Rotor Rings work! say Rotor Rings

Okay, not just them - a scientific study in the International Journal of Sports Science and Engineering

by Dave Atkinson   April 3, 2012  

Rotor rings

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You'll see plenty of Rotor Rings in the pro peloton so there's obviously fit folk out there who believe they work. The latest bit of science we've seen – okay, Rotor sent it to us – does seem to suggest a measurable and statistically significant advantage. Let's look at the test. It's a bit dry (aren't they always) but here's some highlights...

The study dates to August last year and the guinea pigs were eight racing cyclists and triathletes from California Polytechnic State University where the research was conducted by the Kinesiology department. The test was a 1km time trial in laboratory conditions. Not one, in fact, but seven: a practice go, then one effort on round rings followed by four on Rotor Rings and a final one back on a standard dinner plate. Athletes were tested mid season to minimise any effect of increasing cardiovascular performance.

And what did they learn? "Evidence from this study indicated that for these well-trained cyclists and triathletes, performance improved after just one week employing the Rotor Q-Rings," says the report. "Week 5 Post-test (back on circular rings) further demonstrated that positive performance effects were only evident with the Rotor Q-Rings. Furthermore, these improvements were specific and did not transfer to circular rings after four weeks of training, racing, and testing with Rotor Q-Rings."

"Subjects completed the time trial on average 1.6 seconds faster, increased average speed approximately 0.7 kph and increased average power approximately 26 watts. During submaximal testing, oxygen consumption and heart rate were significantly lower with Rotor Q-Rings compared to circular chainrings." Improvements were evident in both maximal and submaximal testing, with oxygen consumption and blood lactate both lower in the submaximal tests.

There's lots of data in the full report (attached below) and the experiment looks to be well designed for its goal. The authors acknowledge that they're by no means the first to have a look at the claimed efficiency/power/speed gains of non-circular rings, with previous studies throwing up a variety of results, sometimes conflicting. But it's an interesting experiment, and worth a read if you like that sort of thing. If you're more academic than us (not hard) we'd love to hear your thoughts on the construction of the experiment, and the findings.

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Effects of Chainring Type (Circular vs. Rotor Q-Ring) on 1km Time Trial Performance630.36 KB

18 user comments

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It does seem obvious that this idea would/should work.
I mean its not hard to find or realise that there is a point in the peddle stroke that it is hard to get any power from, and reducing that point makes sense.
By the time this is accepted as fact though the UCI will probably have changed their minds and banned them, citing that they are too expensive for normal riders or some other malarky.

posted by pmr [146 posts]
3rd April 2012 - 14:11

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Biopace anybody?

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posted by mr-andrew [293 posts]
3rd April 2012 - 16:51

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Biopace again. I'm surprised the pros like these, as the old biopace rings felt rather odd when spinning at a high cadence and I can't imagine these are much different?

posted by localsurfer [151 posts]
3rd April 2012 - 17:58

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how can oval rings (biopace etc) feel 'odd' when its not you foot/ankle/leg that is subjected to the oval shape, its just the chainrings that are oval, your crank is still the same length and turns on a an axle that stays in the same position (if you get me drift)..

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posted by Fringe [1081 posts]
3rd April 2012 - 18:52

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Five weeks of maximal and sub maximal training will bring about improvements in anybody, bio paced or not. Even with well trained cyclists the amount of improvement will vary and top pros will always be positive about something they are paid to use.

antonio

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posted by antonio [899 posts]
3rd April 2012 - 19:12

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antonio wrote:
Five weeks of maximal and sub maximal training will bring about improvements in anybody, bio paced or not. Even with well trained cyclists the amount of improvement will vary and top pros will always be positive about something they are paid to use.

a fair point, but they switched back to circular rings at the end and the numbers went right back up. or down, depending on what number. so that suggests the effects shown aren't cardiovascular conditioning. also, it's not a linear progression to better fitness

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posted by Dave Atkinson [7038 posts]
3rd April 2012 - 19:15

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Who funded the research?

