You might have considered a chain guard, depending on how hard you ride. But are they worth the added weight, or are they more of a vanity accessory?
Most modern mountain bikes have eliminated chain guards because the bike design and pursuit of weight savings eliminated the need. A chain guard will not function on a full suspension bike. The elimination of the chain guard can save between 100 and 200 grams. Finally as a cultural fad, a chain guard is associated with leisure cruiser style bike and not the extreme sport image mountain bikers emulate.
But if chain guards provide protection, why don’t more bikes have chain guards? Let’s get into this and find out.
This article will discuss the following:
- Why bikes do not come with chain guards installed on them
- Should you install a chain guard on your bike
- How to install a chain guard
- How to prevent chain grease from staining your biking pants
Bikes do not have chain guards to make them as light as possible. Chain guards can increase a bike’s weight, so many riders opt not to use one. Modern bike chains are also more durable and efficient, so they do not need a chain guard to protect them.
That is, until you’re bashing over rocks, logs, or other items.
Let’s tackle all the things you need to know about chain guards, so we can help you decide whether or not you should have one installed.
Why Don’t Bikes Have Chain Guards?
Enduro, XC, and downhill bikes could all benefit from a chainguard, yet they will only come with one installed. Why? Because most riders don’t beat their bikes hard enough to warrant the extra weight and expense.
chain damage can be challenging to repair, so it is ideal to protect it from anything that can get in its way. To prevent chain damage, having
a chain guard is a
perfect solution. However, it isn’t everyone’s choice. Many riders opt out of installing one.
According to the worldwide governing body for cycling, Union Cycliste Internationale, the minimum weight of a bicycle used for competitive cycling is 6.8 kg (13.23 lbs).
For this reason, cyclists try to remove as many accessories as possible to reduce the load of their bikes. Even if a chain guard is not too heavy, even the slightest weight addition can impact the performance of a bike.
However, you may wonder if a bike chain guard helps the chain at all.
Modern Bike Chains Are Pretty Durable
Another reason why today’s bikes do not have chain guards is that bike chains have become more durable than they were before. The continuous advancement of technology allowed bicycle part manufacturers to improve their bike chains’ quality, durability, and efficiency. For this reason, modern chains do not need chain guards to protect them from potential damage.
Sheng-Peng Zhang and Tae-Oh Tak of Kangwon National University conducted a study in 2020 and found that modern bike chains have an efficiency of 98.8%.
Furthermore, some cyclists prefer their bike chains bare for aesthetic purposes. Not having a chain guard covering the bike chain adds to the bike’s character, thus making it look better.
Install a chain guard if you don’t care about the weight of your bike and prefer to install protective accessories. Or, as mentioned, if you beat your bike up on the trail or have bent chainrings, you might want a chain guard and bash guard.
Looking for Some More Ways to Help Your Bike Last
- Regular maintenance will keep you pedaling for years. Read – DIY Mountain Bike Maintenance Schedule
- Everyone wants a new bike, find out when it’s time to buy with this article: Repair Old Bike or Buy New – Options
- DIY Mountain Bike Tune Up – A Complete guide to what to repair and how.
Should You Install A Bike Guard?
Cyclists still debate whether or not a chain guard is a necessary accessory for a bike. Competitive bikers opt not to add a chain guard to their bike to keep them as lightweight as possible. However, casual cyclists may find that there are benefits to installing the said accessory.
Mountain Bikes – Do They Need Guarding Accessories?
Mountain bikes are intended for riding on trails. For this reason, they have high-quality and durable parts, including a chain, that will not easily acquire damage when something gets in their way. That said, keeping your bike chain naked is ideal for most riders.
A bike chain guard will also add weight to your mountain bike. So, it may be a good idea not to install a chain guard.
Chesterfield anesthetist Dr. Jeremy Groves conducted an independent study for the British Medical Journal. He discovered that the most apparent benefit of using a lightweight bike is evident during ascends. Using a lightweight bike for uphill climbs results in a more leisurely ride with more energy conserved.
For this reason, it is ideal to keep your mountain bike lightweight by removing accessories, such as:
- chain guard
- water bottle holder
- excess bar tape
How To Install A Chain Guard
If you plan to add this accessory to your bike, it is worth noting that the installation process does not require a professional. Instead, you can do it on your own as long as you have a step-by-step guide that you can follow.
Below are the steps to installing a bike chain guard:
Position your bike securely
The first thing you need to do when installing a chain guard is to find a stable position for your bike. This step is easy to do if you have a bike stand.
Alternatively, you can turn your bike upside down so its handlebars can provide stability. I recommend a decent bike stand if you are going to work on your bike often.
Position the chain guard on the bike
Most chainguards, depending on the type, will cover either the front sprocket (like the guards on kids’ bicycles) or it will go on the rear hub between the cog set and spokes.
Depending which type of chainguard you are using will determine installation. Typically, rear wheel guards require the removal of the rear wheel. If you aren’t one hundred percent comfortable with rear wheel removal and reinstallation, I recommend taking the bike to a shop.
It won’t be a big deal if you tinker with your bike as I do. You just remove the wheel, and the rear cog set, place the chain guard over the hub and reinstall the cog set and the wheel.
For front gear chain guards, the installation is usually easier. Typically the guard consists of the cover plate and two frame mounts. These mounts will clamp around the frame on the vertical tube (the one that holds the seat post, except mounting lower by the bottom bracket) and the cross-frame tube that extends from the bottom bracket up to the vertical tube, which holds the fork and handlebar assemblies to the frame.
