Words by: Max Morgan
What the heck is a "narrow wide" chainring. Were here to throw down some Bike Knowledge and break down what these narrow wide chainrings are all about! So what is a narrow wide chainring? And what do they do? What are the best narrow wide chainrings on the market? Read more to learn all about the chainrings that changed cycling drivetrains. Check out our full collection of narrow wide chainrings to find high quality products from brands like Wolf Tooth Components, Sram, Race Face, E*Thirteen, Renthal, Rotor, Absolute Black and more!
Sram X-Sync 2 Eagle Chainring Mounted to Sram X01 Eagle Cranks
The term "narrow wide" chainring describes the shape and profile of the individual teeth driving the chain. Each tooth alternates thickness, narrow wide narrow wide, all the way around the ring. With an old school traditional chainring, all the teeth would be considered narrow with small differences in thickness between brands.
When looking at your chain, you will see how each link is pinned together to the next and the gaps between chain links alternate from narrow to wide. The narrow wide chainring now mates seamlessly with the chain, almost locking the chain to the ring without much increase in drag.
As you ride over rugged terrain, your chain moves around quite a lot. The sole purpose of the narrow wide chainring is chain retention. The narrow wide tooth pattern keeps the chain from moving left to right and eventually popping off the chainring while riding. No one likes to drop their chain on the trail, especially in a race scenario where every second counts!
Before narrow wide chainrings, it was always necessary to mount a chainguide to prevent the chain from dropping. Now when using a narrow wide chainring, you don't need to use a chainguide at all. This keeps thing nice and simple! Some riders still chose to run a chainguide alongside a narrow wide ring for maximum chain security. Chainguides have become smaller, lighter, and more streamlined since narrow wide chainrings have taken off.
It is also important for these narrow wide chainrings to be able to shed mud and grime to function properly. If grime is building up around the base of each tooth, the chain may not be sitting all the way down on the chainring. Look for mud clearing design features on the best mountain bike narrow wide chainrings.
Yes. Because narrow wide chainrings have an alternating tooth pattern, they are only available in even number tooth sizes. That being said, finding the perfect size chainring is much easier with so many different 1x offerings available.
Wolf Tooth Components is always looking to improve bike components to be lighter, faster, and more reliable. The Drop Stop chainrings were the first product Wolf Tooth ever released and now stands as one of the best narrow wide chainrings on the market. Wolf Tooth makes a Drop Stop chainring for just about every standard out there. Wolf Tooth's narrow wide tooth profile is designed for maximum chain retention and mud clearing ability.
The Race Face narrow wide chainring has been one of leaders in the narrow wide game since the very beginning. With so many different mounting options, tooth count options, and anodized color options, the Race Face narrow wide chainring will fit just about every bike out there. The Cinch narrow wide chainring is a perfect match to the new Race Face Next R cranks!
The Sram X-Sync 2 chainrings are Sram's 2nd generation narrow wide chainrings that were introduced in conjunction with the Sram Eagle 12 speed drivetrain. X-Sync 2 features a much more aggressive tooth profile and overall design. The goal is one thing; ultimate chain retention and long wear life. The tooth design almost hooks the chain in place while pushing out mud, grit, and grime to reduce friction. The X-Sync 2 chainring is a great option and an important piece to Eagle collection.
This article was written / authored by Max Morgan. Max has been a professional downhill mountain bike racer for the last 10 years, competing in the UCI World Cup downhill series and U.S. Pro GRT series. Having ridden all different kinds of bikes on trails all over the world, Max's experiences being out on the circuit give him a unique perspective on what makes for a quality cycling component. Max also has degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Physics, and so if you don't see out on the trail, chances are he is probably in the garage tinkering on the next project.