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Race Face Narrow/Wide Chainring

Average User Rating: (Outstanding)
Vital Rating: (Outstanding)
Race Face Narrow/Wide  Chainring Race Face Narrow:Wide - Blue
C70_wide_blue C70_wide_30t_104bcd_nw_blue C70_wide_red C70_wide_30t_104bcd_nw_red C70_wide_black C70_wide_30t_104bcd_nw_black C70_wide_green C70_wide
Vital MTB Retail Partners:
Chain Reaction Bicycles Jenson U.S.A. Competitive Cyclist Backcountry

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    Vital Review

    “Tested: Race Face Narrow/Wide Chainring”

    by Joel Harwood

    Race Face started producing mountain bike components back in 1992. They originally gained notoriety for their Diabolus offering, which at that time was one of the few product lines that could withstand serious abuse. For nearly twenty years Race Face produced some of the highest quality components available. In 2011, the company faced bankruptcy and many thought Race Face products were about to become collectors' items. Nevertheless, the company made it through the rough patch and came back swinging with a number of new, refined and innovative components... with a variety of colors and graphics to boot. With the recent popularity of 1x drivetrains, component companies are all jumping on the 1x bandwagon. Race Face has entered the battle royale with their new Narrow/Wide chainring, designed to minimize dropped chains and maximize fun.

    Narrow/Wide Chainring Highlights

    • Narrow wide tooth profiling ensures ultimate chain retention
    • 4mm plate thickness and I-beam construction transfers loads without flexing
    • 7075-T6 aluminum, aerospace grade strength
    • Reversible laser etched graphics
    • Compatible with 9, 10 and 11-speed
    • Available in 30 to 38-tooth options in two tooth increments
    • Available in 104 BCD (4 bolt) and direct mount configurations
    • Color options: Red, Green, Blue, Black
    • Weight: 37-57 grams depending on ring size (36T – 50g)
    • MSRP: $43.99 to $59.99 USD

    Initial Impressions

    Shortly after getting my hands on a new bike I also managed to acquire the 34-tooth Narrow/Wide chainring from Race Face. I mounted it to Shimano XT cranks and mated it with a slightly worn drivetrain without hassle. I had previous experience with a similar product from another brand and I had been running that one with a top guide. But I figured that it wasn't a true test unless I ran the Race Face Narrow/Wide chainring without any guide whatsoever, and I was also looking forward to hitting g-outs and rock gardens as aggressively as I could to give the test some validity.

    During my parking lot test the first thing I noticed was how nude the chainring looked without at the very least a top guide. I had been running full DH guides on my XC bikes for the past number of seasons and I found myself questioning whether or not a little bit of fancy machining could suddenly render chain guides obsolete, at least from a trail bike perspective.

    The laser etched graphics were understated, the green added a little bling and all in all, the product inspired confidence. As previously indicated, I ran a 34T for this test, but one of the unique and noteworthy aspects of the Narrow/Wide chainring is that you can get one as small as 30T. Previously, this was not possible on a standard 104 BCD crank spider using traditional chainring bolts, as reducing the diameter of the ring that much simply does not leave enough material between the teeth and the chainring bolt holes. By actually machining the female side of the chainring bolt thread into the ring itself (30T only), Race Face has come up with a clever way to circumvent the issue. If you do a lot of steep climbing on your single-ring 29er, this could well be exactly the solution you've been waiting for.

    On The Trail

    After the initial inspection and set-up were behind me, I was pumped to go looking for opportunities to cycle my rear suspension to see if all that clever stuff meant that I could donate my chainguide to the Smithsonian. Well, after approximately 600 miles of riding I managed to drop the chain exactly twice. Once when I picked up a hitchhiking tree root, and the other mid-crash when I must have loaded the bike in an awkward fashion that I dare not try to replicate on purpose. That's two dropped chains, when riding 3 or more times per week, in varied conditions, using a twisted rear derailleur.

