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For TT riders the Specialites TA Ovalution 4-Arm chainrings will make a very good performance upgrade. I found the oval shape caused quite a dramatic feel around the pedal stroke, and it also caused a few issues when setting up, with an extra part needed for braze-on mechs. With the additional bolt covers, this becomes quite an expensive setup.
Inventive ways to make pedalling easier aren't new. In fact, we love breaking out the article about the Shimano L-shaped cranks that you all seem to enjoy. Oval chainrings have also been around for quite some time and there are a few athletes and brands that swear by them. I've dabbled in the past, but this set from Specialites TA is the most extreme shape that I've ridden.
Specialites TA says that the Ovalution rings "will allow you to eliminate dead spot when pedalling to maintain a fluid and supple movement in order to reduce muscle fatigue and improve recovery after exercise". There are no graphs to quote, so we'll have to go on feel.
Before you mount the rings, you've got a choice to make. The Ovalution rings come with three position options. The first is for classic road use where you'll be in and out of the saddle. The second is intermediate, and the third is for time trials.
Essentially, they're three options for where you want to position the hardest part of the pedal stroke. Specialites TA says that which you choose depends on your riding style, build, and your bike's geometry. Personally, I'd suggest going in with an open mind, trying each position for a few rides and seeing which one works for you. I tried each setting and found number one best for me.
So, you've picked a position to try – on with the setting up.
Installing these chainrings comes with a few little issues. First, those with braze-on front mechs will need the adapter (£24.99) to mount the mech far enough backwards so that the chain doesn't rub on the lower bridge of the mech cage.
The movement of the chain vertically means that you'll need to play around with the front mech positioning to prevent any rubbing while maintaining accurate shifting. Once sorted, I found the shifting to be okay. It's not as good as the round Shimano rings that they replaced, but I didn't suffer any dropped chains.
Switching from round rings to an elliptical shape has always felt weird to me, and the Ovalution are the weirdest yet. The pedals seem to disappear in the dead spot. As with all oval chainrings, you should eventually get used to it.
Sprinting was also a bit weird. The feeling of the pedals disappearing at the bottom of the stroke made it slightly difficult to generate peak power at sprinting cadences up around 120-140rpm. I never really got used to the motion and felt my sprinting suffered for it.
Hitting the climbs, the rings provided some mixed results. While sat in the saddle, the elliptical shape felt good for keeping cadence up. If you like spinning up climbs, these could work well for you.
I have a more sporadic climbing style, with accelerations out of the saddle, and I found the rings to feel a little choppy. Like when sprinting, I wasn't able to find the rhythm that I'm used to, though I can definitely see the benefit when in the saddle.
This is where the Ovalution rings worked best, in my opinion. With my head down, squeezing the power out, the elliptical shape helped me to keep my cadence up and stop me getting bogged down in a heavy gear. This was especially noticeable when used in my TT setup.
The aluminium rings that I have here are designed for four-bolt cranks with a 110mm bolt circle diameter (bcd). I have the 52-tooth outer and 36T inner. The outer comes in 48, 50, 52 and 54T sizes, while the inner comes in 34, 36, 38, 40 and 42T. The outer costs £84.99 while the inner is £51.99. If you need the braze-on mech adapter it's £24.99. Add in the bolt covers (£11.99-£33.99) and you've got a setup costing from £173.96. That's still a bit cheaper than an Absolute Black equivalent at £198.97.
You don't necessarily need both rings. Time triallists spend most of their time in the big ring so why change the inner; and if you want to help your cadence on the climbs then you could pair the Ovalution inner ring with your standard outer.
So, a mixed experience for me. Though I'd seriously consider them for a TT build, I still prefer round rings for my normal mix of hilly road races and group rides. I think this is down to my more sporadic riding style. If you mostly ride smoothly, I'd recommend them.
Fiddly to set up but shifting is good and they do bring benefits, especially if you're a smooth rider
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Specialites Ovalution 4 arm chainrings
Size tested: 52/36 tooth
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Specialites TA says: "This platform benefits from the "Ovalution" concept: a non-circular shape of the platform which will allow you to eliminate dead spot when pedalling to maintain a fluid and supple movement in order to reduce muscle fatigue and improve recovery after exercise."
UK distributor Chicken has this on its website:
Elliptical chainrings are better suited to the biomechanical requirements of pedalling, delivering more force to the crank for less effort, helping to increase pedalling efficiency, while reducing muscle fatigue. This design also provides a more constant torque to the rear wheel, giving smoother acceleration and reduced wheel slippage.
Innovative multi-indexing thanks to a brand new fixing concept with threaded chainring holes.
3 different positions are available for the mounting of the X110 Ovalution chainrings. They are marked 1, 2 and 3 on the outer chainring. The ideal position depends on your kind of practice, your build, your bike geometry,
Here are basic recommendations :
Position 1 : for classic road use, with alternate stages: on or off the saddle, and on the rear of the saddle
Position 2 : for an intermediate use
Position 3 : for time trial and triathlon use, sitting on the front of the saddle
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Colours: Matt Black
Position: Inner, Outer
Speed: 10x, 11x,
TA have also produced a front mech adaptor to allow increased clearance and corrected chain-line for use with braze-on front mechs and oval rings.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
I fell that they're best suited to smoother riders. By that I mean those who prefer to pace their way up climbs rather than jumping out of the saddle like a Spanish climber. TT riders should also like these.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
They helped me to maintain a high cadence in situations where I might usually get bogged down in a heavy gear.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Setting them up was a bit of a pain.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
The whole package comes in just a bit cheaper than the Absolute Black setup.
Did you enjoy using the product? In some situations, yes.
Would you consider buying the product? For a TT build, yes.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? To a smooth rider, yes.
Use this box to explain your overall score
I don't think my riding style suits these rings, but they are a very good option for a smooth rider.
About the tester
I usually ride: Cannondale Supersix Di2 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 5-10 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, club rides, general fitness riding, I specialise in the Cafe Ride!
Son of a Marathon runner, Nephew of a National 24hr Champion, the racing genetics have completely passed him by. After joining the road.cc staff in 2016 as a reviewer, Liam quickly started writing feature articles and news pieces. After a little time living in Canada, where he spent most of his time eating poutine, Liam returned with the launch of DealClincher, taking over the Editor role at the start of 2018. At the weekend, Liam can be found racing on the road both in the UK and abroad, though he prefers the muddy fields of cyclocross. To date, his biggest race win is to the front of the cafe queue.