Rene Herse 11-speed Chainrings in New Sizes

Chainrings choice. It’s one of the main attractions of our Rene Herse cranks – together with light weight, supreme reliability and, dare we say it, good looks. So when we presented our first 11-speed chainrings, it was only a matter of time until the program was expanded. Now we are introducing our 42/26 and 44/28 chainrings, which complement the 46/30 rings already available in our program.

More than two years ago, we asked our chainring suppliers about 11-speed chainrings with shifting aids. Their answer was: “No problem. We can machine generic ramps into your rings and rivet in a few pins, too. We do that for many companies.”

But that was not what we had in mind: We didn’t want ramps and pins that are more cosmetic than functional, and don’t really help with shifting. As with all our parts, we wanted our 11-speed chainrings to equal the performance of the best in the business.

That was the start of our most ambitious R&D project to date. Since that first conversation, it has taken more than 2 years, hundreds of engineering hours, dozens of computer models, and thousands of testing miles.

As always, our first step was to research what others had done. It soon became obvious that only the very largest component makers have developed well-shifting ramps and pins. Understanding their thinking allowed us to come up with improvements and modifications that would make our rings work at least as well as theirs, while preserving the shape and interchangeability of our Rene Herse rings.

After we had developed our new chainrings in concept, we printed models on our 3D printer. These rings weren’t strong enough for riding, but they allowed us to visualize how our ideas work in practice.

Then came the big step: Commissioning prototype chainrings – easily recognizable by their unpolished surface. The complex shape of the teeth requires a 5-axis CNC machine, so we can’t make them in-house. As one-offs, they are very expensive, so we had to be sure of our design before we ordered them. Fortunately, they worked as well as we had predicted. I rode them for a few thousand kilometers last year, including in the Volcano High Pass Challenge and at the Bicycle Quarterly Un-Meeting. I’m happy to report that they really do perform as well as the best rings you can get from the big makers.

After we introduced the 46/30 rings, we continued developing the other sizes. Each ring is a separate project, and each ring is designed to work only with a single inner ring: The teeth of both rings must line up in a particular way to get a good shift. The pin must hit the chain in the middle of a link and not at the pivot, otherwise, it doesn’t really do much to lift the chain. And then the chain must mesh seamlessly with the teeth of the big ring. That part is actually the hardest. Most makers look at the problem from a static point of view, but to optimize the shifting, you need to consider that the chainring is spinning at 90-120 rpm. The downshifts require other parts of the chainrings to be relieved, so the chain can pass to the inside without having to climb over the teeth first. There is a lot to it, and much of it is a trade secret.

What happens if you use the new rings with different inner rings? Nothing bad, it’s just that the upshifts aren’t much better than without ramps and pins. During downshifts, you’ll still benefit from the optimized tooth profiles that allow the chain to move smoothly off the big ring. (With downshifts, the chain always lands on the small ring, so it’s not important to have a matched pair of chainrings.)

I’ve been testing the new sizes over the summer on some epic rides. I’ve really appreciated the smallest combo, the 42/26 during a solstice ride around Mount Hood in Oregon. I ride it like a 1×11 most of the time, but with smaller steps between the gears. And when I need a really small gear, I shift to the small ring.

Natsuko really likes the 44/28 combination, and she can’t wait to try the new rings on her C. S. Hirose. The 46/30 is perfect for fast road riding. I use that combination on my randonneur bike. We are excited to offer all these sizes with 11-speed compatible, smooth-shifting chainrings.

The new chainrings work equally well with 10- and 9-speed. They are designed to work with all shifting systems – STI, Ergopower, DualTap, but also bar-end and downtube shifters. There is only one thing to keep in mind: They are designed to work with Shimano’s Ultegra chain. The pins have to be designed with a specific chain in mind, and we found that the Shimano Ultegra chain works best. Use the Ultegra chain that is appropriate for the number of cogs you run, and you’ll enjoy the fastest, smoothest shifting you’ve ever experienced on a bike – while running chainring combinations that perfectly match your riding style. Coincidentally, the Ultegra chain shifts better on the rear, too, no matter which cassette and derailleur you use. (On my Firefly, rear shifts became a lot crisper with the Ultegra chain, even though the bike uses Campagnolo derailleurs and cassette.)

