Last month I got the chance to test some Absolute Black Oval chainrings out. I´ve been having a bit of a sore knee so I thought it would be a good opportunity to see if it helped and also try something new. I was a bit skeptical but I know quite a few people who use them and rate them so I gave it a go. I´ve been using these for the last few weeks, running our mountain bike holiday in the Pyrenees, and have had time to form a proper opinion. Read on to see how I got on and some news about the future.
The 32 tooth ring weighs 41g. Compare this to 86g for my existing 32 toot XT ring. The chain guide, with bash weighs 69g. The chain guide without bash weighs 22g, compared to 35g for my existing guide. Not that I´m about saving grams if it doesn´t work though!
Fitting the chainring is very easy, as you would expect, there´s no possible way to put it on badly really. The matching AbsoluteBlack bash-gaurd and chain-guide is also really easy to fit and looks really nice and neat on the bike. You have a few different positions depending on the size of the chainring and there are some spacers to get the chain to run central in the guide. It took me around 15 minutes to fit. I´m using the red chainring which I think looks absolutely fantastic and with the matching guide I´m really pleased with how it all looks on the bike.
Here is the funny thing, the chainring feels totally normal on “normal” trails. By normal I mean anything that´s not really steep and on those trails I didn´t notice a difference. My first test was on the streets around my house and I couldn´t feel anything at all. A further test was trying to wheelie, again no different at all. I rode the first route on it and it was only when I reached the steeper trails that I noticed a difference. On steep trails I noticed that the pressure is more even through the stroke it feels sort of like a smoothness in the pedalling, you don´t get spikes of torque. This is really noticeable on climbs with steps, roots or rocks. You know how sometimes the step or obstacle coincides with the difficult part of the pedal stroke and you stall? Or in my case you get a shooting pain through the knee and then stall! That is greatly reduced with the Absolute Black chainrings. With the smoother pedal stroke you get noticeably more grip. It all adds up, for me at least, to a higher success rate on technical climbs.
The biggest reason for me to keep using the Absoluteblack Oval rings isn´t how well they deal with the technical climbs, or the looks and it definitely isn´t ease of fitting or weight. The biggest benifit for me is simply that I have found a really reduced level of pain in my knees. Or in my right knee specifically. It´s really, really noticeable and it´s a welcome goodbye to sore knees every morning. It´s not 100%, maybe that will come, but it´s a very significant reduction in the knee pain I get after riding which I am putting down to less stress because of the smoother pedal strokes. Maybe a smoother pedaller would notice less effect but for me it has been really significant.
After seeing mine all the guides wanted to get one too. I spoke to Absolute Black and we are going to be working with them a little bit, they will provide the guides with chainrings and also all of our hire bikes are going to have the oval rings so you can test them out when you hire the bikes. Absolute Black are also going to provide a discount code for all basqueMTB holiday guests, so if you are coming with us, or have been with us, and are looking for a new chainring give me a shout and I can pass on that code.
For total transparency, we will get Absolute Black chainrings for our bikes through the season but we don´t accept any commission or anything from sales, we never work like that. This is just something that we have tested and loved and it´s another little thing that we can pass on to our guests. I just wanted to make that clear!
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