The Indestructible Renthal 1XR Chainring

Words Andrew Major
Photos Andrew Major
Date Sep 6, 2016

Renthal 1XR

It wasn’t the first. It isn’t the cheapest. It doesn’t come in a plethora of cool colours or have a funny, rad, sexy, or suggestive name. Hell, it doesn’t even have a single trademarked feature. But, I’m convinced the Renthal 1XR narrow-wide chainring is the best on the market.

I’m confident that any other chainring I’ve tested would be going in the recycling bin at this point.

Renthal 1XR

The Renthal 1XR narrow-wide ring. Stiff I-Beam construction. Good tooth profile. Amazing resilience for both the 7075 aluminum teeth and hard anodized finish.

Since SRAM first adopted narrow-wide profile sprockets for bicycle use there have been a huge number of similar products released from the likes of Race Face, Renthal, Wolf Tooth, BlackSpire, Absolute Black, Chromag, North Shore Billet, OneUp, and a plethora of other companies.

I’ve tried a lot of them and every one I’ve used works exactly as advertised. Cranks go around. Bike goes forward. Chain stays on. Everyone’s happy.

The issue I’ve noticed with many narrow-wide rings is that, in addition to being more expensive than their equivalent plain toothed cousins, the usable life is quite short. That’s both in terms of as-new chain retention and also efficiency. Simply put, the teeth wear out a lot faster than I’d expect.

Renthal 1XR

Proof my bikes aren’t always filthy. The Renthal 1XR ring had suffered through a few months of abuse when this photo was taken during the Formula R0R teardown with Jeff.

Until Death Do Us Part?

The Renthal name carries an enviable reputation for durable high-quality sprockets from their long tradition manufacturing motorcycle products. I set out to find out how that reputation crosses over to the mountain bike line.

The plan was simple. My single speed absolutely EATS chainrings. Put the Renthal 1XR on the one speed. Ride the ring into the ground. See how it compares to other rings I’ve used.

Renthal 1XR

The Renthal 1XR has far surpassed my expectations for narrow-wide chainring life. In this photo I’m well into the life of the second fresh chain this ring has seen.

Generally after one to two rides I’m through the (cosmetic?) anodizing and my preferred Wippermann Connex 108 chain is already munching through polished aluminum teeth. After a solid month or riding the anodizing on the Renthal 1XR ring’s teeth was still largely intact. Impressed.

Originally I had intended this to be an ‘until death do us part’ review in the same vein as the Crank Brothers Highline ‘Postricide‘ I’m working on; however, well into the life of the second fresh chain this ring has seen, I decided to write up the ring.

Try One

True, after months of use it doesn’t look as fresh as it did after the first thirty days. In fact, it will benefit greatly from ten minutes with a round file removing the few sharp burs that have appeared on the wider teeth. Either way, there is a surprising amount of life left in this chainring.

I’m confident that any other chainring I’ve tested would be going in the recycling bin at this point. I certainly won’t hesitate to replace it with another Renthal chainring.

I think it’s well worth the $80 (CAD).


What chainring would you stack against the Renthal 1XR for durability?

Comments

nat-brown
0
Nat Brown  - Sept. 8, 2016, 10:40 a.m.

I'm a fan of Renthal stuff already, and this was on my radar as my next ring, so I appreciate your thoughts. I vaguely recall reading somewhere (not Renthal) that the ano they use is the hardest available (or at least used in cycling), so that's got to be a factor. I think Funn might use it on some of their stuff too.

Just one criticism of your experimental approach: I think testing the ring on a single speed, with the fixed, and close to ideal chainline, would avoid the wear from the variable chainline of cassette gearing, which would be a significant source of wear, possibly the most significant. What do you think? If you're making comparisons to other rings you've been using on your single speed, then I suppose that's a decent control. I'm not so concerned about 1/8″ chain brought up by others here.

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - Sept. 8, 2016, 1:42 p.m.

I can speak to the anodizing quality. The alloy bars and chainrings are both very resilient.