Many of you will like that we’ve made the chainrings backwards-compatible. If you have a set of Rene Herse cranks, you can just swap the large chainring for an 11-speed one. The rest of the crank is unchanged. It’s part of our commitment to sell you only what you need, rather than forcing you to buy a complete new crankset just because you want to upgrade to 11-speed.

The new chainrings are in stock now. And as with all René Herse cranks, we offer free world-wide shipping (on Rene Herse cranks and brakes only).

Click here for more information about Rene Herse cranks.

About Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

Spirited rides that zig-zag across mountain ranges. Bicycle Quarterly magazine and its sister company, Compass Cycles, that turns our research into the high-performance components we need for our adventures.
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43 Responses to Rene Herse 11-speed Chainrings in New Sizes

  1. David D says:

    I am building a cyclocross/gravel bike are these suitable ie; durable for use in cyclocross or off road riding especially the cranks?

    • The Rene Herse cranks have been tested to exceed the most stringent EN “Racing BIke’ standard for fatigue resistance, so they definitely are suitable for road racing, cyclocross and gravel racing. In other words, they are as strong and durable as any other racing crank out there. (Most other ’boutique’ cranks only meet the much-weaker ‘Trekking/City Bike’ standard.)

      The only thing they aren’t suitable for is huge jumps as you will do in downhill mountain biking.

  2. I’m delighted to see smaller and smaller chainrings being made available. What I find amazing is that so many people still use 39/53 rings despite being almost impossible to use on hills. Thanks for continuing to make a great product.

  3. Francisco says:

    Some time ago I made detailed drawings of some Campagnolo chainrings. I was surprised to find out that they were not “perfectly syncronised” (meaning that the diagonal distance between chainrings at the pins and ramps did not correspond to a round number of chain links). Now I know why!

  4. Doug Powers says:

    I am building a new bike with SRAM front derailleur and brifters. Will these rings work?

    • Absolutely. They are designed to work with all shifting systems. However, make sure to use a Shimano Ultegra chain. It’s the best-shifting chain, regardless of which derailleurs and cassette you use. (I added the compatibility to the post, as it’s a question many readers will have.)

    • Tom in MN says:

      You will need to worry about the front derailleur cage clearing the chainstay. With a 42 large ring on one of my frames a 105 Shimano fd hits the chainstay, but it clears on my other one. Shimano has a FD-CX70 cyclecross fd with a shorter cage that solved my problem. I don’t know if Sram makes anything similar. So your fd/frame combination may limit the smallest large chainring you can use.

  5. Dan Artley says:

    How would these work with a triple on Ergo 10? I’m using a 26x38x46 with an 11-28 IRD cassette and SRAM chain. Now I have an issue with the chain getting trapped between the 38 and 46 and have to over shift up, then back off to center in the middle ring. The bike can easily live in the middle ring for most riding with the 26 providing excellent gear range for all climbing. Will ramps/pins be on 38’s anytime soon. I’ll be fine with switching chains to Shimano if it would shift better.

    • Triples make a lot of sense for many riders. Your example is a good one – the 38-tooth is perfect from most riding, but not quite large enough on gentle downhills, with strong tailwinds, etc. Going to a double will mean that your 46 is too large for even small hills, and you’ll shift far too often on the front. Having that in-between ring is useful…

      Unfortunately, triples are tricky from a component design perspective. There are so many possible chainring combinations, and no clear favorites. We’d need hundreds of different chainrings… Beyond that, the shifting is trickier, too: The middle ring must be designed for both up and downshifts.

      So currently, there are no plans to make ramped-and-pinned rings for triples. The current rings work great with fewer gears and wider chains – up to 9-speed, there is no trouble at all. 10-speed can be a bit marginal, but you are one of the very rare users of a 10-speed triple drivetrain… I’d switch to a Shimano Ultegra chain and see whether that improves things. Using a 46-tooth ring with ramps and pins will help a bit, too, as the spacing is a bit closer, so there is less risk of the chain getting caught between the rings (even if the actual ramps and pins won’t do much for your shifting performance).

      • Greg Parker says:

        That 26-38-46 is also good because the 38 is less likely to “hide” between the other rings when shifting.

        26-36-46 would be bad, for example.

  6. Susan says:

    The crankset and chainrings are beautiful – should I be concerned about the non-standard bolt circle? I’m building a tandem and the other problem is that I’d like to use a Gates belt as the timing “chain,” but there doesn’t appear to be a compatible Gates chainring.

    Thanks!

    • Unfortunately, we don’t offer chainrings for belt drives. However, a chain works just as well for the timing transmission.

