Sunday, August 18, 2013


          XXB(udget)? When it come to gear junkies mountain bikers amongst the worst. We sip the koolaid. I’m guilty, ever day I find myself on Pinkbike, perusing and scrolling through the latest tech talk, looking for that next CND’d gem that would make my bike even cooler. The industry thrives on product launches, add campaigns, and convincing the consumer that they need the next best thing. Because hey if your shits not up to date, then your obviously a slow rider. Not to say that the products are bad, in fact most of the time it is an upgrade, but is it a necessary upgrade?

          This year we saw the launch of a remarkable new drive train, XX1 and its overpriced little brother X01. With those came the introduction of the 9-42 tooth cassette and a 1X set up that could be run without a chain guide, a truly revolutionary step forward in the evolution of drive trains. With a price tag starting at $1,300 though as much as I wanted it, it just was not worth it. I’m happy with my 11-34 1x set up. In fact there are very, very few times where I wish I had an easier gearing and while I don’t particularly like the drag that my chain guide caused, it was not worth $1,300 to overcome. And with Sram deciding to use a propriety BCD, the consumer is prevented from just running a XX1 chain ring on their standard 104BCD cranks. That leaves the minimum price for guide-less chain retention at $325 dollars. Still a fair bit more then most people want to spend. So I guess we’re all shit out of luck eh? Not quite, lets give a hand to capitalism and the free market, oh and expired patents.
          Due to the fact that the patent that Sram was utilizing was put through back in the 1970s and has since expired, the narrow wide chain ring design is now firmly in the public domain, leaving room for other companies to step in and market their own guide-less chain rings. Specifically in the 104BCD range that Sram made a point of avoiding.
The future 

           For the past several weeks I have been trying out the Raceface narrow wide rings, 34 tooth and 36 tooth on my full-squish and my Hard-tail respectively, and I have nothing to complain about. Coming at at between $45.99 and $59.99 depending on your tooth count these rings stand poised to bring the guideless phenomenon down to the 51%.

           In a side by side comparison between the Raceface rings and the Sram rings the first thing that is noticeable is the tooth profile, while they both utilize the narrow wide principle, Sram’s teeth are noticeably square edged, where as the race face have a more pointed profile. Aside from that difference Raceface was able to bring their small end down to a 30 tooth in a 104BCD by means of recessing the teeth to provide clearance for the chain. This allows a much lighter high gear with out sacrificing too much off the top and could go a long way to opening the doors of 1x to more variable levels of riders. Performance? I have the rings set up on both a dual suspension as well as a hard tail. Both bikes are set up with clutch derailleurs, and for aesthetic reasons I left the outer bash guard on the hardtail.                          Performance wise there is little to tell, they worked. In fact they worked amazingly. I suffered from exactly zero dropped chains, zero skips, and zero stutters. The ability to get rid of my chain guide led to a overall quieter ride, and an incredibly smooth pedal stroke as the drag associated with chain retention devices was gone.

Same narrow wide X-shaped profile, but with a noticeably pointier tooth.
Compared to these teeth

Sorry lets zoom here, Father Grahams anti-comformity got the way there. 

         Because I no longer have to route my chain up and over the slider plates of my guide I will be shortening my chain, this should create a bit clearance for my derailleur over technical sections of trail. As far a running this guide with a non-clutch derailleur, (yes people still do that) while there have been several reviews stating perfect performance, this has not been the case in my view. While I have not personally attempted this I have seen several chains thrown from non clutch set ups. This seem to have been mostly from attempting to pedal through chunder (some thing that I have numerous times on my bike with no issues). My tentative opinion would be that if you are inclined to run the rings on a tradition derailleur to wither use an upper guide or time your pedal strokes accordingly.
         While there are a few other companies out there producing their own version of the narrow wide, raceface seems to have nailed it down with this one. The ability to run a 30t front front ring on a standard 104 cranks set sets this product apart from the competition, paired with a canfield 9t rear cassette and hub body this could be the start of the MTB micro drives...

1 comment:

  1. MTB Microdrives. Well said. Well done. I welcome the future.