Wolf Tooth Chainring Guide

By Stan Portus –  15 October 2020

Wolf Tooth chainrings are renowned for their precision engineering, and for bringing superb chain retention to 1x set ups. This guide takes you through what makes a Wolf Tooth chainring and how to pick the right one for you bike.

Wolf Tooth chainrings are renowned for their precision engineering, superb chain retention, and compatibility with a wide range of cranksets and manufacturers.

This guide takes you through all the features and innovations that make Wolf Tooth chainrings industry leaders, and the choice of so many riders, as well as how to find the right chainring for your bike.  

Close up image showing two Wolf Tooth chainrings on railway rails. One is a 32t Wolf CAMO chainring and the other is a 40 tooth Wolf Tooth elliptical chainring

Drop-Stop® Tooth Profile

Wolf Tooth chainrings are designed for 1x set ups. The reason for this has something to do with Wolf Tooth’s beginnings.

Wolf Tooth hails from Burnsville, Minnesota, USA. This is a part of the world that sees incredibly harsh winters. The founders spend most of the year riding fat bikes in icy weather with 1x setups, due to the fact that front derailleurs don’t deal well with these conditions.

The first product Wolf Tooth designed when it was founded in 2013 was to develop 1x chainrings that would minimise dropped chains. This is something Wolf Tooth excelled at due to its dedication to using the best materials, extremely tight tolerances, and high-quality machining.

Consequently, the 1x chainrings from Wolf Tooth are the best performing and longest lasting wide/narrow chainrings on the market. Test riders around the world have confirmed that Wolf Tooth’s design provides unrivalled performance.  

Graphic showing a close up of the Wolf Tooth chainring tooth design

This is a close-up of Wolf Tooth’s patented tooth profile. The righthand side of the tooth has a very different shape than the left side. Designed so that the right side transmits force to the chain and the left side help clear mud and debris from the chain ring reduces the chance of anything dislodging the chain.

The right side of the tooth is also as wide as it possibly can be to fit the internal width of the chain, leaving no space – a feat that’s only possible thanks to Wolf Tooth’s incredible tolerances. This maximises the amount of contact between the tooth and chain, which in turn spreads the load and minimises wear on the chainring teeth.

The left side of the tooth helps guide the chain but as this side does not carry any load, it does not have to be wide. More clearance means mud can easily be washed away and less friction leading to better efficiency and reduced wear.

Wolf Tooth’s chainrings are available in 3 types of Drop-Stop®:  

Graphic showing the different types of Wolf Tooth Drop Stop technology. Drop Stop A for mountain bikes, Drop Stop B for drop bar bikes, and Drop Stop ST designed for Shimano Hyper Glide 12 speed

CAMO Chainring System

The CAMO chainring system was developed by Wolf Tooth’s engineers for Chainline And Material Optimisation (CAMO) on direct mount style cranksets.

The CAMO system works by allowing riders to attach a spider to their direct mount cranksets, and then in turn attaching a chainring to the spider with standard chainring bolts. The spiders are available for a number of direct mount cranksets including those from Shimano, SRAM, Race Face, Easton, and White Industries.

The use of a spider and bolt-on chainring introduces greater versatility into a riders’ set ups. 4 chainline options available for optimum 1x performance, and by opening up direct mount riders to Wolf Tooth’s range of bolt on chainrings there are close to 200 chainring options to cater for every last niche chainring need.

Chainrings can also be swapped out with greater ease than standard direct mount chainring. A 34-tooth ring can quickly become a 36 or vice versa, so riders can tune their gearing to whatever terrain they’re going to be taking with just an Allen key.

As the CAMO acronym suggests, material is also important here. The CAMO Spiders are made from 7075 Aluminium. This is incredibly durable, lightweight, stiff and strong. By using a spider and chainring riders can also reduce mass of their drivetrain overall further reducing weight.  

Getting the Right Bolt Circle Diameter (BCD)

The Bolt Circle Diameter of a chainring is the diameter of the circle that goes through the centre of all the bolt holes on a chainring. On bicycles this is most often measured in millimetres. It is critical to know the BCD of your crankset when purchasing a new chainring for your bike. Often the BCD is engraved somewhere on the chain ring. If not, you will have to measure the distance between the bolts.

On a chainring with 4 bolts the BCD can be established by measuring the distance between two bolts across from each other. It is probably easiest to use measuring callipers to establish this distance correctly, but a tape measure or ruler can be used.

Alternatively, you can measure the distance between two adjacent bolts and use this table to establish the BCD. This is the easiest method for chainrings with 5 bolts.  

There are always exceptions to this rule. For SRAM X7, X8, X9, X10, X11, Wolf Tooth recommends its direct mount rings.

11 speed for Shimano (Ultegra and Dura-Ace) has non-standard arm spacing. Wolf Tooth currently do not offer a solution for this application. 

Direct Mount Chainrings

Wolf Tooth provide direct mount chainrings for a number of brands, all using Wolf Tooth’s Drop-Stop® design, giving riders access to the market leading chainring design for their direct mount cranksets.

This includes Specialized, SRAM, Shimano, Specialized, Race Face Cinch, and Cannondale, amongst others. This graphic shows the different brands and design of the direct mount interfaces: 

Graphic showing the different types of Wolf Tooth Drop Stop technology. Drop Stop A for mountain bikes, Drop Stop B for drop bar bikes, and Drop Stop ST designed for Shimano Hyper Glide 12 speed