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  1. #1
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    To Oval or not to Oval?

    I'm running a 30t oval on my old 26" bike. I didn't notice a difference on the switch but I suppose it could be making a small difference.

    I just upgraded to a Transition Sentinel and I'm contemplating an oval ring for it. But... I'm not so sure...

    They say a 30t oval is like a 32t in the power zone and a 28t in the dead spot. Makes perfect sense.

    So my question is if you are pushing a "32" in the power zone then why not just get a 32 round? The dead spot isn't making a difference so the fact that it's easier when your feet aren't in a rotation with power it shouldn't affect the pedaling. Right?

    What am I missing? I know they do something but I'm getting lost on if that something is actually making a difference that couldn't be made just by getting a larger chain ring.

  2. #2
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    Oval chain rings have been around for something like 120 years, just about from the beginning of bikes as we currently recognize them. IMO, if they made a consistent objective or even subjective improvement, they'd be standard by now. Basically, it boils down to personal preference or belief system.
    What, me worry?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lone Rager View Post
    Oval chain rings have been around for something like 120 years, just about from the beginning of bikes as we currently recognize them. IMO, if they made a consistent objective or even subjective improvement, they'd be standard by now. Basically, it boils down to personal preference or belief system.
    You have Shimano to thank for them not being as widespread.

    OP, it does make a difference. You want really notice it on the flats but when climbing technical or really steep things at the stall point the dead zone reduction is noticeable. It also helps to reduce spin outs in similar situations due to the rise fall of the resistance.

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    I just swapped over from a 30 round to a 28 oval yesterday and gave it a ride yesterday afternoon
    It feels a lot different, lower gear so climbing was easier, felt myself running thru my gears more to gain speed. few spots I had the wrong gear going down so it will take some time for me to get used to it
    overall the ride was faster, was able to maintain speed better on most sections

    it was a relatively cheap thing to swap out. worst you can do it give it a try
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    As I thought more about it staring at the ceiling last night I did come to the conclusion that making the relatively small dead spots easier would provide an advantage in super steep or techie stuff where the difference between cleaning and HaBing is literally 1/4 crank turn...

    Quote Originally Posted by Provincial View Post
    it was a relatively cheap thing to swap out. worst you can do it give it a try
    I've tried it already. Still got an oval on my 26er.

    Unlike everyone else that switched to an oval I felt no noticeable difference. It took exactly 0 seconds to get used to. That's why I'm questioning if dropping $70 on another is really worth it...

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    Maybe they make a difference, maybe not. I expect the trend of going 1x has made them players, now. Using ovals on a 3x must have been problematic.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lone Rager View Post
    IMO, if they made a consistent objective or even subjective improvement, they'd be standard by now.
    Kinda thinking the same thing...

  8. #8
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    Without a doubt, I noticed a difference in pedalling.
    There is a very defined yet not obnoxious "surge" in the pedals when cranking.
    I only have 1 bike with an oval. I am not sure however, if I will put another oval on.
    I don't dislike it, but I'm not sure it is any better to me.

    Honestly, in think it's probably a lot better for people riding flats. Seriously.
    The smaller part of the oval should help eliminate "pedal dead spots". With clipless, you should have no dead spots. Especially if it's technical and climbing....
    Last edited by DethWshBkr; 02-05-2018 at 02:05 PM.

  9. #9
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    I really like oval for low cadence riding and techy climbs. I hate oval at high cadences because it seems much more difficult to be smooth.

    On my singlespeeds I use ovals to help with some of the climbs. On geared bikes, I just use a round chainring.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by big0mike View Post
    As I thought more about it staring at the ceiling last night I did come to the conclusion that making the relatively small dead spots easier would provide an advantage in super steep or techie stuff where the difference between cleaning and HaBing is literally 1/4 crank turn...


    I've tried it already. Still got an oval on my 26er.

    Unlike everyone else that switched to an oval I felt no noticeable difference. It took exactly 0 seconds to get used to. That's why I'm questioning if dropping $70 on another is really worth it...
    Since you're jumping from 26 up to 29 wheels you might think about a 30t ring, if not 28t(or smaller??), even if you have Eagle. And would think it beneficial on all the techy stuff you're known for mastering!😎 As far as not being "smooth" during higher cadence times I wouldn't think it be as critical on that monster truck rig.
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    Quote Originally Posted by JMac47 View Post
    Since you're jumping from 26 up to 29 wheels you might think about a 30t ring, if not 28t(or smaller??), even if you have Eagle. And would think it beneficial on all the techy stuff you're known for mastering!
    The Sentinel came with a 30t round and with the Eagle drive train it seems comparable to my 11 speed 30t oval with an 11-42 cassette on my 26er. Trails that require granny on the 11sp were requiring it on the Eagle. The 30t/50t combo seems to be about as slow as I'd need to pedal and still be able to remain upright. If I do get another oval it'll likely be a 30t. Even if it's a little hard in the beginning the legs adjust eventually.

