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Review: Wickwerks lets you have your cake & eat it too meshing Standard 53t & Compact 34t rings

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I had a pretty extensive conversation with the folks at Wickwerks at Interbike back in September as I was somewhat intrigued by their new option for junior gearing that would make needing to order special-sized cassettes a thing of the past. Even more so was that they were “successfully” running a 53 + 34 tooth chainring combination they developed, which I knew from past experience shouldn’t work well. I mean, you could drive a Prius through the gap between the small chainring and the front derailleur cage!

They sent me 2 sets of their Road Ultra Wide rings to try out on both mechanical and Di2 systems to see if how they worked…

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Recently we saw SRAM say goodbye to the front derailleur, but nothing probably excited bike mechanics around the world more than the over-due extinction of the chain-bending Triple chainrings on road (and most mountain) bikes. Preventing chain rub was an art with road Triples, so when the Compact crankset was developed in the early 2000’s along with 9 speeds and bigger cassette offerings, despite some initial resistance, the Triple slowly went away.

As soon as Compact came about, the racer crowd became interested in their application on tough mountain climbs, but in no way were they about to give up their 53t ring. I even recall when a friend and “expert internet mechanic” ordered a 110bcd 53 tooth ring and asked me to get it working with his 34. Needless to say, I could have shifted it better with a dull butter knife, as the chain would just bind rather than climb up the ring. The front derailleur simply didn’t have long enough throw or the right angle to get the chain up there.

It was a complete disaster, so my suspicions were strong with Wickwerks’ Road Ultra Wide rings. I thought they may have actually gotten it to work, but if it wasn’t “smooth” or I had to baby it… it wasn’t going to cut it.

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The back of the big rings have an extensive amount of detailed machining on them that is as beautiful as it is functional. Termed “Bridge Technology”, the ramps are designed to carry the chain up rather than have a pin catch the chain once the front derailleur pulls it up and over. Made of CNC’ed 7075-T6 with a MIL Type 3 True Hard Anodize coating, the rings should wear well.

Wickworks Weight

Though the 53/34t Wickwerks ring isn’t heavy so to speak, it’s hard to compete with Shimano’s hollow forging technology, adding on 55g in the swap.

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Compared to the Mid-Compact Dura-Ace 52/38t rings that came on the bike, the machining on Wickwerks’ “Road Ultra Wide” rings is far more aggressive. They also don’t use pins like Shimano, so lets take a look at what they came up with and how it works.

Wickwerks how it works

Up top is how a typical chain gets lifted using pins or grab points. Wickwerks uses ramps that extend from where the small chainring is all the way to the teeth of the big chainring. Like in my little experiment some years ago on this broad setup, the derailleur can’t effectively push the chain high enough for the pin to grab and carry it the rest of the way up. Because the pin setup catches the middle of the chain’s link, the rocking of the pin prevents the chain from continuing an upward path. As you can see in the diagram and the comparison between the two brands, the ramp on the Wickwerks grabs the chain instantly and virtually carries it up to the top while the derailleur just holds it against the ring. Though a pin system has proven to work fine, when there is that much separation between the two ring sizes (53/34), it just doesn’t work.

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You can see in this pic where the Wickwerks’ chainring has a pronounced shelf that the chain sits on during its journey to the top… and of course that southern pollen. So how does it perform?

Setting this up seemed easy enough, but it was a little harder than first expected. Maybe harder isn’t the word. Tedious is more like it. I literally had to make microscopic adjustments that were made difficult because the ever so slight movement when tightening the front derailleur down would move it just enough to cause rubbing. Ironically the Di2 setup was harder as a simple barrel adjustment on my (personal) mechanical Ultegra bike fixed it in a jiffy. Regardless, two beers in, all was fine.

