Absolute Black Chainring, XX1 Style - Test

With the Eurobike reviews coming in most are about products on display, we were lucky however to test a chainring product before release, that has just come on to the market and was on display at Eurobike. The narrow wide chain ring design pioneered by SRAM, has now taken off and Absolute Black are the latest chainrings to be available on the market with the narrow wide teeth pattern that stops the chain jumping off the ring.

Absolute black is based in the UK and manufactured from CNC aluminium in Poland, the rings are very light and fit the standard 104mm chain ring bolt pattern. We have been testing one recently to see how they work and if they drop chains or retain as claimed.


With more than 30 descents and long rides on the 32T ring which we have mounted on Shimano Zee cranks, we can honestly say yet again that these rings really work. Used in conjunction with a Sram XO Type II clutch style mech the chain has stayed on all the time. We have tested it on the Enduro World Series trails in Punta Ala and also on some of the roughest trails we have ridden in a while near Lake Garda, that would only encourage a chain to bounce off, unless it is held on. So far no chain loss. It seems the only occasion when a chain can jump is in a trail crash or an extreme amount of back pedalling at inopportune moments where the rider is asking for trouble.

The ring wear is in line with all other rings that we have used with no loss in performance so far, note it is used on a single ring system only.

The biggest factor that has been noticed about using a chain guide free system is that the efficiency of pedalling improves dramatically as the chain doesn’t have to pass around the guide pulleys or slider making it definitely easier and much quieter to pedal. Our only worry is that if riding very rocky trails with lots of ways to bash the bottom bracket area, the possibility for the ring smashing into an immovable rock where it will bend or break is higher. Jerome Clementz as we have seen solves this problem by using a chain guide taco protector only on the frame ISCG mounts on his SRAM XX1 system. We could also see a bash ring being mounted to the crank arm spider as a way to combat this possible problem with chain guildless front chainrings. This is not a criticism just an observation of using this type of system on extreme Enduro trails.


There is no doubt that in the last year the wide narrow teeth chainrings have bought a significant improvement and choice to chain manage systems. We have found they work in all manner of conditions, the Absolute Black in this case is certainly up to the job, is good value and looks nice.


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I-MTB is an online MTB magazine and trail areas operator based in Tuscany, Italy

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