      As to the ‘non-standard’ bolt circle, we looked at the ‘standard’ designs, but none of them offered the features we wanted: Unlimited chainring choice and ultralight weight. Since then, most modern cranks have gone to proprietary chainrings. At least with Rene Herse, you know we won’t change the design on a whim, and we’re committed to supporting our customers in the long run.

      • Bill Schairer says:

        Can you elaborate on “unlimited chainring choice”? I would love to see some odd tooth count choices for middle and outer chainrings as I find it seems to be easier to get nice half-steps with an even/odd middle/outer chainring combo (e.g. 42/45 or 44/47). Nobody, including TA, seems to make odd tooth count rings anymore. I don’t buy the argument that 9, 10, 11, 12 cogsets make a 3x irrelevant. No matter how many cogs you have on the rear, the jump from 11 to 12 or 12 to 13 or 13 to 14, so no and so forth, is going to be the same. I can cut those jumps in half with a half step setup. No matter the range one can get with a 1x whatever or compact double, one can get more with a triple and no matter how close one can gear a 1x or 2x whatever for a given range, one can do better with a triple, assuming “unlimited chainring choice.” That assumption seems to be the real limiting factor these days.

        Bill

      • You are right, half-steps are a special case. Few people use them any longer, but they are appealing on long grades where you want to find just the right gear. My favorite combination is 48-44 with a 14-28 5-speed freewheel. It gives the most evenly spaced gears, while using a freewheel that is commonly available even today.

        As to odd-sized chainrings, there simply is too little demand to warrant the large minimum quantities we’d have to make… Sorry!

      • snilard says:

        Bill, You may have odd chainring from this Czech company: https://www.gebhardt.cz/cs/silnice-cyklokros/prevodniky-a-kryty

  7. Vlad Luskin says:

    A 42-tooth outer ring — head spins…

    • We prefer to spin our legs! 😉

      Seriously, on a bike with 650B x 42 mm tires, pedaling at 130 rpm, a 42-11 will have you racing along at 62.5 km/h or 39.0 mph. That is fast enough for most of us.

      If you want to go faster, we do offer larger rings for the Rene Herse cranks – all the way up to a 52, which gets you up to 80 km/h (50 mph). For motorpaced record attempts, you’ll have to look for other cranks – and spin faster than 130 rpm!

    • Peter Chesworth says:

      I’ve been on 42/26 for a couple years Vlad. Always solitary so no pace lines or anything, but just the right selection of gears with an 11/28 cluster. The whole cluster is used.

      • Ford Bailey says:

        What do you know, I am setting up my TA cranks with a 42/28. More usable gears. It is fun to go over 60 mph, but it’s not happening where I live…

      • Vlad Luskin says:

        At juvenile 56, I still think I can be the rider I was 30 years — and gears — ago. At l’Eroica it’s still 52-42 for me. Well, at home, I’m happy with 33-48 and 11-28.

      • I sometimes ride my old racing bike – 52/42 – and I find that the 42-21 gets me up most hills. But I have to work as hard as I did when I was racing!

  8. What historical, cultural, theoretical & practical reasons drive manufacturers’ choices about chainring and cassette spacing? Most (sub-)compact cranks: 16t gap. ‘Normal’, ‘racing’ gearing: 13t. Ye Olde Days ‘racing’ gearing: 10-12tt. Meanwhile, SRAM 11 sp 11-28 cassette: 11-12-13-14-15-16-17-19-22-25-28. Shimano: 11-12-13-14-15-17-19-21-23-25-28. I happen to prefer the SRAM option. And a 14t or less chainring gap makes sense for *me* since I’m faster overall with close ratios arranged around the speeds I mostly ride at, plus some lower “bail out” gears. I don’t care about overlap or the huge gears I’d only use for speeds over 50 kmh. For me, on pavement or gravel, and unless I’m carrying very heavy loads, momentum is more important than range. My recent favorite: 50-39-24 x 11sp 14-28. By accident I now have 50-34 x 11-40—a wide range but noticeably slower. I’d be hopeless, especially on pavement, with a wide-ratio 1x set-up, but to each their own. I’m not asking here about individual preferences, and I know there have to be compromises for manufacturers, but I assume (naively?) there’re reasons and some research behind manufacturers’ choices. What are they? For instance, in your case, why 44-28 and not 42-28? Is it just for derailleur compatibility?