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Come ride time, I took Fuji’s Di2 bike out first (because my pedals were still on it from last week’s review). Hitting the first slight descent, I tapped the shifter and nothing out of the ordinary happened. A simple flawless shift as if nothing was changed. It was a confident smooth shift, just as it should be on this caliber of bike. Shifting back down… well, this took some getting used to. It was a great shift, but going from a 53t to a 34t (that’s almost 20 teeth), is something I’ve never experienced. My 25 years of down shifting to the small ring while almost simultaneously shifting two clicks down to a smaller cog in the back was not sufficient. The step was big going from little to big, but much more noticeable when your cadence is way too fast. Switching to the bike with mechanical Ultegra, I thought maybe with a lazy shift I could get the the rings to fail. Although I made it rub a little, as soon as I pushed it a little more, the ramp on the Wickwerks snapped it right up.

Overall, Wickwerks’ Road Ultra Wide rings worked really well. It didn’t perform any worse than the stock setup, and I found that impressive considering the challenges that configuration faced. Though, I did find myself having to shift the rear 3 to 4 times, rather than the standard 1 to 2 times on a 53/39t setup, and each time I shifted the front it was a bit annoying. But I eventually settled right in. If you ride where there are a few long grueling climbs, or you could just use a little extra range to ease the burn, the Road Ultra Wide rings will suit you really well.

Wickwerks.com

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24 Comments
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ChaCha
ChaCha
6 years ago

Shifting between 36 and 52 is already a big jump and typically requires simultaneous rear shifts in most terrain. 34/53 shifting would be pretty annoying. I don’t know much about jr gearing, but for non-juniors this is probably better in concept than in practice.

BMANX
BMANX
6 years ago

I think a 36t would have been a more practical size to run with a 53 instead of the 34. With the right cassette it would be a great climbing set up.

Veganpotter
Veganpotter
6 years ago
Reply to  BMANX

Or just keep the 50/34. Pros run it all the time. Joe Blows only think a 50 is too small

JBikes
JBikes
6 years ago
Reply to  BMANX

Sagan’s bike at Flanders was running a 53-36 I believe.

Mick
Mick
6 years ago
Reply to  JBikes

Have run 53/36 combo with DA9000 for 2 years now…Zero shift issues…This combo is routinely run in the pro peloton (against Shimano’s wishes)

JBikes
JBikes
6 years ago

I briefly used Wickwerks rings on my mtb, and was very impressed with their shift quality. My frame has a FD clearance issue so eventually went 1x, but I did talk to them and was impressed with Wickwerks customer service.

That said, its a 4-5 gear jump between 53 and 34 ratios. I can only see this as a racers option in terrain with extended steep climbs, and even then it has compromises.
Good for Wickwerks though. Options are great.

JD
JD
6 years ago

50-11 is already a big f’n gear – bigger than 53-12 that was fine for a long time. I appreciate that someone might want 53-11 in some circumstances, but if you’re not Peter Sagan or Marcel Kittel I wonder about the usefulness.

Allan
Allan
6 years ago
Reply to  JD

Agree. Those who are strong enough to use a 53 on the flats are strong enough for a 39 in the hills. A 53-34 seems like a mismatch to me, but hey, if there’s a need/want for this combo, people will buy it. That ring is fugly tho…

David
David
4 years ago
Reply to  JD

50×11 is not that bad with a short crank, however competing for KOM’s in a 23+ mph tailwind against people with 54 or 56 chainrings gets tough on the downhill sections to keep pace. I know this guy who takes some of mine with a 54-56 chainring. I ride a 50×34. I have to make up on the uphill what I lose on the downhill.

badbikemechanicx
badbikemechanicx
6 years ago

I use wickwerks on my cyclocross bike and the increase in stiffness was noticeable over the crap rings that cam stocked on the Sram cranks. Get Wickwerks rings if you can afford them!

Chefdog
Chefdog
6 years ago

This has been a wish of mine for a long time. Living in the Northern Sierra Nevadas, climbs can be long and grueling and the descents are fast. 52/36 is a great option, but the 34 really makes the climbs more reasonable when running 11/28. That said, a 50/11 gets spun out way to early on the descents. If it shifts well enough, I am sold.

Charles
Charles
6 years ago
Reply to  Chefdog

You know what you need more than I do, but a 50×11 at 100rpm is 35.6mph whereas with a 53×11 it’s 37.7mph. Is that 2mph difference really going to make that much of a difference? And you’re still gonna spin out on those kinds of descents with a 53. And once you get going much faster than that, are you still hammering for MOAR speed?

