The demands of high-octane gravity riding and aerial acrobatics – as seen in the disciplines of Downhill racing (DH), Freeride (FR), Enduro and Bike Park/Slopestyle – have led to the evolution of specialised parts.
Among these are chain guides (also known as chain devices or chain retention systems), which are designed to ensure that your chain stays securely in place over rough terrain.
Read on to find out more about the different types that are available and to help you choose which one is right for you.
Which chain guide do you need?
Chain guide design varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, with each claiming advantages over their competitors, but the principles remain the same.
The majority of chain guides consist of a machined aluminium back plate which attaches to the frame at the bottom bracket. Mounted to the back plate are one or more guides through which the chain travels, keeping it securely in place. The number of guides used will vary from product to product, with some designs incorporating a guide at the top and bottom, and others just using a bottom guide.
Again, guide design will vary from product to product – some manufacturers use rollers or jockey wheels to keep the chain running smoothly while others feature enclosed sliders which it is claimed will save weight. Whatever system is used the idea is to keep the chain running through the guide with minimal friction and noise.
Chain guides are typically used in conjunction with a bash guard, an alloy or polycarbonate plate that is fitted to the chainset in place of the largest chainring and which prevents rocks, logs and other trail or racetrack obstacles from damaging chainrings.
Many new chain guides also feature an integrated bash guard to eliminate the need for a separate bash ring. This typically takes the form of a shaped piece of polycarbonate which attaches to the back plate of the chain guide and protects the vulnerable underside of the chainrings from impacts. Again, the idea behind this is to save weight, but most can be removed if the rider prefers to used a ‘normal’ bash ring.
Chain guide parts may become worn over time or damaged in crash impacts. A wide range of spare and replacement parts is available including guide sliders and rollers, adaptors and backplates, bolts and mounting clamps, upper and lower guide bodies and more.