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.
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.
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.
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?