To Q or not to Q that is the Q.

The Roundness of Being

The Roundness of Being

by / / 149 posts

Evolution doesn’t really seem to be part of the picture anymore, at least not where humans and our direct reports are concerned. We control an astounding number of genetic defects in ourselves, our pets, and agriculture while Science and Technology give Natural Selection swirlies in the locker room.

Take exercise-induced asthma, which is a condition I suffer from. Evolution suggests that if running from a predator invokes a crippling airflow obstruction, you were meant to be eaten. And even if capture was avoided through some staggering failure of circumstance, the predator should locate you wheezing away somewhere under a nearby bush and make a leisurely meal of you.

In my early teens, I saved my money to buy my first real race bike, a black and hot pink Cannonwhale SR600 with Shimano 105 and BioPace chainrings. BioPace chainrings weren’t the original non-round rings – they have been around since the turn of the twentieth century, shortly after some bright spark stumbled upon the fact that we were evolved to walk, not ride a bike.

I’m not a scientist, but I am given to understand that based on our complimentary pairs of muscles, as Cyclists our legs are only really good at pushing and pulling. The more lateral the movement involved, the less efficient we are at applying the strength of our muscles into the movement. This fundamentally flawed architecture results in a powerful downstroke and a strong upstroke, but with “dead spots” near the bottom and top of the pedal stroke. In other words, our muscles are designed to walk rather than ride a bike. Whoever made that decision should get fired, but it seems I don’t have the authority to “fire” Evolution. I think the Church is also trying to get it fired, also with no luck. Apparently Evolution is tenured.

To solve the problem of the dead spot, non-round rings seek to change the diameter of the chainring by ovalizing it so the rider experiences an effectively bigger gear at some points of the stroke and an effectively smaller gear at others. The problem with BioPace was that the rings weren’t the right shape and were set up so the effective chainring size was biggest where the lateral movement of the leg was also greatest. In addition to being a mind trip, they gave a peculiar feeling to the rider, as though they were riding on a perpetually softening tire. The rings went the way of the Dodo.

In Science and Technology’s ongoing effort to show Evolution the door, component manufacturers continue to experiment with non-round rings. Enter the modern incarnations: Q-Rings and Osymetric Rings. Q-Rings use a similar (but not identical) shape to BioPace but allow for changing the position of the rings based on the rider’s individual pedaling style with the idea that the largest effective gear aligns with the rider’s power stroke and the smallest effective gear with the dead spot. Osymetric uses an insane-looking shape which they claim better matches the irregular application of power caused by the dynamics of our poorly evolved legs.

I’ve spent the last month or so riding Q-Rings, and I have to admit you don’t feel any of the dreaded “biopacing” hobble. But in the long term, they also didn’t seem to offer any tangible advantage; after adjusting them according to their instructions (which takes some time), I found that depending on the day and the terrain, they were good, but never great. On any given ride, I might power up a grade with V in reserve for a surge at the top, and then find myself slipping into the little ring on a climb I normally ride sur la plaque. On the next ride, the scenario would reverse and I’d motor up a climb in the big ring that normally requires the 39 and little ring some faux plat into the wind a little later on. On balance, I found myself struggling to find power. One point to consider is all this is based on feel and knowing the gear ratios I use on familiar terrain – my use of a V-Meter and my avoidance of power meters means there is no tangible data to support or counter my conclusions. In other words, I’m not distracted by the facts.

I noticed that of the riders whose use of Q-Rings inspired my own experimentation – Marianne Vos and Johan Vansummeren – both have a relatively forward position with respect to their bottom bracket while I sit quite far back; maybe the rings favor such a position over mine. In any case, switching back to round rings, I’m able to find power more easily as well as being better able to maintain a cadence and accelerate. In other words, I’m more comfortable more often on round rings.

Maybe my pedaling style uses too wide a power band not suited for the Q’s, or maybe I have trascended evolution to favor rotational locomotion over bipedal. That last notion is not outside the realm of possibility because I can confirm I am pretty terrible at walking. The idea behind non-round rings continues to makes sense, but for me Q-Rings don’t do the job. I’ll give Osymetric a go if I get the opportunity but until then, I’m glad to be back in the round.

// Accessories and Gear // Nostalgia // Technique // Technology

  1. Oh wow, a black & pink Cannondale! I didn’t know this. My first true road bike was a 2nd hand mango Cannondale R800. Damn, that seemed like the best bike of all time when I got it, having never really ridden a true road machine.

    I too try to let my foot stay in it’s natural position when I pedal. When I get tired though, I vary things, try to pull up more than I push down, raise/lower my heel, etc. This is just to change things up, keep the legs and muscles happy.

    Can someone remind me – why again are they allowing guys to wear all black or dark grey rain jackets? I though the point of the clear capes was to allow their jersey numbers to be seen. I sure as hell know it was hard as trying to figure out riders at MSR on Sunday with half the peloton in black jackets.

  2. TT postions, TT bikes and TT cranks have always been a special case.

  3. @The Grande Fondue Hence the term Funny Bike.

