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Posted by John Lynn on February 03, 2016
My formative cycling years began in the eighties, and my first “proper” bike was a Raleigh Grand Prix with Shimano indexed shifting and BioPace cranks. I was in love… I remember drooling over the brochures and coming up with new ways to convince my parents that $800 for a bike of this caliber was more than worth it. I can’t remember what eventually convinced them, but I do remember the day I rode that bike home from the dealer. My previous bike was a crappy department store Peugeot, and compared to that, well, there was no comparison…
Two things stood out on that bike -- the (now ubiquitous) indexed shifting and the BioPace cranks. I’m a self-confessed tech geek--anything that had the potential to better my abilities without have to work for it (clean shifts anyone?) was the stuff! BioPace promised smoother pedaling “by eliminating the dead spot at the bottom of the stroke... [at a cadence of 90rpm or less]” I had no idea what my cadence was at age 14, but I did know the crank was weird as hell, and it never felt smooth. I got used to it, but I don’t think my knees ever did.
Enter Absoluteblack; they got it right. This chainring felt right from the first rotation of the crank. It has never felt weird.
I used Absoluteblack’s chainring for the first time on my newly built 9:ZERO:7 Team Edition from on a group ride in early December. Our group rides in Alaska are held in the dark (sunset is around 4:00pm) and tend to be fast (ever heard of Will Ross?) Part way through the ride (9:ZERO:7 owner) Jamey Stull asked what I thought about the ring... What? Oh yeah, the chainring... I forgot I had it on! The bike felt good: Light, fast, and engaged...
The engaged feeling the bike has, I attribute this to the nature of the ring and how it delivers power from your legs through the rest of the drivetrain. The crank/ring combo (interestingly enough) mimics the feel of a super-fast engaging hub. Every thought of turning the pedals resulted in forward motion. No effort felt wasted. The strange thing about this combination is that it feels normal, and it felt normal from the start. The round ones feel weird.
Several days later, Jamey and I were back out on the trails. Both of us riding identical bikes with the exception of the cranks and tire size; he had a 32 RaceFace chainring and I, the 32 Absolute Black. (Both of us on 45NRTH Dillingers--Jamey on a 5 myself on the 4) Jamey is a better climber than me (and to be honest, he’s a better everything than me) and when following him up steep soft grades, I could clearly see his bike loosing traction during a small portion of each pedal-stroke. His efforts over-powered the available traction and the tire would break loose. I, on the other hand had consistent traction on the same climb at the same speed. Interesting. I was loosing traction too, but it was a consistent loss across the full range of the pedal stroke. We probably lost the same amount of overall traction, but his was at one spot--he’d almost come to a complete stop, then continue until the traction loss. I, on the other hand, was able to maintain my momentum (and balance). Yes, I slowed. Yes, I lost traction -- but the way in which I lost it made it easier to control the bike and maintain the climb. Twice on this ride I “out-climbed” Jamey in these extreme circumstances. This never happens. And, it won’t happen again… Jamey just picked up another Absoluteblack ring for himself.
I can vow for two distinct advantages of this chainring: Better traction in low traction environments and a smoother, more efficient (feeling at least) pedal stroke. I cannot imagine going back to a round ring for fatbiking in the snow based solely on the traction advantages. The pedal stroke in low-cadence, high-wattage situations is superb. It just feels right, and encourages you to continue pushing. I'm a believer.
Absoluteblack's 32 tooth Quark Power Compatable ring on Jamey's Bike
Absoluteblack 32 Cinch Ring on my bike