In terms of "experimental approach." It's an apples to apples approach as far as I go through way more rings on the SS so that is where I have the largest body of comparables. Sure no side load. Sure the weather is different every year. Sure the results may differ for someone who measures their rides in thousands of kilometres of fireroad cruising, or millimetres of rain, or the number of pounds of sand they pull from their BB shells every month. I doubt it, but anything's possible?

Factor in personal bias, various standards for bike maintenance, and differing opinions on when to replace chains and my simple hope is that, as unscientific and non data-driven as it may be, it is at least relative in terms of relating the quality of the 1XR.

At the end of the day, if not, I'll just fall back on the Maximus defence: "Are you not entertained?"

Reply

nat-brown
0
Nat Brown  - Sept. 8, 2016, 4:59 p.m.

Hey sorry if my critique was insensitive. I didn't intend it as a personal attack, for what that's worth, just as an assessment of the approach. I see all of the variables you mentioned as being insignificant, but do see the "apples to apples" aspect as being important. I am still interested in the details of narrow-wide chain retention here though, and if you want to ignore my questions here I'll get the message, I promise. These other rings that you're wearing out faster; are they showing visible signs of wear on the sides of teeth, in excess of what you're seeing with the Renthal? Are these other rings allowing the chain to derail frequently enough that you'd say their retention function is pooched, but the Renthal is hanging in there? Is it a general wear issue with the faces of the teeth that engage the chain for drive becoming worn at different rates between other rings and the Renthal? Sorry if I'm being generally obtuse or lacking in reading comprehension here.

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - Sept. 8, 2016, 5:54 p.m.

Hi Nat,

You don't have to worry about offending me with a question and I read your tone only as curious. I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment.

I was really unclear there (apples : apples). I don't have issues with the chain derailing from the single speed as the ring wears - as you note perfect chainline / though that may not be the case with the Oval - but as the teeth wear down chain fitment gets sloppy and it is perceivable less efficient.

The Renthal ring has visually significantly outlasted other rings. First the anodizing had no signs of wear after a month when I'd expect it after 1-2 rides. Then the teeth simply didn't wear down at the same rate. Normally I've taken a file to my ring to remove burrs that form way before now.

I wish I had photos of a few worn out rings.

On geared bikes as the narrow wide rings wear they definitely loose chain retention capabilities. I've experienced this on my own bikes and working in shops.

Hope that's better clarity.

Reply

esteban
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Esteban  - Sept. 7, 2016, 6:35 p.m.

When you say "I’m well into the life of the second fresh chain this ring has seen", what do you mean?
Because, a chain lasts to me usually more than a year / 3000km… So if this ring lasts DOUBLE that, then I'm sold and off to buy one right now!

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - Sept. 7, 2016, 8:57 p.m.

Hi Esteban, it isn't truly an apples to apples comparison unless we are riding the same types of bikes, on the same trails in the same conditions. I also am really not in to the datafication of cycling so I couldn't tell you KMs ridden, meters climbed, average heart rate or etc. There's a ~ saying about single speeds that you never need to worry about your bottom bracket seizing in your frame because you replace them so often and chains definitely have a pretty brutal existence in the same application.

That said, I'm very confident that Renthal's 1XR is the most durable ring I've tried and one of, if not the, longest wearing narrow-wide option you'll find.

Thanks!

Reply

esteban
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Esteban  - Sept. 8, 2016, 9:42 p.m.

Yeah, it's difficult to compare. Re-reading my comment i missed a "/s" because if a chain lasts me more than 3000km, a ring lasts me, I don't know, 12k? Surely more!

Reply

commenter19
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Commenter19  - Sept. 7, 2016, 2:35 p.m.

I went through a few of the higher end aftermarket NW rings before switching to the SRAM steel rings. $30, direct mount in the 28 tooth I use and going strong with no visible wear so far.

Of course no good if you're running Shimano cranks…

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - Sept. 7, 2016, 9:50 p.m.

I love the idea of the steel N/W rings, especially at the price, even if they are twice as heavy as the alloy counterparts.

