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.


BeBe Blazfemi said...

I'm really glad I came across your blog!
I, too, have been struggling with this issue. I bought a Diamondback Edgewood and was told BY the guy that sold it to me that he wouldn't be able to get a chainguard for it.
I also posted on bikeforum and maybe you told me to try Hebie? Someone did, but now that I've seen your blog, I feel more confident that it'll work on my bike.


Benjamin said...

This is an older post, but for folks who might stumble here looking for a chain guard that will work with a front derailleur, this seems a cheaper bolt on solution from OKG Japan.

Amanda said...

Being inspired by your story, I just had installed a newer hebie chainguard (368) on my bicycle. I had mine shipped to the US from the UK (SJS cycles), thankfully in about a week. It is working fine with my double chainring and front derailleur. Mine too required bottom bracket removal for install.

Tom said...

So... what model do you have and where can I order one?

pedaling fool said...

I ordered it from the Urbane Cyclist in Canada. It is the Hebie 391 model. I looked on their website and it's not on there. I think I may have called their phone # and they got my credit card and shipped it to me. Good luck!

Seri said...

Hi, I have cross bike with Sram force components 50x34 chain ring and a front derailleur. I want to purchase a chainguard that works with a front derailleur. I understand that I may have to purchase a 48 tooth chainring as part of the double chainring. What chainguard do you reccomend? The Hebie 391 or 368? Do you have a front derailleur set up with your Hebie 391 chainguard? Any help or links you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

Seri said...

I am hoping someone is still following this blog and will respond to my comments :)

pedaling fool said...

What is the size of your largest front chainring?

Seri said...

50 is the front and 34 is the back. Also I came across a brand called Horn: Would the Horn brand work?

pedaling fool said...

Your front ring is too big to recommend the Hebie 368. It only goes up to 48T. I would look for something like this:
Make sure it's metal so you can bend it, expand it, or even cut it to make it fit. It won't be the most elegant solution, but it will protect your pants from getting dirty coming from the top. I wouldn't spend too much money on it. $10-$20 max.

Anonymous said...

Hello All the way from down under Sydney Australia. Just wanted to say thanks for the useful blog. Very handy, informative and good explanations.We are the Australian distributors for HEBIE Germany and your article was useful.