Single or Double Chainrings: Which is Better for Mountain Biking?

Single or Double Chainrings: Which is Better for Mountain Biking?

Look around on your next mountain bike group ride, and you’ll probably see a mix of drivetrain setups. Some riders will be using single chainring setups while others will be pedalling double chainrings. In this article, we look at the advantages of each setup to help you determine which is better for you.

Wait, haven’t we be through this before?

Yes! The debate about the optimal number of front chainrings is not new. Mountain bikes used to come standard with a triple drivetrain setup including three front chainrings and a rear cassette.

However, as rear cassettes gradually picked up gears over time, growing from six to 11 in number, cyclists eventually figured out that they were pedalling around many duplicate gears and that they could still cover a similar gearing range with just two front chainrings – hence, the widespread adoption of the double front chainring setup.

Leading drivetrain manufacturers now offer as many as 12-speed cassettes as well as higher tech derailleurs that incorporate clutch mechanisms to reduce chain slap. Thus riders are again in a similar position of debating the pros and cons of eliminating one more chainring.

Advantages of a Single Ring Setup

It’s lighter. One less chainring and cable and no front derailleur mean your bike weighs less.

Shifting is simpler. You no longer have to worry about possibly dropping your chain when shifting between front rings. This is a big advantage, especially for racers shifting under pressure and for less experienced riders who lack confidence and skill to reliably use their front shifter with success.

It requires less maintenance. You’ll have fewer chainrings to replace when they wear out, and you’ll never need to adjust your front derailleur again during installation or as your cable would have inevitably stretched over time.

Cleaner cockpit. With one less shifter, your cockpit is less cluttered, and you free up one hand which can instead be devoted to operating your dropper post control.

Advantages of a Double Ring Setup

You have a larger range of gears. Because there are twice as many gears, it’s easier to spec them to cover a larger range. Having more gears at the low end makes it easier to tackle longer and steeper climbs. Having more gears at the high end means you can pedal down fast descents without spinning out.

Your pedalling may be more efficient. With twice as many gears, spacing between gears is typically smaller. If you are the kind of rider who is always shifting one gear up or down to maintain your optimal cadence, you will be more likely to always find the perfect gear at any moment.
You are more likely to have a better chainline. With two chainrings, you have more gear choices and can avoid poor chainlines, which means pedalling is quieter, requires less effort and causes less wear on your drivetrain.
Chainrings will not have to be replaced as often. Unless you always ride in just one of your two rings, normal wear and tear will be distributed over two chainrings, so you’ll have to replace them less often than if you were running one ring.

Do the Math

Still undecided? There is no substitute for sitting down with a gear calculator (such as and running the numbers on potential single and double chainring setups. Take the time to figure out your gear ratios or rollouts for your current and proposed setup. Then you’ll have a much better idea of how that potential new drivetrain will actually feel out on the trail before you invest the time and money to switch it.

Christmas Gift Guide for Cyclists

Christmas Gift Guide for Cyclists

Looking for the perfect holiday gift for the cyclists among your family and friends? ROTOR has you covered for many important bike components. Read on for five great suggestions for what you can put under the Christmas tree.


Ride further and faster while pedalling with ROTOR’s Q-Rings. These oval-shaped chainrings help cyclists use their muscles more efficiently during the pedal stroke. ROTOR offers a variety of Q-Rings compatible with Shimano, SRAM and Campagnolo drivetrains, and you can chose aero or non-aero rings made of carbon or aluminum.

We recommend picking a chainring with the same number of teeth, the same number of bolts and the same bolt circle diameter as the chainring already on the bike on which the recipient will be installing it.

Rotor Q Rings Chainrings

ROTOR Q-Rings Chainrings

Choose your chainring for Road, Mountain Bike, Enduro, Triathlon, or Cyclocross.

Power Meters

Get more out of your efforts by training and racing with a power meter. ROTOR’s state-of-the-art 2INpower is a dual-sided power meter – with Bluetooth connectivity and a rechargeable battery – that tells you exactly how you are riding. It uses strain gauges in both crank arms to measure power individually output for each leg. Cyclists can use 2INpower’s precise data to identify weak spots in their pedal stroke, then target improvements accordingly for better performance.