  4. Still I would love to rescue and restore a great Funny Bike because of it’s place in racing history.

  5. @frank

    How fast are you riding when you’re spinning at those RPM’s? This high cadence stuff may work for some but all of us have to remember this is an artifact of the blood-doping era. Spinning offloads the strain of going batshit fast from the muscles to the cardiovascular system (conservation of energy, people).
    The methods and drugs to rebuild muscles are slower than those that rebuild the cardio system. If you’re taking EPO or getting an oil change every 10 days, then spinning a high gear is a great idea because you keep feeding the system, kind of like a credit card.

    But for most athletes, there is a natural maximum efficient cadence and it will be somewhere between 70 and 100 RPM, depending on terrain. We should all train to be smooth enough that we can ride at a sustained 110 or 120 RMP, but our effective RPM should be found naturally and is likely a lot lower.

    It’s funny, I’ve always ridden at 80 rpm or thereabouts. I was considered a spinner in the 80″²s and 90″²s and now I’m considered a masher. But nothing has changed for me, I’m still just riding how it feels most awesome.

    That makes a lot of sense, and also confirm with what my coach tells me (85-100 rpm).

    Thing is, it depends on the riding being done right? An group ride will see me returning 98 rpm average in post ride analysis. In a race, or doing hard intervals I tend to prefer to sit on 103 rpm. If the interval is long (2nd of a 2x20min) my cadence always drops off back to about 95. So what does that tell me? The 95-103 difference maybe isn’t significant enough range to be worth while discussing but I am often wondering why prefer different cadences for different situation. I couldn’t fathom sitting at 80 rpm… that is VERY low from where I stand.

  6. @frank

    You’ve got this backwards; you have to keep the gear size constant, so you’d be in big-big front to back, so there is less bending of the chain on both the front and back, not to mention a better mechanical advantage to turn the wheel while riding in a bigger sprocket on the back. If the theory isn’t flawed, its win-win to stay in the big ring longer.

    On a pure less drive chain loss basis, yes, staying the in big ring is more efficient, I agree. Based on that theory alone, you should be running a 55 (or more!) up front and a 32 out back.

  7. @mcsqueak

    @frank

    @DerHoggz

    Seems to me that moving your ankle too much is just wasted energy. I generally try to keep my foot in its natural position, meaning that when I lift my foot, the toes are down a bit when my foot is relaxed. That’s more or less the lowest my ankle gets when I pedal, though my heel comes up during the upstroke. Most good shoes these days provide that shape to the foot, so it seems we’re getting away from the shoes with the more articulated sole.

    That is a great photo and an interesting point you make about keeping your feet flat.

    I was on a ride last summer with @scaler911 and one of his teammates, and his teammate was behind me in our ‘paceline’. Later he mentioned that he noticed I was pushing down on the pedals with my feet angled down (toes down/heel up) rather than flat.

    I think of that from time to time and try to pedal while keeping my feet flat, but it just doesn’t feel right to me. Not sure if it’s just sloppy form or how my body works.

    Nothing wrong with riding with your toes down, don’t let anyone tell you different. If you start to really care, ask a coach or someone who knows your riding qualities intimately, not some guy sitting on your wheel. (I’ve been known to give people pointers while I’m sitting on their wheel.)

    Slideshow:

    Fullscreen:

  8. @Optimiste

    @ChrissyOne

    @Optimiste

    But this got me thinking, if you were able to combine oval chainrings with the cam action of Powercam cranks and the offset pedal spindles of Zencranks (thanks @The Grande Fondue) one might either find pedaling nirvana or develop a pedal stroke like something from a spirograph:

    If only one could mount a mechanical internal combustion motor as well.

    Wait…

    A motor? On a bike? A “motorbike” if you will? Now you’re just talking nonsense. It’ll never catch on. But this…this has potential, and would definitely eliminate the dead spots in your pedal stroke.

  9. @frank

    Seems to me that moving your ankle too much is just wasted energy.

    I was reading something by a biomechanist last year who said a fused ankle is ideal for cycling. There is energy lost/used in keeping your ankle angle stable, then as they muscles that do that fatigue, you loose energey as the inital part of your stroke is lost as the ankle bends, same again on the upstroke. A coach by the name of Alex Simmons was amutated below the knee and now rides with a prothetic that does not have an ankle. I believe he has said something similar on his blog.

  10. @DerHoggz

    @frank

    It depends on what you mean by gear size. In a round system gear inches would be constant for all intervals of the stroke. With non-round the rollout for two different arbitrary sections of equal angle could be different. It actually is picking up more chain for a given angle of rotation in the “power zone” compared to the low spot.

    I’d like to see this on video or test it out myself; the wheel has a sprocket with, say, 17 teeth on it. The chainring has, say, 53 teeth on it. The chain is pulled through tooth for tooth, causing the wheel to turn once every time 17 links are pulled through by the chainring. Simple as that; the shape doesn’t change that.

  11. @frank

    1 / 4

    Slideshow:

    Fullscreen:

    Download:

    Mercatone and a tiny devil in the background — can’t beat it!

