Wednesday, July 24, 2013

REVIEW! Wickwerks Chainrings

The Hotness that is Wickwerks Chainrings

Now it's no secret that I don't need much motivation to try out something new and shiny when it comes to bikes. I was born a tech head (I'm a child of the 80's, when we loved our Thundercats figures that lit up when you shoved a AAA battery in their back.) and as I have grown older it most certainly has not quenched my thirst for new toys.

Seriously... I wore a battery as a ring? No wonder I'm such a dork now...

That said, every now and then I actually NEED to replace parts on my bike. The chainrings on my Ultegra SL crank have long since seen their best days (hell, they probably had seen most of them before I bought them) and so it was time to find something new.

Enter the internet. My reading brought me to two (actually 3 if you count Dura Ace, but that's not fun, nor reasonably priced) choices... Wickwerks and Praxis. I'll admit, there were two totally non performance related things that swayed me towards the Wickwerks. First was the fact that they are $10 cheaper than the Praxis (Kudos WW, high school economics worked for you too!) and second was that they are absolutely beautiful to look at.  Seriously, it's like a functional work of art. Of course looks be damned if the things don't actually shift adequately... and so begins the review.


This is the key factor when we are talking about part of the drivetrain on your bicycle. Does it work, and does it work well? Well, when it comes to the Wickwerks rings the answer is an undeniable YES. I have rode on Ultegra / Dura Ace rings basically since I started riding bicycles and I was confident that I was riding the cleanest shifting setups on the market. Well I was wrong... which isn't to knock Shimano's rings, they are awesome... but they aren't the glory that is Wickwerks. These things shift noticeably cleaner than even my Dura Ace rings do. Yes, I said noticeably and I mean it. Even set up on my "cheap" drivetrain (the Microshift White group... which I still consider the best deal in components on the market.) shifting from small to big and vice versa is smooth and confident. Now there is a lot of science and technology that went into making these things work as buttery as they do, and I'll link to the Slowtwitch article that goes into it a bit more in depth HERE... but to briefly opposed to using pins (like your normal chainring does) to help with the shift, Wickwerks uses "BRIDGE" technology which is basically a lot of ramps that spread the load of the chain more evenly when you are shifting. That's pretty much just a longer way of saying what I said before... it shifts smoothly and confidently.

Ramps! (ok, it has 1 pin)

There is one small gripe with the Wickwerks chainrings, and it's one that is tough to blame on the rings themselves. Cross chaining with the rings is NOT something you can really get away with... they will quickly let you know (somewhat loudly) that you are in the wrong combination of gears. Now we all know you shouldn't be cross chaining to begin with... but sometimes it is a necessary evil (like when you're on very fast rolling hills where you want to stay in the big chainring but need a lower gear... or at least I do) and something that it a lot less noticeable on Shimano rings. Again, it's sort of hard to blame the Wickwerks for not sounding great when you're doing something you shouldn't be doing to start with... but still, it is a thing. The instruction manual that comes with them even makes mention of it.

Rating: 9/10
I'm not sure things get much better than this. Few things deliver on the hype, but these guys do it.


At $149.50 (add $10 if you are a boss and run a 130bcd... hey, you gotta pay to push the big gears) I think you'd be hard pressed to find a set of rings that even play in the same arena as these guys. (Probikekit lists the Dura Ace Outer chainring for $171.09 and of course you still need the inner to go with it) Now can you find perfectly reasonable and race ready chainrings cheaper than $150? I'm sure an internet savvy fellow (or lady, hi ladies!) like yourself can find something on the cheap that will certainly do the job of taking the chain from the small ring to the big ring, but it won't do it as smoothly, it won't do it as precisely and it certainly won't do it as handsomely as the Wickwerks do it.
Rating: 7/10
You can be a cheap skate, but for quality, these are some of the cheapest of the "big boys."
Looks matter... it's just that simple. If they didn't, why would we try to match bar tape (so long as it's white or black bar tape, amirite?) Even if these rings weren't as good functionally as they are, they would still be tempting just for the sex appeal.
It's like a vortex of awesome!
Sadly my Ultegra SL crank is a dark gray. It mates up pretty nicely with the Wickwerks, but it doesn't hold a candle to how sick these things look on a black crank ( Seems like there is a joke there somewhere) SRAM's come to mind immediately.
Yes, that's pretty sweet looking.
Sadly, matching to black is where you are at, so if you've got something that's terribly mismatched you are sort of stuck. The good news is that black goes with everything!
Rating: 10/10
Last Thoughts
There's a lot to love from the Wickwerks. A few (minor) gripes away from being perfect, but I don't think you can go wrong giving them a shot when it's time to replace your chainrings. I didn't know what smooth front shifting was (and I thought I had it down) until I put these on.
Well, this weekend is my first Omnium. I'm *hopeful* for the Road Race, nervous about the Crit, and excited to attempt to crush the Time Trial. With any luck I will be able to keep the rubber down across the races.  Training has been pretty focused on harder sets on the bike while trying to maintain my swim and run. I feel like my run has likely suffered a bit (like it needed it) due to most of them being done on tired legs. Hopefully I can get back some speed before my Olympic race next month.
As always, thanks so much for taking the time to check out the blog, I really appreciate it. Next week I should have a race report (and very likely some lessons learned) from the Omnium.
- Christopher Morelock

No comments:

Post a Comment