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Oval Chainrings, Why Do They Improve Your Performance And Your Health?

February 23, 2024 282 view(s)

Oval Chainrings, Why Do They Improve Your Performance And Your Health?

Cyclists are always looking for the next thing to enhance their rides and performance. Most of the time, they seek improvements by changing or upgrading their bike's components. One of the increasingly common ways cyclists tweak their bikes is by fitting oval chainrings. 
If you're a traditionalist or relatively new to cycling, you may be unaware of oval chainrings and how they can enhance your performance and health. So, in this blog, we will highlight the characteristics of oval chainrings and how fitting one may benefit you. 

Understanding Oval Chainrings 

Let's start with the basics of oval chainrings, what they actually do, and why they are gaining popularity.  
These unique bike components aren't just a trendy upgrade; they unlock performance when cycling. Unlike their circular counterparts, oval chainrings feature a distinctive shape reminiscent of an ellipse. This design is a deliberate move to optimize the mechanical advantage throughout the pedal stroke. By altering the traditional round shape, oval chainrings address the dead spots in the pedal rotation, where riders often struggle to apply consistent power. 


Enhancing Power and Efficiency 

When you pedal with a circular chainring, you encounter moments in the rotation where your leg muscles experience less mechanical advantage. These dead spots make it harder to maintain a steady and powerful pedal stroke. 


However, the asymmetrical shape of an oval chainring gives you a mechanical advantage, allowing for a smoother and more consistent application of power. It's like having a helpful push when you need it the most, translating to increased efficiency on the road. 


As you push down on the pedal, the oval shape aligns with your muscles' strongest positions, providing an extra boost. Conversely, as you reach the bottom of the pedal stroke, the shape minimizes resistance in the weaker areas of your leg muscles, resulting in a more fluid and powerful ride. But like most things in cycling, the improvements are marginal. However, they add up over time, especially when you ride long distances. 

Additional Benefits Of Oval Chainrings 

Oval chainrings don't just benefit road cyclists. More mountain bikers are adopting them as they recognize how these fantastic bike components can enhance their trail time. The smoother and increased power delivery through an oval chain ring improves traction, especially when climbing up steep hills on a loose surface. Additionally, the reduced fatigue helps you climb faster and tackle more challenging terrain than with a regular circular chainring. 
Mountain bikers riding bikes with oval chainrings also notice better chain retention. This is because there is more gradual tension between the chainring's high and low points, reducing the likelihood of the chain dropping off. But, if you ride a full-suspension mountain bike, you may want to pair your new oval chainring with a chain guide. The chain tension constantly changes when you ride over rough surfaces as the shock extends and compresses. 

How Oval Chainrings Improve Your Health 

You may be surprised to learn that oval chainrings provide some health benefits when you fit one to your bike. The first thing is that riding a bicycle equipped with an oval chainring causes your joints to experience less stress. This reduced tension on your joints also means they are less likely to experience related injuries. In addition, you fatigue much slower, improving your ability to ride further on training rides or when racing. The knock-on effect is that being able to ride for longer means you get more of the health benefits of cycling, namely improved cardiovascular health, muscle growth, and better mental health. 

What You Need To Know Before Fitting An Oval Chainring To Your Bike 

Like all bike components, you must ensure your bike's drivetrain is compatible with an oval chainring. This is especially true if you ride an older bike, as more modern components may not fit. 
If you determine that your bike can take an oval chainring, it's essential that you fit it correctly. If you fit it incorrectly, you'll experience a dramatic reduction in performance. However, if you opted for an oval chainring from ROTOR, fitting is much easier thanks to the OCP System, which lets you adjust the orientation between the chainrings and cranks by 1°.  
The OCP system is designed to optimize your pedaling performance. It is also compatible with Shimano drivetrains. But please ensure your drivetrain can use an oval chainring before you purchase one. 
The next thing you need to know about riding with an oval chainring is getting used to how it feels. The sensation is slightly different and odd if you're used to a regular circular chainring. However, adapting to this new bike component won't take long and will feel natural after a couple of short rides. 

Do Oval Chainrings Cost More Than Round Chainrings? 

Cost is often a factor when upgrading a bike. You need to weigh up the price and determine if the improvements are enough to justify the money. So, it's worth mentioning that some oval chainrings are more expensive than traditional circular ones. This is usually because they are made from high-end materials, and the manufacturer has included several innovative features. But, if you're looking for new ways to ride your bike further and faster, you have to expect an associated cost. It is often worth spending the extra cash to gradually evolve your bike into your dream ride. 

Final Thoughts On Oval Chainrings 

So, oval chainrings are excellent bike components that provide a number of significant benefits. They enhance the power you put through the pedals and give mountain bikers better traction. But they also allow you to ride faster and further due to reduced fatigue while stopping your chain from dropping off all the time. Oval chainrings also make an already low-impact sport even better for your joints. 
As with most bike components, you need to ensure your bike's drivetrain is compatible with an oval chainring. Getting used to the sensation will also take a couple of rides. However, most people with fitted oval chainrings love them and never return to circular ones.  

Happy Ride  #ROTORian