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Perfect circles don’t exist within nature, the universe has seen fit to make things a little less uniform and a bit more random. I’ve no idea why perfect circles have no place within the natural world but I’m sure there must be a reason … although, it’s probably a different reason to the one Absolute Black give for manufacturing their chainrings in a less than perfectly circular shape.

Do not adjust your sets … it really is that wonky.
I’m sure many of us remember Shimano’s ill fated Bio-space chainrings, the concept promised great things but in reality delivered little more than sore knees and bemused expressions. The fact of the matter is, the big S managed to produce something that actually made propelling a bicycle forward harder rather than easier. The folks from Japan had got their sums wrong and in doing so, successfully put 95% of the mountainbike population off the whole idea of oval rings for the next 20 years. However, the idea didn’t die entirely. Some manufacturers learnt from Shimano’s mistakes, adjusted a few things and made the concept work. Anyone who wanted to try the benefits for themselves was free to do so but ovality came at a price and for most, it was a price that didn’t seem worth paying … especially if you still had a Bio-space bad taste in your mouth.


Just remember to line this mark up with the crank arm and you won’t go wrong.


The idea of an oval chain-ring might seem somewhat odd at first but the science does make sense. The theory is that an oval chain-ring will maximise power on the part of the pedal stroke where it’s produced and minimise resistance where it isn’t. Potentially, this translates into increased traction and less strain on the muscles and joints – in fact, Absolute Black claim that you will actually pedal more smoothly with an oval ring than you will a round one.

Aside from the obvious ovality, the chain-rings also feature the almost obligatory thick / thin tooth profile, which has largely done away with the need for any type of chain device on 1 x something set-ups. The machining and finish is top notch which adds to the feeling that the perceived benefits will actually materialise once you start to use it. Fitting is as easy as fitting any other chain-ring – you just have to remember to line the small mark up with the crank arm.

Alivio cranks! In my defence, they’re one of the few readily available in 165mm lengths.


You’ll probably notice a slightly weird sensation for the first few pedal strokes. I’ve heard other people say, that they feel it for an initial few miles but I didn’t make it out of the yard before I ceased to notice it … whether that says something about them or me, I’m unsure. With your body and brain adjusted, the ovality goes unnoticed although you do feel the effects. The flat sections largely remain the same and the downhills appear no different but once you start to climb, there’s a discernible change. It appears that your legs have shunned nature’s grand plan and now turn in perfect circles. You might also find yourself having to check what gear you’ve selected as you’ll likely feel that you’re one ratio lower than where you thought you were. The ring isn’t going to bestow magical powers on the rider, it’s only a chain-ring, it’s not a electric motor but the benefits are noticeable … subtle but noticeable 

I did wonder whether I’d need to re-adjust when swapping between oval and non-oval equipped bikes but that doesn’t seem to be the case. It appears that once your brain has initially figured out the ‘oval ring thing’ it doesn’t forget and will happily accept it, so you don’t need to go through the initial ‘weirdness’ each and every time. In reality, I’ve probably done less than 100 miles on it so far, so it’s too early to comment on the subject of longevity and wear but I can’t see any reason why it won’t last just as long as any other aluminium chain-ring subjected to the same conditions … but as usual, I report back and let you know.

Available in lots of sizes to fit lots of cranks – Absolute Black

7 Comments

  1. Unknown says:

    I've just ordered a 34t from their winter series (9g heavier for £6 less)

  2. pedalhead says:

    Been using ovals for a few years. Particularly good for singlespeeding imho as it significantly smoothes out the pedal stroke. Absolute Black is the one to go for, the Goldtec Onkey has the ovalisation in a less effective place from my experience with both. Watch out with the 32T Absolute Black…it's not compatible with two out of three of my frames as it fouls on the chainstay (the 32T rings have embedded spacers that bring the chainring inboard quite a bit). I've gone for 34T ovals on those frames instead, which don't need the spacers.

  3. Unknown says:

    If you don't think about getting oval one, Superstar Components offer a much cheaper version – £25 as I remember…

  4. They do but as you say, it's simply a round narrow / wide toothed ring, it's not oval. I believe the On-One N/W ring is cheaper than the Superstar one.

  5. Unknown says:

    I think it's same price for on-one and 4-bolt only. I was looking for 5-bolt for my cyclocross 😉

  6. Unknown says:

    Is this still "going well" Stu – it was early days in April and I wondered if you're still a fan?

  7. Unknown says:

    Also very good on Plus & Fat tyred bikes as it smoothes out, or at least delays the oscillations you can get at higher cadences

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