SRAM’s decision to jump on the oval chainring bandwagon has been a natural evolution. Thanks to Team Sky amongst others, oval chainrings have had some good publicity. Until now, SRAM crank owners that wanted an oval chainring had to go for non-SRAM alternatives. Thus it was just a matter of time before SRAM created its own one, the X-SYNC 2 Oval, with the reassurance of full compatibility and the brand guarantee.
SRAM’s regular Eagle XX1 chainrings are gorgeously made, the intention is to maintain their renowned standard with a new oval option. So this means machined and bolstered webs, laser etching, and the well-known curved tooth profile are all present. All so the X-SYNC 2 will have the familiar seamless chain release and engagement of the XX1 drivetrain.
The ovality is a hotly debated topic in the industry. Which shape and timing is optimal? Every brand has its philosophy. Admittedly, my first attempts with oval chainrings dates back to 1990 with Shimano’s Biopace. And, being a smasher, I generally prefer oval chainrings. However, to distinguish between so many slightly different oval rings is hard to do. Biopace aside, the differences are minuscule. All oval rings aren’t equal, but they have a similar feel, so I’ve found the X-SYNC 2 familiar to ride on straight away.
No doubt I favor SRAM’s direct mount chainring configuration. The installation is simple.
An 8mm hexagonal tool removes the crankset, three screws with a T25 Torx bit need to be removed and the chainring comes off. To remove doubt, the crank’s spline stops the chainring from being incorrectly placed. It can only be fitted one way. Finally just torque the screws and you are good to go.
Most important to me are the compatibility, chain-retention, gear change and wear factors. As SRAM’s X-SYNC 2 chainrings use their next-generation tooth profile in addition to their previous narrow-wide profile, the above mentioned attributes are even more pronounced. Additionally the taller teeth boost its gear changing qualities even more. I didn’t experience any problems with chain drop or disengagement during the test period.
I was enthused by X-SYNC 2’s silent operation and natural feel. In my experience, most chainrings need a settling-in period. SRAM is no different, but it took a mere hour to get ‘dead’ silent. This is due to the whole drivetrain being optimised. It’s a shame SRAM brought X-SYNC 2 to the market this late. By now many potential consumers will have tried out the alternative oval rings. I prefer a system as a whole ecosystem, a seamless operation. Add to that an easy installation procedure and I will have a hard time to switch back and forth from one brand to another.
Some folks may argue, even though SRAM’s X-Sync 2 Oval chainrings deserves a top of the class score, its purchase price of $119 is what makes most bikers go for alternatives. Indeed, other oval chainrings can be had for half that price. But SRAM promises a seamless system integration and easy installation. With the X-SYNC 2 you get a brilliant oval chainring that holds the construction and performance features of the original chainrings. So now fans of SRAM’s silent drivetrain have the option for an oval ring without compromising performance. During my test period of 4 months the wear is minimal, almost non-existent. Hence, the cost debate diminishes slightly.
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