Actually looking at it all the numbers quoted are within the quoted error bars so they are all essentially the same! So it makes no difference then!

posted by TheDoctor [63 posts]
3rd April 2012 - 19:52

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Because they work by effectively varying the gearing, or at least that was the selling point of biopace. The idea was your foot moves slightly faster at the top and bottom of the stroke, the idea being get past the 'dead spot' as quickly as possible. At the top and bottom of the stroke the ring is 'smaller' than at the power point.

Whether that's true or not is debateable, but I used biopoace rings, and egg rings (what happened to them?) for years and spinning them at 80+ cadence definitely felt strange to me.

posted by localsurfer [151 posts]
3rd April 2012 - 20:35

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pmr wrote:
... point in the peddle stroke that it is hard to get any power from...
PEDAL!

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posted by Manglier [64 posts]
3rd April 2012 - 21:10

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TheDoctor wrote:
Who funded the research?

Actually looking at it all the numbers quoted are within the quoted error bars so they are all essentially the same! So it makes no difference then!

that's not quite true. the margins quoted are because there's eight different subjects of differing abilities. But the results (one rider on standard rings vs the same rider on Q rings) are statistically significant.

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posted by Dave Atkinson [7038 posts]
3rd April 2012 - 22:59

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Manglier wrote:
pmr wrote:
... point in the peddle stroke that it is hard to get any power from...
PEDAL!

oops, lol

posted by localsurfer [151 posts]
4th April 2012 - 7:16

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Biopace... I remember...

They did feel different @fringe, becuase the power comes in a different way - have you tried any? I didn't mind the feeling and I can't remember struggling with spinning them at all, but they did feel different.

The problem with biopace was that they were probably too conservative. If you look at the newer rings they are more aggressive in shape - and you can rotate them on spider as well.

I used to have a massive book written by an American in the early 80s that had stacks of interesting stiff in it (was it called Bicycle Performance? by Richard someone?) and his evidence I remember being compelling but the 'ovality' he was suggesting was much more than Biopace.

Then there's the cost - for my three bikes it would cost in the region of £450.... Gulp.

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posted by alotronic [231 posts]
4th April 2012 - 9:46

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Within the next 5 years, Shimano, Sram, and Campy will probably start making more oval rings themselves.

Its all part of development, I think.

If the pro's didn't like the O-rings they'd have circular chainrings with an o-ring sticker on them.

I seem to remember some of the pro's having o-ring chainrings, but with shimano stickers as they arn't sponsored by them.

Besides, the paper does have a clear trend in it, however since they tested the O rings more than the circular rings it was clear what the researches wanted to prove.

Sometimes researchers work very hard to prove their theory, but I think they are on to something with O-rings.

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posted by seabass89 [235 posts]
4th April 2012 - 13:37

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Biopace actually worked the other way round to rotor rings, it increased the time in the dead spot, which made them terrible for riding in slippery conditions (due to a power surge in the middle of the power stroke), what I and many others did was rotate them 90 degrees to get a similar effect to rotor rings.

posted by tuercas [2 posts]
4th April 2012 - 18:12

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You're right, I'd forgotten that. I did that too.

posted by localsurfer [151 posts]
4th April 2012 - 18:21

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@alotronic, localsurfer. ta for that, was interested to know how they felt different, and now i know!.

(never tried them myself, my sister had some on an old bike of hers, when she got me to sell it i spose i should have taken them off to have ago myself..still next time eh).

Big Grin

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posted by Fringe [1081 posts]
4th April 2012 - 18:47

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Re Biopace Anyone? Ditto - had that back in '86 but then Shimano dropped it.
Thinking

posted by BuiltForComfort [28 posts]
5th April 2012 - 18:11

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Some interesting studies have been done on http://www.noncircularchainring.be/, they basically go on to say that the best position for oval chainrings is completely different from what the manufacturers suggest. I still want some Osymetrics though.

All the gear and no idea!

posted by JonMack [170 posts]
11th April 2012 - 20:32

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