single chainring

The market leading companies offer chainrings in a vide variety of sizes to accomodate for a vast selection of riders, courses and cadence preferences and with new 11-speed drivetrains, it’s even easier to find a gearing solution that suits you good enough to skip double chainrings.

The ‘narrow-wide’ chainrings almost lock the chain in place, resulting in next-to-zero chain drops. Lastly, the weight savings are cheap compared to other cycling upgrades that reduce a similar amount of weight. Plus, it enhances the style of your bike. The only drawback we found with single chainrings is the more limited gearing, should that pose a problem to you.

First of all, make sure you have all the tools and necessary items nearby. It’ll ease and speed the job.

Tools
– Chainring
– Chainring bolts
– 5 & 6 milimeter allen keys
– Torque wrench
– Grease for bolt threads
– (Chain breaker – not in picture)

Products
– Single chainring
– Single chainring specific bolts


Step one
Remove your chain. If you have a speed chain connector, lucky you. We had to break a chain pin.

Side note: make sure your chain breaker is compatible with your chain. New narrow 11-speed chains demand an updated chain braker.


Step two
Remove the chain. Loosen the wire from the front derailleur. Remove the front derailleur. Unwrap the bar tape at your front derailleur shifter and remove both the front derailleur wire and the front derailleur wire cable. Rewrap the bar tape in position.

Side note: in most cases you’ll be able to use your existing bar tape!


Step three
Loosen your chainring bolts. Use two allen keys (5 & 6 mm) and be ready to apply some force. Chainring bolts can sit really hard before they come off. After your bolts has come off, remove your chainrings completely.

Side note: now is a perfect time to clean your crank set and parts of your frame you never usually reach.


Step four
Install your new chainring. Place it on the inside of the crank set (where your small chain ring previously was). Explanation later on. Grease the threads on your new single chain ring specific bolts and tighten them without force.

Side note: if you’re riding in bad weather, consider a water resistant grease to prevent corrosion.


Step five
Use a torque wrench to tighten your bolts. Tighten the bolts in a cross pattern, try to tighten ones that are on the opposite sides of the crank bolt pattern and work your way around. This spreads out pressure of the bolts and makes sure everything is balanced. After tightening, go through them all again with the torque wrench and make sure that they are evenly tightened.


Step six
Install your chain. A rule of thumb is when measuring your chain over your chain ring and your biggest cog (not through your rear derailleur) – two complete links should overlap.

Side note: In case of immediate riding urge – locate nearby riding path and go shred.


Result
Our test bike was a Cannondale Super X with Sram Rival components and a FSA Gossamer compact chainset with 46/36 chainrings originally. Our new setup included a Wolf Tooth Compoenents 42T 110BCD CX/Road chainring and 1x-specific Wolf Tooth Components chainring bolts. When we removed the old chainrings, the front derailleur and the derailleur hardware (wires and cables) we saw a whopping 208 grams shed right off. We believe that’s a great bang for the buck to all who are looking to lighten their gravel or cross bike.

Editor’s tips
Use bolts specific for single chainring setups. These are narrower and specifically created to lock on your new single chainring to your crankset. Note that bolts has a torque recommendation, and by using a torque wrench you’ll make sure you get it right. As for anything that you tighten on your bike, make sure to recheck the torque on your bolts after riding. Chances are they’ll set and by retightening them after your first ride you know everything is in place.

When mounting your new single narrow-wide chainring, it feels natural to place it where your big ring has been installed. But, if you’re looking close enough, you’ll see that by mounting the new chainring on the inside space (where your small chainring originally was) you’ll get a much straighter chain line, providing more rigity, power transmission efficiency and less chain wear.

Gear ratio
We’ve found 42t chainring with 11-28 cassette to be good for all-round gravel riding. For very steep hills, or very long ones, 42-28 tend to be too big even for fit riders. 38t rings is popular in cyclocross racing, and it feels like a logical gear ratio. However, the 38t ring is not very good for powering gravel roads slightly downhill or with tailwind. To simplify, 38t is great for cyclocross racing and novice riders on gravel. 40t is a great middle way for anyone who wish to have the best allround gearing from anything to cx racing to city commuting or winter riding. 42t is a good choice if you’re fit, and want a challenge in the cyclocross tracks and on the gravel roads.

Ratio

38

40

42

11

3.5

3.6

3.8

23

1.7

1.7

1.8

25

1.5

1.6

1.7

26

1.5

1.5

1.6

27

1.4

1.5

1.6

28

1.4

1.4

1.5

 

Ratio 3.5 is equivilent to riding with 90 cadence in 40.5km/h with a cross bike equipped with 35mm tires.

Ratio 1.5 is equivilent to riding with 90 cadence in 17.6km/h with a cross bike equipped with 35mm tires.

For more information on gear ratios, check this link.

Thanks to Wolf Tooth Components for contributing to this guide!

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