  12. @frank

    Lest we forget about these.

    Then there are those pedals which are mounted on crank arms. I forget their name but similar theory to oval rings I believe.

  13. @frank

    @DerHoggz

    @frank

    It depends on what you mean by gear size. In a round system gear inches would be constant for all intervals of the stroke. With non-round the rollout for two different arbitrary sections of equal angle could be different. It actually is picking up more chain for a given angle of rotation in the “power zone” compared to the low spot.

    I’d like to see this on video or test it out myself; the wheel has a sprocket with, say, 17 teeth on it. The chainring has, say, 53 teeth on it. The chain is pulled through tooth for tooth, causing the wheel to turn once every time 17 links are pulled through by the chainring. Simple as that; the shape doesn’t change that.

    Tooth count is essentially an analogue for circumference which is directly related to the radius of the ring

  14. @The Grande Fondue

    TT postions, TT bikes and TT cranks have always been a special case.

    What’s worse, the none-slammed stem on a funny bike or the 3x spokes, especially on the low-profile front wheel?

  15. @TommyTubolare

    Lots of riders have saddle far forward and they are not slow as far as I can see. Lemond formulas worked for him but it doesn’t mean they work for all of us.

    This. Ride in the position that makes you go mo’fasta, not in the position someone with a different physiology from you rode. There are merits to both styles of riding depending on how you done been stuck together.

    @TommyTubolare

    @frank

    It’s either the photo or your saddle was too low.

    You are the only person who tells me that. And @minion but he’s just taking the piss. I’ve actually raised it about 1cm from 2 years ago when the photo was taken. Just raised it another few mm earlier this week. 

    I can’t recall for sure, but I may also have lowered it that day for riding the pavé. (That was my first day on Roubaix and that happens to be the Roubaix velodrome where the photo was taken.)

  16. @DerHoggz (accidental half post)

    Bigger chainrings have a larger radius, thus they have a larger circumference and more teeth.  One rotation from a larger radius chainring pulls more links compared to one rotation of a smaller ring.  Same for a half rotation, same for a quarter rotation.  So for the larger radius part of a non-round, more links would be pulled through.  Two equiangular sweeps on a non-round ring can yield different average number of links pulled, which would not happen on a round ring.

  17. @DerHoggz

    @frank

    @DerHoggz

    @frank

    It depends on what you mean by gear size. In a round system gear inches would be constant for all intervals of the stroke. With non-round the rollout for two different arbitrary sections of equal angle could be different. It actually is picking up more chain for a given angle of rotation in the “power zone” compared to the low spot.

    I’d like to see this on video or test it out myself; the wheel has a sprocket with, say, 17 teeth on it. The chainring has, say, 53 teeth on it. The chain is pulled through tooth for tooth, causing the wheel to turn once every time 17 links are pulled through by the chainring. Simple as that; the shape doesn’t change that.

    Tooth count is essentially an analogue for circumference which is directly related to the radius of the ring

    Tooth count isn’t an analogue for anything, its the number of revolutions you get out of the wheel. By effective gear size, what I think they mean is that you get the same mechanical advantage as you do out of a bigger gear, meaning at the point where it is effectively a 56T (or whatever @TommyTubs said), you moved the chain (folcrum) out to where a 56T ring would be as your pulling the chain along. At the smallest effective gear, you’re moving the folcrum to where the 51T would be.

  18. @frank

    Bicycle chain is half-inch pitch, so saying a ring has 53 teeth is the same is saying the ring has a circumference of 53x.5″.  Chainrings essentially come in quantum circumferences.

  19. @frank

    And now I’m being pedantic but the chain is he load, the bottom bracket would be the fulcrum.  It is a class 2 lever.

  20. @mcsqueak

    @frank

    @DerHoggz

    Seems to me that moving your ankle too much is just wasted energy. I generally try to keep my foot in its natural position, meaning that when I lift my foot, the toes are down a bit when my foot is relaxed. That’s more or less the lowest my ankle gets when I pedal, though my heel comes up during the upstroke. Most good shoes these days provide that shape to the foot, so it seems we’re getting away from the shoes with the more articulated sole.

     

     

    That is a great photo and an interesting point you make about keeping your feet flat.

    I was on a ride last summer with @scaler911 and one of his teammates, and his teammate was behind me in our ‘paceline’. Later he mentioned that he noticed I was pushing down on the pedals with my feet angled down (toes down/heel up) rather than flat.

    I think of that from time to time and try to pedal while keeping my feet flat, but it just doesn’t feel right to me. Not sure if it’s just sloppy form or how my body works.

    If you keep a consistent foot to shin angle through your magnificent stroke, because of the way your foot is aligned to the knee as it rotates around and through, it will look like you are toes down. In reality, your foot to shin angle will be pretty close to when your foot is horizontal to the ground at the bottom of your stroke the whole way round. Look in the photo of Frank and Marco, the angle is pretty close. To get your foot horizontal to the ground over the front/power portion of the stroke, you would need to flex your toes up relative to your shins as your knee is flexed and forward of your foot, then flex them away from your shins so that it sits horizontal all the way to the bottom of the stroke.

