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Test – Rotor rings

After a few months long testing, we bring you our own view of the Rotor rings.


Rotor rings are special by its oval shape and are being produced for all types of cranks, for compacts, both Shimano and Campagnolo diametre. They can also be found for MTB bikes in both 2- and 3-ring system. It is fabricated of aluminium alloy 7075 – also all other leading manufacturers on the market chose this material due to its qualities – it’s very solid and durable. Thanks to being produced by a CNC machine, the ring teeth and clenches responsible for smooth shifting are fabricated in great detail. Rings come in many varieties – usual rings, full aero rings designed especially for riders focusing of time-trials, for triathletes or any riders with special requirements for increased firmness of the rings. At last we come to the special characteristics of the rings and that is its oval shape. Many experts and technicians have tried to find a solution to overcoming the so called dead point in pedalling (the position where one leg is in the most upper position and the second one on the opposite very down side – “at half-past noon”, depending also on the saddle positioning and leg length). Muscles are not in appropriate position during pedalling when overcoming this point, and thus pedalling becomes less efficient if one is not trained to pedal right. Riders overcompensate for the lack of good pattern of pedalling in circle with either pushing the legs down or by pulling them up.

This is the problem Rotor tries to solve, just like many other producers before, by changing the ring shape to an oval one. Some producers chose a certain degree of ovality, some went for the elliptic shape or even different, more complicated forms. The Rotor ovality is unique, exclusive and therefore protected by a patent. Based on the Rotor experts calculation, the ovality used in Q-rings is the most efficient. It is also one of the most often used ovalities in general. Oval rings were many times before used by Carlos Sastre, Theo Boss and other excellent riders, with blackened logos of the manufacturer. When comparing the rings with O-symetric rings, the degree of ovalization between the highest and lowest diameter is lower, more resembling a circuit. It’s not only the question of degree of ovalization, but also a question of the correct positioning of the rings. Rotor Q-Rings is of a very special oval shape, needed to be positioned right – with the best fitting “at 10 o’clock 20 minutes“, where the leg is positioned in the most effective point in terms of power and the easiest gear when overcoming the dead point. The largest diametre of a normal 53 ring is approximatelly 56 with an equivalent of approx. 51 rings in the dead point. It means that during pedalling, a cyclist only has to overcome a 51 gear in the dead point whereas it’s 56 in the most efficient point. Because of its characteristics, the correct positioning of the Q-Rings to the cranks is crucial. Each ring has 5 positionings with number 3 being the reference one. It’s the most common one used with a normal seat positioning. It is possible to change the ring positioning by 1-2 positions to front or to back depending on special requirements such as extremely long legs, special seat adjustment during a time-trial and so on. By doing so, you only change the dead point positioning – so all the adjustments are only to identify the correct dead point. It is recommended to use the medium position no.3 for normal seat positioning, usual leg length and correct pedalling patterns. The same principles apply to both big and small rings as the ovalization is alike. These specifications cause less troubles with Campagnolo cranks due to their diametre being 135mm – 53/40 rings are being used instead of the usual combination 53/39 as it is easier to mount the small ring to bigger cranks form. Many scientific tests proved increase of the maximum power output at ANP by 3,3% and by 4,1-6,6% in sprints. There are many scientific studies proving these effects.

