Product Test: Rotor Q Rings

Tech features: 
While a few of the MBA wrecking crew were around for Biopace chainrings, Shimano’s asym- metrical chainrings from the late ’80s and early ’90s, the younger crewers never had to live through that experiment. Rotor’s Q-Rings, though similar at first glance, are a completely different beast. The concept behind these egg-shaped rings is that by shaping the chainring to play to the strengths of your natural pedal stroke, you are more efficient. Rotor looks to accomplish this by placing the low spot in the ring corresponding to the “dead spot” at the top of your pedal stroke while placing the high spot in the meat of your power in the downstroke. This effectively changes the gear inches you are pushing as you rotate the crank; shorter gear inches in the dead spot and more gear inches in the downstroke.

Rotor claims the Q-Rings increase your power output, reduce lactic acid and lower your heart rate at a given output. Any single one of those claims would be enough to catch any serious racer’s attention.

Our Q-Ring setup goes for $285, and Rotor USA can be contacted at (866) 391-0493.

Field test results:
We set up our Orbea Alma 29er carbon race bike with the 40/27-tooth Q-Rings with hopes of capturing maybe just a little Kulhavy magic. Installing the rings was a straightforward process with just one hitch: with the outer chain- ring installed, the pin that keeps the chain from being caught between the crankarm and chainring if the chain is dropped was too long. The result was the pin making contact with the arm. We took a file to the pin, and within a couple of minutes had chopped it down short enough to mount it flush. Rotor gives you three mounting positions to fine-tune the feel for your preference. We set our rings up in the standard middle position.

When we first spun the pedals, the rings were noticeable, but not in a way where it would take a week to relearn our pedal stroke. This was definitely a good thing. For every given chainring size, Rotor adjusts the position of the high and low point to account for what you will most likely be doing in that gear.

The Q-Rings delivered on their promise to smooth out our pedaling. It took a little adjustment during the first hour or two, but overall, we found the rings to work to our legs’ natural strengths very well, pedaling through the dead spot more easily while making the most of our down- stroke. At times, this allowed us to stay in a gear higher than we normally would by making it easier to turn over the cranks.

Climbing was where we noticed the greatest benefit. By helping us keep the power to the pedals evenly and consistently, we achieved better traction on loose sections of trail. When in doubt, we found ourselves sliding back in the saddle and powering through hairy sections.

The rings were not without their quirks, though. Shift quality was not on par with our stock SRAM rings. While they performed flawlessly on the workstand, we wondered how they would handle less-than-ideal shifts under load. We went weeks without a single dropped chain or missed shift, and then during a particularly wet and sandy ride, we experienced a mean case of chain-suck. We learned the best way to combat this was to pick our shifts more carefully and consciously ease up the pressure on the pedals when shifting.

While Q-Rings are beneficial for get- ting the most out of your pedal stroke, minding your shifts and possibly installing a chain-catcher will be necessary to combat the chances of dropping a chain. For serious racers looking for a competitive advantage, the Q-Rings are worth it. For trail riders or occa- sional racers, the finicky shifting and high price outweigh their advantages.

This article was reprinted from our June 2012 issue.  Subscribe to MBA by clicking here
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