Paceline Podcast 199

Paceline Podcast 199

This week our intrepid duo is back with a look at oval chainrings, an idea that goes back practically as far as the bike itself. The question, of course, is do they really confer any benefit. Well, do they? Selene and Patrick tackle the science and the perception, but also take a look at the technical considerations one confronts if deciding to make the change.

We experience anxiety when we are fearful of the future. It’s rumination about the fact that we don’t know what’s around the corner, metaphorically. Patrick discusses how building strong routines around riding can help alleviate anxiety by adding structure and breaking that cycle of rumination.

For the Breck Epic’s virtual challenge, the Epic in Place discount code is: VIPRKP



Does your bike need some love? Shimano original replacement parts are the best way to renew the original function of your Shimano-equipped bike. Available online and at your local retailer.


Show links:

Selene’s piece: Everesting Is Having Its Moment

Epic in Place info

Epic in Place registration

Rebecca’s Private Idaho: The Giddy Up Challenge

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  1. Kermesse Sport

    The USAC calls and tools have been surprisingly helpful in analyzing the path forward.

    Keep in mind that USAC permits are not the end all and be all for events. The events still have to be properly permitted by local authorities, which have their own restrictions on event/gathering types and sizes. So USAC sanction/insurance won’t be valid if local rules are violated, or permissions not received.

    The transition back to “normal” will be a process not an event; there is no magic switch that will get flipped. It is nice to see that for once USAC is on top of things, and not waiting to develop guidelines.

  2. Lyford

    A few thoughts on oval chainrings….
    1) The geometry of Shimano Biopace rings was 90 degrees out of phase with the orientation of current ovals. Equating the two is not accurate.
    2) The testing I’ve read has been done with professional or experienced riders, who have years of training and experience to develop an efficient pedal stroke with with round rings. It might be interesting to see if the results were different with inexperienced riders.
    3) My 2x oval setup does not shift as well in front as my 2x round setups, but I had only one dropped chain in a year of mixed-surface riding.
    4) I don’t have a problem riding my oval-ring bike one day and my round-ring bike the next.

    I’m not going to try to convince anyone that ovals are better. I can’t quantify a performance difference with mine, but I like how they feel for the riding I do. I’d put them squarely in the “If they work for you, they work” category.

  3. Neil Winkelmann

    Off-road, a benefit of oval is in traction on steep climbs. By increasing the effective gearing as you apply power (3-o’clock – 9-o’clock), the force at the rear wheel is reduced making it less likely to break free. In the 6-o’clock – 12-o’clock situation, the lower gearing isn’t a problem as riders are applying less force in any case. The oval rings basically smooth out the power at the rear wheel. This means better traction.

    Lyford is right that Shimano’s Biopace was completely different in the idea they were promoting. 90 degrees out of phase to current thinking.

    They’ll never be a thing on track bikes as the required chain length varies as they rotate.

    Clutch derailleurs with ovalised rings may waste more power than they do with round rings as they cycle back and forth to account for the varying effective chain length.

    The rim brakes on my SR Colnago are more powerful, have lower lever force and shorter lever travel than my DA equipped disc braked road bike. Until it rains. For me discs are way better in the rain, but offer no real advantage in the dry (along with plenty of downside).

    I can’t forgive SRAM for not making the Gripshift shift rings ovalised or tear-drop-shaped for a tactile clue to the gear you’re in. Matters not, now we’re all on 1X MTBs, but back when we were riding triples, the lack of being able to feel the lever position was a major loss when we moved away from thumb shifters.

  4. John Knowlton

    Selene, strange phenomenon this spring. I had a big trip planned for the Dolomites this July (you answered a question about altitude training for me last June). That trip, along with all of my 2020 monthly events leading up to the Dolomites, has been cancelled. I stopped my coaching in March. My riding has been mostly solo 2 hour rides with a handful of 50 to 60 mile gravel days. Nothing hard or epic. No gym work because, well, COVID. So, mostly riding around…not really training. Question: Why have I been unintentionally setting PRs? Just this week I set PRs on segments I have ridden 52, 62, and 98 times! What gives? Where is this speed coming from?

    1. Lyford

      Being rested?

      Seriously, some of my best rides have come after breaks when I was thinking that I must have lost fitness.

  5. Anneke Prins

    I’ve wanted to reply to several episodes now, but always instantly forget once the podcast is over, SO…

    Being an introvert and feeling the cabin fever? I very much identify. I like being on my own, but I think I’ve had my fill now. Thank you, as always, for talking about these things.

    Your chat about a “short distance and multiple laps” challenge reminded me of ex-pro Molly Weaver’s 1000 laps of her parents’ garden in April this year. She did 130 miles “off road” and, of course, it rained because it’s England. She also raised £9,000 for a Women’s Aid charity. This article covers the details nicely and you can even see a map of the “course”!

    And finally, I’ve now successfully purchased a pair of Sparrow and a pair of Lucky Cat bottle cages from PDW. They look beautiful and they make me smile. Happiness watts!! Thank you, again, for this Paceline Pick!

  6. RJ Blake

    Modern day Oval narrow/wide rings for 1x MTB are awesome especially for single speed. Huge difference in torque on technical climbs out of the saddle. Any other application and they probably don’t provide much advantage. If you only have one gear make it as weird as possible.

  7. Rob

    Hey Selene,
    I want to do a half everest, wondering if you have any strava segments in mind for that effort. Live in chester county, erything close to me seems like to little vertical, would be happy to travel a little bit to get a good segment. Any suggestions?
    Thanks for any suggestions.

    1. Selene Yeager

      I don’t have anything off the top of my head, because I’m terrible with remembering roads and where rides I’ve done are. But I highly recommend just playing around with the Everesting calculator on the everesting website. It makes it super easy to plug in any number of climbs and it will tell you how many laps you’ll do, how long it’ll probably take, etc. Very, very helpful! I’ll talk more about how we chose the climb we chose on this week’s show.

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