This will come as a surprise to many folks but SRAM didn't actually invent the chain-security-enhancing alternating tooth thickness concept used on its XX1 chainring. As such, the company doesn't hold a patent and there's a flood of other labels now following suit. Race Face's Narrow/Wide chainring is one of the most recent examples and it's an outstanding choice for 1x riders who want to ditch their chain guide.
The idea behind the Narrow/Wide chainring is the same as SRAM's X-Sync: alternating teeth are made extra-wide to more fully fill the gap between the side plates as the chain passes through. Meanwhile, all of the teeth are also a bit taller than usual to further prevent derailment. It's a gloriously simple concept and best of all, it actually works.
The Narrow/Wide chainring features alternating tooth profiles for surprisingly impressive chain security even without a supplemental chain guide
We tested the Narrow/Wide chainring on several bikes over a wide range of situations, from general cross-country riding all the way up to six straight hours of lift-assisted downhill runs at Trestle Bike Park in Winter Park, Colorado. Even with no chain guide in place – but with a clutch-equipped rear derailleur – we never suffered a single dropped chain.That being said, we'd still recommend running at least some sort of minimal guide for full-on downhill racing or burlier enduro courses.
This sucker runs whisper-quiet too, with well-shaped teeth that carefully keep the chain on track regardless of what cassette cog you're using, plus no sliders or pulleys from a supplemental chain guide – which also cuts weight – to create any additional racket. Durability has been pretty good, too, with average wear over a couple of months of regular use.
Graphics are laser etched so the chainring will look good regardless of which side is facing out
Even better, Race Face offers the Narrow/Wide in a broad collection of sizes from 30 up to 38 teeth, all using a standard 104mm bolt circle diameter (unlike SRAM's proprietary XX1 pattern) and in your choice of four anodized and laser etched colors. The 30-tooth ring is notable, too, for its slight inward offset and integrated female threads so as to clear the chainring tabs.
Weights are fairly average, with a 32-tooth sample coming in at 38g while a 34-tooth chainring is slightly heavier at 43g. Pricing is reasonable compared to similar options, too. Standard rings run from US$43.99 to US$49.99 (£44.95 to £49.95), while the more heavily machined 30T option costs US$59.99 (£49.95).