absolute black xx1 style cyclocross single narrow wide chainring review and actual weights

Absolute Black’s XX1-style narrow/wide chainring for cyclocross is an appealing option. It’s light, it’s pretty and it uses a common 110BCD mounting pattern. It also has their excellent tooth profiles, which we’ve been pretty happy with across several different bikes and chainrings.

My CX chainring came in at the tail end of last ‘cross season, so it spent beginning of the year getting abused at the last of our local NCCX races. After that, it spent the spring and summer bring ridden around town, through gravel paths and along for some random ‘cross training rides. All the while keeping the chain perfectly intact and rolling smooth.

I installed it on my Moots with an otherwise Ultegra Di2 6770 group, swapping out the double crankset for a standard 110BCD FSA SL-K carbon crankset. This was done mainly for aesthetics, matching the black chainring to a black crankset with more traditionally shaped bolt arms. But also to test the Chris King PFBB with a true BB30 crankset, more on that separately.

The system kept the original Shimano DynaSys 10-speed chain, which has held up admirably well to several years of use on my ‘cross bike. It also kept the rear derailleur set up in it’s stock configuration. Marcin, AB’s founder, strongly recommended that I increase the return spring’s tension, but I wanted to test it as-is first. Here’s how it all went…

absolute black xx1 style cyclocross single narrow wide chainring review and actual weights

Packaging is minimal, with actual weights for each part hand written on the label. The ‘cross chainring is available in both 110 and 130 BCDs with 38 and 42 tooth counts. I tested the 38 110BCD.

absolute black xx1 style cyclocross single narrow wide chainring review and actual weights

The chainrings are available in black or red ano. Marcin also included his Torx chainring bolts, which are sold separately in black only.

absolute black xx1 style cyclocross single narrow wide chainring review and actual weights

AB’s machining detail is fantastic, and the black is a very deep, dark black.

absolute black xx1 style cyclocross single narrow wide chainring review and actual weights

In our many conversations, Marcin’s made it very clear how proud he is of his tooth design. Having ridden both the mountain bike versions and this one for quite some time, I’ll hand it to him – he’s done a great job of keeping the chain on the chainring here and they look good doing it.

absolute black xx1 style cyclocross single narrow wide chainring review and actual weights

The bolts come with longer nuts, which I had to file down to fit the FSA crankset. Stock shown on left, filed one on right. The arms weren’t as thick as some, so the bolts would bottom out on the nut before they’d fully tighten the chainring in place. Note that you file the nut, not the bolt, to solve this problem.

absolute black xx1 style cyclocross single narrow wide chainring review and actual weights

The chainring came in at 59g and the bolts at 9g before any filing. Compared to the standard double (with bolts), that saves 78g just at the crankset. Take away the cable, housing and front derailleur and you’ll save even more…a good tradeoff for a discipline like cyclocross if, like me, you rarely ever used the big ring.

absolute black xx1 style cyclocross single narrow wide chainring review and actual weights

The chainring was thrown onto a drivetrain with a chain that’s seen plenty of use, but it worked smooth and fairly quiet from the outset. A bit of anodization wear showed up within the first two months.

absolute black xx1 style cyclocross single narrow wide chainring review and actual weights

Our NCCX race courses and training grounds tend to cover a lot of grassy hills and flats with shaded sections between the trees that send us rattling over washboards of roots. Add in the occasional low barrier bunny hop or drainage ditch whoops and there’s plenty to test the chain retention qualities of any drivetrain. I’m rather happy to say I didn’t suffer a single chain drop during the entire nine months of testing.

The anodization’s wear also seemed to freeze in time, showing almost no additional wear from the first few months through the end of the test. The chainring bolts remained tight the entire time, too.

When first installed, there’s a bit of noise from from the chain/ring interaction, but it seems to diminish over time. It’s not obnoxious or grating, just present if you’re listening for it. Wind noise at any decent speed drowns it out. I primarily used Squirt lube during the test, which is wax based, so I can’t say if an oilier lube would make it any quieter.