    You could do it, and I have read articles on ‘ankling’ on cyclingtips that suggest so, but I can’t see it as comfortable for the majority of my pedalling. I chuck it in when tired to get a variation on muscle use, as Frank alluded to, when everything is hurting so bad, a change is as good as a holiday.

    A physio also mentioned this foot angle is generally fairly static for most riders, the calves and ankles are used mainly to stabilise the foot/shin relationship than add power, hence it will look like you’re pedalling toes down when really your foot angle is consistent all the way round.

     

    YMMV

  21. @DerHoggz

    @frank

    Bicycle chain is half-inch pitch, so saying a ring has 53 teeth is the same is saying the ring has a circumference of 53x.5″³. Chainrings essentially come in quantum circumferences.

    That’s true, but the way the bicycle moves forward is by pulling 17 links through the system in order to rotate the wheel one revolution. That is the immutable fact of the sport. Everything else is a matter of finding the most efficient way to pull those links through. Changing the shape of the ring will pull no more or less teeth over the sprocket; if there is a gain in one spot, there is a loss in another.

    I still think the concept makes sense, just not for the reasons you’re saying. It must have to do with the dynamics of the motion and shifting the load around to (hopefully) make the stroke more efficient. But that also means it will work only depending on your pedaling style. You say you ride forward, as do Vos and JVS and others. You should try them and see if you find an advantage or not.

  22. Maybe turning a bigger gear would take out the dead spot at 6 and 12?

  23. @tessar

    It is so hard to do a meaningful test on these sorts of things, which is why I’m always so skeptical of them. But this one is very solid and very carefully laid out.

    For anyone who hasn’t read it, here it is again, and the spoiler alert is:

    So, there you have it…my suspicion is that a good majority of the power “improvements” claimed with non-round rings are merely mis-measurements of the actual power.  It’s important to note that this sort of power inflation is not anything that can be “calibrated out”.  It will be present even if the PM torque calibration is perfect since it’s a result of the power calculation algorithm itself andANY power meter that employs an “event-based” calculation as described above will suffer from it.

    Now then…on the question of whether or not non-round rings have the potential to actuallyincrease pedaling power output…well, I have my opinions on that, but I’ll leave that for another blog post…. 

    Read it all here:

    http://bikeblather.blogspot.co.il/2013/01/whats-up-with-those-funky-rings.html

  24. @Beers

    You could do it, and I have read articles on ‘ankling’ on cyclingtips that suggest so, but I can’t see it as comfortable for the majority of my pedalling. I chuck it in when tired to get a variation on muscle use, as Frank alluded to, when everything is hurting so bad, a change is as good as a holiday.

    To me it seems like loss; there is also the argument that you get more power by articulating your ankle and it may well be true, but it seems like you’re using a very week muscle (shin/calf) compared to your quad/hamstring to “gain” power. My ankle does move, just not as much as others. I definitely scrape the mud off my toes though.

  25. @TommyTubolare

    @Ccos

    First the tangent: The 80″²s-style more rearward position is the way to go. Your weight distribution is better and it’s the one favored by LeMan, which is a great way to end debate on the subject (Vos et al not-with-standing). You also have more options in positions (moving forward on the saddle, since you can’t hover off the back of the saddle). Now for the non-tangent: is the dead spot really an issue? When you’re spinning at 105-120 rpm doesn’t the momentum of the cranks count for anything? (Since I am not an engineer, feel free to insert a redneck accent when reading that last line).

    I think it’s the quality of the spin that matters whatever the hell your chainrings look like.

    Lots of riders have saddle far forward and they are not slow as far as I can see. Lemond formulas worked for him but it doesn’t mean they work for all of us.

    Love that guy but this long sock thing has to stop, for fucks sake.

  26. @Beers   @frank    Took Hinault 10 years to find his Magnificent Stroke.

    An interesting little read about “The four phases of pedaling”. (Winning No.29, December 1985)

    Slideshow:

    Fullscreen:

  27. @Puffy

    @frank

    Seems to me that moving your ankle too much is just wasted energy.

    I was reading something by a biomechanist last year who said a fused ankle is ideal for cycling. There is energy lost/used in keeping your ankle angle stable, then as they muscles that do that fatigue, you loose energey as the inital part of your stroke is lost as the ankle bends, same again on the upstroke. A coach by the name of Alex Simmons was amutated below the knee and now rides with a prothetic that does not have an ankle. I believe he has said something similar on his blog.

    I’m half way there then as one ankle is fixed in position. However I see a flaw in the argument as that leg now has next to no calf muscle whereas cycling is developing the other one nicely so obviously the ankle and therefore calf muscle is contributing to power somewhere or other!

  28. @Puffy

    @frank

    Lest we forget about these.

    Then there are those pedals which are mounted on crank arms. I forget their name but similar theory to oval rings I believe.