  12. #12
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    Cool. Can we expect some new Vim vids on the Sentinal? Be cool to see some redemption on your Superman Waterfall run from 3 years ago. Dam your buddy went bass akwards in that hole!ooo

    You may have seen already but thought id throw it in since there's a current post:
    http://forums.mtbr.com/drivetrain-sh...l-1052324.html
    Last edited by JMac47; 02-05-2018 at 12:18 PM. Reason: More info
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    Quote Originally Posted by JMac47 View Post
    Cool. Can we expect some new Vim vids on the Sentinal? Be cool to see some redemption on your Superman Waterfall run from 3 years ago. Dam your buddy went bass akwards in that hole!ooo
    Working on video now Got a little idea for decommissioning the Pitch and introducing the Sentinel...

    Quote Originally Posted by JMac47 View Post
    You may have seen already but thought id throw it in since there's a current post:
    http://forums.mtbr.com/drivetrain-sh...l-1052324.html
    I did see that and, to be honest, I don't see spending over $100 on a chainring with SRAM on it when everyone else has 'em cheaper. That said, I don't know what effect their X-SYNC 2 tooth design will actually have... May be a benefit, maybe not...

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    Much information here, much confusion caused by incompleteness. anyone providing experience should list what oval chainring this advice is based on.

    first, the old shimano ovals were designed wrong (wrong angle for the deadpoint). so anyone telling stories how bad that was 30 years ago won't help you here.

    Second, some companies' ovals are less oval, more round. The most oval and well designed one seems to be Absoluteblack. I recently upgraded my fatbike to oval. It really works better at low cadence situations and situation where you are "stuck", like in sand or snow. with round chainring I switched between slipping and being stuck, now I seem to deliver constant torque. i yesterday attended a race (yes i sucked!), but could well climb without slipping (even with the worst tires of the group) because power delivery was smooth.

    Third, I paid $45 for my chainring on ebay. Not sure what you picked to quote $70. Mine was 64mm BCD, other sizes may be more expensive.

    On normal riding I may be one gear higher than with round. Spinning at high cadence also seems to work fine. it took me 20 feet riding to get used to it.

    I actually got motivated to upgrade my hybrid to 1x just to get an oval chainring.

    I know I may experience confirmation bias because I want it to be better after I upgraded. But I try to be as critical and objective as possible.
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    Quote Originally Posted by HerrKaLeun View Post
    Much information here, much confusion caused by incompleteness. anyone providing experience should list what oval chainring this advice is based on.

    first, the old shimano ovals were designed wrong (wrong angle for the deadpoint). so anyone telling stories how bad that was 30 years ago won't help you here.

    Second, some companies' ovals are less oval, more round. The most oval and well designed one seems to be Absoluteblack. I recently upgraded my fatbike to oval. It really works better at low cadence situations and situation where you are "stuck", like in sand or snow. with round chainring I switched between slipping and being stuck, now I seem to deliver constant torque. i yesterday attended a race (yes i sucked!), but could well climb without slipping (even with the worst tires of the group) because power delivery was smooth.

    Third, I paid $45 for my chainring on ebay. Not sure what you picked to quote $70. Mine was 64mm BCD, other sizes may be more expensive.

    On normal riding I may be one gear higher than with round. Spinning at high cadence also seems to work fine. it took me 20 feet riding to get used to it.

    I actually got motivated to upgrade my hybrid to 1x just to get an oval chainring.

    I know I may experience confirmation bias because I want it to be better after I upgraded. But I try to be as critical and objective as possible.
    I agree with this too. If anything it forces the rider to focus on smooth circles when spinning at high RPMs.

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    Quote Originally Posted by HerrKaLeun View Post
    Not sure what you picked to quote $70. Mine was 64mm BCD, other sizes may be more expensive.
    Absolute Black SRAM GXP Boost Oval Ring | Jenson USA

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    I went with a Wolf 28t oval on my sb4.5 XO1 Eagle drivetrain, and love it. I found it completely invisible from the first pedal stroke, except that I dab/bail a little less, and my troublesome knee doesn't hurt.

