Chain guards were once a standard feature on most bicycles. These curved pieces of metal or plastic sit just below the chain to prevent grease and lubricants from flicking onto the rider’s clothes.
However, if you visit a bike shop today, you’ll notice chain guards are increasingly rare on newer models.
In this article, I’ll explore the reasons behind modern bicycles don’t have chain guards.
I’ll also talk about whether you need a chain guard. If you don’t, I’ll also show you how to protect pants from bike chains.
Why Don’t Bikes Have Chain Guards?
Bike without chain guard is not a design oversight, but rather a deliberate choice made by manufacturers and riders alike.
Here are some of the reasons why bikes don’t have chain guards:
One of the biggest factors in the decreasing use of chain guards is the pursuit of lighter bike weights. For racing and high-performance bikes, shaving off even a few ounces can make a difference.
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Chain guards can add several ounces to a bike’s weight, which can affect its speed.
Removing chain guards is an easy way to save weight without sacrificing function.
One reason why bikes don’t have chain guards is that they can detract from the bike’s aesthetic appeal.
Chain guards can make a bike look clunky and unappealing, especially on high-end road bikes or mountain bikes.
Many riders prefer the sleek, minimalist look of a bike without a chain guard. This pursuit has led many bike manufacturers to omit chain guards.
Plus, bikes with chain guards are often associated with leisure riders and not serious cyclists.
Another reason why bikes don’t have chain guards is because they can make maintenance more difficult.
Chain guards can make it harder to access the chain and derailleur, which can make it more difficult to clean and lubricate the chain. This can lead to increased wear and tear on the chain, which can shorten its lifespan.
By not having a chain guard, riders can easily access the chain and derailleur for maintenance and repairs.
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Plus, chain guards can collect additional dirt, grass, and debris too. This buildup necessitates cleaning the chain guard, which some view as a hassle.
Removing chain guards trims a small amount from manufacturing costs. In a competitive bike market, the savings add up.
Leaving them off helps create marginally cheaper bikes without a real loss of function.
Are Bicycle Chain Guards Necessary?
While chain guards have become less common, there is still an argument that they provide tangible benefits and should remain a standard bike feature.
For some riders, chain guards are still a required accessory:
- Commuters wearing work attire want to avoid grease stains on their pants.
- Parents hauling children in bike seats don’t want kids exposed to flinging chain lube. Guards prevent messes and stains.
- Riders in rainy areas. Chain guards keep water and road grime from spraying up.
- Those who bike in long coats, dresses or kilts appreciate the protection guards provide.
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Basically chain guards prevent grease stains on your clothes.
Without a chain guard, the chain can easily rub against your pants or skirt, leaving behind unsightly grease stains that are difficult to remove.
Other Pros Of Chain Guards
Chain guards prevent the chain from coming into contact with dirt, debris, and other environmental factors that can cause damage.
This helps to extend the lifespan of the chain and reduce the need for frequent maintenance.
Chain guards can also enhance your safety while cycling.
They help to prevent the chain from coming off the sprockets and getting tangled up in the wheels or other parts of the bike.
Plus, chain guards help to improve the performance of your bike too.
By keeping the chain clean and free from debris, they help to ensure that it runs smoothly and efficiently.
How To Protect Pants From Bike Chain
For riders who don’t want to install a chain guard but still need to keep their pants clean, there are a few good alternatives:
Use Ankle Straps/Clips
One of the most effective and convenient options for keeping your pants away from bike chains is to use ankle straps or clips.
These accessories attach securely around the pant leg a few inches above the ankle, effectively shortening the pant length and keeping fabric from dangling near the chain and gears.
Ankle clips for cycling come in a few different styles:
- Simple elastic bands that stretch to grip the pant leg snugly. The Zefal Swan Road is a popular example.
- Velcro straps like the VeloChampion Pant Cuff that wrap around and attach firmly.
- Plastic clips with rubber grippers that clamp securely to hold the cuff in place. The Origin8 Pro-Grip Cuff Clips use this style.
Roll Up Pant Legs
Rolling up the right pant leg takes more effort but is a free option.
Roll pants snugly just below the knee. Use athletic fabrics that will stay up without unfolding. Rolling both legs evenly looks best.
Choose Pants Strategically
Slim fitting pants or leggings with elastic cuffs already keep fabric away from the chain. Drapier pants pose more risk.
Water-resistant fabrics also repel chain lube effectively.
Pedaling smoothly without excessive force slashes unneeded chain slap.
Taking it easy on uphills and accelerating gradually reduces chain motions that can grab pants.
There are a few reasons why chain guards aren’t commonly used on bikes.
Chain guards add weight to the bike, which can make it harder to ride, and they can interfere with the bike’s suspension and derailleur system, which can affect the bike’s performance.
Plus, chain guards are often associated with leisure bikes, rather than high-performance bikes, which can make them less appealing to serious cyclists.
How Can I Protect My Pants From Getting Caught In My Bike Chain?
One way to protect your pants from getting caught in your bike chain is to wear pants with a tight ankle cuff or to roll up your pant legs. However, this may not always be practical or comfortable. Or you can install a chain guard.
Can You Add A Chain Guard To A Bike That Doesn’t Have One?
Yes, it is possible to add a chain guard to a bike that doesn’t have one. You can purchase a chain guard that is compatible with your bike’s make and model and install it yourself or have a professional do it for you.
Keep in mind that some bikes may not be designed to accommodate a chain guard, so it’s important to check before making a purchase.