    I always thought these things were invented on April 1.  I simply didn’t and don’t understand the logic other than someone having a joke.  The thing is fixed to the crank so would be just as effective if it was a triangular plate (right angle triangle).  Oh wait then I could lighten it by sawing of the right angle chunk and just leaving the hypotenuse – oh I have a conventional crank back just at a different “o’clock” to the square on the crank which makes net bugger all difference.  It’s a bit like the wiggly golf club prank of some years ago.

  29. @frank

    @Beers

    You could do it, and I have read articles on ‘ankling’ on cyclingtips that suggest so, but I can’t see it as comfortable for the majority of my pedalling. I chuck it in when tired to get a variation on muscle use, as Frank alluded to, when everything is hurting so bad, a change is as good as a holiday.

    To me it seems like loss; there is also the argument that you get more power by articulating your ankle and it may well be true, but it seems like you’re using a very week muscle (shin/calf) compared to your quad/hamstring to “gain” power. My ankle does move, just not as much as others. I definitely scrape the mud off my toes though.

    Worth bearing in mind that your calf muscles are actually contracting and relaxing when your knee sweeps through a circle, so are actually working quite hard when your foot to ground angle is constant – having loose ankles seems mighty inefficient, and may actually reduce your power output…??

  30. This is all voodoo-magic and completely anti-V.  I am not a scientist and this is precisely why I intend to embarrass myself here in front of a bunch of people who have far larger brains (and probably guns) than I do…however.

    Using logic rather than relying on scientists who for the most part have vested interests or are funded by manufacturers here goes:

    I don’t understand the point that somehow our muscles are not designed for cycling?  As far as I can determine they are not designed for sprinting (you need a long achilles and arched back – go see the cheetah) and they are probably not designed for endurance either (er 2 legs not 4?  go see the wolf).  It appears to me we are largely designed to try and convince our fellow beings that we are actually cleverer than we are, or come up with some new fangled contraption to overcome our shortcomings.

    Don’t get me wrong I am not a luddite, I personally believe the chain catcher to be an invention up there with the invention of the biro…opposable thumbs and fire (but that is a whole other subject).  Question:  Surely there is exactly the same dead spot in walking.  The point at which your weight transfers from one leg to the other is a natural dead spot that occurs each stride.  I have yet to see so much investment go in to this for the benefit of those long distance athletes that look like they are chewing toffee up their arses as they waddle!

    As far as I can tell, pedalling ovals is a bit like pedalling squares but without the sharp corners to open up your shins in a crash.

    I will continue in my blissful ignorance with my circular chainrings and slightly belaboured stroke and hopeful a few more pennies in my pocket to fund the next piece of V kit!

    VLVV.

  31. @Deakus After all, the triangular wheel was an improvement on the square wheel as it eliminated one bump per cycle.

  32. @Deakus

    I don’t understand the point that somehow our muscles are not designed for cycling? As far as I can determine they are not designed for sprinting (you need a long achilles and arched back – go see the cheetah) and they are probably not designed for endurance either (er 2 legs not 4? go see the wolf). It appears to me we are largely designed to try and convince our fellow beings that we are actually cleverer than we are, or come up with some new fangled contraption to overcome our shortcomings.

    From what little I understand, in mild to hot conditions, humans are among the best endurance animals on earth, as we can cool efficiently by sweating and our breathing rhythm is not physiologically linked to our running (a dog’s or cheetah’s diaphragm expands and contracts once per stride cycle).

    That said, good, efficient endurance running technique is essentially controlled falling, and the actual activation of the leg muscles is a very short part of the process, so the activate-rest-activate-rest rhythm of cycling seems to me to fit that pretty well.  The critical thing might be making sure muscle activation comes at the most effective point of the rotation, and ideas like ‘wiping the ball of your foot on the ground’ or even oval chain-rings could help that, I guess.

    Forgive me, O Merckx, for talking so much guff about running…

  33. @Teocalli

    @Deakus After all, the triangular wheel was an improvement on the square wheel as it eliminated one bump per cycle.

    Bravo!  Now we are in tandem!!

  34. @andrew

    @Deakus

    I don’t understand the point that somehow our muscles are not designed for cycling? As far as I can determine they are not designed for sprinting (you need a long achilles and arched back – go see the cheetah) and they are probably not designed for endurance either (er 2 legs not 4? go see the wolf). It appears to me we are largely designed to try and convince our fellow beings that we are actually cleverer than we are, or come up with some new fangled contraption to overcome our shortcomings.

    From what little I understand, in mild to hot conditions, humans are among the best endurance animals on earth, as we can cool efficiently by sweating and our breathing rhythm is not physiologically linked to our running (a dog’s or cheetah’s diaphragm expands and contracts once per stride cycle).

    That said, good, efficient endurance running technique is essentially controlled falling, and the actual activation of the leg muscles is a very short part of the process, so the activate-rest-activate-rest rhythm of cycling seems to me to fit that pretty well. The critical thing might be making sure muscle activation comes at the most effective point of the rotation, and ideas like ‘wiping the ball of your foot on the ground’ or even oval chain-rings could help that, I guess.

    Forgive me, O Merckx, for talking so much guff about running…

    There you go with all that science stuff again!  My brain is starting to ache the only thing I can do is consult this fella…

  35. @TommyTubolare Well LeMan does have abnormally long femurs.