Usually, the clamps are relatively easy to install, and you will only need a Philips screwdriver in most cases.
Tighten the screws
Before tightening the screws, measure the space between the chain guard and the bike chain. Ideally, you want the chain guard to be a quarter inch or so away from the chain. If you do not have anything to measure the space between the chain and the chain guard, simply make sure that you can insert your index fingertip in between.
Spacing for a rear wheel guard isn’t something you adjust, so don’t worry about this circumstance.
After positioning the chain guard correctly, tighten the screws, starting on the back bracket. (source)
How To Prevent A Bike’s Chain From Staining Your Pants
One typical problem cyclists with no chain guard face are greasy pants. If your pants are loose and flapping while you pedal, chances are they will come in contact with the chain, causing its grease to stain the pants. Such can be a problem, as grease is tough to remove once the cloth of your pants has absorbed it.
You may think of installing a chain guard to prevent this problem. But if you think this solution will not work for you, these are some tricks that you can do:
Use pants cuff clips.
If you like using loose pants when biking, a trick to preventing greasy pants is to use pants cuff clips. This tool will allow you to hold the bottom of your pants, preventing them from flapping while pedaling. However, pants cuff cliffs may come off when you pedal fast, so tuck them securely.
Tuck the bottom of the pants into your socks
Protecting your pants from chain grease is a matter of style. Another trick you can do is tuck the cuffs of your pants into your socks. The socks will hold the pants, keeping them from getting in the way of your bike chain.
Wear shorts instead of pants
If you are biking in the summer, you may prefer to wear biking shorts instead of pants. It would be best to protect your shoelaces, as they can get caught up in your bike chain. Generally, you want to avoid clothes that can interfere with the moving parts of your bike, especially the chain. When a piece of clothing gets in the way of your bike chain, it can cause it to drop from the chainring. If this happens, you will have to stop your adventure to put the chain back in its place. (source)
You should either install a chain guard or try these tricks if greasy pants are often your problem. Whether you use a chain guard is a matter of preference, so you should assess your needs.
Do You Need A Chain Guard For Your Bike?
Chain guards are more of an accessory that I consider valuable for one of three reason
s: vanity, for younger riders, and to save your bike from dropped chains or bent chainrings. Your bike will still work perfectly even without a chain guard, but if it’s a kid’s bike, you may want to install one and save their pants (they
‘ll do a good enough job of wrecking their clothes without help from the bike).
As mentioned, if you tend to go over many rocks, logs, or other items that could smash your chainring, then a chain guard and bash guard combo is a wise choice.
If you install a chain guard, the MRP AMg V2 Chain Guide is ideal.
MTB Tools I Love and Recommend
I own each of these tools and only recommend things I own and use.
- Bike Hand Bike Repair Stand. Nice mountain bikes don’t have a kick stand so keeping your MTB safe but conveniently stored is essential. I keep my bike on my stand whenever I’m not riding it. This makes it easy to lube the chain, inflate the tires and adjust the derailleur. Highly recommended – Bike Hand Bike Repair Stand (👈 Link to Amazon to see what thousands of others have said)
- A basic MTB toolbox for replacing a chain, adjusting brakes and dialing in the fit. Bike Hand has a 37-piece box that has most of the specialty bike tools to keep your MTB properly maintained. The Bike Hand brand is value packed for the avid rider. Check out the competitive prices with this link to Amazon 👉 Bike Hand 37 pcs Bike Repair Tool Kit
- Get a good air pressure gauge, if you get just a tiny bit serious about MTBing you’re going to start playing with tire pressure. A couple psi can make your tires sticking or not. Get a good gauge, I highly recommend the Topeak Smartgauge D2, it’s accurate, flexible and easy to use. An Amazon best seller, here’s a link 👉 Topeak Smartgauge D2
- Carry a multitool with you on every ride. I’m serious, most of the time you can MacGyver something to get back to the trailhead if you have a multitool. I’ve got the Crank Brothers M19, it’s worn, rubbed and abused – but it still works. Thousands sold on Amazon – check it out with this link 👉 Crank Brothers M19
David Humphries is the creator of DIY Mountain Bike. For me a relaxing day involves riding my mountain bike to decompress after a long day. When not on my bike I can be found wrenching on it or making YouTube videos at 👉 DIY Mountain Bike Read more about David HERE.
- UCI: Union Cycliste Internationale. Clarification Guide Of The UCI Technical Regulation. https://archive.uci.org/docs/default-source/equipment/clarificationguideoftheucitechnicalregulation-2018-05-02-eng_english.pdf. Accessed January 14, 2023.
- Zhang, Shengpeng & Tak, Tae-Oh. Efficiency Estimation of Roller Chain Power Transmission System. Applied Sciences. No. 10. (2020) 3. DOI: 10.3390/app10217729. Accessed January 14, 2023.
- Groves, Jeremy. Bicycle Weight And Commuting Time: Randomised Trial. The British Medical Journal (2010). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c6801. Accessed January 14, 2023.
- Electric Bike Company. How To Install A Chainguard To Your Bike/How To Remove Your Chainguard. Youtube video. February 26, 2022. Posted By Electric Bike Company. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i12L6ZwJxbg. Accessed January 14, 2023.
- Gavin Wright. Cycling For Dummies. USA: John Wiley & Sons, 2011. https://books.google.com.ph/books?id=uNP53v7qNewC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_atb&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=chain%20guard&f=false. Accessed January 14, 2023.