Overall, the Absolute Black CX ring worked flawlessly and I’d recommend it highly. Retail is $74 to $83 depending on size, and chainring bolts are $16.

As for size selection, some folks might miss the 40t intermediate ring. One way to figure out what you need is to ride in your current small chainring (probably a 34 or 39) and see where you’re spending your time on the cassette. Then pick the chainring size that’ll put you closer to the top 2/3 of the cassette during most riding. That reduces chain wear a bit and keeps you out of the less efficient 11t cog in most situations. That’s what we’ve done and it seems to work well while leaving a bit at the top end for straightaway sprints.

NOTE: About the derailleur return spring tension. Marcin says SRAM’s road rear derailleurs have a higher spring tension and should work just fine out of the box. He recommends increasing the spring tension on Shimano road rear derailleurs (this video shows how). He also recommends getting the chain length correct, setting it up with the chain wrapped around the largest cog and chainring (not through the derailleur) then adding two links to the total length. Lastly, a short cage rear mech is recommended. As mentioned, I didn’t mess with my rear derailleur at all and it worked just fine, but if you’re dropping your chain, this could be the solution. All of the set up tips are available on this product’s page on his website.




  1. ian on

    Aren’t single cyclocross rings supposed to be mounted where the inside ring would normally be? I’m converting to 1x soon and trying to sort everything out.

  2. Benn on

    I run a Di2 Ultegra 1×10 with a 42t Absolute black chainring on my A bike… DA chain, force crank… I’ll agree that it is a well designed chain ring, but a chain keeper unfortunately was a must for me after dropping in three different races and on a couple training rides. (my chain length is right, I emailed AB pictures). I have had it since August 13′. My Di2 Ult. derailleur does not have a second hole for increasing chain tension, though I’m considering drilling one… Plenty of metal there right 😉

    Lots of racers around my area run a 1x with a wide-narrow ring. The consensus seems to be if you run SRAM or a clutch derailleur then they will work well. Another racer I know also has issues with her wide-narrow/Ultegra Di2 set up, she has a wolf tooth ring… 38t I think… so I don’t believe it’s a size or brand issue.

    @Slimon, just cap your junction box to keep contaminants out, it will work without doing anything to the system. I programmed my system to have both shifters actuate the rear derailleur. You need to download Shimano’s E-Tube Software, it’s PC only unfortunately. Your LBS may also have the software and be able to program the shifters for you.

  3. Kuotient on

    slimon – I assume the wire from left shifter to Junction A was simply removed. The missing wire/FD shouldn’t affect the function of the rear shifting.

  4. James Kim on

    Ben // I too run a Wolftooth 36t plus Sram clutch RD for a good measure. I found that with a normal road RD, it was still possible to drop a chain in certain situations especially during remounts. On my MTB, I run a similar setup but also with E13 Guide to make sure I never drop a chain.

  5. absoluteblack on

    Marcin here from AB.

    You will have to unfortunately increase the tension of the cage in the rear mech. In most Shimano derailleurs there is a second hole, so you surprised me that Di2 does not offer it.

    Trouble with road Shimano rear mechs is the fact that they decreased cage tension by purpose to have plushy shifting as I can say that. It works great on the road, but not that good in CX. So there is a need to increase that tension. Once this is done it will work great.

    Sram rear mechs (road or mtb) have much higher tension from the start so this is why there is no trouble with them.

  6. Marty on

    BUYERS BEWARE! I ordered one on 1/22/15 and Absolute Black claims that it shipped on 2/5/15. The tracking # provided shows no shipping progress and appears to be lost. Several emails to Absolute Black requesting they ship a new item or refund my $ to no avail. As of 3/10/15 I still do not have my order or a refund. I had to file a claim though Paypal to try to get Absolute Black to resolve the issue. Looks like a great product, but extremely poor customer service from this company.

  7. Simon on

    I had exactly the same problem as Marty with royal mail in the UK. AB did eventually contact me and re-send the item but it wasn’t that easy and they were reluctant to accept I didn’t already have it. Now we have it they work very well indeed.


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