absoluteBLACK has joined the oilslick-finish craze with its PVD 1x Oval Chainring, but it offers more than sub-zero cool looks – it's also offering performance gains. It’ll leave a gaping hole in your wallet where your money used to be, though.
Getting straight into it, the PVD chainring is essentially absoluteBLACK’s usual 7075 aluminium model, but with a special titanium nitride coating. It's applied by a process called physical vapour desposition – hence the PVD.
It's pretty trick, and not easily achieved: the hard coating material is vapourised in a vacuum, then sprayed onto the ring in a super-thin layer. As a result the exact finish is unique, though it can be tweaked for more gold-purple or more blue/green-purple on request... though even that can’t be guaranteed.
It's not just for looks, though. Titanium nitride coating is 2-3 times as hard as the usual anodised finishes. That has obvious benefits for a component that’s under considerable duress and open to the elements.
On test we have the PVD chainring with a direct mount for SRAM, but it’s also available for Race Face cranks (also £110) or Shimano cranks for £116. It comes in tooth-counts from 28 to 34.
Installation is as easy as any other SRAM mount chainring, and I reckon that on my bike, it looks rather sharp.
Circles are so yesterday
I’ll admit, I’m already an oval ring convert. I believe they level out my power output, and I generally find them much more comfortable to pedal, especially up tough climbs. Round rings are usually binned in favour of their oval counterparts as soon as possible on my bikes.
Though £110 is definitely a serious blow to the bank account, there are clear – if very marginal – gains to be had. Against the £30 ring I was running before, my drivetrain is noticeably smoother and of course, a good-looking bike is a faster bike… right?
A secondary benefit to its excellent looks is its resistance to wear. I’ve been running the PVD chainring for nearly seven months. As you can see from the picture above, it's fared rather well – the teeth still have a good profile, and there's little wear in between.
The biggest factor, though, is price – the machinery and painstaking care involved in the PVD process is considerable, and it doesn't come cheap.
For £110 you can buy nearly four Works Components oval rings, or get two Hope Oval Spiderless Chainrings (available in six colours) and keep a tenner to spend down the pub. And both options seem very likely to outlast a single PVD chainring – as good as this is, it's hard to see it lasting a minimum of 2-4 times longer than an anodised ring.
We haven't tested this to the end of its service life, of course, so we can't say for sure. Plus the manufacturer's claims don't get more detailed than it being 'very durable.'
We can say, however, that accident damage is still possible and would be far more consequential than with a cheaper chainring, so on that score the absoluteBLACK ring is a little vulnerable.
So really we're back to looks. While Hope offers colour options, neither those or the Works Components options get you that truly unique finish, and the absoluteBLACK PVD chainring is made in very limited numbers, too. So you also get the bragging rights of running a pretty hard-to-find bit of kit.
The absoluteBLACK PVD chainring weighs very little and offers marginally smoother pedaling than a regular round ring, but for pure performance there's little between this and plainer oval competition that costs far less. It's an impressive piece of engineering, but unless you really want the bling looks and bragging rights, it’s a tough spend to justify.
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