Narrow-wide (or thick-thin as some Europeans and Jim are calling it) chainrings are a huge improvement over traditional chainring setups. I switched both my mountain bikes over this year and haven’t lost a chain since.
At Interbike Kore was showing off their own (patented) narrow-wide design and claims it offers better retention than the design being used by SRAM and others. In the demo shown here they’re hanging a full bottle of bourbon. I’m told other narrow-wide chain+ring combos can do this but haven’t tried it myself. Has anyone done this?
I don’t think I’d risk the Bourbon 🙂 While narrow/wide helps with chain retention, it isn’t 100%… unless Kore’s is just that good.
While this might not speak to Kore specifically, plenty of enduro racers run narrow/wide AND chain guides. Also, word on the street is that a few narrow/wide chain ring producers are starting to release chain guides, but I haven’t able to dig up specifics yet…
Welp, it felt super solid to me–much stronger than I imagined it. In fact I want to say Kore had an entire bike hanging from a chain at Eurobike but I could be wrong. Whatever it was, it was something a lot larger than a bottle of bourbon.
I run my RaceFace narrow-wide in conjunction with a shadow derailleur and have never had a drop. Seriously, not one time. I personally don’t need an improved system but can’t help but be impressed by that picture.
I have used the RaceFace Narrow/Wide with a Shadow Plus as well as the E*Thirteen, never had a drop with my RaceFace, had one with my E*Thirteen, ended up finding that my derailure clutch needed to be tightened. I most recently bought a Pivot Mach 6, it is an XO drivetrain with RF Turbine crank and RaceFace Narrow/Wide chainring. Only a few rides but no issues yet.
As for the bourbon test, I was at my LBS and saw the new Shimano XT 1×11, I couldn’t pull the chain off at certain angles with my hand. I am a believer that the Narrow Wide has plenty of retention for 99% of the riders out there.
I’ve used a variety of NW rings from RaceFace, OneUp, Hope, SRAM, Shimano, and Wolf Tooth. They’ve all worked very well and I don’t know that I would be able to say that one is definitively better than another. In a few instances, I have been able to drop a chain, but it’s been rare. Less than ten times in the past 3 years.
Some of the instances have been in really chunky sections. The way I’ve had a chain come off multiple times though is a stick getting thrown up from my front wheel and then getting caught in between the chain and chainring, which derails the chain. You’ve really got to hit a stick just right for this to happen, but it’s been the most “common” way for me to drop a chain.
If you’re really concerned about chain retention, the new crop of top only guides that are available add a minuscule amount of weight (40-80g) but provide some extra insurance.
No matter what, you’re going to have better chain retention with a NW and clutch derailleur setup than a 2x or 3x drivetrain.