I've heard of issues with teeth deforming and causing premature chain wear with other steel rings (and have experienced it with some steel granny rings) because the rings material is ~ as hard as the chain, but I have zero experience/feedback with the SRAM steel N/W rings so it will be interesting to see how they perform long term. I don't know anyone using one locally at this time.

I did have to laugh at the marketing copy. One tooth is narrow, the next tooth is wide, repeat. It's a narrow-wide sprocket. It would be like Chiquita calling Bonita's banana's "imitation". It's a banana.

"The same SRAM X-SYNC™ technology at a price well below competitors’ imitation “narrow wide” rings." (source: )

Reply

commenter19
0
Commenter19  - Sept. 7, 2016, 10:18 p.m.

I'll get back to you with an update in a few months if I'm still on the same steel SRAM ring. I have high hopes for it as I just cleaned my drive train and it really is showing very little wear so far.

For the price and (hopefully) longevity I can definitely swallow the extra 67 grams over the aluminum version!

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - Sept. 7, 2016, 11:19 p.m.

Awesome; thanks!

Reply

Vikb
0
Vik Banerjee  - Sept. 7, 2016, 7:57 a.m.

I haven't had any issues with NW rings wearing out faster than conventional rings. I ride right through the Coastal BC winter each year.

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - Sept. 7, 2016, 8:33 a.m.

Hi Vik,

Just out of curiosity are you comparing rings from one brand (like you always run Chromag for example) or your N/W vs. regular rings in general?

I asked a lot of riders about N/W vs. regular rings (to back up my own experience) and as you can imagine some people can compare within one brand (a lot of my friends run BlackSpire or Chromag rings exclusively for example) and some have a more general N/W vs. not N/W experience.

The general consensus was N/W rings need to be replaced more often but it's a totally unscientific survey and some guys who went from cheap 6000series rings to quality N/W rings definitely experienced the opposite.

Cheers!

Reply

Vikb
0
Vik Banerjee  - Sept. 7, 2016, 9:01 a.m.

I tend to run Race Face and Wolf's Tooth, but have used a bunch of other brands at various times. I do keep an eye on my chain wear and I do not push them aggressively to save a few bucks, which I think [no data to back it up] is why my drivetrains do not suffer premature wear.

That said I don't do anything different with my NW rings vs. the standard rings I have used and the NW rings don't wear any differently…or at least to the degree that the difference is noticeable.

I've also never heard anyone I ride with mention accelerated wear on NW rings, but chainring wear is just not a topic that comes up. These folks ride regularly year round and I don't see new rings on their bikes particularly frequently.

Reply

cooper
0
Cooper Quinn  - Sept. 7, 2016, 10:42 a.m.

Really? I mean, you literally never shift out of your NW ring. So even if you're only in your granny 10% of the time on a 2x system, I'd expect (and I see) increased wear on a 1x system. You're just in it for more time for the same number of hours or miles on the bike.

And that's skipping the chainline discussion entirely, where arguably a 1x system also sees more side loads and wear.

Reply

Vikb
0
Vik Banerjee  - Sept. 7, 2016, 10:44 a.m.

I don't know what you are talking about. Sorry.

I ran a 1x long before there were NW rings. I haven't used a front derailleur in as long as I can remember.

Reply

cooper
0
Cooper Quinn  - Sept. 7, 2016, 10:48 a.m.

If you're talking about comparable 1x rings of the same tooth count, the percentage difference above does not apply.

I'd still expect to see more side to side wear, especially on the W teeth. However this may not be as relevant, as the play allowed by this wear would then just be making it in to a 'normal' or NarrowNarrow ring.

And as @disqus_CK71TyEVIi:disqus has pointed out, 6000 series Al might as well be cheese, so YMMV depending on what you switched to/from.

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - Sept. 7, 2016, 1:23 p.m.

Thanks Vik, one - potentially interesting - aside to consider:

I know a lot of folks, myself included, who tried 1x years ago and found it okay for some rides (climbing the Fromme fire road as a local example) but an exercise in suffering in general on steep or technical uphill trails. This would be in the days of 11-32 cassettes (so 32×11-32) and 30-35lb bikes. The vast majority of us switched back to, at least manual bailout grannies.

