road riding in Penang | Malaysia

Rotor Q-Ring elliptical chainrings
Report and photo by Low Kwan Seng


Rotor Q-Rings are a set of ovalised chainrings that claim to give bio-mechanical advantage to a rider's pedaling efficiency compared to the "regular" round chainrings. Of course, the concept of an ovalised chainring is not new. A famous example is the Shimano Biopace which was introduced during the 1980s. It eventually died out due to imperfect shifting (according to Shimano).

So does ovalised chainrings provide any real bio-mechnical advantage? The debate is still on-going. I had a chance to acquire a set of Rotor Q-Rings and try it out myself. Here's my personal review of the Q-Rings after some miles under my legs.

The theory is based on the concept that when the leg is at the up stroke, it creates a "dead-spot" where theleg has the least ability to exert power onto the crank. Therefore there is a need to get over the dead spot as quickly as possible by having the smallest possible equivalent chainring size. However, when the leg is at down stroke or close to down stroke, the leg has the maximum leverage to exert power to the crank. By having a maximum possible chainring size, power exertion to the crank is maximised.

Q-Rings also allow you to fine tune where you want the dead spot and where you want the max spot, since every rider could have different dead spots and max spots.

Short term report: Installation is not difficult, but getting the shifting perfect is quite impossible. It took me three evenings to adjust/re-adjust the front derailer position to get it to shift the Q-Rings acceptably. Still, certain gearing combinations will result in the big ring slightly rubbing the front derailleur plate. You need to keep trimming the front derailleur to make the noise go away.

So how does it ride? Well, I expected it to have some kind of oval effect on the pedal stroke, however, it turned out to ride just like a round chainring. It felt like spinning a perfectly round crank. There also isn't any break-in period.

On the first day I test rode the rings on a hilly TT event that I'm familiar with. With the same effort I normally put in on the same course, I did not notice any improvement on the time split. Still slow as a slug on the hill and the time split is probably at the bottom end of the pack. However, I did notice something different in my legs... they were not as sore as before and I felt less of a lactic acid effect/build-up as well. I'm going to give it some time to verify the reduction in leg soreness and the lower lactic acid effect.

The rings on the power phase/spot with the maximum tooth (equivalent to a 56T).

Mid term report: After close to 3 months and several hundreds miles of riding the Q-Rings, I think the Rotor people is definitely onto something here. The leg soreness that I associate with prolonged climbing is felt less now. I am still wasted at the end of a ride, but I feel I am recovering better to continue riding the next day.

The next day, the lactic acid accumulating effect due to prolonged climbing prior day is also less. Do I climb faster now? Absolutely not. Do I get less tiredness in my legs after the ride, yes. Recover faster, more or less, yes. I'm glad that the Q-Rings do provide some benefits to me, not on the performance enhancement part, but on the recovery part.

Kwan, reporting from San Jose, California.

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