  36. @Deakus Cute doggie…

  37. @frank

    @DerHoggz

    @frank

    @DerHoggz

    @frank

    It depends on what you mean by gear size. In a round system gear inches would be constant for all intervals of the stroke. With non-round the rollout for two different arbitrary sections of equal angle could be different. It actually is picking up more chain for a given angle of rotation in the “power zone” compared to the low spot.

    I’d like to see this on video or test it out myself; the wheel has a sprocket with, say, 17 teeth on it. The chainring has, say, 53 teeth on it. The chain is pulled through tooth for tooth, causing the wheel to turn once every time 17 links are pulled through by the chainring. Simple as that; the shape doesn’t change that.

    Tooth count is essentially an analogue for circumference which is directly related to the radius of the ring

    Tooth count isn’t an analogue for anything, its the number of revolutions you get out of the wheel. By effective gear size, what I think they mean is that you get the same mechanical advantage as you do out of a bigger gear, meaning at the point where it is effectively a 56T (or whatever @TommyTubs said), you moved the chain (folcrum) out to where a 56T ring would be as your pulling the chain along. At the smallest effective gear, you’re moving the folcrum to where the 51T would be.

    @DerHoggz

    @frank

    Bicycle chain is half-inch pitch, so saying a ring has 53 teeth is the same is saying the ring has a circumference of 53x.5″³. Chainrings essentially come in quantum circumferences.

    If I could interject, it was my understanding there wasn’t going to be any math involved.

    “. . . all this is based on feel. . . . In other words, I’m not distracted by the facts.”

  38. @frank

    @DerHoggz

    @frank

    Bicycle chain is half-inch pitch, so saying a ring has 53 teeth is the same is saying the ring has a circumference of 53x.5″³. Chainrings essentially come in quantum circumferences.

    That’s true, but the way the bicycle moves forward is by pulling 17 links through the system in order to rotate the wheel one revolution. That is the immutable fact of the sport. Everything else is a matter of finding the most efficient way to pull those links through. Changing the shape of the ring will pull no more or less teeth over the sprocket; if there is a gain in one spot, there is a loss in another.

    I still think the concept makes sense, just not for the reasons you’re saying. It must have to do with the dynamics of the motion and shifting the load around to (hopefully) make the stroke more efficient. But that also means it will work only depending on your pedaling style. You say you ride forward, as do Vos and JVS and others. You should try them and see if you find an advantage or not.

    I think we were originally discussing the “effective” gearing at different points on a non-round ring?  Yes, a 54 ring of any kind will always pull 54 rollers through in one revolution.  With non-round ones there is not a constant pull for a constant angular velocity of the crank.  So at one section the ring is pulling the equivalent of a 56 for so many degrees, which is balanced out by pulling the equivalent of a 51 at another point.  It averages out to 54 over one revolution.

    I don’t think we’re disagreeing so much as we’re both running into different walls repeatedly.

  39. @Deakus

    This is all voodoo-magic and completely anti-V. I am not a scientist and this is precisely why I intend to embarrass myself here in front of a bunch of people who have far larger brains (and probably guns) than I do…however.

    Using logic rather than relying on scientists who for the most part have vested interests or are funded by manufacturers here goes:

    I don’t understand the point that somehow our muscles are not designed for cycling? As far as I can determine they are not designed for sprinting (you need a long achilles and arched back – go see the cheetah) and they are probably not designed for endurance either (er 2 legs not 4? go see the wolf). It appears to me we are largely designed to try and convince our fellow beings that we are actually cleverer than we are, or come up with some new fangled contraption to overcome our shortcomings.

    Don’t get me wrong I am not a luddite, I personally believe the chain catcher to be an invention up there with the invention of the biro…opposable thumbs and fire (but that is a whole other subject). Question: Surely there is exactly the same dead spot in walking. The point at which your weight transfers from one leg to the other is a natural dead spot that occurs each stride. I have yet to see so much investment go in to this for the benefit of those long distance athletes that look like they are chewing toffee up their arses as they waddle!

    As far as I can tell, pedalling ovals is a bit like pedalling squares but without the sharp corners to open up your shins in a crash.

    I will continue in my blissful ignorance with my circular chainrings and slightly belaboured stroke and hopeful a few more pennies in my pocket to fund the next piece of V kit!

    VLVV.

    I must say that I’m in agreement with @Deakus on this one. This is all akin to my view on electrial engineering: it’s all magic and voodoo and none of it makes any sense (I’m a mechanical guy).

    I certainly don’t discount the value of technological advances, but I believe there is a point where the discussion becomes overwhelming for our tiny little brains (well, mine anyway), and no longer helpful. When that happens, I believe it’s a clear violation of Rule #6.

    Here’s where I think the bottom line is: if you like it, ride it. If you feel that oval rings give you more efficiency and power then please by all means, use them. If you like traditional round rings, that’s great too. As has been pointed out, it’s very difficult to find concrete evidence one way or the other.

