by Lee Trumpore
Just one year ago, SRAM rewrote the book on mountain bike drivetrains with the introduction of their XX1 system. Almost immediately, riders started asking for aftermarket manufacturers to adopt aspects of the design in hopes of both increasing available options and reducing the rather hefty price tag. e*thirteen wasted no time answering the call with the new Guidering M, a modified chainring with alternating tooth widths designed to aid with chain retention.
Guidering M Highlights
- Optimized for 11-speed, but 10-speed compatible
- Maximized tooth width to maximize engagement
- Ring chamfer facilitates secure chain engagement, even at extreme angles
- Reduced drivetrain friction
- Longest wearing of current dual-width chainring designs (claimed)
- Hard coating is significantly more durable than traditional anodized finishes
- Compatible with current e*thirteen TRS, XCX, and LG1 guides
- Available in 28 to 38-tooth options in 2-tooth increments
- Weight: 87 grams for 32-tooth integrated ring
- Available September 2013 in both integrated and 104 BCD versions
- MSRP TBA
Shortly after the Taipei show in March, e*thirteen sent over a pre-production version of a variable width 30-tooth Guidering to try out on the new TRSr crankset. Though this particular one is not a finalized version (various finishes are still being tested before production), the actual shape and function of the ring should be identical to what will be released in September. It's clear e*thirteen has been working on the actual tooth profiles for a while now, as this one appears to be in the final testing phase with nothing to outwardly suggest it isn’t an actual production item. The characteristics of the coating may change in the next few months, but expect the final version to look and perform more or less identical to this one.
Typically, when MTB media are invited to test products we're given brand new equipment installed and tuned on brand new bikes. In the real world drivetrains wear, chains stretch, and derailleur clutches and springs lose tension. This was a real world test with a five month old 10-speed chain and slightly newer SRAM X9 derailleur (at one point I even used a non-clutch X7 derailleur just to see what would happen). e*thirteen included an XCX top guide with their test kit, but I opted to leave it in the box, curious if the ring could keep the chain on without the aid of a guide. Though the Guidering M is specifically designed for 11-speed drivetrains it is compatible with 10 speed chains as well with a small loss in retention abilities. Like most people, I wasn’t about to shell out $1000+ for an 11-speed drivetrain if I could still enjoy some of the benefits on my current 10-speed one. And enjoy them I did.Mounting the ring to the TRSr cranks was a breeze, and I was quickly out the door to see how well it worked.
On The Trail
In almost three months of testing on two different bikes I have dropped the chain exactly four times. Twice while running a non-clutch derailleur for a muddy weekend of shuttle runs, once with a proper clutch derailleur while descending a steep, awkwardly spaced stone staircase in the middle of one of my local trails, and once on a rough DH trail in Madrid after a series of breaking bumps in a small boulder field. Excluding the X7 experiment, that’s two chain drops after dozens of rides in Taiwan and Europe, all while using a less-than-optimal 10-speed chain (and a fairly worn out one at that).
It’s hard to get excited about a chainring, but right now I’m pretty psyched that the XCX guide is still in the box and isn’t likely to be coming out any time soon. Sure, if I was racing I’d use it just as a failsafe measure, but for regular riding, even on my hardest trails, I don’t really seen any need to worry. Heck, I might even be a little excited.
Things That Could Be Improved
Even though performance was pretty exceptional as is, I’d love to see a 10-speed specific ring. Otherwise, the design, ease of installation, and function of the ring have been all I could ask for.
Long Term Durability
This is the area e*thirteen is currently concentrating their testing efforts before releasing the Guidering M to the public. Wear is always going to be greater with a 1x10 or 1x11 setup, and tends to vary a bit depending on the number of teeth. The advantage of running a drivetrain with minimal or no chain retention device loses its appeal quickly if the ring wears out in a few months’ time. Three months isn’t nearly long enough to appropriately measure durability, but after a few hundred miles there is no sign of premature wear, and the finish has certainly held up better than standard black anodizing. e*thirteen didn’t share what coating process was used on this particular ring, but it’s safe to assume that whatever they settle on for the final version will be at least as good if not better.
What’s The Bottom Line?
Thanks to the e*thirteen Guidering M. I don’t run a chainguide on my trail bike anymore. It's as simple as that. More so than negligible weight savings or the ‘cool’ factor of not running a guide, I really appreciate the less obvious benefits of the Guidering M. The drivetrain is quieter, easier to clean, and removal of the cranks is a snap. Also, from a broader, long-range perspective, the absence of front derailleurs or chainguides creates one less problem for frame designers to work around. At a time when trail bikes are actually getting more complex, it’s refreshing to enjoy new technology that simplifies things for a change.
For more info, keep an eye on www.bythehive.com.
About The Reviewer
Lee Trumpore has been riding bikes for more than 20 years on just about every material and technology the bike industry has come up with. In more than a decade of professional DH racing, Lee won a Collegiate National Championship and was a mainstay at major North American races as well as occasionally snagging a last page result in the World Cup series. Testing prototype components and suspension setups was common during his racing days. He has a smooth, light style on the bike even while holding it wide open. An East Coast native, his favorite trails are fast and flowing technical descents with as many corners as possible and just enough moisture to keep things interesting. Nowadays, rather than racing the clock, he'd rather enjoy a rad descent after a hard pedal to the top. A closet nerd with a Master's degree in education policy Lee currently lives in Taipei, Taiwan where he splits his time teaching mathematics to the next generation of computer geniuses and behind the lens as a photo mercenary for VitalMTB and other industry clients.