    I'm 59, not 29, and that may be why I prefer the smaller than stock ring.

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  18. #18
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    I don't see spending over $100 on a chainring with SRAM on it when everyone else has 'em cheaper. That said, I don't know what effect their X-SYNC 2 tooth design will actually have... May be a benefit, maybe not...[/QUOTE]



    - I've been plunking around on an Absolute Black Oval mixed with Eagle XO stuff and they work together flawlessly.
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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by HerrKaLeun View Post
    Much information here, much confusion caused by incompleteness. anyone providing experience should list what oval chainring this advice is based on.

    first, the old shimano ovals were designed wrong (wrong angle for the deadpoint). so anyone telling stories how bad that was 30 years ago won't help you here.

    Second, some companies' ovals are less oval, more round. The most oval and well designed one seems to be Absoluteblack. I recently upgraded my fatbike to oval. It really works better at low cadence situations and situation where you are "stuck", like in sand or snow. with round chainring I switched between slipping and being stuck, now I seem to deliver constant torque. i yesterday attended a race (yes i sucked!), but could well climb without slipping (even with the worst tires of the group) because power delivery was smooth.

    Third, I paid $45 for my chainring on ebay. Not sure what you picked to quote $70. Mine was 64mm BCD, other sizes may be more expensive.

    On normal riding I may be one gear higher than with round. Spinning at high cadence also seems to work fine. it took me 20 feet riding to get used to it.

    I actually got motivated to upgrade my hybrid to 1x just to get an oval chainring.

    I know I may experience confirmation bias because I want it to be better after I upgraded. But I try to be as critical and objective as possible.
    Here's some objective information to feed into your system. https://www.sheldonbrown.com/biopace.html

    How are you going to reason with it? Deny it and stick to your bias (that biopace is wrong)?

    I've tried modern ovals (from Absolute Black), and didn't observe any significant improvement or change. It just cost more, forced me to factor in chainstay clearance, and made me worry about additional stress on the RD clutch and my knees. They made me slightly more conscious of my pedaling style, but I eventually dropped the thought and rode it like normal. Anything I struggled to clear before, no matter what technique I tried, was cleared with simply more fitness. If the oval ring helped at all, it's because it got me outside to "test" it, or get used to the different stress it'd put on my pedaling stroke. In other words, there wasn't anything obvious that I could sense, that I couldn't be considered to be placebo effect.

    Since I haven't ridden Biopace, all I can do is offer conjecture. The body has least strength with the knee bent sharply. It has the most strength when the leg's closer to being fully extended. For instance, it's considered cheating to do squats or leg presses if you don't bend your knees enough; it's also considered hard on your knees to stress them with so much resistance. Sheldon Brown believes Biopace saves your knees and uses the muscles similarly to running. On the other hand, modern oval rings encourage mashing (concentrating effort when the cranks are horizontal), basing their science on having a bigger gear when you can put more bodyweight into the stroke, and a smaller gear when you're doing "scraping" motion with your legs. It promotes a more piston-like, stair climber style of motion. It claims to help remedy the traction issues associated with such a pedaling style, that it ironically encourages. What's odd is that Biopace marketing says it's optimized for cadence of 90 and below and was criticized for it; I find the modern oval is optimized for even lower cadences, yet it's not criticized for it. I suppose if you're spinning over 90 RPM, you don't need either, since you're already spinning circles.

    Here's a problem I'm looking to solve: if I'm looking pedal while descending rough terrain, but worry about bumps throwing my foot off when I have little pressure on the pedal, and my gearing is too low to push low cadence at the speed I'm going, which chainring would be best? I'd like to minimize the dead spot, where I have less weight/pressure on the pedals. Ideally, I'd like to have good pressure throughout the pedal stroke. Does the strategy of reducing the time when the cranks are vertical and increasing time when the pedals are closer to horizontal sound good (modern oval)? What if I were forced to put increased pressure on what was supposed to be the dead spot in order to turn the cranks? Does this effectively eliminate the dead spot, since it's no longer dead due to that part of the stroke seeing more effort (Biopace)?

