Hack Review: Wickwerks 40/26 RRc MTB Chainrings + XX Direct Mount Front Derailleur

Wickwerks RRc mountain bike chainring review and hack for use on XX direct mount front derailleur

This post is is a combination review and hack. When I received Wickwerks’ RRc mountain bike chainrings to test, I mounted them up on my XX crankset on a Niner Jet9 RDO.

Problem was, the rings were their 40/26 combo, which was replacing SRAM’s standard 3:2 ratio’d 39/26. That one extra tooth increased the diameter just enough to brush the front derailleur cage, snagging it ever so slightly (but definitely noticeable). On standard round tube frames, you’d simply loosen the front derailleur clamp and cable, slide it up the seat tube a bit, and re-tighten and adjust and go for a ride.

With the Jet9 RDO (and any other frame with convoluted tube shapes or layouts) using a direct mount front derailleur and non-adjustable mounts, the solution required some hacking…

PRODUCT DETAILS & COMPARISON

Wickwerks RRc mountain bike chainring review and hack for use on XX direct mount front derailleur

The black rings are Wickwerks, the silver are SRAM’s XX rings. Above are the small (26T) rings, and below the large (40T and 39T respectively).

Wickwerks RRc mountain bike chainring review and hack for use on XX direct mount front derailleur

Wickwerks’ rings are machined from 7075 T6 alloy then hard anodized (more on that process here). The big rings then get a bit more machining, evident on the outer face. This set is the first gen, not the newer direct bolt rings at the link above, because they’re the largest I could get on the Niner and still have proper frame clearance.

Wickwerks RRc mountain bike chainring review and hack for use on XX direct mount front derailleur

If you’re wondering what’s meant by “direct bolt”, it means you don’t need the nuts shown at left, the bolts thread directly into the rings just like on stock XX rings. Our first install was met with failure because the longer nuts (center) were accidentally included. This prevented them from tightening down all the way. They sent the shorter, proper nuts quickly and it’s mounted up fine. These things still require a specialty tool and are a pain in the butt, we’ll be happy with both chainring size combos are available in direct bolt, but they get the job done.

In the top image, Wickwerks extensive ramping on the inside of the big ring is clearly visible. Lead engineer Eldon Goates says the rings are designed to shift quickly, but that you shouldn’t sissify your shifts (not his exact words). Shift like you mean it and you’ll be rewarded with quick, precise front shifting even under power. Yes, XX rings do the same, but if you’re need to replace them or just want a slightly larger big ring than what’s offered as a stock combo, these are a less expensive option. Retail for the pair is $129.50 for the 40/26 tested, and $132.50 for the 42/28.

WEIGHT COMPARISON

Wickwerks RRc mountain bike chainring review and hack for use on XX direct mount front derailleur

Above, the Wickwerks rings and bolts come in at 72g, 24g and 19g. This is with the longer nuts, so maybe save a gram or two with the shorter ones.

Wickwerks RRc mountain bike chainring review and hack for use on XX direct mount front derailleur

For comparison, the SRAM XX rings and bolts are 68g, 25g and 15g. Weights are within a few grams of each other, and with the newer direct bolt set up, they should all but identical.

PERFORMANCE

I don’t have a ton of miles on these yet, but first impressions are good. They’re being ridden with an XX front derailleur mated to the new X0 Grip Shift shifters with SRAM’s top-end 10-speed chain. Per Eldon’s suggestion, I give the Grip Shifts a manly twist and shifting in both directions is snappy and accurate. I stand up to hammer and shift from small to big. Snappy and accurate. I hit a climb and downshift late in the game. Yep, snappy and accurate. So far, so good…good enough to provide a basic recommendation for them.  The black anodized coating hasn’t started to wear off the teeth yet, either. I’ll file a long term report later this year.

THE HACK

At top shows the front derailleur in it’s shiny factory fresh condition. The tips of the chainring teeth just barely tapped the lower edge of the cage, with the tallest of them catching just enough to cause problems, particularly at the back part of the cage where the fold is that sticks out.

Below that, the end result of my hack: a shorter outer cage plate to clear the larger chainring.

Wickwerks RRc mountain bike chainring review and hack for use on XX direct mount front derailleur

These are pre-hack. In the big ring (right), there are no issues. in the small ring, you can see where the teeth hit the cage (left).

Wickwerks RRc mountain bike chainring review and hack for use on XX direct mount front derailleur

It was a relatively easy fix. Remove the crankset, cover the chain and BB so you don’t get metal filings on them, then use a small file to grind down the cage. Wipe the cage and frame down with a damp cloth before removing the coverings, too.

Wickwerks RRc mountain bike chainring review and hack for use on XX direct mount front derailleur

All told, I only took approximately 1.5mm off the cage’s height. The 40T chainring now clears the cage (barely), and I don’t suspect shifting performance would change if I reverted back to the XX rings. On the trail, shifting is (yep) snappy and accurate and I’m theoretically able to be about 2.5% faster now. Theoretically.  I’ve probably also voided the warranty on the front derailleur.