Without knowing where you ride (terrain/elevation) do you think you may see less chainring wear because you are not in the worst cross-chain situations as often as what I'd see in the Shore-to-Sky area?

Just thinking if you know a lot of guys who've been riding 1x since before 42t cogs came along you may be pedalling gears with much straighter chain lines more of the time?

Cheers,

Reply

Vikb
0
Vik Banerjee  - Sept. 7, 2016, 1:33 p.m.

I live in Victoria and ride the usual suspects on the island. I pretty much use the low 4-5 gears on my cassette as it's steep up and steep down here. Not much opportunity to pedal on fast open trails.

My old-skool 1x days were on a 36lbs SC Nomad [still my winter bike]. I used a 30 or 32 x 34T low gear with a 26″ x 2.4″ tire. I'm now running a 32 x 42T on that bike with the advent of the GC cogs for 10 speed cassettes. One of these years when I wear out the chain ring on that bike I'll probably put on a 30T ring so I can improve the chainline a bit.

The one thing I do that I'm not sure a lot of riders do is keep a close eye on my chain wear and replace chains before they do a lot of damage to the drivetrain. That doesn't impact lateral wear from a poor chainline though.

Reply

extraspecialandbitter
0
ExtraSpecialandBitter  - Sept. 7, 2016, 6:49 a.m.

Could the fact that you're using a wide chain account for wear on your chain rings? If it rocks side to side at all that seems like it would speed up wear.

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - Sept. 7, 2016, 7:23 a.m.

There aren't many 1/8″ rings left on the market but the last ones I used (HBC) didn't last any longer than the 9/10/11 rings I've used. A bit quieter for sure.

The 1XR has outlasted any rings I've used (NB. Have not tried steel rings).

The chain really doesn't rock under load.

Cheers,

Reply

extraspecialandbitter
0
ExtraSpecialandBitter  - Sept. 7, 2016, 8:34 a.m.

Thanks Drew! That's interesting. I'm new-ish to SS and I haven't experimented very much. I've been using a 9 speed e-bike chain on the mountain bike and the cross bike, like the Wipperman 9SE.

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - Sept. 7, 2016, 8:39 a.m.

Thanks Alex!

I've been following 'E-Bike specific' product with great interest for exactly these kind of non-E-bike uses.

Stronger chains, simpler drivetrains, better wear, more powerful brakes… sounds good for pedal bikes too?

Still hoping to get my hands on an EX1 Kit for some meat-engine-only testing:

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - Sept. 7, 2016, 7:43 a.m.

Also, in general: I thought this would be a possibly interesting flip on testing a chainring versus "here's a N/W ring, it holds the chain on good" but I also run a Renthal 1XR on my 1×9 gravel bike.

I use the bike to pull my toddler all over the city in a trailer, in all weather conditions, on a bike with a 9-speed 11-34 cassette so there is a lot of cross chaining going on under big loads on steep climbs with two full growlers and a Kryptonite NY chain lock.

I'm running a 10-spd chain. I also do ~ zero maintenance as its a 9spd friction system and cleaning road grime off a drivetrain is an unending battle.

I've never dropped a chain even bouncing along fire roads, punching up curbs, or during the odd crash (which you'd expect given all the people riding off- road with no secondary retention).

The ring is holding up amazingly well. Boringly, never think about it well. But that sort of fits with every N/W review.

Reply

brizzy
0
Brizzy  - Sept. 7, 2016, 5:51 a.m.

Maybe I'm missing something…. what's the point of a narrow-wide ring on a singlespeed hardtail?

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - Sept. 7, 2016, 6:37 a.m.

Its an aside but I run N/W rings on my single speed as I can run less chain tension (chains last longer) and it's notably quieter thanks to the chain retention. It does put a limit on gearing options (no odd numbered teeth rings) but I highly recommend it.