We have tested the Q-Rings over the past few months and during some 6.000km and would like to share our knowledge and experience with you. We recommend mounting the rings at position no. 3. It is the best position to overcome the dead point for normal riding needs with usual saddle positioning. Also, a precise setting of the front derailleur is needed. It is not true the oval rings cause trouble when shifting, either mechanical or electronical one. For a troublefree functioning of the Q-rings, a very precise setting of the front deailleur is a must. Bad slope and bad position of the front derailleur will result in shifting problems, which will not be caused by the Q-Rings themselves. After using the Q-Rings, I can tell the shifting is more accurate than the original Shimano system – presuming it is mounted correctly and accurately. Shifting both up and down is precise, fast and doesn’t result in chain fall. I would compare the Q-Rings to Shimano Dura-Ace shifting to Campagnolo and Fulcrum rings which are regarded as world top quality in terms of speed and accuracy of shifting. To be honest, many times I have witnessed a total lack of shifting knowledge – many times the riders themselves and their total lack of good shifting practices are to blame for a chain fall or slow shifting. Almost all cyclists think that anyone able to keep balance on bike is a cyclist and those capable of attaining high speed are considered being good cyclists in addition. This is of course not right. Just like a hockey player is comeone with good skating skills, with good technique of firing and a sense for game tactics and technique of the game, speed of game and explosiveness and actually capable of combining all these skills in a game, a real cyclist is someone who not only has strength and endurance in his legs, but also doesn’t lack explosiveness, speed, has an overall good stamina and a good technique of riding, pedalling and of course – shifting. When shifting correctly – with an eased pressure on cranks, shifting is fast and reliable. If necessary, shifting is of course possible also while pedalling strong, with a pressure on the crank system – the chain will shift not so voluntarily, but accuratly presuming the front derailleur is set correctly.

After having adjusted the front derailleur to the correct position with special attention to the outermost positions of the derailleur at the biggest and smallest rings diametre, we can proceed to a test ride. The first few kilometres feeling is weird. The brain is reluctant to accept a different pattern of pedalling. It is very interesting, but this weird feeling dissapears with first kilometres and even when focusing on it, the mind does not recognize the new way of pedalling as something unusual or not normal. This feeling comes really fast, after only about 5 kilometres. Later, only a new way of pedalling in terms of power output is noticable – one gains the impression of being capable of pedalling at a higher gear. One needs to be careful though, the Q-Rings make people use higher gears just like longer cranks do – there you have a longer lever and pedalling becomes easier at first try. So it is necessary to be carefull not to exhaust ones’ muscles. Many people report muscle cramps during their first kilometres with Rotor, but there is no other reason for this than having the impression they can shift to higher gears without their muscels being adjusted to a higher power output. The special power these rings give is noticable particularly during acceleration. The reason for this is that in the most effective point of pedalling in terms of legs positioning, there is a 56 ring whereas in the dead point it’s only an equivalent of 51. That way legs give the highest wattage at any ring position given. This quality is remarkable mostly in flat areas and in small climbs. The acceleration is much more effective and faster compared to normal rings. It is highly recommended to monitor one’s cadence while riding longer climbs or in long flats as one’s tempted to ride at higher gear and lower cadence what can lead to a burn out. After a few hundred kilometres of self-control riding in order to keep the cadence up, one doesn’t feel any difference in high cadence riding and is capable of pedalling at 120 cadence without any self-control (assuming he/she was able to do so with a standard ring).

Many people are worried whether the oval Q-Rings will not harm good pedalling patterns of those able to pedal right in circles. The contrary is true – the oval shape of rings helps to enhance pedalling in circles. Again, assuming the rider is conscious about his/her pedalling patterns and is able to make adjustments to it. There is a small test anyone can try by themselves: when riding up a small climb, unclip one leg from the pedal and leave it loosen alongside the bike; then try to pedal in circles using only the other leg at a cadence of 60-70 for about 200-300m. Switch legs. Some people find out they are not able to do one single turn in a circle manner or they get cramps in muscles they never used after only several pedal turns. This is a sign their circle-pattern of pedalling was not so much in circle after all. Many people only push the pedals down, in better cases they also pull the leg in rear position up at least in some moments of the circle. The correct way of pedalling can also be measured in laboratory using an adjusted SRM power meter capable to evaluate each leg separately. I personally advise everyone to do this small exercise every day during training – pedalling with one leg at a time for some 200-500m and switching legs several times. This exercise brings quick results, after only few days you should notice improved muscle work, especially of the untrained muscles. A self-control during a training ride while riding with both legs is a must. The correct way of pedalling requires a demanding self-control in the beginning, but will become very natural after a short time. The best training for a correct way of pedalling is riding at track – there it is impossible to stop riding and one rides at a high frequency of a cadence exceeding 100. It is due to the fact the leg stays in the dead point for a shorter time, that riding becomes more fluid and effective. There are cyclists with good pedalling manners from their young age but there is still many of those who pedal as if they were ‘pushing the cabbage down in barrel’ (a slovak expression – in history, fermented cabbage used to be prepared in big barrels and to let the air out, people pottered in one place in the barrel; they thus pushed their legs down for several minutes/hours until the cabbage was ready for processing). It is very difficult indeed to pedal right with increased level of exercise when reaching one’s anaerobic threshold as the lactate starts dispersing throught the body. But it is these small things and correct cycling patterns that can make the difference in one’s power output, irrelevant of the level of one’s riding or racing. Not very many people are aware of or are capable to accept they pedal wrong way – uneconomically. Based on my observations, wrong pedalling applies to a vast majority of cyclists, especially those who did not start cycling at a youg age or have to experience with track. This means that these cyclists have to overcompensate for the lack of effective pedalling by higher power output.

