Works components thick/thin chainring review (and 1×10 mutterings)

Everyone loves a new toy

During the winter I fell in love with a new bike. Over several months I worked on the arguments and rational that I actually NEEDED, not merely wanted, said new bike. Finally, after the application of considerable amount of man-math to reduce the purchase price to something only very large, I bought the bike. And it’s amazing in every way, not needing anything changed, except to go from 2×10 to 1×10.

Why? Last summer several of my riding mates went 1×10, arguing that if you’re in the granny then you might as well walk, that chain devices are lighter and more reliable than shifters, that it looks more gnar. Which is all true, but for my old bike, I wasn’t convinced. Someone then got a XX1 equipped Intense and the silence and efficiency had me sold straight away. I was going 1×10 with no chain device.

Enter the Works Components 32 tooth thick/thin chainring.

thick thin thick thin thick thin thick thin thick. You get the idea.

For a full and fair test (and absolutely nothing to do with the bike arriving before the chainring and me wanting to sell the front mech and rings as unused…) I had a few days “control testing” on the bike using an old Shimano 32 tooth middle ring, complete with all the fancy ramps and filed teeth to aid the chain falling off (or ‘shifting’ as it used to be called), and nothing other than a Shimano XT clutch mech to hold the chain on. This worked surprisingly well. Quiet and efficient on the ups and, riding an assortment of Chamonix and the Grand Massif’s smooth/rough/rocky/dusty/treelined/alpine trails, I only dropped the chain occasionally plus it’s really not much effort to pop it back on. Certainly not much compared to digging the chain out on the, admittedly infrequent, occasions it’s got stuck in a chain device.

Once the very nicely machined and finished7075 aluminium thick/thin chainring arrived, the old one was off and out the workshop door like a ninja throwing star and the new one bolted on. The chain needs to be lined up correctly with the appropriate thick or thin bit of the chainring, but beyond this there’s no difference to fitting a “standard” chainring. I also fitted a Blackspire bash guard which may slightly help keep the chain on, but most helps me not destroy chains & chainrings on the tech rocky trails we’re forced to ride around here.

Detail view of the teeth

Once I had the chain & chainring lined up, the chain dropped into place sweetly and hasn’t left the chainring since. Over 3 weeks of Chamonix riding, flat out on DH runs at Le Tour and Les Houches, 6 foot + park drops, braking bumps, rock gardens, 1300m+ descents. Not a single dropped chain. Even with the clutch mech switched off, there was not even an indication the chain was going to derail. I even tried back pedalling over extended root sections and all I managed was to get smacked by the saddle.

Throughout all this the pedals spun smoothly without any of the friction you notice, even from a single device below the ring to complement the derailleur as I used to run. And above all, it’s completely silent, no rumble or squeaks at all.

Chain and chainring in perfect harmony. Perhaps I should have cleaned the bike first though.

As I really need to provide some negatives for a review I would say that Works Components didn’t reply to an email asking to check they had the correct delivery address, as following paypal payment my delivery address synced with my billing address (it was delivered to the right address though). And it did take a couple of weeks to arrive but then that was made completely clear before I placed the order, and I even received a discount code for a future purchase as compensation, so no complaints there. The ring is £35, which is cheap compared to the other after market rings, and virtually free compared to the SRAM original!

So I can summarise that the thick/thin concept in general, and the Works Components chainring in particular, is good. Very good. What of 1×10?

Not one dropped chain since fitting, no matter what I ride. And all in the name of product testing....

 

 

I’m convinced (but I should put in my usual caveat of riding mostly around Chamonix, mostly on very steep trails). As my friends tried telling me, when coupled with a light pedalable bike the 32-34 ratio is low enough to get up most climbs, and those I can’t are quicker and easier (though not as satisfying) if I just get off and push. Talking of light, I weighed the assorted parts before swapping, just to see how much weight really is saved by 1×10, so from the kitchens gramme accurate baking scales we have:

Works Components 32 tooth Thick/Thin ring: 40g

1×10 total:  40g

Shimano XT LH shifter unit (& cables):  168g

Shimano SLX direct mount front deurallieur :  123g

Raceface Turbine 36 tooth ring:  63g

Raceface Turbine 24 tooth ring:  21g

Assorted bolts etc for 24 tooth ring:  19g

2×10 total:  394g

Which is a total saving of 354g. Not a massive amount, but you’d be spending plenty £ to knock that off most components, so to save it AND for it to be cheaper, all good. Just for comparisons sake, the old Shimano 32 tooth ring I fitted weighed in at 42g, so the Works Components ring seems a reasonable weight, not too light, not too heavy.

All hail the mighty thick thin chainring!

I do wonder if it would be possible to run a thick thin chainring in conjunction with a 24 or so tooth granny ring, and just have to either manually move the chain at the start of a climb (don’t look so horrified, remember when you had to use a QR to change saddle height…), or accept much slower shifting. It would give you a chaindevice esque hold for the across and downs, with the option of a sit down and winch gear for the up. This’ll be something I’ll try in the future, and I’ll report back complete with longer term review in the autumn.

  • Chamonix Bike Blog

    Mountain bike blog for Chamonix and the Western Alps

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