Muddymoles mountain biking in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

Oval rings

Posted by Karl | October 6, 2012 | 11 comments so far

Oval Rings Good…  Shhh, keep it quiet!

Shimano Oval Tech rings on an old Rudge

Had a holiday recently at a Gite belonging to some friends near Cognac…

The idea was to relax and enjoy a poolside holiday with a tiny bit of siteseeing thrown in. Well that was fine for a day, I’ve never been one to lie by a pool doing nothing and soon got itchy feet. Exploring the various outbuildings on the farm, I discovered an old roadbike in a barn.. My lovely host said, yes of course I could use the bike, and even wheeled out some others for my girls.. They would not be extracted from the poolside, so off I went one morning, to ‘buy the baguette’

Rudge BiFold1m with Oval Tech rings

This old Rudge folding roadbike didn’t look much, but it rolled along a treat. I found myself thoroughly enjoying being out on it. In fact I was away getting the baguette for a full three hours, taking in the scenery, and weirdly for me, enjoying the climbs as much as the downhills..  So, day after day I opted to do the bread run, and managed to find many different routes, to many different boulangeries. Sometimes I even forgot the bread.

There were plenty of ups and downs, in smashing and varied countryside, and I used all three rings at the front, and all six at the back.. nice smooth changes, nice balanced bike, and even the brakes were good too.. which came in very handy, very often.

Towards the end of the hol. I thought I’d better lube up the chain, and do a little basic maintenance, as it had gotten quite dusty.. When I got close to the chain-set with the oil, I did a double take… it read ‘Oval Tech’ And rather belatedly, the penny dropped.

Well I never, I’d not noticed anything particularly unusual in the ride, apart from the ups being particularly enjoyable and smooth, as well as the downs and all the riding in between..

So.. I am a convert…  My blind test had confirmed to me that oval rings really do work. I’d loved riding them.

Wiggins likes em, and a few bods on STW do too

Apparently Brant tested them on some suss bikes… He said They worked really well. Evened out power, stopped bobbing.

I think I’d like one for my suss… If I can find one!

But if anyones asks… It’s snake oil… Shhh

Filed under Mutterings, Trends in October 2012


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  1. Big al says:

    Karl , The idea of you pedaling around the french countryside with baguette in hand brings a smile to my face . Your very own Tour de France !!!
    Nice write up Karl .

  2. LordOnOne says:

    There’s something strangely enjoyable about riding a bike like that, so long as it works. Some of the best fun I’ve had on a bike was aboard one found in a garage not so far west of Cognac. It’s going to bug me what the place was called now.

    I was watching the STW thread closely but just couldn’t bring myself to do it!

  3. paul901 says:

    Karl, nice write up. You must write some more.

    I never got to try oval chainrings and they disappeared for the most part. I thought I read somewhere recently that Wiggins uses them only in time trials and not for most his road riding, maybe it was another pro I read about.

    Interested to hear if Tony or Baz tried them, enough years and bike changes behind them to have done so…

  4. tony says:


    I had a mountain bike (late 80’s stumpjumper?) with Biopace chainrings on it. It rode fine but it was rigid (as most bikes were back then) so the bobbing issue was never a problem.

    They fell out of favour and Rotor brought out their (eye wateringly expensive) oval chainrings a few years ago. The Rotor ones have the “high” and “low” in different places to the out biopace. They are used to smooth out the peddaling action not to give greater leverage at the power part of the pedal stroke (like Biopace).

    Wiggo uses them on the road and TT as did Carlos Sastre too. So two TdF winners can’t be too bad a recommendation.

    I’ve never tried them. They say it takes months to get used to them and I ride too much on the MTB to probably make them worthwhile. Nevermind thinking about what the cost of re-ringing the fleet would be!

  5. Dandy says:

    Brings back fond memories of cycling to fetch the croissants when we used to holiday regularly in the Charente (just East of Cognac). Like you, I found myself taking a rather long route to the boulangerie (which has somehow been changed to ‘oil angered’ by the predictive text).

    My holiday steed was a singlespeed folding bike with 20 inch wheels and a bent crank that used to clank against the chain guard on every pedal rev.

    Back to topic, I had some bio pace rings on my first adult bike (Specialized Crossroads 1990 vintage – now my pub bike and work commute). When they wore out I replaced them with standard rings. Couldn’t detect any difference, if I’m honest, so they were somewhat underwhelming.

    Wiggo had some pretty extreme versions on his TT bike though, so I guess they ride a lot differently. Don’t think I will be the first to buy them though. Anyone else going to buy some?

  6. Karl says:

    Blimey, had no idea that the Cognac environs was so popular!
    Or indeed old bikes with wobbly rings. All I needed on mine was a string or two of onions..
    Have to say, I liked the ovals. Enough to try a single ring, + maybe even this year.

    Why not?
    Thanks for sharing your wealth of knowledge peeps!

  7. Markymark says:

    Lovely write-up Karl. What a find! What are the chances… a perfectly tuned-up bike covered in dust in a barn. I feel you will be riding with us on the darkside pretty soon!!

    For some reason i am also sitting here laughing uncontrollably to myself believing Dandy has left some crucial info out of his comment… like the Man-kini and socks’n’sandals he was wearing at the time as he cruised from his riverside bathing spot along to the local Boulangerie (with a brief stop off at the vineyard). Add that image in to the return trip with baguette under the arm, onions hanging off the handle-bars, a couple of bottles of red in the basket, a knocking crank and slightly wobbly steering….

  8. Dandy says:

    It’s almost like you were there, Mark 😉

  9. Matt says:

    I enjoyed reading that Karl, you’re one of several Moles this year that have ridden in some far-flung locations. Sounds great, the idea of a wander round French backroads in the warm sun. Even with a tipsy D’Andy chasing you in Mark’s disturbed mind!

    If you look at this pic you’ll see that Wiggo has some very oval rings!

    Bradley Wiggins with Oval chainrings

  10. paul901 says:

    Dandy’s “onions hanging from the handlebars”. Gents please, I’ve just choked on my supper.

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