    • The larger the gap between the rings, the steeper the chain has to climb and the harder it is to get a clean shift. That is why most drivetrains limit the gap to 16 teeth. Smaller is no problem – for less than 10-teeth gap, you really don’t need ramps and pins, as the chain will just scoot over to the next ring. An extreme were the old half-steps with 4-6 teeth between chainrings. The shifting was buttery-smooth.

  9. Jon Blum says:

    I did an interesting experiment by accident last year. I have an early 2000s Shimano Ultegra 9-speed triple crank. After cleaning the chainrings, I accidentally reinstalled the middle chainring 72 degrees out of position (1/5 of a turn). Shifting onto the middle chainring was OK, but going from the middle to the large chainring was horrid (and I was using friction shifters, so this was not an STI issue). I’m not too fussy about shifting, but this was bad – much worse than my old crank with no pins and ramps at all. Moving it back to the correct position solved the problem. I was surprised that it was so hard to shift off the malpositioned ring; I had wrongly assumed it was all about the ring I was shifting to. A good lesson – these things really are made to work as a unit, so pay attention to the alignment.

  10. Tom says:

    Jan, would a Shimano chain other than Ultegra (e.g, something like a Shimano HG71) work well with these chainrings? I’m thinking of swapping my “regular” 46t Herse chainring for a ramped/pinned version, but I use an 8-speed cassette in the rear.

  11. Stephen Poole says:

    It’s good to see the new, smaller sizes – thank you. What I’m wondering is how well or badly things might shift with other combos. 44×28 or 42×26 would be perfect for me for touring, but for things like PBP I’d prefer a smaller gap, say 42×32 or 30, provided it might still shift acceptably under no load. Is this likely? (Shifting was really miserable with non-matched TA rings and 3×10, possibly the worst case scenario.)

    • The rings really need a clearly defined chain path from the small to the big ring to work optimally. Otherwise, the pin won’t hit the chain link in the middle, and the chain probably will just glance off. So I wouldn’t recommend it, but on the other hand, the pins and ramps won’t hurt compared to a standard ring without them.

  12. Frank says:

    Hi Jan and Compass. Any plans to make a 1 x chainring? Best. Frank

    • We are thinking about it. It wouldn’t be hard to make. What size would you (and others) want?

      • Frank says:

        Hi Jan. I’d like a 38 please. Thanks! Frank

      • Matt Gilkey says:

        I second the 1 x chainring. Perhaps 42 would be a nice size? Thanks for considering this. Compass always seems to make my bicycle parts dreams come true!

      • Ford Bailey says:

        It’s a great idea- given the flexibility in sizes allowed by the BCD of the Herse cranks. I think Karl S. (who previously commented) has the right idea. I do like the option of a small 1x chainring in combination with a wide range cassette for really gnarly, steep trails. Otherwise there aren’t many cranks that can do that and still look good …

    • Karl Sanchez says:

      Here in mountainous Boulder, CO, I’ve had great experiences with a 38t ring and a 10-42 cassette on your Rat Trap Pass tires. I think for a lot of people running 1x (in the road/all-road sense) a range from 36 to 44 teeth would be great, with 38,40, and 42 being the most common sizes (based on anecdotally observing others’ bikes).

    • Rick Thompson says:

      Call me an idiot, but what makes a chainring 1x specific? Is it the ability to do alternating thickness on the teeth?

      • With a 1×11, you will be cross-chaining in the extreme gears. If you use a standard single-speed chainring, the chain will derail unless you use a chainguard. (A front derailleur also serves for that purpose.) By alternating thin and thick teeth, the chainring can mesh perfectly with the inner and outer links of the chain. That means there is less play, and the chain always runs centered on the chainring, so the danger of it derailing is much-reduced. (However, if you derail, you need to put the correct link on the correct tooth to get going again.)

  13. Austin says:

    crisp shifts complement
    such a versatile combo
    42 x 26

  14. Jeff says:

    Is it possible to eliminate the sexist “granny” phrase from our sport?

  15. Do you recommend using the 11 speed or 10 speed ultegra chain with an otherwise 10 speed setup? Just wondering because you mention using any ultegra chain helps with the shifts up the chainrings, but I think the 10 speed chain is shaped differently than the 11 speed chain, with the 10 speed sideplates being asymmetrical and the 11 speed being symmetrical.

    Thanks!
    Toby Whitfield

  16. Tony Hunt says:

    Next a Compass groupo!

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