Crankset 101 Understanding Chainring


If you have just purchased your first high-quality bike, you may have noticed that you now have a chainring bolt just inside the spindle. Less expensive bicycles often have these welded on, but on a high-quality bike, you now have the ability to remove and replace your chainring as needed. These are usually included in your crankset, but you have the chance to change it out as well.

Let’s say we’re talking about a one speed bike with a one speed crank. You’ll have a 3.18mm chainring for one speed bikes.The spikes (called “teeth”) in the wheel engage the links in the bike chain in order to transfer energy to that rear wheel. For that reason, it’s extremely important to use the right size and design of chainring to ensure that the bicycle can move.

You can always ask for help from your local bike shop, but chainrings are generally anywhere between 1.98 mm and 4.98 mm. BMXers sometimes refer to these as the sprockets, and they’ll tend to use sizes 3.18 mm and above. Incidentally, that’s the same recommended size chainring for one and three-speed bicycles. Bicycles that are five-speed or more (for example, road and mountain bikes) need to have narrower chains, so your chainring needs to be narrower as well. These tend to be 2.38 mm or less.

Bike chainrings (just like those one speed cranks) can be made from aluminum, titanium, steel, or carbon fiber. Professional cyclists no doubt have their favorites, and the folks at your local bicycle shop probably do as well. Experts tend to agree, though, that the material makes minimal difference. For your standard one speed crank and chainring, it probably does not matter at all. Don’t be afraid to ask the experts about their preferences, and give them a try to see what you have an affinity for.

A true bicyclist is nothing if she doesn’t know the anatomy and maintenance of her bike. Start with your one speed bicycle and learn to use the crankset. Try to build wheels on your own. Acquainting yourself with the basic functioning of the bike will start giving you an intuitive knowledge of how it operates and what materials work best.

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