Our Early Verdict
Lightweight, beautifully designed pulley wheel cage system to rival, if not usurp, CeramicSpeed's dominance at the top of the tree
- - Lightweight carbon-polymer construction
- - Unique design
- - Sealed ceramic bearings
- - Claimed best-in-class aero design and watt savings
- - Quietest system on the market
- - Four-year bearing warranty
- - Expensive upgrade for most budgets
AbsoluteBlack has garnered a reputation for its premium and ornate oval chainrings but the British brand has recently begun branching out into ancillary product development. Last year saw the first of these new product lines come to fruition when it added a graphene-based chain lube to its portfolio followed a few months later by a cheaper graphene wax alternative. The big news, however, comes more in the form of the product you see here - the AbsoluteBlack Hollowcage Carbon Ceramic Oversized pulley cage. Positioned to go head-to-head against the oversized pulley wheel segment stalwarts from CeramicSpeed, Kogel, Muc-Off and Token, it doesn't just look superb, it comes with a host of claims to help boost its credibility including best-in-class aerodynamics, decibel reduction and watt savings.
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Design and aesthetics
Apart from the CeramicSpeed 3D-printed Ti OSPW, I don't think there's another system of its kind as visually rousing as the AB Hollowcage Carbon Ceramic Oversized pulley cage. In fact, owing to its unique, almost Tron-bike-like hollow pulley wheel blueprint I'm inclined to say it's the better-looking option. The cage is constructed from a carbon-fibre-polymer matrix which dials a certain degree of flex into the mix for better efficiency.
The monoplate features an aerodynamic textured dimple pattern complete with one-sided cage construction as opposed to the traditional double-sided layout of its rivals. This unique blueprint is bolstered by the choice of five lockring colours. The lockring itself is a thing of beauty taking on a dragon-scale pattern for dramatic effect - black, gold, red, titanium or pvd rainbow. Ours is finished in the company's now-trademark PVD rainbow effect which was introduced last year on several chainrings. The upper lockring and cage are only available in black.
Each lockring is responsible for holding the pulley wheel and bearings in place. The bearings in question are bespoke ceramic units that are lightly greased and not oiled. This configuration and mounting technique means the bearings are shielded from the elements which should help reduce wear and tear. The bearings are covered by a four-year warranty.
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While Joshua Ogle of Ogle component design might have beaten the British company in presenting his hollow cage derailleur design to the world, AbsoluteBlack was very quick to point out it was working on blueprints and various other patents almost a year before Ogel's reveal. As a result, the Hollowcage Carbon Ceramic Oversized pulley cage is not merely a prototype but rather a finished product - the first run is already sold out. It weighs just 69g (actual).
Like the other oversized pulley wheel systems on the market, AbsoluteBlack's uses the same optimised-chainline rhetoric but with an added twist and something that puts it ahead of the competition. According to the brand, the Hollowcage Carbon Ceramic Oversized pulley cage is almost silent in operation thanks to its unique 'Silent XRing Pulley' which reduce noise by 60 per cent over regular polymer or aluminium pulleys - that's a reduction of 12-14dB when compared to stock Shimano Dura-Ace pulleys. The secret comes in the suspended rubber bands that dampen the chain impact on the guide pulley teeth, which helps thwart engagement chatter.
It's also more aero (albeit marginally) than other systems on the market, which has been verified in a bespoke wind tunnel designed for smaller objects. Besides the minuscule aerodynamic gains it claims to possess, it's more in the friction-saving department where the company believes it's made the biggest strides. Here, several factors including a stiffer guide pulley, a flexible cage, taller pulley teeth and spring tension have all been tweaked to function as a complete system improving shifting accuracy and chain line adaption and, ultimately, saving more watts than any other cage on the market.
View the Hollowcage Carbon Ceramic Oversized pulley cage at AbsoluteBlack
The AbsoluteBlack Hollowcage Carbon Ceramic Oversized pulley cage is an amazingly designed, visually striking yet appreciably pricey piece of kit, and something as exotic as this is always going to come with a price tag to match - £519 / €599 / $699 in this instance. This puts it in the upper echelons of the segment based on pricing alone but is still not the most expensive, that's reserved for the CeramicSpeed 3D-printed Ti OSPW.
Will it improve your bike's efficiency and save you a couple of watts? Well, that's always going to be up for debate - especially considering real-world factors that are not accounted for during the static testing protocols - but it will certainly keep your drivertrain a lot quieter not to mention boost your bike's visual appeal.
Tech Specs: AbsoluteBlack Hollowcage Carbon Ceramic Oversized pulley cage
- Price: £519 / €599 / $699
- Weight: 69g (actual)
- Construction: Carbon-fibre-polymer matrix, 7075 Aluminium, rubber, ceramics
- Colours: Black, gold, red, titanium and pvd rainbow
What is a hands on review?
'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view.
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