    For me personally, if I want to go better/faster/stronger, I will continue my reflections on Rule #5 and Rule #10.

    VLVV, indeed.

  40. @andrew

    @Deakus

    I don’t understand the point that somehow our muscles are not designed for cycling? As far as I can determine they are not designed for sprinting (you need a long achilles and arched back – go see the cheetah) and they are probably not designed for endurance either (er 2 legs not 4? go see the wolf). It appears to me we are largely designed to try and convince our fellow beings that we are actually cleverer than we are, or come up with some new fangled contraption to overcome our shortcomings.

    From what little I understand, in mild to hot conditions, humans are among the best endurance animals on earth, as we can cool efficiently by sweating and our breathing rhythm is not physiologically linked to our running (a dog’s or cheetah’s diaphragm expands and contracts once per stride cycle).

    That said, good, efficient endurance running technique is essentially controlled falling, and the actual activation of the leg muscles is a very short part of the process, so the activate-rest-activate-rest rhythm of cycling seems to me to fit that pretty well. The critical thing might be making sure muscle activation comes at the most effective point of the rotation, and ideas like ‘wiping the ball of your foot on the ground’ or even oval chain-rings could help that, I guess.

    Forgive me, O Merckx, for talking so much guff about running…

    I did read an article addressing the evolutionary biology of why we have sweat glands (did you know boobs are essentially a highly specific sweat gland?) a while back.  Compared to other primates we are much better endurance runners, and the upright posture allows us to fall over a lot better (fast runners often have higher navels which are pretty close to the COG).  We moved the hair mostly to the tops of our head because that is where most of the sun was hitting, and that opened up a lot of free space to sweat which helps with cooling for endurance activities.

  41. @tessar

    We’re all sitting here raising conjectures and theories, but here’s a guy who tested things. He’s an engineer and one of the most obessive people around when it comes to drivetrain friction, responsible for the most comprehensive rolling-resistance database around – so much that Specialized sent their new tyres straight to him for an opinion.

    Long story short (or long): Oval rings don’t really improve power output, even though a crank-based measurement system might say otherwise – because power is the same, butthe way it’s calculated changed. At the same time, you’re no longer moving the feet at a constant circular velocity, which means you might be accelerating and slowing them down a tad, fighting more inertia than with round rings (which might explain Frank’s seemingly random Jour Sans). Most independent research and most more scientific anecdotal data seems to agree that oval rings aren’t any better – though they aren’t any worse usually, either. They’re just a bit more expensive.

    There’s a dead spot inherent to all human movements. When we (well, I) run, about 90% of my stroke feels like a dead one – kicking back for propulsion and moving the foot forward for the next step are just about the only movements that serve a purpose by themselves, the rest just support the first two.

    As long as humans pedal via two crankarms that drive a rotating cylinder, there will be a “top of the stroke” and “bottom”. An efficient rider will apply some power there as well – recruit your quads at the top and hamstrings at the bottom – or spin fast enough (as in, above 60rpm…) to get over it soon enough.

    @frank

    @tessar

    It is so hard to do a meaningful test on these sorts of things, which is why I’m always so skeptical of them. But this one is very solid and very carefully laid out.

    For anyone who hasn’t read it, here it is again, and the spoiler alert is:

    So, there you have it…my suspicion is that a good majority of the power “improvements” claimed with non-round rings are merely mis-measurements of the actual power. It’s important to note that this sort of power inflation is not anything that can be “calibrated out”. It will be present even if the PM torque calibration is perfect since it’s a result of the power calculation algorithm itself andANY power meter that employs an “event-based” calculation as described above will suffer from it.

    Now then…on the question of whether or not non-round rings have the potential to actuallyincrease pedaling power output…well, I have my opinions on that, but I’ll leave that for another blog post….

    Read it all here:

    http://bikeblather.blogspot.co.il/2013/01/whats-up-with-those-funky-rings.html

    I can’t debate the results, but I don’t quite understand the explanation.  If it is taking averages of torque and angular velocity, I would think it wouldn’t effect the result.  Yes you would move slower or faster throughout the stroke more with a non-round, but if it is calculated on per revolution basis I think the varying torques and velocities should cancel each other out.  This may be down to sampling resolution or something about a larger standard deviation from average.  Statistics is one of my weak points though so I couldn’t really say

  42. Surely there are some disadvantages to non-round chainrings? If you set up the front derailleur to change optimally when the effective radius of the Q-Ring is in the middle of the range, won’t it change less well if you happen to change when the maximum or minimum effective radius is passing the derailleur at that moment?

    And what about the rear derailleur – doesn’t that have to constantly adjust itself to compensate for the different length of chain being wrapped around the Q-Ring as it rotates? If that’s true, doesn’t that constant movement of the rear derailleur use up a small amount of energy, because it is resisted by the chain-tensioning springs and friction in its pivot?

    Substituting round rings for non-round rings must change a smooth (constant angular velocity) pedalling motion into one consisting of accelerations and decelerations. How can this “make your spin cycle smoother”, as Rotor suggest it does?

