Are oval chainrings are the future for mountain biking?

Product Overview

Overall rating:

Score 9

Absolute Black oval chainring


Absolute Black oval chainring review

Price as reviewed:


Designed in the UK and made in Poland, the Absolute Black oval is a heavily machined aluminium chainring and is lighter than any other GXP spiderless ring on the market.

It uses the now-common narrow/wide tooth profile for improved chain retention, and comes in an oval shape that the Absolute Black claims evens out power delivery. The idea is it maximises the downstroke and minimises resistance by offering an easier and harder portion of gearing throughout the pedal revolution.

After you adapt to the slight pulsing, the oval ring clearly results in smoother power delivery and better traction — it feels like you can push a stiffer gear, or ride up steeper pitches without wheel-spinning.

Watch how to pedal effectively with Brendan Fairclough here

If climbing is a big part of your riding then the oval concept is highly recommended, but it may be best to pair with clipless pedals as  I’m not convinced the oval effect feels as urgent when really stamping down hard on flats.

It may be coincidental, but the chain also got dropped on a rough DH track (even running a chain device), which hasn’t happened to me for a long time with a standard narrow/wide design.

For more information click here



Weight:50 grams (actual)
Sizes:28, 30, 32, 34, 36T
Colours:black, red, blue
  • Peter Samuel Suspension-inc

    I had an oval chain ring on my Raleigh Montage back in the 90’s, its nothing new.

  • stevephipps

    Yep, these definitely work. The history of ovals & similar is that good ones were actually made before Shimano’s Biopace. Shimano made a rare error & got the orientation wrong & because the cranks were 5 arm you couldn’t correct it properly. Chris Bell was making Egg-Rings before Shimano – they worked but the Shimano disaster harmed his sales. He made round ones as well so still sold chainrings though. Many others have been done properly. I use an Absolute Black & it does exactly what’s claimed.
    Mechanics says it has to & you can feel it working. I can get up climbs faster with a 32 oval than a 32 round and it also feels less effort because I’m not having to fight the dead spot. Downhill, pedalling out of the saddle however, the 32 oval seems to give as much speed as a 34 round – it’s effectively this size where you have most power in the stroke.
    As far as I know, AB are oval

  • Glyn Harrison

    I’ve not had mine long, so time will tell on build quality.

    Initial use has felt positive. I seem to have smoother power output with better traction when climbing.

    As for feel when riding; It took maybe 20 seconds before I’d forgotten I’d fitted it – it felt like it kind of flicked itself round when at the top of a stroke initially. Now, it doesn’t feel much different whilst out. I’m certainly not a great deal faster.

    It’s only really once I get back and my knees feel like they’d happily ride for longer that I feel I’ve made a worthy upgrade. I was getting increasingly sore knees after long rides and I’d seen a few review that mentioned this chainring had helped, so I took the plunge (I wanted a different size chainring anyway) and hey presto, much less pain and stiffness.

  • New ones are a. elliptical instead of oval b. 90deg shifted from the old ones (they had the theory backwards back then).
    I had one for a while and really liked it, but a pedal strike broke it. The claim this is impossible, but.. I was there, so… they won’t replace it claiming I actually hit it on something. I have money and can buy a replacement, but don’t care for being treated as a liar. I’m running a round version of theirs for now and it’s good enough, so probably won’t buy another oval until I need a new ring.

  • Reformed Roadie

    Mark, do some homework. These, and all of the modern oval rings are nothing like (the opposite, in fact) the Biopace rings. I started in the late ’80s.

  • Mark Severs

    Wasn’t this tried before, over and over again? I do remember in the very early 90s, people’s main reason for buying chainrings as an aftermarket accessory was to GET RID of their factory-fitted Shimano “Biopace” oval rings and buy circular ones.
    They had such a negative effect on bike handling that the slang word of the era for the bob-up-and-down tendency of early full suspension bikes was “biopacing”.