    ^Honestly, the best answer is likely to just get higher gearing and/or improve my technique to allow for pedaling on rough descents (spinning circles instead of mashing), rather than rely on a chainring to be a magic bullet.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Varaxis View Post
    Here's some objective information to feed into your system. https://www.sheldonbrown.com/biopace.html

    How are you going to reason with it? Deny it and stick to your bias (that biopace is wrong)?
    Biopace ovals are about 90 different than modern designs. Shimano had it all wrong.
    https://absoluteblack.cc/faq.html

    Totally different design. Which is why I suggested everyone weighing in should mention what oval they actually used.

    Maybe it is placebo, but for me it works. It doesn't overcome laws of thermodynamics, but helps me to be more steady in power output, which helps in loose conditions. Some comments mean the advantages are greater at lower cadence and with flat pedals.

    For the OP, best advice is to try it out. There will be people saying it didn't work for them, and people for who it worked (or appeared to work). there likely are used chainrings available from people who didn't like them. Maybe try one of those cheaper.
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  22. #22
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    I've been using the Absolute Black ovals for the past 1.5 yrs. The first time I rode with one I felt something different for the first few minutes, then it just became normal. A few rides in I wasn't sure if there was any benefit other than being different. After 1.5 yrs I'm now a believer that it smooths out the power in my pedal stroke.

    This past weekend I demoed a few bikes with round chainrings. Wow! The first few minutes of pedaling felt so weird. My pedaling felt like pistons with TDC dead spots. I could feel the pulsing in my stroke. Climbing seemed just a bit more difficult. After a few hours the pulsing feeling began to diminish, but was still noticeable.

    I have no problem saying I'm firmly sold on the AB ovals.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by SoCal-Rider View Post
    I've been using the Absolute Black ovals for the past 1.5 yrs. The first time I rode with one I felt something different for the first few minutes, then it just became normal. A few rides in I wasn't sure if there was any benefit other than being different. After 1.5 yrs I'm now a believer that it smooths out the power in my pedal stroke.

    This past weekend I demoed a few bikes with round chainrings. Wow! The first few minutes of pedaling felt so weird. My pedaling felt like pistons with TDC dead spots. I could feel the pulsing in my stroke. Climbing seemed just a bit more difficult. After a few hours the pulsing feeling began to diminish, but was still noticeable.

    I have no problem saying I'm firmly sold on the AB ovals.
    I had the same experience. I like to test ride and demo new bikes, so I switched back to round to avoid the refamiliarization process. Happens to me with bikes that have varied seat angles too. I can't say I'm a believer. I did put out a bit more intense effort on the oval, which helped with my fitness, but I think I just choose to be more casual now, rather than credit it to the chainring. xD

    When I see others on oval, and recognize the brand, I just see them as being where I was years ago. They don't seem to put out high intensity effort, but one guy who has them is called a goat, due to his proficiency to clear challenging climbs. He has pretty good taste in equipment and is a tinkerer, while I'm more about simply finding stuff that I can settle with. He doesn't talk gear at all though, he just acknowledges that we notice his bike has something different on it and says he's trying it out. I feel like asking him how he feels when he changes over from his Scalpel Si w/oval to his Trek Fuel EX/Remedy.
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  24. #24
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    I have one bike with an oval and another without. Both get ridden fairly equally. I notice exactly zero difference in pedal stroke or climbing ability. Waste of money IME - thankfully it only cost about $30. Already ordered a steel non-oval for when it wears out for ~$12.
    :nono: :thumbsup:

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    I have oval on my XC HT. I can feel the improvements on technical or max effort climbing where I'm stretched to my fitness limit. When I'm just below that limit it makes no difference to me.

    Totally worth it for me when racing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by HerrKaLeun View Post
    For the OP, best advice is to try it out. There will be people saying it didn't work for them, and people for who it worked (or appeared to work). there likely are used chainrings available from people who didn't like them. Maybe try one of those cheaper.
    Again, I have tried them. I did not notice any difference in my pedal stroke... nothing to "get used to" at all. That's what has me wondering since everyone else seems to notice some difference.

    So, while I don't necessarily feel a difference it likely is having an effect. I guess it's one of those things that can't hurt...

    I ordered an AB 30t oval so we'll see if I feel any difference with the AB.

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    Looked up posts of Biopace and a lot of people report similar thing. Some feeling that it lived up to the marketing claims. Some not really noticing any benefit nor detriment. Some angry that the hype, such as it bringing the beast out in you (perhaps from racers or other consumers) was overblown. Some say the copies were terrible. Some saying things like the rings were indestructible compared to the crappy CNC alternatives at the time.

