I’m a huge fan of the single ring set up with no chainguide—I have been since the day SRAM released XX1. Between then and now, every one of my personal bikes has been converted to 1×11.
My final changeover was to my BMC Fourstroke 29er cross-country race bike. Because it’s spec’d with a Shimano crank the BB30 bottom bracket comes fitted from the factory with reducers and I simply did not want to mess with it when I put the bike together. That’s where Race Face’s Narrow/Wide chainring came in so very handy. All I had to do was bolt the $45 ring onto the Shimano crank (104mm bolt diameter) and I was ready to go with a 1×11. It also saved me from replacing a perfectly good crankset.
Technology behind the ring isn’t new; it’s a simple format of alternating narrow and wide teeth to hold the chain on in the same fashion as a stock SRAM ring. Additionally, by matching this to a clutch rear derailleur, which has a stiffer spring compared to a non-clutch mech (or in my case a dedicated SRAM 1x rear derailler) the stiffness of the spring helps keep the chain on as well. From all my single ring experience, I had zero concerns about the chain dropping.
The ring easily bolted right onto the crankset with no clearance or alignment issues. While I got an standard ring that uses standard male and female chainring bolts (with spacers) if I do this again I’ll opt for an even simpler to install threaded version that only needs male bolts, just like SRAM’s XX1 ring.
Over months of riding, through the summer and into the wet winter the system worked flawlessly. I never dropped a chain off the Race Face ring, not once. No matter how bumpy it got during the high speed rides of summer nor in the recent muddy wetness. I don’t have any wear issues to report either. While this makes for a pretty boring long term test to read, I can say with complete confidence this is as close to flawless that a product can come. Available sizes are 30, 32 (tested), 34, 36 and 38.