Actually chain retention is such that it's possible to run an Oval ring with no additional tensioner if it's N/W.

In this case, being that N/W rings all seem to work similarly well, the point was to put the 1XR through hell and see how it faired against its reputation for interminability. Sometimes you just want to watch the world burn?

Thanks for reading!

Reply

whatyouthink
0
whatyouthink  - Sept. 7, 2016, 6:52 a.m.

That is a really interesting idea with an oval ring on a single speed

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - Sept. 7, 2016, 7:27 a.m.

My first oval experiences (geared bikes) generated a resounding 'meh'. Take it or leave, if people like it great.

On the one speed it's immediately noticeable. At a high cadence (say spinning on a fire road) the bike doesn't pulse like trying to spin at an epic rate with a round ring.

Standing cranking loose climbs it's way easier to evenly apply traction.

I really like it.

Reply

nopow
0
Nopow  - Sept. 7, 2016, 4:33 p.m.

Biopace . . . .

Reply

nat-brown
0
Nat Brown  - Sept. 7, 2016, 5:57 p.m.

There's one in every crowd…

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - Sept. 7, 2016, 6:46 p.m.

Don't be such a troll Nat!

In modern times opinions are the equivalent of facts even if they're easily disproven or regularly debunked.

If OtD thinks Obama paid for college as a gay prostitute after secretly emigrating from Atlantis with a fake birth certificate and that Oval rings are the same as Biopace who are you to tell him otherwise?!

Reply

nat-brown
0
Nat Brown  - Sept. 8, 2016, 10:22 a.m.

How does the chain tension vary with an oval ring as you rotate the cranks? Just in casual terms. I presume you've looked at that. Given the symmetry of the chainring, and the slightly more than 1/2 chainring engagement, I figure it probably doesn't vary that much, but I'm curious.

Reply

nat-brown
0
Nat Brown  - Sept. 8, 2016, 10:31 a.m.

Ha! Every time I read something about oval rings, someone mentions biopace without knowing the difference. Same for someone doing any type of riding without a helmet on a mountain bike website, someone has to comment about no helmet. It could be flatland BMX, fuck, a track stand, and someone is going to ignore what critical thinking powers they have to go: 2 x wheels + rider - helmet = disapproving comment about no helmet.

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - Sept. 8, 2016, 10:55 a.m.

It's a pretty huge variance when you don't have a derailleur to keep tension on the chain -- you have to run the chain slack enough in the right spot to account for frame flex (side to side) but tight enough it doesn't rattle around (falling off isn't an issue thanks to N/W).

When the ring is vertically it's most oblong vs. horizontally it's most oblong it's relatively a big difference in the amount of chain it takes up

Reply

nat-brown
0
Nat Brown  - Sept. 8, 2016, 4:36 p.m.

Interesting, and thanks. I'm obviously not thinking about it in the right way. I was thinking that with approximately 50% of the teeth are engaged, and that is constant as the cranks go around - as the ring picks chain at a faster rate, it leaves at the same, faster rate off the ring. None of that seems off to me, barring the assumption that approximately 50% doesn't really vary significantly. I doubt it does, but wouldn't bet on it. Perhaps the main factor is the change in triangulation, or whatever the proper term is, that results in the difference in length of unengaged chain from sprocket to ring. There's a good chance I'm on my own here in either wanting to understand this, or being slow at understanding it.

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - Sept. 8, 2016, 4:57 p.m.

Hi Nat, definitely the former not the latter.

I counted them off and in both the max horizontal and max vertical position there are 19x teeth engaged. Triangulation as you say may be what causes the big tension change?

Fire me an email (link at top of article) and I'll snap some pictures for you.

Cheers,

Reply

drewm
0
DrewM  - Sept. 8, 2016, 4:57 p.m.

Hi Nat, definitely the former not the latter.

I couldn't them off and in both the max horizontal and max vertical position there are 19x teeth engaged. Triangulation as you say may be what causes the big tension change?

Fire me an email (link at top of article) and I'll snap some pictures for you.

Cheers,

Reply

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