Andrew Dasilva
6 years ago

Wait, so how does a 53/34 help juniors not use a 14-28?

You would want smaller chainrings, wouldn’t you?

P.S. – I reallllllly want a 48/33. West Virginia + 48/33 F + 11/23 (or 25 :P) R = heaven.

Andrew Dasilva
6 years ago

Trey, I’m an idiot and can’t read.

Can I blame having a flu all week?

Velociraptor
Velociraptor
6 years ago

I think a 50/30 would be more useful. Almost bought a Sugino 46/30 the other day. Looking forward to the FSA 46/30 too.

Andrew, what’s stopping you? Cyclocross chainring/crankset paired with a 33 inner will give you 46/33

sxm235
sxm235
6 years ago

Wickwerks customer service is bar-none.

Someone janked up my newphew’s WW junior chainrings taking it off the roof rack, and parking the pedal on a curb to stand it up. Shredded one or two of the teeth.

The LBS I tried said it wasn’t possible, and for the little dude just to cough up the $100 or whatever it would have cost.

After seeing this post, I decided to try and call them.

They were able to sell just the damaged ring when we gave them a ring (no pun intended).

Thank you, Terrell!

anonymous
anonymous
6 years ago

“nothing probably excited bike mechanics around the world more than the over-due extinction of the chain-bending Triple chainrings on road (and most mountain) bikes. Preventing chain rub was an art with road Triples”

Why are bike mechanics so lazy? Just because it takes slightly more work than a double doesn’t mean it’s hard, but most triples coming out of shops are poorly adjusted, and mechanics just blame triples for being that way.

WannaBeSTi
WannaBeSTi
6 years ago
Reply to  anonymous

Anonymous,
Yes, there are a lot of mechanics that are lazy, but I’ve worked with some brilliant ones.
I’ve worked in a shop long enough to see the birth of road triples as common place on entry-level road bikes and I’ve seen their slow death.
If the entire drivetrain is by Shimano or Campagnolo (including cables and housing), triples aren’t so bad. However, most bike companies like to spec cables and housing from one company, crank from a second company, chain from a third company, and then think the Shimano shifters and derailleurs will work magically together.
Unless you’ve been in the trenches with us…you have no idea what you’re talking about.

ascarlarkinyar
ascarlarkinyar
6 years ago

Really? I run a 54/30 on my cross bike with mtb derailleurs front and back. Shifts slow but gets the job done. Also a 11-34 cassette in back. I can ride up and down the canyon roads one day and the trails the next.

stefano
stefano
6 years ago

Places like Colorado have long climbs and (obviously) long decents. Climb up. Pedal all the way down. This set is perfect for that.

Nick
Nick
6 years ago
Reply to  stefano

I’ve been running a set of Wickwerks 53 x 34 chainrings since August 2015 on my Tarmac Sworks Di2 road bike with a 28×11 rear cassette. I picked them up to do prototype testing and will never go back to any other ring. Hands down the most versatile gearing and shifting combo available.

Long climb, short steep climb, long gradual descent, these rings allow you to spin up the steeper climbs and still have gear for those long 2% gradual descents.

wheels
wheels
6 years ago

Off topic perhaps, but i use Edco Monoblock 14-25 cassette with 52/36 chainrings.
This gives me a super linear ratio.
I also use 12-28 on my gravel Di2 bike.
Edco works best with Di2, a bit more precise to be honest.

Jakob Isindahowz
5 years ago

I bought their mtb triple.My bike came stock with ab Afterburner triple and XTR the rest of the drivetrain and thought the FSA was a weak link so thought I would try their shift tech of ramps and am very impressed. Their rings like fast, forcefull shifts which is what I wanted and hoped to avoid the wait for an available pin to bring the chain up. Their rings have so many more shift gates that you just push the lever and its shifted. They also last long. I have smashed my ring numeorus times over rocks, chipping several teeth but it still works fine and the damage has been smaller than expected. The alloy seems harder than most and the ring design is smart with more laterial running along below the teeth. The price seems quite reasonable also.

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