Ever since Wiggins won the TDF on oval chainrings we’ve been waiting for the rest of the peloton to jump on the oval bandwagon. In more recent years, we’ve also seen Chris Froome dominate using oval, but cyclists still seem very much divided on the topic. 

That’s why we decided to try and find out whether oval is the way to go.

Oval chainring

The science behind the oval

We searched the internet to find some independent articles on oval chainrings, which was a struggle in itself! We came across the article ‘Cycling performance improvement with oval chainrings after 1 year of adaptation’ by Borut Fonda of the University of Primorska, and decided to see what he had to say. 

With 7 experienced cyclists using absoluteBLACK oval chainrings, Borut found that the effectiveness across the whole pedal stroke was significantly higher when using oval. Similar differences were found in gross efficiency too. This meant that the cyclists could work less while maintaining performance.

Total force for the oval was lower than the round chainring, meaning the cyclists could produce less force for the same results. He highlights that over a large distance the positive impact is heightened due to the continual revolutions… ‘if one is pedalling at 90 rpm and is saving 5 N every pedal stroke, it sums to 27000 N (2700 kg) for every hour of cycling.’

Borut concludes ‘that if using oval chainrings for a longer time, cyclists will spend less energy at a given power output and could potentially ride for longer.’ It seems that the largest benefit will be for long-distance riders, but saying that all cyclists (based on the findings in this study) will benefit to some extent riding oval.

Oval chainring

Ovals, stats, and Keith

One of our very own made the transition to oval last year. Keith, our Customer Experience Guru, hasn’t looked back since riding with ovals.

We decided to go into Keith’s data archives to find when he made the transition and what changes he found as a result. Riding on absoluteBLACK’s Premium Oval Road x2 130/5 BCD Chainrings saw Keith’s normalised power increase to 373w, from his previous 347w, that’s a 26w increase!

We know ourselves that this still isn’t conclusive, as the distance Keith cycled varied between the two rides and many other variables may have contributed too. 

We all want to know the answer to the oval vs round discussion, so we’re planning to do more in-house tests in 2020 to see if the rest of us should join Keith on oval rings. So watch this space!

Q+A with the man himself

In the meantime, we decided to have a Q+A with Keith to go beyond the data and find out why he prefers to ride with oval chainrings…

Do you ‘feel’ any differences when using an oval chainring?

Keith: ‘Yes, the initial ride ‘felt’ slightly different, possibly easier, but definitely smoother. You do obviously get used to this feeling, so it does become the norm, but there was definitely a feeling of it being smoother.’

Are you an ovalist for life now?

Keith: ‘Yes, I would say so. With the feeling of it being smoother/easier, I see no benefit in returning to the round chainrings… they look cool too!’

Would you recommend an oval chainring to the rest of the cycling community?

Keith: ‘Yes, definitely. The feelings are difficult to describe, as they are micro-differences that happen twice each pedal rev. It is something that you have to experience yourself really. When you are trying to get your position, style and comfort to the best you can, these certainly help with a smoother pedalling action. I have noticed a change to how steady I feel in my TT position, which helps with aerodynamics and reducing fatigue too.’

During your rides, when do you find it most useful?

Keith: ‘Every pedal rev. If you pedal at 90 rpm and go for a two hour ride, they are helping 21,600 times. Although only micro-differences, the accumulation of these over the length of your ride can only be of benefit to the rider. The longer you ride, the greater the potential benefit.’

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Insure your upgrades

Bikmo covers your upgraded components as standard, so if you want to make sure your oval chainring is covered, as well as any other gadgets or modifications, click here to get a quote.

 

With thanks to Borut Fonda and the University of Primorska, you can find the full article here.

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