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AbsoluteBlack oval gravel chainring review

AbsoluteBlack’s direct-mount gravel/CX chainring looks great and promises a smoother power stroke

Absoluteblack oval gravel
(Image: © Guy Kesteven)

Our Verdict

If you’re looking for a smoother pedalling rhythm with a clean feel and sweet aesthetics, AbsoluteBlack have it sorted for a great value price.

For

  • Smoothed power delivery
  • Quiet, efficient feel
  • Useful size range
  • SRAM, Race Face and Shimano fit
  • Decent durability
  • Light
  • Stiff
  • Good price

Against

Non-round chainrings designed to smooth out your pedalling rhythm have been around for ages, but AbsoluteBlack has turned making oval rings into an art and they’ve nailed a very natural feel, too. 

Design

The European-made AbsoluteBlack ring certainly looks quality as you slide it out of the eco-friendly black card envelope. The heat-treated 7005 alloy spider web design looks excellent and comes in direct-fit designs for SRAM or Race Face Cinch style chainsets as well as 4- and 5-bolt variants. They’re specifically designed for single ring use in dirty conditions with a 3D-machined narrow/wide tooth profile to keep the 10-, 11- or 12-speed chains smooth, quiet and secure.

Different designs of oval/off-round rings all use different shapes with scientific claims to match the way they change leverage in tune with the peaks and troughs of your pedalling leverage. AbsoluteBlack uses a different shape for each chainring, varying from 10.2 - 12.1 per cent ovality and 110.5-112.3 degree timing shift relative to top dead centre across a 12-tooth range from 36T to 48T. For reference that’s a lot more subtle than what Osymetric does but slightly more of a rotation than the recommended 108 degree start point of Rotor’s adjustable orientation Q-Rings.

Absoluteblack oval gravel

Despite the oval shape, the narrow wide teeth hold the chain securely (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

Performance

The effect of the ovalisation and orientation is still relatively subtle so you’re not going to shock your knees or have to completely change your climb attack style. You’ll just feel more of a smoothed swell of acceleration and power when you get on that gas rather than a distinct surge from each pedal stroke. Whether that actually does make you faster/reduce fatigue/lessen the chance of injury we’re not going to call, as we simply haven’t got the data or the time to put together a conclusive statement across all the relevant scenarios.

It certainly didn’t seem to be losing us any power though, and we’ve grown particularly fond of the way it appears to keep holding speed on steep or sticky climbs well after we’d normally be fading. There’s definitely less of the rhythmic doppler road roar from knobblier tyres at lower revs too which suggests more consistent speed/power delivery. 

The rings also feel stiff, they’re wearing well and they quickly self-clean even when buried in clay and grass. We’ve had zero issues with chain loss even on frankly stupid trail choices and they’re not so wonky that they cause overstretch issues with the rear mech. They’re also a whole lot cheaper than a lot of the big-name alternatives.

Verdict

We haven’t got the data to say 'yay' or 'nay' on the efficiency of oval rings, but this AbsoluteBlack ring definitely feels smoother particularly at lower revs/higher torque and we’ll be keeping them on long term which is always a positive sign. They’re also light, tough, good-looking and hold the chain securely in a useful range of sizes. Pricing is very competitive too.

Tech Specs: Absolute Black oval gravel chainring

  • Price: £69.99 (44, 46, 48 are £74.99)
  • Weight: 96g (medium)
  • Colours: Black or red anodised
  • Sizes: 36-48T