    Prior to discovering the Narrow/Wide chainring I would not have put much thought into the chainring I was running. Now that I have experienced the simplicity, reliability, and reduced drag of a guide-less Narrow/Wide chainring I'm pretty much sold on the idea of riding with just a ring up front. One less part to purchase, maintain, and potentially destroy is definitely a win.

    Things That Could Be Improved

    The Narrow/Wide chainring performed outstandingly throughout the entire test and I'm fairly certain that the tree root mentioned above would have jammed up a guide anyhow. The ring looked good and worked even better. I wish I had a suggestion or two for improvement, but with simple components it either works as advertised or it doesn't. The Race Face Narrow/Wide chainring works.

    Long Term Durability

    I had the opportunity to ride the Race Face chainring extensively and I smacked it off a few rocks along the way. Assuming that folks split their time equally between rings on 2x and 3x setups I suppose that a single ring should conceivably wear faster. I would like to have ridden the Narrow/Wide ring literally into the ground to compare lifespans with a conventional setup, for the sake of this review, but I plan on running it figuratively into the ground for the sake of my wallet. The current state of the chainring after 600 or more miles is about the same as any ring I've seen and the chain retention is still as good as the day I got it. I'm not 100% sure how a bent tooth would affect chain retention, but I would imagine that unless it was so severe that the chain couldn't grab the ring at all, it won't be an issue. The finish has held up and I have no reason to believe that reliability will suffer as time goes on.

    I would also like to point out that the only reason I decided not to give this product five stars is because I haven't had the opportunity to ride it for an entire season. Assuming that chain retention remained as good as day one throughout, it is a no-brainer five star rating for me.

    What’s The Bottom Line?

    Now that I've had the opportunity to ride a guide-less chainring for a few months without any issues, the Race Face Narrow/Wide chainring is staying on my bike for the long haul. I rallied the ring to the best of my ability, through a variety of conditions, and my chain guide is now a paperweight. I would like to think it will still see use from time to time, but both out of sheer laziness and confidence in the chainring, it will likely sit on a shelf permanently. My drivetrain is now simpler, quieter and has less drag, and I have one less component to purchase and maintain. Though not every rider wants to push a single ring or ride without absolute 100% chain retention, as far as this tester is concerned, the front derailleur and chainguide are now obsolete on a trail bike.

    Head over to www.raceface.com for more details.


    About The Reviewer

    Joel Harwood has been playing in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia for the last 8 years. He spends his summer months coaching DH race groms in the Whistler Bike Park, and guiding XC riders all over BC. He dabbles in all types of racing, but is happiest while blasting his trail bike down trails that include rock slabs, natural doubles, and west coast tech. On the big bike he tends to look for little transitions and manuals that allow him to keep things pointed downhill, rather than swapping from line to line. Attention to detail, time in the saddle, and an aggressive riding style make Joel a rider that demands the most from his products. Joel's ramblings can also be found at www.straightshotblog.com.

    “Benchmark bolt-on”

    The Good: The narrow/wide tooth profile is an absolute must-have on any 1x setup. Ditch your chain-guide and actually improve chain-retention, for less than $40. Absolute no-brainer.

    The Bad: A bit louder than the Sram offering, but that's really splitting hairs.

    Overall Review:

    If you're one of the many people running a 1x setup, but still have yet to shell out for XO1 or XX1, this is the only way to go. Chain management has never been better, and the versatility of the 104 BCD is unmatched. Then you look at the price tag - there's probably no better way to improve your AM, FR or DH bike for $35.

    “Great affordable upgrade”

    The Good: light, lots of teeth options, cheap, it works!

    The Bad: not really a bad, but I recommend using with clutch derailleur

    Overall Review:

    As others have said, get the number of links and chain tension correct and you'll be golden. I'm running a 30T and 11 x 32 on a 9speed setup with a clutch rear derailleur and haven't dropped a chain. I had a chain guide but have since removed it and haven't regretted my decision. Been on this setup for a year now and have no regrets. I ride in fairly rocky terrain and like to jump, hit drops, and pop off of natural trail features. The chain has miraculously stayed on when in the past I've always had to run a chain guide.

    If you want to run 1x, for the price, it's hard to choose anything else.