Should we get back to Rotor – it is Rotor that helps to establish correct way of pedalling. It is given by the fact that there is a smaller gear while overcoming the dead point in pedalling and thus one overcomes this point easily. It is easier for the muscles to get over the dead point while it also trains these muscels at the same time. Using usual-round rings, the power demands on adductors and inguinal area can be too stressful that after some time the body will stop using these muscles and will overcome the critical dead point only by a mass force. It can be very helpful to compare our fitness by riding using one leg at a time along with other friends. Next level of this exercise is trying to keep a higher cadence while pedalling (above 100), with a power output at one’s anaerobic threshold.

It’s very surprising one keeps the correct pattern of pedalling learned with Rotor also when switching back to normal round rings. This is because one has developped the correct manners of pedalling. Rotor can also be considered as kind of help for people with uneconomical pedalling manners who want to change their bad habits. That is why there is no problem going back from Q-Rings to round rings. There are no problems whatsoever involved switching to a track bike or a mountain bike with regular round rings right after having used the Q-Rings.

As for the proclaimed decreased lactate production and improved anaerobic threshold by a small percentage, this is very difficult to perceive by oneself. There are many studies on this topic accessible freely on the internet. One can feel for himself/herself the notable increase of absolute power when accelerating either on flat or in a steep hill. There is one curiosity when comparing the big and small rings: despite the ovality being exactly the same, one can feel a huge difference between the two rings, even when using the same gear (e.g. 39/18 being almost the same gear as 53/25 and thus allowing one to ride the same distance over one tread of pedal). There is a notable difference in the absolute power between the two rings. Of course some may object there is a sensational difference between small and big rings in round-shaped rings as well. That is true also, and this difference in feeling is even more emphasised when using oval ones. I myself always prefered to ride at the small ring whenever possible – especially due to chain economization (there is a smaller tension in chain when riding with chain on the small ring), less notable bending of the chain between rings and the cassette and preservation of the derailleurs’ rollers. But now that I use Rotor I see an even bigger difference in the maximal output when riding at big ring. We come to a problem of chain bending with Q-Rings – using the big ring in front and the biggest (left-most) ring in back (in Slovak we call this ‘Spaniard riding’) gives us an equivalent of 56 ring. As to not to wear the chain out too early and to economize the expensive Rotor rings, I definitelly do not recommend riding with a chain extremelly side-bent.

When installed correctly, Rotor is a top-quality ring made of the best materials, produced in great detail by a CNC machinery, very solid and firm. The ovality used is really sophisticated and it’s output notably higher. It is a great help to all types of riders – assuming they are capable of riding at a higher cadence. However, I see the best results of Rotor in cyclocross where one needs to accelerate and change pace literally at every curve. It can also be extremely helpful in time-trials or in mountainbiking to increase the maximum power output or simply a higher gear. I can really see only one downside of the Q-rings and that is its still rather high price. It’s given by the necessity of long and irregular shaping and treatment in the CNC production. The ring is very durable indeed and when using good chains, it lasts about the same time as Shimano Dura-Ace or Campagnolo Record rings. I definitelly do recommend the Q-rings to everyone.

Thoroughtful analysis of optimal position on the bike provided by BG FIT technology, by BIKEPRO BANKÁ BYSTRICA.

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