Rotor 2INPower


Find out more about 2INpower for Road, Triathlon or Cyclocross


Mountain bikers will love the new ROTOR  RHawk and RRaptor cranksets – both are designed specifically for enduro use. And while all cranks come with molded rubber bumpers around their ends where the pedals attach, the RHawks and RRaptors also feature a large rubber bumper further up the crank arm so they will withstand bigger rock impacts.

Though both the RHawk and the RRaptor come in a standard black anodized finish with laser etched graphics, riders get to pick from seven different colors for the crankarm protectors, ranging from an understated black to bright neon yellow, orange, red, pink, blue and green.

Rotor Rhawk


Find out more about ROTOR’s enduro cranksets.

Bottom Brackets

If there is one component a cyclist doesn’t want to have to think about while training and racing, it’s their bottom bracket. Nothing beats a quiet, clean and smoothly spinning bottom bracket – it means every pedal stroke’s effort is going toward propelling the bike forward rather than toward overcoming the friction of a poorly functioning bottom bracket.

With UBB, ROTOR offers bottom brackets per many common standards such as English threaded (BSA), Italian threaded (ITA), BB30, Press Fit 30, BBright, BB 386 EVO, BB86, BB89 and BB92.

Rotor Botttom Brackets

ROTOR Bottom Brackets

Shop for bottom brackets for the Road, Mountain Bike, Enduro, Triathlon and Cyclocross.

How to Set Your Optimum Chainring Position (OCP)

How to Set Your Optimum Chainring Position (OCP)

Switching from using round chainrings to ROTOR’s Q-Rings is easy, but it does require some initial setup followed by a transition period for full adaptation.

Why Q?

Optimum Chainring Position (OCP) is what allows you to vary the rotational position of a Q-Ring, thereby enabling you to adjust it to the precise point where you deliver maximum power during a single pedal rotation.

ROTOR suggests the following initial OCP setups by discipline:

  • Road: Position 3
  • Triathlon and TT: Position 4
  • MTB: Position 3

Because Q-Rings use leg muscles differently than round chainrings, your muscles will need time to adapt to the new, more efficient way of pedalling. Adaptation is a gradual process covering four stages with each stage taking between one day and one week. Most riders will require at least 10 hours of pedalling time to make the full transition.

Stage 1

In stage 1, you will learn to pedal more efficiently. Pedalling may initially feel different, and you may find yourself turning the pedals at a faster or slower rate than your usual cadence. Don’t worry about any initial jerkiness – it will smooth out over time.

Stage 2

You will start to feel more capable and more powerful in stage 2, and your spin will improve on climbs. Many who suffer knee pain will start to notice it less – assuming their OCP is correctly adjusted.

Stage 3 + 4

Stage 3 will bring improved biomechanical efficiency, which produces a smoother pedal stroke due to fuller activation of muscle groups. You will be creating more power than with round chainrings. If you experience no issues during this stage, you have correctly set your OCP and are onto Stage 4 of adaptation. Those encountering issues should read on for further OCP setting instructions.

If you experience the following symptoms, you are arriving at the max chainring diameter too late because your OCP number is too big, and you should reduce your OCP by one setting:

  • You accelerate and sprint easily, but have difficulty maintaining speed.
  • You feel pedalling resistance too late in your pedal stroke and/or you are hyperextending your ankle.
  • You need a lower cadence to be comfortable.
  • Your sit further forward than usual to pedal comfortably.
  • You are comfortable pedalling while standing, but not while seated.
  • You have new pain at the back of your leg behind your knee.

On the other hand, if your OCP is set too low, you will find yourself arriving at the max chainring diameter too soon during your pedal stroke. You should increase your OCP setting by one if you experience the following:

  • You find it easy to maintain a steady speed but have difficulty accelerating and sprinting.
  • You feel pedalling resistance too early in your pedal stroke and/or you are hyperflexing your ankle.
  • You need a higher cadence to be comfortable.
  • You sit further back than usual to pedal comfortably.
  • You are comfortable pedalling while seated, but not while standing.
  • You have a new pain at the front of your knee.

Once you’ve got your OCP correctly adjusted, it’s time for stage 4 and final adaptation, which comes naturally with more cumulative pedalling time using Q-Rings.

