Middleburn have been the aftermarket component manufacturer of choice for discerning cyclists from the ranks of downhill, trials, street and cross-country in the UK. Utilizing the highest-grade aircraft-quality alloys in all their products, Middleburn, in more than 25 years of operation, have been able to establish a name synonymous with reliability, precision, and attention to quality ? from their high-end thru-axle hubs, to their immaculate machined headset spacers. But Middleburn not only has accolades in the bike world, but has its machine shops catered to meet various metalwork demands in a whole slew of industries. It is capable of producing custom or mass order components for precision instrumentation, healthcare & life-support apparatus, electron microscopy, automobile racing, and gas chromatography, among others. We now give you a first-hand look on how their Slick Shift chain rings have performed.
The Middleburn Slick Shift chain rings are the ideal tool when trouble-free gear changes are a priority ? crucial on technical trails or fast-paced XC competition. As an added bonus, they come in different anodized hues to suit the colour scheme of your steed. When stock rings are starting to have teeth looking more like sharks? fins, these after-market rings are a surefire way to breathe new life into your bike drivetrain. Eager to try them out, we mated one set (a grey 4-arm version in the classic 44-32-22 gearing graduation) to a pair of XT crankarms on our test bike before heading for the hills!
One quirk immediately apparent on the big and middle rings is the intentionally missing gear teeth. On the big chain ring, there are two pairs of missing teeth, with each missing tooth spaced five teeth away from the other. The ?missing teeth pair? will pass through the front derailleur whenever the left or right crank arm is in the 3 o?clock position ? where the force exerted by the rider is theoretically the strongest. On the middle chain ring, the 4 missing teeth are at 12, 3, 6, and 9 o?clock positions. The design is said to improve the speed and fluidity of down-shifting even under power. Each ring is machined from 7075 T6 aluminum plate, and features stainless pick-up pins at each missing tooth. A surprising lack of any pick-up ramps suggests that up-shifting relies solely on the ability of the pins to grab and lift the chain.
In use, the computer-aided design of these chain-rings offer flawless shifting, relying on the pick-up pins and ?missing teeth? design to pick up and drop the chain with alacrity. The teeth themselves are highly robust, along with the rest of the chain ring spider. Compared to the Shimano XT chain-rings (the highest-end 4-bolt chain ring from that company), the Middleburns are at least one and a half times thicker. This feature will no doubt come in handy in obstacle-strewn technical conditions, where the chances of the big ring contacting a thick log or a big stone are high. After some 350 kilometres of mixed terrain riding, plus several instances where the bike was forcibly manhandled, stacked, and leant against other bikes, all teeth remained intact and the cranking action hiccup-free.
We did notice, however, that the grey colouring on the teeth (inevitably) wore off, exposing black bare metal that had already gone the rounds with the oily chain lube grime.
The quick shifting up front afforded by the Slick Shifts is sure to be welcomed by performance-seeking XC racing snakes, particularly those who spend a lot of time pushing the big chain-ring. Yet the tough and thick plate material used in its construction is robust enough for downhill, free-riding, and technical all-mountain applications. It is also available in the 5-bolt configuration. The available chain ring sizes range from 20 to 48 teeth in increments of 2 teeth, and they come in five different colours: Silver, Grey, Black, Red, and Blue.