  43. @DerHoggz

    @frank

    @DerHoggz

    @frank

    Bicycle chain is half-inch pitch, so saying a ring has 53 teeth is the same is saying the ring has a circumference of 53x.5″³. Chainrings essentially come in quantum circumferences.

    That’s true, but the way the bicycle moves forward is by pulling 17 links through the system in order to rotate the wheel one revolution. That is the immutable fact of the sport. Everything else is a matter of finding the most efficient way to pull those links through. Changing the shape of the ring will pull no more or less teeth over the sprocket; if there is a gain in one spot, there is a loss in another.

    I still think the concept makes sense, just not for the reasons you’re saying. It must have to do with the dynamics of the motion and shifting the load around to (hopefully) make the stroke more efficient. But that also means it will work only depending on your pedaling style. You say you ride forward, as do Vos and JVS and others. You should try them and see if you find an advantage or not.

    I think we were originally discussing the “effective” gearing at different points on a non-round ring? Yes, a 54 ring of any kind will always pull 54 rollers through in one revolution. With non-round ones there is not a constant pull for a constant angular velocity of the crank. So at one section the ring is pulling the equivalent of a 56 for so many degrees, which is balanced out by pulling the equivalent of a 51 at another point. It averages out to 54 over one revolution.

    I don’t think we’re disagreeing so much as we’re both running into different walls repeatedly.

    I think I’m finally starting to get what’s going on – the ring is moving faster and slower while the crank moves at constant velocity. Still, the question for me is still if you wind up on the same average and you’ve therefor gained and lost throughout the revolution, what real tangible gain could there be.

    So it comes down to economizing the use of the muscles in specific points of the stroke where they are most effective (if the ring is shaped right) which then still makes sense in principle.

    But it also means it will be highly tuned to one kind of pedaling and less effective to others. Which explains why it didn’t work for me as I spin in some cases and mash in others as determined by the terrain and how hard I’m going. But if you always pedal in a similar pattern throughout, then maybe it will work for you.

  44. @frank

    Yeah it is essentially about optimizing the different parts of the stroke.

    I still haven’t read the article, so I had no idea what direction you were approaching this from.

  45. @frank

    But it also means it will be highly tuned to one kind of pedaling and less effective to others. Which explains why it didn’t work for me as I spin in some cases and mash in others as determined by the terrain and how hard I’m going. But if you always pedal in a similar pattern throughout, then maybe it will work for you.

    Presumably that’s why there are a bunch of mounting holes rather than the usual five. They’re just hoping that you’ll pedal in the same way each time you go out.

    If you do go out an mash one day and spin the next, this could open up a whole new range of N+1 opportunities, a bike set up in each of the OCP positions.

  46. @Chris

    @frank

    But it also means it will be highly tuned to one kind of pedaling and less effective to others. Which explains why it didn’t work for me as I spin in some cases and mash in others as determined by the terrain and how hard I’m going. But if you always pedal in a similar pattern throughout, then maybe it will work for you.

    Presumably that’s why there are a bunch of mounting holes rather than the usual five. They’re just hoping that you’ll pedal in the same way each time you go out.

    If you do go out an mash one day and spin the next, this could open up a whole new range of N+1 opportunities, a bike set up in each of the OCP positions.

    Thta’s like…911 times a hundred!

  47. I’m not going anywhere near this, as I’ve been trying to justify/set aside funds to swap out a Campa compact crankset on one of my bikes for a few years. It works, but my legs hate, but…I could use this, that and this first…

  48. @frank I’ve always wondered about this… I started watching and getting into cycling during the era of a certain cantankerous Texan, so when emulating the pros I began to look like a wind turbine. Of course, I learned from running as a youth that footspeed is key, so maybe there’s a good reason for it? Then there’s the VMH, who just mashes in the big ring no matter what.

    I’m definitely of the opinion as a non-engineer that these sorts of things are just snake oil. But maybe they increase the amount of apparent V due to something going on in one’s head. More V isn’t a bad thing in that case, even if they look horrid.

  49. The solution to avoiding dead spots in your pedalling action is obvious but requires a rethink of the drivetrain. Simply use fixed gun platforms with embedded piezoeletric materials. As you apply direct pressure a voltage is generated that is linked to to an electric motor in the rear hub. No one should have an issue with a motor as they’re already employed in electronic derailleurs, and no one cares about them.

    Now as you’re just applying pressure there is no risk of dead spots. Dont need to use those weaker minor muscles now. Want to go faster? Push harder.

    I’m an Electronics Engineer so am well qualified to offer this solution.

    Also having done a common first year of engineering I’m uniquely qualified to offer my opinion on all things bike related; mechanical engineering, materials science, and civil engineering (a bike frame is just a moving span bridge).

    You’re welcome.

  50. @DerHoggz

    Hi Hogz,

    I had this breathing problem myself, and read somewhere that it could be exercise induced asthma which could be cause by loss of magnesium during exercise. Long story short, I started taking mg supplements after each ride (about 400 mg), and use a diluted isotonic drink (isostar) from time to time during the ride, and this never bothered me any more.

    Good luck!

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