Review by Fred Robinson // Photos by Josh Job (action) and Fred Robinson
Hailing from the mountain bike mecca that is Squamish, B.C., OneUp Components has been churning out truly unique and innovative drivetrain components and upgrades for a number of years now. Replacement derailleur cages said to improve shifting performance, expander sprockets that increase the range of your stock cassette, and some elegantly simple and well-thought-out chainguides have come from the small team at OneUp. Their creations are inspired by what they’d like to see on their personal bikes.
Recently, OneUp gave us the chance to spin on one of their oval Traction Chainrings. What’s unique about OneUp’s take on the ovoid ring? OneUp optimized the clocking of their Traction Chainring to deliver smoother, more consistent torque in an effort to maximize traction while climbing as opposed to some existing oval rings which focus on power gains. Did the Traction Chainring have us scooting up our local climbs smoother than ever? Read on to find out.
Traction Chainring Features
- 12-percent ovality (32T is equal to a 30T-34T range)
- 115-degree clocking from crank arm puts the major axis in your power stroke
- Subtly-slotted bolt holes allow for a perfect fit with both 94 and 96 BCD symmetrical crank arms.
- Narrow Wide tooth profile eliminates chain drop with the perfect chain mesh fit.
- Perfect 49mm chainline with 2mm shims included
- No new bolt packs required. Re-use your existing 8-10mm long ring hardware.
- Aggressive crud chamfers for mud-shedding performance and extended ring life.
- Reinforced wide tooth design provides maximum ring durability when run without a bash guard.
- Made from hard-wearing 7075-T6 aluminum plate.
- Weight: 50g (32t)
- 32t available for all seven current standards (30t in 94mm SRAM BCD cranks only)
- MSRP: $50.00 USD
While we weren’t expecting some crazy-shaped ring like Shimano’s Biopace rings of the early 90’s, we were actually still surprised by the subtle oval shape of OneUp’s Traction Chainring. While it’s obviously elliptical in shape, it’s not nearly as extreme as we anticipated. The subdued black anodizing and white laser-etched graphics, in addition to some very nice machining, gives the ring a quality look and finish.
Mounting the chainring was standard practice. After removing our stock 32t ring, we re-used our current chainring bolts and installed the new ring, making sure the small bump indicating the proper clocking position was in-line with our drive side crank. If you’re converting your 2x or 3x setup to 1x, OneUp has included spacers which allow you to reused your current 8-10mm long chainring bolts. Since our setup is already a dedicated 1x we didn’t need them. Overall the install was quite simple and should take no longer than a few minutes for anyone familiar with spinning a wrench, no matter what shade of green they may be. Note that if the Traction Chainring will be replacing a round chainring of the same size, no modifications to your chain length is necessary.
On The Trail
When we finally hopped on the Traction Chainring and started pedaling our bike around our first thought was “what the ….?” It’s a weird sensation when you’ve been pedaling the same way your entire life and something we felt with the Traction Chainring, especially in the lower gears. But, after a couple minutes just pedaling around in the street that strange dead feeling quickly faded and we felt right back at home.
After our quick acclamation, we set out to climb one of our favorite local spots. Already knowing the specific sections of trail where we typically struggle, testing on familiar ground was a big part of determining whether we could notice any advantages our new oblong friend claims. During the standard, mildly-pitched grind up, we did feel comfortable pushing the pedals a single gear higher than typical. While we don’t feel it got us up the hill any easier, it effectively widens your range which helped keep us out of our granny gear for all but the steepest of climbs. Despite pushing a taller gear on the same climb, we didn’t feel like we were roaching our legs, or saving them for that matter, any more than normal.
About halfway up our local climb is the steepest punch. And quite embarrassingly, our failure rate on that section is around 25%. While it’s not incredibly technical at all, the combination of the steep grade and our loose-over-hard dirt often results in our rear wheel losing traction, bringing us to a complete halt. With a successful first attempt on the Traction Chainring, it was time to do what roadies refer to as “repeats” (we call it torture). While we still had the odd occasion of dabbing and having to push, OneUp is on to something with the claims of delivering a smoother, more consistent torque to your rear tire. We found that we could prevent spinning out more effectively as there’s not really a spike or surge of power following the “dead spot” in the natural pedal stroke.
99% of our testing of the Traction Chainring was done without a chainguide so we could verify the narrow-wide retention abilities of the ring. So far we’ve yet to drop the chain, using both a semi-worn chain and more recently, a brand new chain. With both the new chain and the old, we noticed no additional noise to our drivetrain with the Traction ring. We’ve seen some narrow-wides make an unsettling noise as the wide teeth release the chain and we’re glad to report the OneUp ring runs silent, regardless of our gear selection.
Things That Could Be Improved
With some products we wish we could leave out this section of our reviews completely. We found nothing wrong with the OneUp Traction Chainring. We’re reaching here, but since we have to gripe about something we’ll mention the small bump that indicates the clocking. That bump is pretty subtle, and during install we were too obtuse to notice it. We got frustrated that OneUp didn’t include installation instructions for the ring so we knew how to clock it. After checking their website and reading the instructions, which simply read: “Align the small bump (small hole on direct mount rings) on the inner edge of the ring with your crank arm.” It was immediately apparent that the only thing that could be improved in this situation was us.
Long Term Durability
Over our 10 week test period, the Traction Chainring has held up just fine. We’ve even given it a few light smacks on some stubborn rocks which the ring shook off just fine. The ring is still straight as an arrow, the narrow-wide teeth have continued to hold onto our chain sufficiently despite the finish wearing a bit from use. Overall it looks to be in it for the long-haul.
What’s The Bottom Line?
OneUp states it perfectly in their FAQ when they were asked if we should just throw away all of our round chainrings and convert to oval: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And that’s true, we had no quips with the standard circular rings we’ve always ridden. That said, we think it’s still worth giving their Traction Chainring a spin when your current ring finally wears out. It’s a fairly inexpensive upgrade, and yes, we’re calling it an upgrade, that actually does make a day on your bike a bit more enjoyable. While it won’t make you an XC god on the climbs, it will help you maintain traction and get up those nasty punches a little bit easier. That, combined with the oval shape effectively widening your gear range, makes the OneUp Traction Ring one of the simplest, most affordable, yet still impactful, upgrades you can make to your ride.
For more info, visit oneupcomponents.com
About The Reviewer
Fred Robinson, a.k.a. "Derfanopheles," has been on two wheels since he was two years old. He picked up a mountain bike in 2004 and started racing downhill in 2006. He has seen moderate success racing CAT 1 but focuses his efforts on building, maintaining and riding his local trails. He's deceptively quick for a bigger guy and likes steep, fast trails where he can hang it off the back of the bike. As a SoCal native he mostly rides trails covered with loose, traction-less turns and sharp, immovable rocks. Besides downhill, he rides trail bikes, road, and also enjoys the occasional dirt jump session. He is currently on a personal mission to "bring da ruckus" via VitalMTB.