A few final setup notes

Different bikes may need different OCPs – don’t assume you will use the same position on each of your bikes.

Adjacent chainrings in multi-ring setups may require different OCP’s.

Road Q-Rings and QXL have five OCP points while MTB Q-Rings have three OCP points.

If you are using a Micro Adjust Spider (MAS), your number of OCP points is effectively doubled because it reduces the angle between OCP points by 2.5 degrees, thereby offering micro adjustments. In this case, you should adjust your OCP in 1/2-step increments.

Introducing the new RHawk & RRaptor modular cranksets

Introducing the new RHawk & RRaptor modular cranksets

Introducing the new RHawk & RRaptor modular cranksets for enduro mountain bike use

rhawkROTOR is pleased to introduce two new cranksets to its mountain bike product offerings: both the RHawk and the RRaptor are specially designed for enduro use.

The two cranksets feature extra protection to withstand abuse due to the rock strikes that are more common in enduro riding and racing. While some cranks come with molded rubber bumpers around their ends where the pedals attach, the RHawk and RRaptor also feature a large rubber bumper farther up the crankarm to protect them better against bigger rock impacts.

Though both the RHawk and the RRaptor come in a standard black anodized finish with laser etched graphics, riders get to pick from seven different colors for the crankarm protectors, ranging from an understated black to bright neon yellow, orange, red, pink, blue and green.

Like ROTOR’s cross-country mountain bike-oriented REX cranks, the RHawk and RRaptor are machined for maximal strength and low weight. Both sets of cranks are available in 165, 170 and 175mm length options.

In addition to being light and rigid, the RHawk and RRaptor cranks were designed to be modular so that they can be easily adapted to current and future spacing standards. Both have a 30mm spindle size that is compatible with a variety of bottom brackets such as BBright, BB30, PF30 and BSA, but they use a separate axle which can be swapped out to accommodate bikes used for various disciplines.

Current available axle lengths include standard mountain spacing with a 164mm Q-factor and 51mm chainline; Boost spacing with a 170mm Q and 54mm chainline, or downhill spacing with a 179mm Q-factor.

The modular design also extends to chainrings, which are available separately. At this time, the RHawk and RRaptor single ring-compatible spiders work with ROTOR’s new direct mount oval QX1 rings in sizes from 26T to 34T. Featuring ROTOR’s patented Optimum Chainring Position tech, the rings are easily swapped using just one tool: an 8mm allen wrench. A preload adjuster on the non-driveside crank fastens the cranks in place.

ROTOR also offers direct mount rings for SRAM GXP®, BB30 and Race Face Cinch in 30T, 32T and 34T sizes – all for a standard chainline.

Of the two cranksets, the 100% CNC-machined RHawk is lighter due to its material and to more CNC machining during the manufacturing process. RHawk features ROTOR’s signature Trinity Drilling System, which is a process that drills three full-depth holes along the axis of the crank. The 175mm RHawk crankset weighs 665g with a standard axle and 30T Q-Ring.

The slightly heavier RRaptor does not have the longitudinal bore hole, but instead is crafted from a different aluminum alloy and has single-width, post machined recesses on the insides of each crankarm. The 175mm Raptor crankset weighs 715g with a standard axle and 30T Q-Ring.

ROTOR Q-Rings and chain

ROTOR Q-Rings and chain

Many ROTOR Q-Rings users have some doubts about whether the chain suffers or it will experience some problems due to the oval shape of the chainrings.

If you take a look at the ROTOR Q-Rings chainwheels you will see that the chain has to adapt constantly to the oval shape. The whole system has been designed to this purpose, so the chain does not jump unexpectedly, no even when shifting.

When assembling the Q-Rings chainrings we advise you to place the shifter in the highest part of the oval. This is the key to have the system working smoothly when switching chainwheels. Before going out for the first time make sure that everything works correctly.

You must never use ROTOR Q-Rings with a worn chain or in poor condition. This is part of the regular maintenance of your bike. The chain must be clean and well kept. Always use a good chain lubricant to improve the horizontal movement needed to change gears.

Last but not least, check the rear sprockets. If they are worn out replace them.

With the powertrain clean and in good order, the Q-Rings chainrings work just like regular chainwheels, only that you will benefit from a much more powerful and effective pedal stroke.