2013 Review: Rotor Chain Rings – Q Rings

Rotor crankset with Q-rings
Rotor crankset with Q-rings (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After reading up on the Q rings I anticipated their arrival. From the wonders of promises of 3% increased power and lower heart rate and lower knee stress to the view of some that “they make no difference” to the views of others that they constrain the pedal stroke.

What real effect would they have on me and my cycling?

3% more power might translate to 10W or 1 second per Km.

In preparation I did a few of my standard sessions and recorded some pre-Q ring stats.

First impression after my first session: The first 5 minutes of warm up felt natural. Your legs do still pedal in a circle despite the ovalness of the rings of course! I found there was no adaptation of my technique required – then again I just get on a pedal normally anyway. Albeit to a reasonable standard.

Despite advice to the contrary, I tried to some one-legged drills and they were fine even in an aero position. If anything the occasional dead spot in my stroke was further reduced (my pedalling technique is reasonably good and the rings at least made no difference, perhaps they improved it slightly…hard to say).

Possibly in warm up my cadence was naturally increased slightly and possibly default power was slightly increased. Or I could have been excited about my new piece of kit. You can’t really say. It does feel different but as I say not unnatural.

However once the real effort started, the first session felt harder than normal – noticeably so. Then again the documentation with the Q-rings clearly state that you have to expect a period of muscular adaptation to take place. So that was to be expected.

The gearing is different. So a certain power at a certain cadence is different with the Q-rings compared to the circular ones I had before. Therefore to match either the cadence or power to what you previously maintained is not exactly possible. But you should be able to see, for example, trends in heart rate for a given power output change over time. We’ll see!

Also I would say that I have been experiencing a small amount of right knee pain over the last few weeks. I experienced no knee pain with the first Q-ring session. Great!

Based on one session you would NOT buy Q-rings. As I write this I am way too tired for the aftermath of what was supposedly a sweetspot session. My heart rate was not especially elevated above what I would normally turn out. But well before half way through I was struggling through a session that I would normally say borders on straightforward. Clearly different muscle groups are being used in subtly different ways. My body clearly has not yet adapted to this after one session.

Day 2 On the turbo: Another sweetspot session. I’m taking it easy at present – probably in some sort of maintenance mode. So this sort of session should be OK for the adaptation that ROTOR suggest. They recommend 500km road miles for full adaptation – some way to go yet. I wasn’t expecting today to be any easier than last time. Again the session was quite a bit harder then pre-Q-Rings. This time I tried both higher (98) and lower (78) cadence intervals at constant power. Both had elevated heart rates compared to normal.

Week 1: Well week 1 is now up. I’m nowhere near the recommended 300 miles but I would say that already quite a bit of adaptation has gone on. At the end of my sessions I don’t feel anywhere near as tired as I did at the start of the week on my first session. In fact today’s session was above a sweetspot pace by 5% and my Friel HR zone was borderline zone 2/zone 3. IE probably a bit lower than it should be. I’ve been playing around with cadence’s all week as well and have seemed to settle on a slightly lower cadence than I normally would. Spinning seems to raise my HR too much too quickly. As my knee pain has significantly reduced I’ve been able to put my seat back up to where it should be. I did that today and experienced no knee pain afterwards … maybe the higher seat was what accounted for the better power:HR ratio rather than the rings? Anyway the higher/normal seat position certainly felt better than pre-Q-Ring days; I could feel a longer power element to the stroke. Marginal I admit but there nevertheless. I’m going to faff around for another 2 weeks before I go for a CP20 test. I have been doing quite a bit more bike/swim sessions than normal as my achiles are a bit shot and I can’t run.

Moving into week2 I would say that maybe I could be getting a bit more power, it’s hard to say. I would say that I still haven’t treid them out on the roads at all yet…just the slightly unreal world of the turbo. Anyway one thing I was worried about before buying was the shifting. I read that it could be problematic. To be honest I’ve had no shifting problems on the front 2 cogs at all. I have had problems on the back but more likely that is due to a banged up derailleur and corroded shifting cable! When really putting the power down I’ve found that the chain (a new one) seems to wobble and bang a bit into the front derailleur and also catch a bit on something on the rear. So something is wrong with the setup there. I have however always found that my turbo wheel and disc do shift differently…maybe there is a different spacer in there somewhere. All I’m saying is that I can’t put the blame squarely on the Rotors.

Week 3. OK I’ve done the adaptation bit now I think. The stroke feels natural. If anything I would say it feels slightly smoother. All I have to do now is some re-tests to verify if my power has increased. Although one month down the line it has hopefully increased because of the month’s training. Ho hum.

Month 2:

Well time has moved on. I did a personal time trial of mine today. I got within 30 seconds of a PB. Endurance-wise I’m fitter than when I set the PB but I’m lacking a bit in the power end of things. I found the uphill bits today easier than before – but how do you separate that from me being fitter (in certain respects, but not other respects). You could argue that I’m slower and that’s because of the rings….personally I don’t think that is the case. I’d say they possibly helped a bit.

Also my 2x 1km averaged sprint time is VERY close to my PB. (That’s from a rolling start). Again I’ve had to lay off training at the upper end of my power range for several  months and yet here I am close to a PB (pretty close actually, I think I could actually beat it). Again can this be due to lots of longer rides or a few various bike/position mods that include the ROTORs? You can’t say of course.

I’m still not properly allowed to re-take my CP20 as I would take that as a fairly pure benchmark. I can’t see how that could possibly be where it was at the start of the year. We’ll see.




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