I don’t know about you, well actually, I do, and you are like me! We are always looking for ways to improve our times. Drink a new special shake, wear an ugly new helmet or even sleep in an altitude tent all by ourselves, we will try anything! Well let me tell you about something that doesn’t cost THAT much and really does work: Q Rings or oblong chainrings.
First an explanation of what a Q ring is and then a little disclaimer. These elliptical chainrings decrease the time we spend in less efficient parts of the pedal stroke and increase time in the more efficient parts and create more watts per pedal stroke. The Q ring does this by maximizing the strong muscles and minimize resistance during the weaker part of the pedal stroke. During one complete revolution of the crank, the rider experiences 2 ‘dead spots’. One is located at top-dead-center, the other at bottom-dead-center, This occurs at these 2 spots because you are not pushing anymore on the down stroke leg but not yet pulling up for the up stroke. In other words, one leg is done pushing but the other leg has not quite yet started to push.
Thus the explanation, now onto the disclaimer. Pro cyclists, or at the very least very experienced cyclists, have already solved this problem while using regular chainrings by pedaling in a very efficient and circular pattern. Unfortunately most of us mere mortals have not! We still, try as we might, have dead spots in our pedal stroke. You may be one of the chosen few who would not benefit from an oval but chances are you can see some power gains by switching.
Let me share my experience with the rings: they have been a complete success. Once they arrived it took some trial and error to find the best setting for my style of riding. Using my trainer and a constant resistance setting I was able to set them up in a couple of hours (for both the small and large chainring). My initial rides were more challenging and less fruitful than I thought they would be. But after doing some thinking (and some research) the reason became pretty apparent: I was producing more power because I was spending more time in the “Power” part of my pedal stroke. In other words I was working harder at the same cadence and gearing. For this reason, I would not recommend a shift to Q rings during the race season. After a few weeks however I noticed my watts were up and my effort had returned to previous levels. The small chainring did take a little longer to get used to because you need to have a decent load on them for it to feel smooth. So if you shift to a gear that is “too”easy for the climb it will feel clunky.
Wrapping this up for about 150 smackers most riders will produce more watts and more speed (all other things being equal) with less fatigue. After a tight fitting kit and a good aero position I would rank these chainrings at the top of my list as far as results per dollar spent!