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​When Shimano launched the latest incarnation of its flagship XTR group, many felt that the absence of a narrow/wide chainring meant that the company was missing a crucial piece of the puzzle, especially when it comes to evermore popular 1x drivetrains. It turns out that the company filed a patent application for narrow wide technology with a twist in January 2014, which has now been published (not yet granted). Examining the patent application reveals one major difference to other narrow wide designs currently on the market, namely the presence of "normal" teeth along 2 sides of the chain ring. This creates narrow wide chainrings which will also allow the chain to shift over to another chainring in these specific shifting zones (placed in line with the crankarms so as to time the shifting to the point in the pedal stroke where the rider creates the least amount of power and thus stress on the transmission).

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In theory, this should improve chain retention over a traditional 2x system, specifically when coasting with the pedals horizontal to the ground. Of course, most chain drop incidents occur when attempting to pedal over rough ground, so just how much of an improvement this invention will bring remains to be seen on the trail. The patent application also clearly stipulates that one version of this new chain ring is intended to be used 1x.

We don't know what plans Shimano may have for launching actual products at this stage, but this development seems to fall in line with their continued commitment to the front derailleur critical to their "Rhythm and Range" approach. Time will tell.

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