Alternative replacements available for massive Ultegra outer ring.
I have one of those modern 10 speed, grey-ish colored outer rings. The ones that look like it has Star Wars stormtrooper mask parts on it, if ya know what I mean. I am not a racer, and I bought the bike used. Instead of paying 100$+ for a replacement ring, can I use a cheapy 30$ replacement more traditional looking ring?
Besides the aesthetics part of it, can I use any ring to replace as long as the toothcount, 10-speed, and bolt spacing is the same?
Are you looking for a replacement chainring because you think your current one is worn? If so, just in case you don't know, modern chainrings have teeth with varying profiles, some teeth very pointy, some short and flat, others a weird fin shape. These are designed that way to help shifting, so you may not need to replace it.
Aftermarket chainrings on the Ultegra spider look funky, IMHO...
Rings not designed as a pair might work nicely or tolerably together, especially if you don't need to shift fast or under power.
But be prepared to go back to the shop for the matching ring. The old 52-42T is a difference of 10 teeth, but 53-39T is 14 teeth and that is not so easy to shift without special features which are possible with a matched pair.
I find it hard to believe anyone can make rings which are simply "better" than Shimano's, other than better value for money if you don't need slick shifting under heavy load. Ring design needs a bigtime engineering research budget that aftermarket players just don't have.