absoluteBLACK Oval Narrow-Wide SRAM Direct Mount Chainring: Rider Review

Our "Rider Review" article series features the honest reviews from verified purchasers of Worldwide Cyclery. They contain the photos, thoughts, feedback & overall review you are looking for.

It's becoming more and more popular these days to go with an oval chainring setup. The debate still rages on whether or not there is a substantial benefit. One of our valued customers gives us a rundown on the absoluteBLACK Oval Narrow-Wide SRAM Direct Mount Chainring. Check it out!

absoluteBLACK Oval Narrow-Wide SRAM Direct Mount Chainring Rider Review


One of the new, and questionable, combinations of working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic (besides day-drinking and sporting a man-bun) is lots of free time watching Worldwide Cyclery videos. Hence, new chaining. As an “aging” rider, I was considering switching out my 30T chainring for something climby-er and was intrigued by the oval idea. I decided to go with absoluteBlack Oval Narrow-Wide SRAM Direct Mount Chainring as they appear to be leaders in developing the latest concepts of oval chainrings. Check out their website, if you want to get deep into the weeds. They claim that your pedal stroke will feel more “round” with an oval ring. They also mention the ill-fated Biopace oval ring put out by Shimano from the early ’80s to the early ’90s. The folks at Worldwide Cyclery were helpful with selecting the proper offset for my SRAM setup. I got a cool, shiny, red one! And my riding buddy got a gold one which looks sick with his black frame Tallboy. 

The installation was straightforward. Mine was a direct mount chainring and there are some good YouTube videos for the crank removal and install. (I used one created by LoveMTB, titled “SRAM X1/GX/NX/X01 Crankset Install, Removal, Maintenance”) A couple of tips: Clean the bike before you start so you don’t drop any crud on a clean, sticky, greased crank axel. Grease the spline, axel, and any all metal-to-metal contacts to help ensure a tight fit and minimize any squeaking. (Full disclosure: I disassembled mine a couple of times to re-clean and re-grease to eliminate an annoying squeak.) Use a quality torque wrench. I got a Park Tool TW-6.2, also from WC, with quick delivery. (And got good use out of it. See above.) And you’ll need Loctite for the chainring bolts.

absoluteBLACK Oval Narrow-Wide SRAM Direct Mount Chainring Rider Review
I was surprised how different the bike felt on climbs. On technical singletrack climbs, it was crisp and lively. Instead of a slog, the bike was active and climbing more aggressively. I also discovered that I could ride some uphill sections a gear up, which increased my rate of climb. It did take some rides to get used to the new chainring though. With the absoluteBlack 28T and the efficiency of the oval, I had more torque on the rear wheel and frequently broke traction on loose sections or over roots, while riding in my usual climbing position. So, with a little more weight adjustment towards the rear, I started getting reliable traction. On long fire roads climbs, the pedaling was smooth. I felt no “pulsing” from the oval, which I was worried might be an issue. And I had no issues riding down any technical singletrack sections.

Final Thoughts

I got the oval chainring on a bit of an impulse buy but I’m really pleased with the positive effect it has had on my riding. And the red chainring is way cool.

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October 20, 2020

absoluteBLACK › direct mount chainring › Oval Chainrings › Rider Review ›

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