photography by Christopher Harnesk-Nilsson, words by Emil Rosenberg
When Bradley Wiggins came to Team Sky in 2010, he had signed an interesting contract but he also came to 2010 with new material; Pinarello bike, Kask helmet, Adidas clothing and those oddly shaped chainrings.
The concept of ovalized chainrings aren’t recently invented. They’ve been around for years. That being said, Osymetric-style rings are the first in its kind.
According to Jean-Louis Talo, the inventor of the rings claims that he’s found a mechanical design that is properly made for the human body. Basically, the thinking behind the design is that normal chainrings are inefficient because we as humans are not efficient at producing power all around the pedal stroke.
That lead Jean-Louis to create an interface where he minimalize the power phase where you can’t produce much power (the dead spot) and prolong the power phase where you’re actually producing power. The conclusion is simple and ingenious – less time spent in the window where you’re not producing power and more time spent where you actually are.
And this turns out to be true, for many.
When it comes to shifting performance, it’s not as bad as some may think. Yes, it doesn’t work as good as with round rings. When installing the rings there’s more adjusting (and if you’re using a large outer ring you might even have to use the adapter that comes with the chainrings).
And you have to be a bit more careful when shifting from the big ring down to the small one and just stay off the power a bit more than you usually would. I had no problems with dropping chains, though.
Jean-Louis Talo insisted that the adaptation would be quick for anyone used to riding round chainrings. I was a bit sceptical but I soon found out him to be right. The Osymetric way of pedaling is much more “choppy” than compared to riding a round chainring.
It really feels like you’re on the gas all the time since the dead spot is virtually removed. After riding with them a couple of weeks I started to form my own concept of what made these rings work, and what their flaws were.
I would like to state that Osymetric chainrings put less stress on your pedalling technique – allowing you to be a bit more careless with your souplesse since you’re not having to focus on the dead spot at all – it just disappears.
I liked the way they felt when sprinting and going fast. I felt that the faster you went, the more you got out of them. It also felt like I was recruiting more quad muscularity, and I actually got sore legs (the gym kind of sore legs!) after my first three rides – which is something I’ve never felt before while cycling.
Here’s the interesting part. And I’ll have to say before hand that I was not able to prove all my thoughts and feelings scientifically. You’ll have to chose for yourself whether you want to believe it or not.
The power benefits will depend on your muscular fibres.
Personally, I – being a fast twitch cyclist – would never reap any benefits with a system that allows me to spend more time in the power phase. Despite it sounding good and all that, it’s against my muscular nature. For fast-twitch cyclists (sprinters and track guys), ovalized rings forces us to slow down during our power phase, which is counter-intuitive to our way of producing power (which lies in an rapid and explosive pedal stroke).
However, most cyclists usually have more slow-twitch fibres than I have. And for you, Osymetric will work. I found out that I would produce more power with the rings initially, but when cross-checking speed and power I would actually go the same speed for 10% higher power – which leads me to the conclusion that they are overreporting slightly.
I let one of my slow-twitch time-trial-type friends use the rings and see what his findings were. He reported an apparent increase in power despite the slight over reporting. He insisted that a 6% overreporting was true (which is on par with the Team Sky findings).
The Osymetric system is something I would recommend to any cyclist that’s interested to see what non-circular chainrings can do for them. The claimed power benefits are true, despite me not having an exact number of what it is across all intensities. The system rides great and it feels good to ride. The installation is a bit tricky, and you’ll get around 95% of the shifting performance of your round rings.
The system might be suited for the slow-twitch-oriented cyclists, however we couldn’t prove this scientifically. As a side note, I did feel a bit more stress on my ankles. I would recommend anyone who switches to this to take some extra time with the adaptation.
Less lactate build-up
High quality product
Shifting performance not as bad as some may think
Installation a bit fiddly
Puts more stress on ankles
For more information, go to osymetric.com
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