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Over The Bars

Gear Review: Blackspire Super Pro X Chainrings
By Rob Manning

Finally, a replacement for the 960 is here.

The only XTR replacement rings worth your hard earned money.

Ring me up
Shimano cranks are known to be the top of the heap in terms of MTB performance, but they have always had one fatal flaw: Shimano chainrings are soft and wear quickly. Couple that with a proprietary bolt pattern on the XTR 960 cranks and you're facing expensive chainring replacement quite often. Honestly, it doesn't feel good to have to spend upwards of $90 to replace a couple chainrings with the same soft stock rings that come with Shimano's cranks. Luckily, the Canadian based Blackspire has come up with a solution to that problem.

Enter the Super Pro X series of chainrings. Specifically, we're talking about the XTR compatible rings that replace those soft stock pieces. These sexy matte black rings are CNC'd out of 7075-T6 aluminum alloy making them tougher and longer lasting than the soft stock rings. They also feature modified shift gates with special profiles to ensure accurate shifts. The middle and outer rings have been outfitted with strategically placed stainless steel pins to further aide in shifting duties. Finish up the whole package with a matte black anodize and laser etched graphics and you have something that looks better than the original. The real question, then, is how do they perform?

After having some issues with my 960 stock rings wearing out quickly, I was pleased to be installing the Super Pro X rings on my cranks, hoping for (if nothing else) longer life. That being said, in the amount of time I've ridden these (a solid 4 months of winter muck) I would have worn out at least one set of stock rings, but the Super Pro Xs are still showing barely any wear. The first thumbs up goes for longevity, which is always a nice thing when you're going to spend a hundred bucks on chainrings.

Blackspire Super Pro X Chainrings/Bash
Weight
22T Ring 27 Grams
32T Ring 45 Grams
44T Ring 81 Grams
Ring God65 Grams
Bike Setup
Front ShifterSRAM X.0
Front DerailleurShimano XTR 970
CranksetShimano XTR 960
Contact:Blackspire

Shimano rings are known to be smooth shifting, there's no question about that. While the Super Pro Xs aren't ramped and pinned the same way stock rings are, they are impressively smooth shifting in their own right. To be absolutely honest, I'm not known to be a gentle rider; when I need to grab a gear, I'll do it whether it's a good time to shift or not. I experienced no hesitation or complaint from the Super Pro X rings, and there was no chainsuck to be had either (chainsuck tends to become a problem as the rings wear and get gummed up.) Even in awful sticky mud and glop I've had zero issues with these rings crapping up and screwing up my shifting. That's a definite second thumbs up for the Super Pro Xs.

Lord of the Rings?
For those days when I know I'll be leaving the big ring at home in favor of a bash guard, I was delighted to know that I had an option other than the ugly hand-cut steel bash guard I had been forced to use. My salvation came from the Blackspire Ring God XTR. Designed exclusively for the XTR's odd bolt pattern, the Ring God XTR is a lightweight aluminum bash guard designed to replace the 3rd (outer) ring on the XTR crankset. Matching the Super Pro X rings, it is made from 7075-T6 aluminum, anodized matte black and laser etched to look just as sexy as its toothed bretheren. In terms of strength, this baby handled all the harassment I could dish out to it; rocks, logs, hornets nests, water and even bits of metal couldn't dent or ding this beast. Well, maybe a surface scratch here and there, but that's the extent of the damage. After the same nasty 4 months of schlocky conditions, it's still in perfect working and looking order.

Overall, there are limited options for replacing the rings on XTR 960 series cranks, but Blackspire has cornered the market with a set of aftermarket rings that simply blow away the stock offerings. Longer life, shifting that's just as smooth as OEM, excellent looks and a bash guard that looks and acts the part puts this set well ahead of any competition out there.

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