Comments

bikedork - 07/03/12 - 11:55am

Sram does make a XX front DMD S3 derailleur that fits a 42t. I’m sure that one would work fine with these rings. Or, the Shimano E2 front derailleurs work with Sram shifters and they are adjustable from 38 to bigger.

Troll Face - 07/03/12 - 12:15pm

“I give the Grip Shifts a manly twist ”

The lols!

Bill - 07/03/12 - 12:59pm

While this is an early review, I do see some potential wear issues. Having to forcefully shift the FD to get it to perform in the same fashion as the standard rings says to me that it will cause more stress in the FD itself. This will cause premature wear to the pivots and eventual failure. The rings themselves will wear faster because there are no steal shift pins. Performance of the system will quickly deteriorate because of steal (chain) on aluminum contact. I also could foresee more broken chains from “MANLY” shifts.
P.S. A file…. really? What kind of self respecting shop mechanic or bicycle enthusiast doesn’t own a Dremel tool?

Brandon - 07/04/12 - 8:39am

“I’ve probably also voided the warranty on the front derailleur.”

Probably? Hell, who cares? Nice work.

Carytown Bicycle Co. - 07/05/12 - 7:11am

Dremel = more speed.
File = more control.

Time and place for both. Tyler made the right call here.

Chris Wickliffe - 09/11/12 - 8:12pm

Respectfully replying to Bills post. With all due respect people should speak from facts and experience and not make assumptions based on guessing about how something works or doesn’t work.
The FD is under more stress during a hard shift and will wear slightly faster on the pivot bushings, agreed, but it’s not much of a difference.

As far as the rings go you are wrong about your assumption. The ramps support the chain link from under the link pin load points during a shift, there is less wear on the chainring.

The Kenda/Felt Professional Mountain Bike racing team has raced the WickWerks MTN 2×10 rings the last two years. Each time they do maintenance they go through two chains first and don’t swap out the chainrings until the third chain, these rings last!

Amanda Carey has dominated the National Ultra Endurance (NUE) Series the last two years. She’s on track to take the title again. These are 100 mile races folks and the 40t certainly helps on a long ride. Here’s a good email I received this year from Amanda that pretty much sums it up as far as chainring durability and performance with the WickWerks chainrings.

“Thanks again for your support of the Kenda/Felt team this year.

I’ve had great experiences with the rings all year. Believe me, I put them to the test and I think they just keep getting better and better!

Thanks for everything!

Amanda Carey”

Here’s a direct comparison between our rings and the XX on the same bike from another Kenda/Felt professional racer, Drew Edsall.

“Also, one other note I meant to mention to you and Chris.

When I first got the Quarq it had SRAM rings on it. I used that as an opportunity to really compare your rings to theirs while training. Rode the SRAM rings on the same bike with the same setup for a few days, then rode yours.

What a difference. Shifting with your rings was far superior. I can’t stress how helpful this was in the race this weekend where I was shifting in the front very often to adjust to the terrain changes.

So thank you! Great product and happy to be racing on it!
Drew”
Drew Edsall
http://www.coachdrewedsall.com
Endurance Factor coach
http://www.endurancefactor.com
Kenda / Felt Pro Mountain Bike Team Rider

Our newest production run of 2×10 40/26 that;s coming out in a few weeks has our new tooth profiling enhancements to make them perform even better.

Katie Compton has raced our rings for years in some of the worst conditions possible in Cyclocross. She will be racing them on the TREK team this year on the new SRAM Red crank with our newest WickWerks CX rings, along with the Yaw FD and shifter.

If they’re good enough for Katie they’re good enough for the best riders out there!

Best Regards,
Chris

lumberjake - 09/09/13 - 5:30am

Don’tknock em till you’ve tried em. I have tried them and they are one of the larger technical bike drivetrain improvements in my opinion. To be honest, I’m very surprised that no one else thought of this sooner. I’m running a triple mtb set up and my stock big ring has just 2 shift gates, the Wickwerks have 11! All these years I’ve been easing up and gently pushing the chain up against the ring in anticipation for it to be grabbed and shifted, not anymore. Now I can just push withut worry and it shifts, now. My other bike is an old school steel stead with Suntour thumbies and I believed they were superior to trigger shifters, especially in front because I can trim and have much better feel/control over shifts which matters when you are pushing a chain against a wall of alloy waiting for something to grab or just forcing it up to the ring. My new bike with triggers has no feel ,it just indexes but with these rings, its fine because no matter when I choose to shift, up or down, theres a gate there to shift! This is a brilliant product. Easily for the price of admission. Has me wondering if my cogset could be improved with more/agressive ramps. Hmm

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