    I suppose it's so small an effect that it's comparable to other small changes such as going from 175 to 170 crankarms. I personally went the steel tooth ring route.
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    Shimano biopace rings 30 years ago were just one of an infinity of variation 90s years after ovals were first tried. There is nothing new, ovalwise.
    What, me worry?

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    Biopace came on my new Cannondale sm700 (?) in '88, it was cool then and shortly after not cool. Just a couple of years ago I bought an old Allez with 600 ultegra biopace, it felt a little odd but rode fine, I got some round rings at a bike swap meet and put those on, it feels different but I can't say it's any faster round. That's the dedicated basement-trainer bike now.
    More recently I put an Absolute Black 39 on my 1x cx bike. I don't notice it anywhere other than the steepest climbs, where I think it helps, it actually feels just a little easier on the steepest climbs.
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    Quote Originally Posted by big0mike View Post
    Again, I have tried them. I did not notice any difference in my pedal stroke... nothing to "get used to" at all. That's what has me wondering since everyone else seems to notice some difference.

    So, while I don't necessarily feel a difference it likely is having an effect. I guess it's one of those things that can't hurt...

    I ordered an AB 30t oval so we'll see if I feel any difference with the AB.
    My guess is those who don't notice a difference aren't low cadence standing climbers like me.
    I do agree that you get used to it and then its not a big deal.
    I think I'll try a round ring again next time and see if I miss the oval.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ac1000 View Post
    My guess is those who don't notice a difference aren't low cadence standing climbers like me.
    I do agree that you get used to it and then its not a big deal.
    I think I'll try a round ring again next time and see if I miss the oval.
    I'm a medium cadence sitting climber. I'll stand for technical sections to power up and over rocks but prefer sitting.

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    For anybody seriously interested in oval rings and I am just referring to oval and not asymmetric the best way may be getting the rotor cranks. Or even race face.

    All oval chainrings on the market (absolute black, wt, 1up, sram, etc) are "inspired" by the rotor shape. However they failed (or were legally unable) to copy the most important aspect which is adjustability.
    Rotor rings can rotate few degrees to optimize the ring position to the rider style.
    Depending how/where you sit on the saddle, where/how you ride, the ring needs to be adjusted accordingly.
    Similar to adjusting handlebars and saddle tilt. Would you ride bars that can not be rotated to your preference?
    A well adjusted oval ring is almost impossible to tell from a round ring. Except that it is easier to spin. To me it is like having good legs every time.
    People not liking the oval ring most likely is because they are using fixed ring set up that does not work with their position on the bike and pedaling style.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Machianera View Post
    For anybody seriously interested in oval rings and I am just referring to oval and not asymmetric the best way may be getting the rotor cranks. Or even race face.

    Rotor rings can rotate few degrees to optimize the ring position to the rider style.
    Depending how/where you sit on the saddle, where/how you ride, the ring needs to be adjusted accordingly.
    That's what I like about the cinch interface. I've gotten the oval for my SRAM cranks but in the future I may just upgrade back to the cinch interface...

  34. #34
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    I'm several months into my AB oval and loved it from day one or two, then forgotten about it since. On the honeymoon, I'd approach a tricky or tough section and say to myself "might need to downshift..." only to not have to. In the flats I notice nothing. As a geeky side not yet to be backed up with multiple cadence analyses, I do believe my cadence average has dropped a bit (like 5%) using the oval. FWIW YMMV.

    Regarding the subject as a whole, has the "optimum degree of the 'apex' of the oval" relative to the crank arm, or percentage of said ovalness ever been defined, "definitively"?

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    Sam Gaze won this weekends XC world cup with Rotor Qrings.

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    Just to add more fuel to the fire, I recently switched from Clips back to flats and will say from my unscientific approach (Riding same bike on same route I've ridden 20+ times)

    For me, Oval makes a difference. (Blackspire)

    Is it a huge difference? No
    Is it noticeable that I can pedal fire road, street and technical climbs better? Yes in my head and timed difference (Cyclemeter: 1 min faster to checkpoint)
    Is it worth the 50% premium? Depends where you ride- Uphill technical, Fireroad/street for sure
    Downhill- not sure you'll notice

  37. #37
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    4,580
    Quote Originally Posted by ehfour View Post
    Just to add more fuel to the fire, I recently switched from Clips back to flats and will say from my unscientific approach (Riding same bike on same route I've ridden 20+ times)
    What's this mean? I'm in the process of switching from flats to clips. Should I get a cyclemeter?
    :nono: :thumbsup:

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