    “Awesome Product not XX1 Priced!”

    The Good: Not an expensive option to running a single ring, dont have to buy a whole xx1 or xx0 set up to run a single ring without a chain guide!

    The Bad: Need to make sure that the chain is tensioned properly otherwise losing a chain will occur

    Overall Review:

    I was very impressed with my Raceface narrow wide chainring. I purchased a 32 with hopes to upgrade to a 34 once i started pedalling a bit more.  Stupidly I didn't re tension the chain after switching from a 2x setup,  I used a roller to keep the chain more tensioned and it held up well, I lost a chain twice without it properly tensioned.   Once realizing that I needed to take a few links out of the chain, I was never able to lose a chain.  Considering if you want to run a true 1x setup with no chainring you need to buy a sram xx1 or xx0 setup I was much happier paying the 40 bucks to get this, rather then the grand+ to get the sram setup!

    “Works well with proper chain tension”

    The Good: - works - light - looks awesome - way cheaper than a chainguide

    The Bad: you'll lose chains if your tension is too low

    Overall Review:

    I installed a blue 34t narrow-wide on a relatively worn 9-speed SRAM drivetrain with an old X9 derailleur on my GT Distortion (short travel trail/jump/all around fun bike) and immediately went downhilling. The first day I dropped the chain three times in the same rock garden, and once or twice in other technical spots. I was mildly disappointed, but then realized that I was running my chain too long by a good few links. Removed the links and I've since dropped the chain four or five times total (15+ rides, including downhilling at the same and gnarlier spots), and every time I sort of saw it coming because I was hitting a long chundery section at speed on my short travel bike.

    Basically, if you ride hard on technical terrain and have a non-clutch derailleur (I've never ridden a clutched derailleur, but I hear they help with retention even more) you will still very occasionally drop a chain. This doesn't bother me much—especially as I'm getting good at predicting when it might happen—but would be totally unacceptable if you're racing. I don't. The simplicity, weight-, and cost-savings of the narrow-wide sans guide more than make up for a dropped chain every third or fourth ride in my opinion. Just a bonus that it looks great and seems to handle impacts well.

    “The days of hanging junk off your crank are over!”

    The Good: Nicely machined, great color and size choices, even works with 9 speed. A stupidly cost effective way to lighten your ride.

    The Bad: You might still need a lightweight guide for piece of mind if riding downhill and free-ride. Marginally noisier than a regular chain ring.

    Overall Review:

    I have a full suspension 150mm travel trail/AM bike running 9 speed with a SRAM X7 short cage derailleur. Been running the Raceface Narrow/wide for a few thousand miles on without issue, no chain drops at all. I was worried that I would need a clutch type derailleur, luckily with a short cage regular derailleur this has been fine, but my X7 does have quite a strong spring. I think the chain ring has slightly more rub than my nicely machined Renthal regular ring, but dumping a 250 gram guide has actually made the whole bike a bit lighter and easier to pedal.

    Vital MTB Retail Partners:
    Chain Reaction Bicycles Jenson U.S.A. Competitive Cyclist Backcountry

    Specifications

    Riding Type Cross Country, Trail, Freeride, Downhill, Dirt Jump / Urban
    Tooth Count 30, 32, 34, 36, or 38
    Hole Pattern 104 BCD 4 Bolt
    Materials 7075-T6 Aluminum, Aerospace Grade Strength
    Colors Red, Green, Blue, or Black
    Weight

    0 lb 2 oz (57 g)

    Miscellaneous Narrow Wide Tooth Profiling Ensures Chain Retention // Stiff 4mm Plate Thickness and I-Beam Construction Transfer Loads Without Flexing // Reversible Laser Etched Graphics // Compatible for 9-, 10- and 11-Speed // 30 Tooth 104BCD NW Single Ring Are Threaded with a Standard M8x0.75 Chainring Bolt Thread
    Price $52.00
    More Info Race Face Website
    Vital MTB Retail Partners:
    Chain Reaction Bicycles Jenson U.S.A. Competitive Cyclist Backcountry