First Look - Absolute Black Oval Guide
Absolute Black has just launched a chain guide that’s said to be “the only chainguide on the market that is designed specifically for oval chainrings.”
Oval chainrings are in vouge at the moment (read more about them here) and it is true that they can make chainguide setup a tad awkward and fiddly. That said, we’ve successfully setup a number of oval equipped 1X drivetrains using a range of regular chain guides. It can certainly work, it just works better with some guides than others, and the individual bike setup can influence matters too. So let’s ignore the issue of oval compatibility for a moment and take a closer look at the new Absolute Black guide.
The new Oval Guide has actually come from a collaboration between Absolute Black and a small German company called 77designz. They have been making trick little chain guides for years and the Oval Guide is clearly derived from the same genetics. Our ISCG 05 sample weighed just 26g with all of the hardware; titanium bolts, spacers – the lot. That’s impressively light!
Like the original 77designz product, the Oval Guide bolts onto the two front ISCG tabs via a minimalist piece of 7075 aluminium. The most obvious differences lie in the moulded nylon guide, which aside from being re-profiled, now incorporate a number of handy adjustments and features.
While the guide itself retains a minimalist design, the sides are deeper and come down further. This ensures that the guide functions as intended with the variable radius of an oval chainring. The vertical adjustment range has also increased so that it’ll handle oval chainrings from 26 up to 34 teeth (or 28 to 36 T with round rings). We also like that the Oval Guide uses the same T25 Torx hardware throughout (the original 77designs product used a range of fittings).
Probably the coolest feature in our opinion is the ‘front flip’ design. The outer plate of the guide rotates upwards allowing you to remove the cranks or swap chainrings without removing the guide. There seems to be enough friction in the pivoting action to prevent this happening unintentionally on the trail but time will tell.
The Oval Guide also caters for a range of modern sizes and standards. It’s supplied with spacers that’ll allow the one guide to handle chain lines ranging from 48-53mm, so it’ll cover everything from regular to boost equipped bikes. It’s offered in four mounting types as well; ISCG 05, top direct mount, S3 e-type and one that fits ISCG 05 bikes that use a threaded bottom bracket.
We setup our Oval Guide with an Absolute Black M9000 XTR Oval chainring and the whole process took around 5 minutes. It would have been quicker but we had to play with different spacer combinations to match our chainline. It now runs drag-free across the full range of the 11-speed rear cassette and we’ll be putting it through its paces on the trail through the coming months.
Aussie pricing should be in the $100-120 range and it’s expected to be available in the coming month. Look out for a full review in our August issue.
In the meantime, here's a quick look at the Oval Guide in action...