While narrow/wide rings generally do a great job of retaining chain, they’re not infallible, and drops do occur on occasion. In my experience it’s usually at the least desirable times, ie during a race run. As an added bit of insurance, a crop of minimalist top guides have emerged. This iteration is the Wolftooth GnarWolf.
Installing and Riding the Wolftooth GnarWolf
This guide uses the top two bolts of the ISCG05 mounts. No other mounting configurations are currently supported. Installation is painless and takes all of two minutes. Vertical adjustment is cinched with a single aluminum chainring bolt. Horizontal positioning is secured with a clever expanding wedge detail; loosen bolt, set guide position, and tighten bolt to lock in place. No shims or disassembly required. All bolts use a 4mm Allen key to keep things simple. The wedge thingy is ovoid so it doesn’t rotate when you loosen the front cinch bolt. To adjust guide head rotation you need to loosen the bolt on the backside of the guide plate. The guide will accommodate round rings from 28-36t and elliptical rings from 28-34t. Chainline adjustment range is 48-54mm.
How does it work? I’ve run it for a couple months on two different bikes with nary a drop – as expected. Top guides are pretty simple in their function, and all the iterations I’ve had experience with have done the job just fine. The details are what differentiate them – weight, durability, and ease of setup. Weight is 44g – certainly on point. The entire assembly is quite stiff – fairly resistant to lateral deflection – and everything looks decently robust. Setup is certainly one of the easiest I’ve laid hands on.
- The range of rotational adjustment at the ISCG tabs is a bit limited. Not all bikes have accurately clocked mounts, and I would have liked the ability to rotate the guide a hair more rearward.
- The guide has interference issues on some bikes. I tried it on a couple review rigs: the swingarm of the Yeti 5.5c has about 2mm clearance from the rear guide mount bolt (close, but caused no issues); the new Trek Slash has lots of room. Wolftooth has acknowledged that this guide will not work on the Ibis Mojo 3 or the Evil Following, and that the 2016-17 Specialized Stumpjumper requires shimming to clear the frame. Perhaps a recessed bolt detail would help alleviate this issue?
Overall, this is a nice bit of work – as long as it fits your bike. Like all Wolftooth components, they’re domestically manufactured (in the US) – an increasingly rare practice that I appreciate. Price is $64.95 US and can be ordered directly from their website.
Bonus Review: Wolftooth Fat Paw grips
I’ve used relatively slim grips for years (ODI Ruffians more or less exclusively). More recently I’ve tried experimenting with larger diameter grips to try to alleviate hand pain and stiffness on long non-stop descents. To wit, bumping up the diameter a couple mm has helped. I’ve also dabbled a bit with silicone foam grips (ESI), and found that they do offer noticeable vibration transference reduction. Both factors have yielded happier hands. Exploring the realms of “how much is too much” is always good times, so: if silicone foam is good, and larger diameter is good, what do you do to dabble in said nether regions? You try a grip of near pool noodle dimensions: the Wolftooth Fat Paw grip.
At 36-37mm installed diameter, these are fat fist interfaces. Quite a departure from my conventional grips, but they do feel squishy good at first grope. Every time I walk by the bike, I can’t resist the urge to give them a squeeze. A bit like temperfoam, they conform nicely to your hand shape. Soft yet supportive. They’re also nicely tacky to a bare hand, which is how I used them exclusively. I prefer naked hands for warm, dry riding, and I really liked these grips for this application. Despite the lack of grip texture, traction was still good when my uncovered phalanges get sweaty, but they do get a bit slick in the rain. Best to break out gloves in really soggy conditions – though I found the added glove thickness to be too bulky overall for my tastes.
Given how much the soft grips compress, the effective diameter isn’t as large as they appear, and the fit is quite ergonomic compared to thin, constant diameter grips. The amount of cushioning – especially compared to hard plastic-cored lock on grips – is considerable. The silicone foam is well damped, and these cut down on vibration transference considerably. In my experience these more or less eliminated my hand soreness as well as reduced arm pump. Pretty rad. Those with less endowed mitts will find these too large however, and some might prefer a less squidgy interface. I’d expect these to be fairly polarizing. I loved them for summer riding but pulled them for the cold and sloppy fall and winter season.
Durability for the couple months I used them was fine, though I didn’t auger them into the ground with any frequency. I experienced no tears or significant surface wear. Dirt contamination via bar end soil sampling may initiate a bit of twist – which can be alleviated by pulling, washing, and reinstalling the grip. Otherwise they stayed well stuck to the bar with a typical slip on install (I use Windex, rubbing alcohol or compressed air; whatever’s handiest).
Enough words for a grip review already. To summarize: I was bit skeptical at first, but ended up liking these things, as unconventional as they are. The fat paws are $23.95 US, weigh 110g, and are available on the Wolftooth website. For those interested in the benefits of silicone foam grips in a less girthy stature, Wolftooth also sells a 30mm variation – the Red Monkey Karv(XT).