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Thread: Wolf Tooth 104 BCD Elliptical Drop-Stop Chainring from Mountain Bikes Direct

  1. #1
    Heavy machinery. Dozer's Avatar
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    Default Wolf Tooth 104 BCD Elliptical Drop-Stop Chainring from Mountain Bikes Direct

    Welcome to the first of many upcoming reviews on products provided to us by our friends at Mountain Bikes Direct. We've teamed up with one of Australia's best online mountain bike stores to bring you in depth reviews on the latest and most intriguing parts and accessories you can purchase for your bike.
    The values shared by the staff at Rotorburn and Mountain Bikes Direct are the same; we have a huge passion for mountain biking! It's our pleasure to be in a great position to test, review and share our in depth details on some great products available from Mountain Bikes Direct.

    Item: Wolf Tooth 104 BCD elliptical drop stop chainring
    Purchased From: Mountain Bikes Direct (Click here for the product page)
    Purchase Price (approx): $85.95
    Usage: All mountain / enduro and trail riding

    Pros - Very easy to fit, very effective pedal stroke enhancement, reduces impact on knee joints.
    Cons - Doesn't work in an enclosed top guide style chainring

    Product outline: A single front chainring typically aimed at a geared setup. The words "drop stop" refer to the almost witchcraft-esque technology that signifies the shape of the teeth on the chainring; also known as narrow wide. This style of chainring drastically reduces the chance of your chain dropping off by shaping the teeth of the chainring to fill the gaps in your chain effectively. One tooth is wide, the next is narrow. The use of a drop stop or narrow wide chainring can be used without a chain guide on some riding styles.

    Bike used: Norco Sight Carbon with Cane Creek Inline Coil rear shock, Rockshox Pike dual position forks, tubeless wheel set with aggressive tyres, 10 speed SRAM drivetrain and Rockshox Reverb dropper post.

    Fitting: The first step when purchasing any type of new chainring is to ensure it fits your crank set. Typically, you'll have a four or five bolt pattern on your crank arms or a direct mount. In the case of a four bolt crank setup, you have a measurement ending in BCD. BCD stands for "bolt circle diameter" and is the measurement between the centre of each mounting hole. For the Wolf Tooth elliptical drop stop chainring I've fitted, it's a 104BCD.
    Usually, you can remove your existing chainring without taking your crank set out of the bottom bracket. The chainring is bolted to the crank arms with small chain ring bolts that are undone using allen keys. In the case of the Wolf tooth chainring, the bolts I removed from my existing chainring were not able to be used to fit the Wolf Tooth chainring as it has a mounting thread in it already. Be sure to grab the correct bolts to fit the chainring when you make your purchase!
    Mounting the Wolf Tooth chainring with the correct bolts is a breeze but with an elliptical chainring (also known as an oval chainring) you must ensure the wider side of the oval is in the correct spot to ensure the pedal stroke is efficient. Imagine your drive side crank arm is level (horizontal) and pointing forward then mount the chainring so the wider side of the oval is the first part that your chain will come in contact with on the top of the ring. (See included images). The Wolf Tooth chainring has a built in thread so simply tighten the bolts to the correct torque (varies between manufacturers) and remount your chain. It's that easy!

    On the trail: Right then, lets address the first big question; what is the point of an elliptical chainring? The science behind it suggests the shape of the chainring flattens the area of your pedal stroke where you are applying the least amount of power. It basically removes that little bit of effort used to turn the cranks to get to the next point in the stroke where you apply power.
    I've not used an oval chainring before and have been a little sceptical thinking it may actually hinder your pedal stroke so I picked a trail that included every feature and terrain to thoroughly test this thing. It started on a fire road with a flat section that lead into a fifteen minute climb with the start of a feature packed gravity fed trail running from the top. First impressions on the flat road were surprising as it seemed like it reduced amount of shock bounce you get from pedalling with a shock in its open position (no climb function activated). I rolled along this flat road testing some sprinting sitting and standing and testing how it feels to pedal when in a gear too high for the terrain. Again, it seems to simplify the effort you're putting in believe it or not; it feels easier to power down and keep the power down!
    The steep climb is one area that I really wanted to see what this thing can do. I run a ten speed setup and this climb is usually in my lowest three gears on my cassette with the smallest being a 42 tooth. The climb steepens towards the end so keeping a good cadence in the right gear is crucial. How did the oval chainring feel? ........................... Bloody brilliant! It really does reduce the effort required, it's only a small difference but it works how I hoped it would. To put it simply, climbing usually feels like you’re running up steep stairs but with an oval chainring it feels like the stair case is less steep. To summarize the effect of the oval chainring for climbing a smooth fire road: Amazing!
    With the climb done, it was time to try the chainring on my trail littered with drops, some big doubles, tons of berms and a whole lot of flow and rhythm. I have been forced to run a chain guide on this particular bike as I ride some rough terrain but this test was done without any chain device and solely reliant on the narrow wide chainring and chain tension keeping it on the chainring. Some sections require a ton of pedalling at pace to clear a few jumps so a chain bouncing off the chainring is very bad. Thankfully, the chain never came off once and standing putting the heavy pedals in to clear jumps at speed was faultless. In all honesty, the bike felt exactly the same descending as it does with my typical setup using a circular chainring and chain guide. Hammering the pedals in tenth gear I felt no difference with an oval chainring. Box ticked!
    The end of this particular trail leads into a freshly built and technical steep climb on single track with a lot of turns and a lot of uneven ground and rounded roots. I cannot compare the use of the oval chainring to any other chainring as this was the very first ride on this trail but my impressions are good and again highlighted what I pointed out about the unpowered portion of your pedal stroke being simplified. When the trail is finished and firm, it will still be a bottom gear kind of climb and I managed it easily using the oval chainring albeit with a few heavy huffs and puffs.

