By Jared Eborn
You’re rolling along, through the mud and gunk with an eye on that guy in front of you, just around the next turn. With time running out and each pedal stroke valuable in your effort to close the gap, you reach the left fingers out and tap the shifter as you move into the big ring for that final push.
But the chain slips, almost unnoticeably, and your acceleration is delayed – for only a second or so – and your attack is softened and you charge comes up just a little short leaving you deflated and wondering why your effort wasn’t quite good enough.
WickWërks, an innovative chain ring manufacturer based in Ogden, wants to eliminate this problem and has created a line of chain rings it claims improves shifting and power transfer.
The company has a line of rings for bikes of all sorts, ranging from mountain bikes where shifting from the big to smaller rings is more frequent, to cyclocross and road bikes.
“I’ve always been frustrated while shifting the front derailleur on my bike, as most people have,” said Chris Wickliffe, founder of WickWërks. “The chain rings and front derailleur interface continue to be the worst performing components on a mountain bike. The design is outdated and has always performed poorly so I decided to build my own. The old lateral slam, drag and lift method had to go.”
The technology Wickliffe adopted is called BRIDGE — Brilliant Radically Integrated Design Generates Efficiency – and is designed to slide the chain from ring to ring rather than lifting and dropping it into place.
“I went back to square one and looked at what really needed to happen to accomplish shifting the chain up and down the chainrings.” Wikcliffe said. “My goal is to perfect the front drivetrain so it shifts smoothly every time by guiding the chain directly from chainring to chainring and decreasing the amount of contact with the chain (drag). “
“WickWërks chainring bridges provide more contact area than pins and lift directly below multiple load points of the chain,” Wickliffe said. “Traditional chainrings use pins that have very little contact area between the chain and the pin.”
Though a small company, WickWërks has one very impressive believer. Katie Compton, the most dominating cyclocross racer on the planet, rides with the chain rings and is working on her eighth consecutive national championship this season and another run to the top of the World Cup standings.
The cyclocross rings come in a trio of sizes – 46/36 and 44/34 in the 110 BCD set up or a 46/38 set at 130 BCD and weight just 111 (44/34), 129 (46/36) or 135 (46/38) grams. Pricing ranges from $129.50 to $134.50.
Road options include a 53/39 double ring, a 50/34 compact and a 53/39/30 triple chainring. Mountain bike options range from 44/32/22 triple to a 40/26 SRAM XX compatible set. Prices range from $129.50 to $149.50 for the road triple.
Rider reviews have been positive.
“You know how a good, well-tuned rear derailleur just works on the rear cassette? You shift, it changes gears, and it does it quickly and cleanly, with no fuss. Now imagine having that up front,” one cyclist from Massachusetts wrote. “That is the WickWërks chainrings. These chainrings dramatically reduce the time you have to wait for a shift. It almost always feels instant, clean, and quiet. All in all, these are far better than any other chainrings I have ridden.”
I demoed the WickWërks rings at a recent cyclocross race and left impressed with the shifting. Despite constant starting and stopping as I took sharp turns, encountered stretches of path strewn with rocks and sand and powered through long straightaways, I was able to keep a solid cadence and experience no noticeable skipping or delays when shifting from the big to small ring or vice versa.
The course at Fort Buenaventura in Ogden didn't feature a lot of climbing or obstacles, but required a sharp mind and frequent flicks of the shifting fingers. With WickWërks chainrings onboard, I had my best finish ever — for me, a solid middle of the pack finish instead of the usual bottom third.