It doesn't take a genius to come up with the idea of an "ovalized" or elliptic chain ring (that's the big cog connected to the pedals): there are sections of the pedal stroke which feel harder than others simply because you are using your body weight to move the pedals round and gravity only acts downwards; with an elliptic chain ring, the effective gearing changes throughout the stroke to compensate. The genius is in how to market such a thing in the year 2010 when Shimano famously flopped with this idea - the fatally flawed Biopace rings - back in the '80s.
What I couldn't understand until recently was, why on Earth did they put the hardest gearing at the "dead point", when your feet are at 12 and 6 o' clock? Surely this just makes it even harder! You have to remember that the motto of the 80's was "NO PAIN, NO GAIN" and so anyone who complained that something was "hard" was just being a pansy. The idea was, for a constant cadence, to increase the bike speed via the harder gearing to compensate for the ineffective dead spot. I actually got a chance to try them out when I borrowed a friend's bike to train on during my summer holidays in the UK: my friend said that he had stopped riding it because - surprise, surprise - it hurt his knees.
Nowadays, of course, its all about being more efficient, avoiding injuries and overtraining, massages etc. How easy the elite athletes of today have it (only kidding)! This translates into a simple 45-70 degree rotation in the elliptic rings et voilà - you have the Rotor Q-Rings. The gearing is such that you can get more work on in the part of the stroke where your muscles and gravity are working together (and it is easier to get past that sticky dead spot). What Rotor has managed to do where all others have failed, is shake off the skepticism and derisive laughter that has tended to accompany all but the roundest of chain rings. They have even used by several riders in the Tour de France.
So I was pretty astonished to find them in my local department store. Its probably because they are designed and made in Spain but, still, you can't even buy a bike that is not a mountain bike in the same shop. There being a recession and all, I thought I would do my bit to help Spain out and to reduce the PIGS to just a PIG.
(By the way, according to the Rotor manual, elliptic chain rings have been around since 1890. In those days they were neither optimised for speed nor for efficiency but for comfort: the maximum gearing was in the horizontal position and the minimum gearing was at the dead spot. This is surely a tribute to the advances of modern technology, that in just 120 years - a mere sneeze in time scale of Human Evolution - we have gone full circle. I mean ellipse.)