Wolf Tooth Chainring

Wolf Tooth Chainring

 

Wolf Tooth Chainring Review

 

Words by Tim Granshaw

 

October 2013

 

The benefits of a single chainring in cyclocross are clear: a single ring setup is lighter, less prone to mechanical failure, and most importantly for me when in a state of oxygen deprivation, results in a simpler single shifter cockpit. However, a single ring setup did lead to a DNF in sloppy conditions last year. I was using a ring guard on the outside of my ring and a chaincatcher on the inside. After one lap, so much muddy grass had wrapped around the guard the chain was not staying in contact with the chainring. For the remainder of the season, I switched back to a double ring, as it seemed better able to handle the mud. So could the tall-toothed Wolf Tooth Components anti-drop chainring be the answer that single front chainring advocates everywere are looking for?

 

Ideally, I needed a setup that required no guards, yet would not drop a chain over bumpy conditions. Until this year, there wasn’t a ring available. In 2013, a couple of manufacturers introduced new chainrings for mountain and cyclocross bikes. These rings all offered different tooth profiles and taller teeth than more traditional offerings. I’ve been testing one of these chainrings, from Wolf Tooth Components, on my cyclocross bike.

 

Wolf Tooth Chainring's tall tooth profile is clearly visible
Wolf Tooth Chainring’s tall tooth profile is clearly visible

 

Wolf Tooth Components is a new company, founded in 2013. The founders are all elite mountain bike racers with engineering backgrounds. Brendan Moore, one of the founders, says the company started because of the effects of Minnesota’s extreme weather conditions on mountain bike drivetrains: “We spend 4+ months a year riding fat bikes in MN and most days front derailleurs freeze up so we were running 1x already with chain guides.” Their frustration with chain guides, passion for riding, and engineering backgrounds spawned Wolf Tooth Components and the development of their new chainring. Sizes available range from a 32 tooth 102 BCD (bolt circle diameter) Shimano XTR rings to 130 BCD Shimano or SRAM 44 tooth rings.

 

Setup

 

When we first pulled the ring out of the box, the high level of craftsmanship was clear. The ring, machined out of Kaiser 7075 aluminium in the United States, is a beautifully machined piece of kit. The ring is quite beefy; the ring arms are thick with no recession for bolts. The chain ring includes alternating wide and narrow teeth with a tooth that’s approximately 30% taller and more square than a standard tooth design.

 

Wolf Tooth Chainring fitted to the cross bike
Wolf Tooth Chainring fitted to the cross bike

 

Brendan mentioned that despite some similarities, the Wolf Tooth design is different from other competing designs: “Our ring is wide and narrow like XX1 and some others out there, but the tooth profile is all our own and was carefully developed to optimize for wear and chain retention. We also have very tight tolerances. We pay more for our machining which helps increase longevity and retention.”

 

Installation is quick. Remove front derailleur and cable if running two rings, or remove guard and chain catcher if running one; remove your old rings, and install the new ring. Because the chainring does not have any recessions for the chainring bolts, standard double chainring bolts work perfectly.

 

Tall teeth should prevent dropped chains
Tall teeth should prevent dropped chains

 

Although the Wolf Tooth Components ring is a little heavier than the Rotor it replaced, the removal of the guard and the catcher, took a couple of ounces off the bike’s weight. Even better, the mud clearance around the rear wheel and the cleaner crank area, promised better wet weather performance. Wolf Tooth does recommend using a chain catcher if conditions are muddy and clumped with grass or sticks. However, in most conditions a chain catcher is not necessary. We rode without a catcher during our test with no ill effects.

 

Wolf Tooth recommends using one of the SRAM X0 or X9, or Shimano Shadow Plus clutch rear derailleurs with their chainring, as the clutch helps keep the chain taut over extremely rutted or rooted sections. According to Brendan, the likelihood of dropping a chain with this combination is just about nil. Did it work for us?

 

Riding With The Wolf Tooth Chainring

 

We put the Wolf Tooth ring through the grinder. We rode over rutted single track, over roots, and rocky double track. We powered through mud and sand, and over barriers both on the bike and off. Despite the abuse, we experienced no chain drops, no chain suck, and little chain slap in 30 days of hard training and riding.

 

Wolf Tooth teeth poke above the top of the chain
Wolf Tooth keeps the chain in place

 

We ignored Wolf Tooth’s recommended setup for the first two weeks of testing, running a SRAM Force rear derailleur with the chainring. The SRAM Force rear derailleur is slightly lighter than the clutch-integrated SRAM XO short cage, but the missing clutch also means less chain control. This could have meant more chain slap and a higher likelihood of chain drop when shifting under light load or over bumps.

 

Is a single 42 all that most cross racers will ever need?
Is a single 42 all that most cross racers will ever need?

 

There was a tiny bit of slap over very rough terrain, but we didn’t experience any chain drop. However, once on a rough single track and once riding down a small set of stairs while shifting the chain moved off the bottom rear derailleur pulley and stayed there. We’re not sure if this was due to chain offset, aftermarket pulleys, or insufficient chain tension, but we swapped the Force for a new X0 clutch over the final 15 days of our test. With the clutch X0 rear mech chain slap was non-existent and the chain stayed firmly in place for the remainder of the test.

 

Final Thoughts

 

The Wolf Tooth chainring performed exactly as promised. Not only did it perform perfectly, it also showed almost no wear. At the $79 (£55) cost, US design, materials and construction, and free shipping worldwide, we’d recommend this to any cyclocross racer running a single chain ring setup.

 
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Wolf Tooth Components Website

 

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