After plenty of race and training miles on Fibre-Lyte's aero carbon fibre chainring the common fears of durability can be quashed, but apart from aesthetics are there any other benefits? Quite a few it turns out.
Hansell Composites LTD have been manufacturing carbon fibre products since 1992; their Fibre-Lyte range is their specialist lightweight parts offshoot. Full carbon chainrings are what they've become best known for, especially in the world of time trialling so it only seems right that we give one of their Aero rings a test.
Fibre-Lyte CNC machine each ring to order so it's pretty much a bespoke service which is why the asymmetric ring you see here isn't on their website. In the past they've made rings from 12t up to 86t so if there is something specific you want it's best to contact them just like I did.
Our ring has 54 teeth, with a 135mm BCD (bolt circle diameter) to fit a Campagnolo chainset and it was a perfect fit straight out of the packaging. Beautifully finished too, with each edge smooth and burr-free. It's a single ring set-up so the usual teeth ramps and drop pins that you get on their double rings are missing but the back has been machined to set the teeth width for a 10 speed chain. It's worth noting that if you order a double set of rings they will be machined as a pair to make sure that shifting is as clean as it possibly can be.
Once set up the first thing you notice is how quiet and smooth it is as the chain rolls over the teeth. Admittedly mt transmission wasn't exactly noisy with the Stronglight rings it replaced but it's noticeable and that smoothness transferred to the ride too. Whether it's down to carbon's natural ability to absorb vibration or not I'm unsure, but even at the extremes of the cassette there was no noise when the chain was at quite an angle to the chainring.
It's stiff too, with the larger surface area of the ring providing much needed support for when you're really pushing high loads through it in a time trial. It weighs only 100g so you aren't getting that stiffness at a weight penalty. The solid Fibre-Lyte ring weighed the same as the original ring it replaced.
The wear issue is the first thing people ask about and I can happily say 'What wear?' Even after wet races and training rides with plenty of grit being picked up by the chain there isn't a single scratch or mark on the teeth. With plenty of people on various forums quoting thousands of miles of usage on Fibre-Lytes's carbon rings, longevity is certainly no more of an issue than it is with alloy ones. Letting your chain get excessively worn will probably trash them just as it does aluminium rings, so don't do that.
While this isn't a review about the benefits of asymmetric rings against rounds I'll say that I've noticed some impressive gains and the shape seems to suit my riding style. I don't ride with a power meter so I don't have any hard data but just going on feel I'd say the non-round rings suit my low cadence (80-85rpm) time trial rhythm. Pushing hard on the pedals means they feel as normal as round rings to ride but spin and ease off the pressure you will find they give a kind of bouncing feeling.
Overall then, the Fibre-Lyte chainring is full of benefits: light, stiff, quiet and most importantly durable. It also happens to look smart and would be the finishing touch to any bling race machine. The price is respectable when you consider that Vision's aero ring (carbon/alloy) and SRAM's Red (alloy) offering are priced around a fiver more and a Rotor Q-Ring (alloy) is around £45 more.
As already mentioned there is a huge amount of customization available with the Fibre-Lyte products. You can choose your carbon pattern, size, BCD and they can even be etched with logos. Take a look at the website for all the options.
Carbon bling to pimp your ride but full of performance benefits too
road.cc test report
Make and model: Fibre-Lyte PCD 135 Chain Ring
Size tested: 54 teeth
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
This TT ring is designed to be used for flatish time trials where you can get by with just a single front ring. Being solid there will be a small aero advantage too.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
*CNC machined to order
*Full carbon fibre
*Aero (other options available)
*Plain Weave (again other options available)
*135 BCD for Campagnolo (rings available in various BCD's)
Same price or cheaper than its alloy rivals.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well indeed, benefits seen in less noise, more stiffness plus well machined finish.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
All of the above.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Setting up the front mech to avoid rubbing.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.
About the tester
Age: 35 Height: 180cm Weight: 76kg
I usually ride: Whatever needs testing or Genesis Flyer, fixed of course! My best bike is: Kinesis T2 with full Centaur Red
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,
Stu knocked out his first road.cc review back in 2009 and since then he's chucked the best part of seventy test bikes around the West Country, a couple of them quite literally! With three alloy and two steel bikes in his fleet he's definitely a metal man (that'll be the engineering background) but is slowly warming to that modern carbon fibre stuff along with fat tyres & disc brakes.
It's not all nostalgia though, after spending the last few years in product design Stu keeps banging on about how 3D printing is going to be the next big thing and he's a sucker for a beautiful paint job too.