    Summary: So, to answer the one burning question; does an elliptical chainring actually work? I'm saying a resounding yes, it's better than I expected and worked flawlessly on all ground I covered. I primarily ride downhill but do ton of riding uphill to get to the fun bits so coming from someone who is happy to admit he isn't going to win any street cred for his climbing ability, this opinion matters as I found this thing to work. My only gripe is it doesn't work with my E Thirteen chain guide but if the thing doesn't allow my chain to come off in my typical riding conditions then thats another win for it.
    To cement my opinion on it, I had a brand new Wolf Tooth drop stop chainring taken freshly out of the packet that I put on straight after testing the elliptical chainring and did the exact same ride again. The result was the same on the gravity fed stuff but the climbing required more effort and the fire road climb had me in a lower gear more frequently on what felt like a chainring with more teeth.
    I'm very impressed and recommend anyone who wants to lessen the load on trails with a bit of uphill try this thing, it's a simple way to simplify perhaps the most dull part of a ride. Thanks to our friends at Mountain Bikes Direct for the exclusive use of their products for this and many more reviews to come. See the Wolf Tooth product page here.
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  2. #2
    Senior Member stirk's Avatar
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    Thanks dozer, if anyone could convince me these oval rings are not 'snake oil' it's you with a good review.

    It's also good to see the collaboration with MTB direct, good company with solid local pricing although I do have one gripe with them, on my last order they forgot the Mentos!
    Fertilising my post count

  3. #3
    Senior Member hifiandmtb's Avatar
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    Default Wolf Tooth 104 BCD Elliptical Drop-Stop Chainring from Mountain Bikes Direct

    Hey Dozer - who wrote this review? It seems like not you, perhaps an advertorial?

    I'm not convinced you actually paid for the product?

    Sorry to be such a downer, but I need to believe!

  4. #4
    Senior Member stirk's Avatar
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    Don't listen to this guy ^^^^

    Oh, and if you get inundated with products to test I'll happily help out with some reviews.

    ;)
    Fertilising my post count

  5. #5
    Heavy machinery. Dozer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hifiandmtb View Post
    Hey Dozer - who wrote this review? It seems like not you, perhaps an advertorial?

    I'm not convinced you actually paid for the product?

    Sorry to be such a downer, but I need to believe!
    An advertorial? Pfft, It is indeed my words and my review mate. This is the direction I wanted to go with the review stuff and in between doing reviews on parts I acquire elsewhere, the exciting agreement we have with Mountain Bikes Direct means we can review their exclusive products that they send us and share the results with you guys to build up our product review database. Trust me, I'm not intending to talk something up that isn't worthy of a good review so the results will always be honest and accurate.
    I assume you're surprised it's me because I gave some interest to how a part performs when climbing?!


  6. #6
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    Tell the truth Dozer! How many green Mentos do you have now???

    #sofresh

  7. #7
    Isn't flammable. moorey's Avatar
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    Pretty much exactly what I found. And I wasn't paid to like it.
    Quote Originally Posted by JTmofo View Post
    Think I'll just buy an Orange!

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    Senior Member swaz's Avatar
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    Yeah... nahh. No one can provide an unbiased opinion of a product when it is provided by a company.
    Successful trades: F1234K

  9. #9
    Senior Member hifiandmtb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dozer View Post
    I assume you're surprised it's me because I gave some interest to how a part performs when climbing?!
    I am a bit

    Last sentence though - "exclusive use of their products". You bought it, you own it...you ain't using it, per se!

  10. #10
    Senior Member stirk's Avatar
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    I think most reviews you see and read are sponsored in some way shape or form. In this case the review is supported by a retailer, i say supported because I don't know the details of the relationship and nor does it matter too much as a review is an opinion only.

    The fact the review is on a product not made by MTB direct but only sold by them means the review supports their business not the manufacturer and being a local business the bigger their sales are the more they will be able to discount and match the big retailers overseas and that's a good thing for all.

    Being cheapskates you'll likely buy from ze Germans anyway, save you a cent on an xt cassette ;)
    Fertilising my post count

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