Monday, December 17, 2007

A Chainguard: Making Your U.S. Mass Market Bike More Commuter Friendly

I think that one of the problems that commuting by bike fails to gain so much traction in the U.S. is because most of the bikes sold here are “fun” bikes. Fun in that you have your road bikes that are fast and can make you feel like you’re in the Tour de France. Or fun like those mountain bikes that can absorb the high impact bobbles as you pedal up and down a cliff. However, both these style of bikes leave a bit to be desired for the commuter.

Again, I take you back to the European and Far Eastern bicycling scenes where the majority of bikes you see are sturdy, upright, comfortable and equipped for the types lifestyles, including clothing, of commuters. One of the key aspects of these bikes are chainguards. These serve to protect your pants from getting soiled, caught, maybe ripped by the chain down there. Most U.S. bikes do not have protections for greasy chains. How can I overcome this?

I posed this question to my chums in the bikeforums ( and their overwhelming response was “use ankle straps.” I have some problems with this solution: One, it is a real pain to put these on and off everytime. Two, you tighten the straps too much and they interfere with your cycling; your circulation seems constricted. Three, you attach them loose and they drag down on long rides, sometimes exposing your pants to the chain.

My solution was to install an aftermarket chainguard that could be attached to your basic mass-produced American sold bike. Chainguards do exist for this purpose, but most seem to be for single speed or hub geared bikes where the chain pretty much stays in a static position. For a “triple” bike, a bike that has 3 gear rings up front, there is not much available.

It took me a while to find a product such as this. Again, most were sold for the Far East or European market. I finally found the Hebie 391 chain guard that was advertised to fit a triple front bike. It was pricey. I paid $40 + $15 shipping from the Urbane Cyclist in Toronto. It took me a full month for me to receive this guard (thank you slow Canada Postal Service shipping). Urbane Cyclist is apparently the only supplier that carries the 391 in N. America.

I didn’t know what to expect. I thought it would be a clip-on thing that I could install, but it wasn’t. As you can see from my pix, you have to remove the crank and loop it next to the bottom bracket. I didn’t have the tools to do this so I took it to my LBS. It fit with no problems. It works fantastic. It is great to be able to get on your bike and go.

With the installation fee that I paid, it almost cost $100 to get this part installed. It shouldn’t be that expensive, but maybe with more people buying this, and economies of scale, prices can drop. I’m sure you can get something like this on your bike for far cheaper in Europe or Japan. I don't live in those countries so this'll have to do.