VIDEO REVIEW: absoluteBLACK Sub-Compact Oval Chainrings – 48/32 & 46/30 with Shimano Ultegra Cranks!

“absoluteBLACK, a cycling company devoted to extraordinary design, European manufacturing and production of parts that not only perform great, but also last long.” The company is well-known for their line of ovalized chainrings, but the engineers behind the scenes aren’t about resting on their laurels.

Gravel road riding and racing are here to stay, and with it has come a plethora of new products. Frames, tyres, suspension, and a push towards 1x / single chainring drivetrains from a lot of manufacturers. These drivetrains tout simplicity, but not all of us appreciate the related cassettes and their widened gaps between many of the cogs. 2x / double chainring drivetrains are used and appreciated by a lot of riders, and absoluteBLACK has recognized this, mostly in the form of some new sub-compact chainrings (link to the press release here) suitable for Shimano cranks.

JOM of the Gravel Cyclist crew reviewed these new chainring pairings of 48/32 & 46/30 with a Shimano Ultegra 6800 series 11-speed crankset. Part of his review included thrashing the 46/30 pair at the 2018 Dirty Kanza 200!

Tony Brandotti’s absoluteBLACK edition T-Lab X3.

This video is a collaboration with and, thanks for watching!

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21 comments on “VIDEO REVIEW: absoluteBLACK Sub-Compact Oval Chainrings – 48/32 & 46/30 with Shimano Ultegra Cranks!

  1. Checked out absoluteBLACK’s website for Sram 2x compatibility : Apex, and found no info, I presume they would fit as they are 110 bcd.

    1. Steve… I didn’t clarify 100% accurately, this is Shimano’s 110bcd, which uses a 4-bolt system to mount chainrings. No 4-bolt, no go. If you notice Tony’s bike in the video, you can see the Easton EC90 SL crank works.

      1. Hello JOM, thanks for your video review, I’ve been looking forward to it. Nice to see you climbing on a 30t while many were hiking it, using a double to stay out of trouble. Did the chainrings mount to the EC90 SL cranks without modification? Do the two smaller bolts of the 30t mount onto the big chainring rather than the spider? I have been using an EC90 SL with Specialites T.A. Cross Chainrings 44/30 with Race Face 120/80 BCD spider and RF134 spindle. The wide axle lets me switch between XT and Ultegra Di2 drivetrains. Thanks again and good luck!

        1. Peter, check the posting I made on the Gravel Cyclist Facebook page referencing this review. Tony Brandotti (who is the owner of the T-Lab bike with Easton EC90SL cranks) mentioned a trick or two he did to get the AB chainrings to work.

          To answer your other questions… on the 30T chainring, the 4 bolts mount flush against the 46T ring, then pass through the crank tabs, and screw directly into the 30T chainring. It is a very clever feat of engineering. Hope this helps!

          1. Hey JOM, thanks or your reply, clever feats of engineering are a very good thing, the inspiration is even better. Your posting some early Di2 road/mtn/chainline integration got me started on this. A Davis Carver designed ti road and trail designed ride has me away from home early, a plan has come together, a big thanks. Peter.

        2. Hey Peter,

          I have the 48/32 setup on my Easton EC90SL crankset. If you are going to try the 46/30 you will have a very small alteration you will need to make on the ring (as the 9100/8000 series rings have a small lip that the previous model Shimano rings that the Easton 4/110 spider is based on, don’t have). I am happy to show you what I did on my test set of 46/30 subcompacts if you were interested in doing so. That way to don’t have to switch stuff around so often and just keep one drivetrain!

          1. Hey Tony, yes, a file, a Dremel, lip be gone? With synchro shifting on Di2 road, 11-34 cassettes, RX clutch coming and dropped chain stay to get the derailleur down there are few reasons for XT/R.

        3. Hey Peter,

          Email me if you want more details on how to get the 46/30 on the EC90SL spider. [email protected]

          You shouldn’t be having chain drop issues…I have the 48/32 rings with 9170 Dura Ace di2 and an 11-30 cassette. I rode this on 23 miles of mountain bike single track two weeks ago and haven’t had any issues. There may be some chain length issues or derailleur adjustment that might be needed.


    2. The page for SRAM (5-bolt 110 bcd) rings, has a note in the compatibility section which states “For Apex cranks – please navigate to our standard 110/5 rings. “

    3. Hey Sven,

      You are correct. The Subcompact rings are only for Shimano’s 4 bolt 110 BCD cranks (at this time).

      The APEX crank is a great value, but limiting in terms of aftermarket options. A good Shimano 4/110 crank should be easy to pick up from your LBS, online or used.

  2. I’m presently running mine on a Shimano 105 5800 crankset, and upgrading shortly to a rotor direct mount crankset with the Aldhu shimano-compatible spider. All this running on an e-tap system. The secret is in the adjustment of the FD, which in some cases may be limited by the FD-mounting braze-on. Will update when I get the rotor crankset installed.

  3. Have a Trek Crossrip 2, Shimano Tiagra gearing, 50/34crank, 11-34 cassette, 2×10. Will Absolute Black cranks fit? Ride gravel, 66 yrs of age, lots of hills.

    1. Hey Joseph,

      Have you gotten a chance to check our website? I am not sure what crankset you are running, so I don’t want to give you the wrong answer without having enough information.

  4. Live here on Emporia, Ks ride gravel all of the time. I’m 66 yrs of age good shape. My question to you is will Absolute Black fit on a 50/34 Shimano Tiagra crank, 11-34 cassette, 2×10.

  5. Thanks for the review, it helps a lot. I”m looking for a new bike and can’t find anything off the shelf with the gearing I’d like. The Trek Checkpoint comes the closest but it does have a Shimano 105 crankset but a BB90 bottom bracket so the only option for low gearing on the crankset seems to be the abosluteblack chain rings. Is it correct that because of the oval chain rings the RD will be moving forward and back with every turn of the crank? Do you see any long term issues?

    1. Gene, the rear derailleur barely moves back and forth during pedaling, so I see no issue. With regular drivetrains, there is always movement during gearshifts, etc.

  6. Hi JOM
    Can you provide a long term review of Absolute Black 46/30 chain rings, I’am have an extremely difficult time of sourcing cranks in 165mm length that will take 46/30 rings (here in Australia). Currently ride 170 on road and have some knee issues and a friend recommended going down to 165 to reduce knee flexion at top pedal stroke. So ultegra cranks are easy to source in 165 so looks as if I will have to go that way. Any advice?

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