Gear Shots: Wolf Tooth Chainring

Ready to Lose the Guide?

Words by Perry Schebel. Photos by Perry Schebel. Video by . Posted by
June 19th, 2013

It’s been a long time (Biopace??) since chainring design has intrigued me as much as the narrow / wide tooth iterations that have recently sprung up. In conjunction with clutch rear derailleurs, the promise of drop-free chains on single chainring setups – with no guide devices – is compelling indeed.

SRAM XX1 set the naked single ring full range drivetrain precedent, and seems, so far, to be performing as advertised. Rather than have to wait for trickle down to cheaper component groups from SRAM, ever-resourceful small(er) manufacturers are beginning to fill the want for more affordable options. Wolf Tooth Components, out of Minneapolis, Minnesota, were the first alternative manufacturer to market with a ‘drop-proof’ chainring.

Wolf Tooth, chainring, 30 tooth, narrow wide, sram xx1

A nice piece of no-nonsense machining; available hues: none other than the blackest of black.

One consolation to the XX1 is a smaller gear range – I’m using a Shimano 10 speed 11-36 cassette, vs SRAM’s steampunk fetishistic eleven speed 10-42 monster cog array. To help out with the low end deficit, I chose a 30t chainring. Lack of top end gearing isn’t an issue for the relatively tight and technical rails I typically ride, and though a lower bailout gear would be nice on occasion, the 30×36 bottom end is adequate for most my needs.

Wolf Tooth, chainring, 30 tooth, narrow wide, sram xx1

A detail of the tooth profile and neat built in spacer / nut.

Conventionally, a 32t ring is as small as you can go on a 104bcd crank without chain interference with the crank spider. To alleviate this, Wolf Tooth has built in 2mm spacers / chainring nuts so you don’t have to fiddle with washers. Pretty clean, and installation is a snap with the captive nuts. The offset spacing also sightly reduces chainline crossover in the big cogs.

Wolf Tooth, chainring, 30 tooth, narrow wide, sram xx1

I’m running the ring naked, sans bashguard, to verify chain retention capabilities without any additional assistance. One of my favorite pastimes is stripping away extraneous / superfluous stuff. Pulling off my front derailleur, shifter, granny, bash ring and stinger was satisfying, and netted a one pound weight savings.

Wolf Tooth, chainring, 30 tooth, narrow wide, sram xx1

The back end. The Zee derailleur is one of my favorite new devices. Decently cheap, relatively impervious to impacts with it’s tucked away shadow design, fortified with clutch technology, and able to accommodate the girth of a 36t cog – pretty impressive for a short cage. An SLX 11-36 cassette provides useful range and good value.

So – does it work? In a nutshell, yes. I’ve yet to drop the chain despite my efforts – a couple races (enduro and super-d), lots of bashy trails, flat drops, gross weather, spinning backwards, harsh language – the chain has yet to come off. Unlike using a retention device, there’s a higher possibility it could be knocked off with a direct impact of of some sort, but it’s seeming like a low probability event. So far so good. I really like the performance of the full (albeit slightly narrow) range single ring configuration – simplified shifting with no redundant gear ratios. I’ll continue running the ring and will report back if performance is affected as things wear, but so far I’m very impressed.

Wolf Tooth makes rings in a variety of tooth counts and crank types; peruse HERE for more info.

The trickle down effect is doing drivetrains well these days. Are you ready to let go of your chainguide and your front derailleur?

  • critch

    Also running the Wolf Tooth 30t ring with a 11-36 cassette on my SC Nomad and Chromag Stylus . No problems at all with dropping chains [so far], the noise of the chain guide is gone, saved 1lb in unnecessary weight and the handlebar clutter is gone. Here in Alberta the climbs are steep and relentless so I decided to keep the 24t granny ring on as a bailout gear…i could always manually move it if necessary. So far i have had to do this twice and works flawlessly. Generally when the climbing gets tough i need to take a quick breather anyways so its easy to manually move the chain from 30t to 24t. So far i am definitely not missing the front derailleur but still benefiting from a granny gear when necessary, thanks to wide/narrow chain ring teeth!

  • pudding

    I purchased this exact same setup a month or so ago minus the Wolftooth chainring. I am using a 32t raceface single chainring that I was planning from the beginning to change out for a raceface Narrow/Wide chainring when they become available. I have been quite surprised thus far that I haven’t lost a chain even without the Narrow/Wide chainring. Maybe it’s just the clutch on the Zee derailleur that makes all of a difference, and really the Narraow/Wide chainrings are not really that necessary. I am running a bash guard though, so I guess that might also make the difference.

  • nouseforaname

    Still possible to drop a chain if you try hard enough with a n/w ring – if racing matters run a top guide.

  • craw

    Have we pretty much decided that bash guards are unnecessary? I can’t remember the last time mine actually hit something with mine.

  • slyfink

    I’ve been running a 32 WT ring on my Mojo HD, with a bashguard, 11-36 cassette, and Zee derailleur (ss & clutch) since february. Not one dropped chain. I am very pleased, and very impressed.

    re the bashguard issue, I would imagine it depends on your terrain no? Mine is beat to sh!t. I wouldn’t ride without one. (Besides, the orange Straitline bash looks pretty on the black and orange SixC cranks I have on there too…)

  • morgman

    I set up my hardtail with a Saint clutch and no retention up front on a fairly well-worn RaceFace 32T last fall. For the first couple months I only dropped the chain a handful of times over a LOT of riding. Then, it started dropping more often. And then, pretty much every ride. Tightened up the clutch a bit for a friend to race last week but he still lost the chain 4 times during the Toonie. I’m interested to see how this idea pans out but I’m not sure we’re done with top guides just yet…

  • InTheBay

    Don’t forget drivetrains and chains are wear items! Raceface NW Single Rings are available now too!

  • biggles604

    I’m more curious about the forward mounted axle mod on the Raggles Green One.

    • boomforeal

      from the horses mouth: “i wished the bike had shorter chainstays, so i made it so. about 16.25″ now. slotted only the aluminum, so no actual frame damage incurred.”

  • PinkRobe

    I’ve got a 30T on its way to replace an unramped Middleburn 32T that has dropped a chain or two. The rest of the setup is XT shifter, XT 11-36, Zee derailleur, SLX crank on a Mojo HD. Nice to hear that the Wolftooth works as advertised.

  • grinch

    I think i’ll run a taco regardless ,to protect the investment, and for a few grams more i my as well run a top guide. cool product

  • Jon-boy

    It is recommended to run a bash with this ring due to the chainring bolts threading into the aluminium ring itself. O the wolf tooth site it says that a good hit could crack the chain ring. I going safe with a top guide/taco option from MRP. Waiting for it to arrive but should be here next week.

    I did run this ring with a bash in the Test of Metal this past weekend. Worked awesome, no dropped chain, gear ratios were good for the terrain (even the big climb) and I looked hardcore on the start line. 🙂

  • Mike P

    Maybe I’m over thinking this, but the VPP bikes are designed around a 32T ring for best performance. Even though this ring is only shy two teeth, the XX1 can come with a 28T option as well.

    Has anyone noticed a difference? Am I out to lunch, or is there more anti-squat from the use of these rings?

  • Hellhammer

    I see no mention of having an even number of links here or on their website; the instructions for setting chain length might not work, correct?

  • Mike.

    “Note that only even tooth counts are possible with this design.”
    In comment from Wolfcreek poster to

  • Mike.
  • matjean

    In the 3th picture… Install the cog with an extra 180 degre to see the Minneapolis inscription!