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Wolf Tooth Components Narrow-Wide Chainring Review

Posted by: Matt Williams |March 21, 2014 2:00 AM
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Wolf Tooth Components Narrow-Wide Chainring Review

Today we offer up an interesting two-part review of the Wolf Tooth Components Narrow-Wide Chainring. MTB Race News had two separate riders spend 6 months on the unique single ring set up after which they individually wrote a review for us. 

The first review is from Vermont-based racer Matt Williams who spent his time tearing up the muddy, baby head-strewn trails of the east coast. The second review comes from west coast ultra-endurance superstar Evan Plews who tested his Wolf Tooth on the high-speed, pine forest singletrack and bomber descents of the Pacific Northwest. Neither rider was aware of being involved in a two-part review of the same product. See what each had to say below:

Matt's Review-

The release of SRAM's XX1 got more than a few riders excited about getting rid of their front derailleur and converting to a single chain ring set up. After all, the system promised to be simpler, lighter weight, and better performing than a traditional set up. But, those who wanted to keep using their current cranksets, drop the chainguide on their existing 1x9/10 speed drivetrain, or didn't want to pony up for an XX1 group were left wanting.

Enter Wolf Tooth Components, a small Minnesota based company that stepped up this spring to start producing narrow-wide style rings using a 104 BCD pattern. Want to keep your ten drivetrain but like the idea of running a single ring set up without having to mess with a chainguide? You're all set. Want to run XX1 with a Shimano crankset? Wolf Tooth has you covered. They're also manufacturing chainrings that are compatible with SRAM's splined cranksets. Just take of the spider on your X9 or X0 crankset and slide on the Wolf Tooth ring. Pretty slick. Plus, Wolf Tooth rings are 100% designed and made in the US.

I must say I was a bit nervous when I first bolted my 34t test ring onto my Pivot Les hardtail race bike. I couldn't get the visions of dropped chains and a marred carbon frame out of my head. That was early April. In the intervening six months I've run the Wolf Tooth ring, with an XTR Plus rear deraileur, in everything from local training races to PRO XCT's; on three hour trail rides and in epic mud (it's been raining A LOT in Vermont this summer). Through it all I've dropped the chain exactly once. That happened in a pile up at the start of an extremely muddy race in Vermont this spring, a situation where I've dropped chains before using traditional three ring set ups too. Bottom line: the Wolf Tooth narrow-wide rings just work. Period.

Is a single ring set up for you? It's certainly lighter. It allows you to drop a shifter, derailleur, a chainring or two, and the associated cables and housing. That's a significant amount of weight. Running a single ring set up helped me get my hardtail into the 21 pound range this season, which makes a huge difference when climbing. Personally, I love the simplicity of only having one shifter to think about. You have two options: easier or harder, and I've never once wished I had more gears.

I also no longer have to worry about chain rub, and I haven't had any chain line issues. Six muddy months down the road, and the Wolf Tooth Ring is still working, and looking, great. I'd say durability is a non-issue.

In the six months I've been testing this chainring I've also had friends bolt Wolf Tooth rings to a full suspension 29er race bike, and an trail bike/enduro race rig. Neither had any issues with dropped chains, and they both bought Wolf Tooth rings to ride full time.

At $68-$79 per chainring, Wolf Tooth rings represent an economical way to drop some weight, simplify your drivetrain, and move to a single ring set up. And they're now making chainrings for cross bikes too, which will also be made right here in the US. I know I won't be taking mine off any time soon.

Evan's Review- 

This season I have had the opportunity the ride and race with SRAM XX1 components on my Ibis Ripley and HDR bikes. I have grown to love the way the single ring seems to optimize the kinematics of the DW Link suspension while the large spacing between gears seems to eliminate extra shifts out back. Unfortunately, I found the 32 tooth XX1 ring too small even on my 29" Ripley so I began using a standard 34 ring to see how much the narrow/wide tooth profile affected chain retention.

While this combo worked flawlessly on the smooth trails of Western Oregon, I found out the necessity of the special teeth during 24 Hour National Championships when I experienced multiple chain drops on fast, high-frequency chatter. I looked into purchasing a SRAM branded 34 tooth ring before stumbling on Wolf Tooth Components website

Interestingly this start-up from Minnesota is making a number of different chainring configurations using a similar wide/narrow tooth profile. However, the most intriguing to me was there direct mount, spiderless model which eliminates the spider on a variety of SRAM cranksets. After a nice chat with Brendan, we had a 34 tooth ring on the way!

Installation was a little more difficult than simply swapping the SRAM chain ring since this ring has no "spider" and requires the crankset to be removed. Three small Torx bolts fix the ring to the arm so after taking time to clean the interface and apply new thread lock compound the new ring was installed in about 20 minutes. 

For this reason, riders who anticipate changing gear ratios frequently may look at other options. In my case, I looked forward to saving weight, increasing rigidity, and eliminating the possibility of losing chain ring bolts or having them develop annoying noises. 

For the sake of testing, I also installed a new SRAM XX1 chain and cassette on my Ripley at the same time. After a brief tune-up the initial test ring was impressive! If anything the Wolf Tooth ring was even smoother and quieter than the SRAM ring it replaced--a testament to quality materials and exact craftsmanship.

On the trail, the ring has performed flawlessly without a single mishap. In fact, I had intended to photograph the ring after 500 miles but the wear was so minimal that I instead waited to write this review until nearly 1000 miles had elapsed! As you can see there is some wear evident on the backside of the teeth but at this point that could be more a result of chain elongation than anything else.

Since the wear seems to be more in the anodized surface of the ring rather than into the material inself and performance is as good as ever, I plan to install a new chain and revisit the wear after another 500-1000 miles of off-road riding. In the meantime, I look forward to the release of the 36 tooth ring of the same configuration so I can put one on my HDR!



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