oval chainrings seem to work with power cranks flawlessly, over a whole two-month period the data seemed smooth and accurate with no issues at all. The combination of using both of these products are definitely a revolution! I for one love having these as a part of my bike set up and can’t imagine changing this any time soon.
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Do Absoluteblack Oval Chainrings Work For Triathlons and Duathlons?
So far Absoluteblack’s Oval Chainrings were doing pretty well, but I wanted to see how well they held up in a Duathlon/Triathlon scenario. Would they be any good for achy legs?
It made sense to me that these rings would work really well for those who compete in Triathlons and Duathlons as they would take a lot of strain off your legs and knees. But, this opinion was based on theory and I felt obliged to put them to the test to see if I was right. So I entered a half marathon, it would be my first one in a while, which meant my legs would be tired, not to mentioned sore, and my intention was to give it my all, I wasn't there to take things lightly!
The half-marathon was situated in the beautiful city of Coimbra not far from Delucci Retreat, with over 2000 runners taking part. The race started at the historical Coimbra University, high above the city, with closed roads. With a good start, I set off maintaining a decent pace, drinking and eating well. Throughout, I knew I was lacking speed, but this was my first running race for a while, so was to be expected. I managed to finish 2nd in the masters category with a time of 1hr 24mins and not being at my best, I was very happy.
With my legs tired from the half-marathon it was time to get on the bike and put the Absoluteblack Oval Chainrings to the test, would they make a difference and aid my ride back to Delucci Retreat or would they become more of a hindrance?
Straightaway, as soon as your legs are peddling I could feel an advantage. I could feel the design of the rings helping me finish my pedal stroke and taking some of the effort away from my legs, in turn making it easier to disperse the lactic acid in the legs from the run. It’s a good hour and half cycle back to Delucci Retreat, with a great deal of climbing and gradients as steep as 17%. As I mentioned with these rings you don’t have to reset to a different position for different terrain, just put them on the required setting and you’re done, no mucking around.
I cannot tell you enough how much these oval rings help after a long run, you can definitely feel the oval ring assisting you through your pedal stroke, but very smooth at the same time and as an added bonus they look good! For me these are a must for duathletes and triathletes, they really do work!
Absolute Black Oval Chainrings - One Year On
After reviewing these chainrings, I wanted to make sure they stood the test of time, so I’ve come back to this review to let you know how they’re getting on a whole year later!
It is fair to say these oval chain rings have been well and truly used in the past year: I’ve used them in Granfondos, touring, duathlon and basically every cycle scenario I’ve been apart of, they are on every bike I own, this even includes the hire bikes for my customers at Delucci Retreat.
I had the offer to go to Morocco and explore the Atlas Mountains in June with friends. As you would expect from me I was very keen and jumped at the chance! The Atlas Mountains is an extremely popular location currently for cyclists and it would be great to experience what it had to offer and have a real cycling adventure.
I took my Vaaru V8 which was the closest thing to a gravel bike I had. If there was a bit of gravel I thought it would be alright… time would tell I suppose!
Cycling in the Atlas Mountains, Morocco
Before I knew it, the adventure had started, the terrain in Morocco was crazy with 70% of it being gravel and stones -this was going to be a challenge for man and machine. We had to ride 600km over 6 days, most of the time at altitude over 2000m to 2500m. I could only fit 25mm tyres on the bike, so I did most of the climbing in the saddle. Cadence was key on the uneven and gravely surfaces.
With rocks and gravel hitting the chain rings every day, and no opportunity to wash the bike or degrease the chain, maintenance was low during this trip. With all this the chainring didn’t drop once or get noisy, assisting me up every climb and finishing off that last bit of the pedal stroke for me.
Not once did my chain come off, it was as efficient as ever. If you set the rings correctly then they are perfect! When I first got these from Absolute Black I found the instructions easy and detailed making installation nice and straight forward.
After 6 days of abuse thanks to Morocco’s demanding and unforgiving gravel roads the ring’s beautiful red shine had been completely covered by dust, mud and whatever else had been thrown at them. Thanks to the dirt they might not look the part, however, they definitely performed the part - they ran as smoothly as the first day.
Road Bike Off Road
This adventure in the Atlas Mountains was the first time I had used the Absoluteblack chain rings off road, and not forgetting these rings were on a road bike with two rings in a mountain bike environment. After this epic journey, I was proud to say neither man or machine was broken!
I took a short video clip to show how well they were spinning after the Atlas Mountains. Remember these rings are over a year old – not bad at all I’d say!
The chain rings on my Octane (my other Vaaru cycle) have done over 1600km on the road and still look great. The sheer quality of the rings shines out from the rest. As I say every time when I test these, they are indeed secret weapons.
I am definitely hooked on these, simply because they work and improve your efficiency on your pedal stroke and are just such good quality in my opinion. In short, I can strongly recommend the Absoluteblack Oval Chainrings!