These past few years we have seen a lot of change in the mountain biking world, new wheel sizes, dropper posts, better suspension designs (does anyone even make a bad bike anymore?), clutch derailleurs and then there is the latest piece of the gear puzzle, the narrow wide chain ring.
If you have been under a rock or out actually riding your bike for the past year, what makes these chainrings different than the rest is the design of the teeth. Every other tooth is fatter than the one next to it. While SRAM may have started this trend with their awesome XX1 drivetrain, it has really taken off with everyone from Chromag, Race Face and others jumping on the money train. One of the first companies to release a 30t 104 BCD narrow/wide chainring was Wolf Tooth Components. But the real question is, do they work or are they just hype? Is this just another ploy to separate us from our hard earned money? Read on to find out what I found during my time on the Wolf Tooth 30t 104 BCD chainring.
I hate front derailleurs, with a passion. They always seem to be rubbing, don’t shift properly and always need some type of fiddling, call me a retro grouch, but I just wish we could go back to friction shifters for front end duties. Because of this I started running a 1×10 system a few years ago…yeah I am a bit of a hipster when it comes to this setup, so when the Wolftooth rings came out I was very interested.
After putting this ring through the paces for the past few months I can tell you that I hardly ever even think about it, and that’s a good thing. It. Just. Works. I don’t know what kind of voodoo that Wolf Tooth puts into their rings, but I did not drop a chain once while riding with it. When I started riding I just mounted it up with no chain device at all, I rode DH at Silver Star bike park, lots of rough BC trails and not once did it even think about dropping off. I did put a Bionicon C-Guide on my bike, mostly because I am not running one of those new fancy rear derailleurs with a clutch and the C-Guide kept things quiet. If you are running a clutch derailleur then there is no need to run any chain device, yeah…it’s that good.
The teeth are still sharp and the ring is as straight as the day I got it, even after a few run ins with the local flora and fauna. I have ridden in everything from hot and dusty to wet and muddy and have not had one issue. We don’t have the thick clay based mud here and I hear that can be a bit of an issue with these rings, so be aware of that if you live in a region with that type of soil.
Setup was super easy, just took off my old ring and bashgaurd and mounted up the Wolf Tooth Drop Stop ring. If you are coming from a dual setup, you will want to make sure you change your chain length accordingly and make sure you have the proper length bolts. These rings will only work with 10/11 speed drivetrains so if you are still spinning a 9 speed setup you will have to upgrade the whole nine yards if you want to come play with the cool kids.
Is a 1x setup like this all flowers and kittens? No, it is close but with my 30t ring in the front and a 11×36 in the rear, long steep climbs become a nice day in the forest pushing your bike. For 97% of the stuff that I ride on Vancouver Island it is a perfect setup…but the climb up Maple Mountain makes me long for the days of a granny ring.
I never really notice the lack of a top end unless I am riding around town, but the lack of a low gear may not work for everyone. I do notice that since I don’t have a super low bailout gear I tend keep up more speed on the trail and that means more momentum when things get rough, I get up and over more things, it may just be psychological but I do notice it.
If you don’t have a boatload of money you need to for XX1 or X01 this is a great option, for under $70 you can ditch that extra ring and lower your cable clutter a bit all while losing a little weight! Not only that but Wolf Tooth has a new giant cog that you can use with a normal Shimano cassette that will give you that extra bail out gear if you feel you need it. I hope to get my hands on one of these in the near future and I will let everyone know how it works out!
So, for the price of a tire or two you can get all of the above, and if you order it directly from Wolf Tooth the shipping is free!
Do we think it’s worth it, no! Do we thinks it’s for everyone, no! Maybe when more companies support bigger cassettes like that SRAM offerings or the new giant cog it will fit more people’s riding styles. I do have to say that do no see myself going back to running a front derailleur, these new rings just work so well.