Chain Guards

Chain guards are a must-have component on bicycles that are ridden primarily for transportation. Chain guards keep clothing from getting caught in the drivetrain, keep grease off of street clothes, and in some cases, protect the chain from the elements. There are three general types of chain guards, each with their respective advantages and disadvantages.

Full Chain Cases
Advantages — Full chain cases completely enclose the chain, front chainring, and rear cog. They fully protect the rider’s clothing from the drivetrain while also offering the major advantage of protecting the drivetrain from rain and road grime.

Full Chain Case — Breezer Uptown 8

Disdvantages — Full chain cases are relatively heavy, they’re not compatible with front derailleurs, and some designs can make repairing flats on the roadside difficult. The best insurance against being stranded because of a full chain case is running highly puncture-resistant tires and tubes combined with liquid sealant.

Chain cases are commonly spec’d on European utility bikes, but they’re rarely seen in the U.S. One of the few bikes from a U.S. supplier that comes outfitted with a full chain case is the Breezer Uptown 8 shown in the above photo.

Partial Chain Guards
Advantages — Partial chain guards cover the upper run of the chain from approximately 3 o’clock on the front chainring back to the seat stay. When most people in the U.S. think of a “chain guard”, this is what they’re thinking of. Like full chain cases, partial chain guards protect the rider’s clothing from being soiled or caught in the drivetrain. Partial chain guards typically weigh less than full chain cases and they provide unrestricted access to the rear wheel for roadside repairs.

Partial Chain Guard — Civia Hyland

Disdvantages — Partial chain guards are not compatible with front derailleurs and they don’t protect the drivetrain from the elements.

Chainwheel Discs
Advantages — Chainwheel discs are essentially chainrings without teeth that take the place of a second or third chainring on a double or triple crank. They provide a fair amount of protection, they’re lighter than either partial chain guards or full chain cases, and they provide unrestricted access to the rear wheel for roadside repairs. Their greatest advantage is that they allow the use of a front derailleur. The chainwheel disc shown in the photo replaces the third chainring on a triple crank, providing some protection while still enabling shifting between the inner and middle chainrings.

Chainwheel Disc — Sugino Triple Crank on a Surly LHT

Disdvantages — Chainwheel discs don’t protect the drivetrain from the elements and they only partially protect the rider’s clothing from the drivetrain.

19 Responses to “Chain Guards”

  • bongobike says:

    Alan said:
    “Disdvantages — Partial chain guards are not compatible with front derailleurs and they don’t protect the drivetrain from the elements.”

    Not so, my friend! Velo Orange sells this one from the SKS folks, which works with front derailleurs and up to a 48 tooth chainring:

  • Alan says:


    Well lookee there, I’ve never seen that one… cool! Thanks for the link… :-)

  • Barbara Kilts says:

    I’ve seen some budget-priced triple chain wheel commuter bikes at Performance – Schwinn, I believe – with a plastic chain guard notched for the front derailleur. Not very beautiful, but effective. The trickle-down is making some of these bike reasonably useful!


  • Andy says:

    I thought chainwheel discs usually bolted to the outer chainring, leaving all 3 chainrings in situ?

    This certainly is te case with Shimano chainwheel discs.

  • Jim says:

    “Chain guards are a must-have component on bicycles that are ridden primarily for transportation.”

    I can hear bike mechanics across America collectively groaning at that statement! Personally, I have little use for any chainguard beyond the chainwheel disc type, which I use on several of my bikes. I also have a partial guard on my Raleigh Sports. I don’t ride that bike often, but every time I do, I think about how much I despise that chainguard as it rattles and clanks and catches the inside of my shoe on the upstroke. As far as I’m concerned, the disadvantages of most chainguards greatly outweigh the advantages, which I explain to every person who comes into my shop in search of chainguards. I say, “here, take these, for free. I took them off some other bike because they were causing problems. Good luck!”

    We have some budget “comfort bikes” from Torker that feature 3×7 derialleur gearing with a chaniguard, similar to what Barbara mentioned. Some other cheap bikes come with a disc type guard that is essentially riveted onto the outer chainring, as Andy mentioned. Most partial and disc type chainguards on cheaper bikes seem to be more of a liability protection than anything – it’s an obstacle to keep the amateur mechanic from sticking his fingers in the chain/gears with any of the other benefits being a distant second consideration.

  • Zweiradler says:

    I have to agree with bongobike. My partial Horn Catena chainguard is also compatible with my triple front derailleur. No problems!


  • Alan says:


    I hear you on cheap chain guards. What we need are more high-quality chain guards designed for specific bikes such as those on the Civia and Breezer shown above. Both of those guards work wonderfully and are well-integrated into the design of the bikes, both functionally and visually.


  • Alan says:


    There are two types of chainwheel discs, those that replace a chainring, and those that bolt on the outside of a chainring. The type that bolts on the outside of a chainring are typically only spec’d on low quality bikes and can cause problems with chains jamming – I’d stay away from them myself.

  • Erik Sandblom says:

    Great summary Alan.

    I find a partial chainguard together with a nice low mudflap on the front fender/mudguard is a great combination. It’s simple, it keeps everything clean, and it reduces chain maintenance.

  • Joe says:


    Regarding this article I have to say that:

    -the chainwheel discs are not only for low spec bikes. Even the top Shimano groups have holes on their cranksets for them. You must check some German trekking bikes to see that they have bikes with them up to Deore XT. Here is an example

    -most partial chainguards we have in Europe allow for the use of a front derailleur. Check the whole Orbea trekking range as an example. Even American models too (check the Trek T-30).

    Thanks for the web, I always find something interesting!!

  • Bertram Klein says:

    Check out the closed chain guards from Hebie in Germany for internal gear hubs:

    They can be taken off easily without tools and completely enclose the chain. I have used one for over a year now and I am quite happy with the performance. They have the same advantages as the completely enclosed full chain cases, but do not make problems when you need to access the rear wheel.

  • Scott says:

    Betram – Those Hebie guards are hard to locate. I’ve heard they rest on the chain itself (no attachment to the frame), so even when very well-lubed, there is some drag. How much drag is there? I’m guessing it’s no big deal for short-distance city riding, but what about a 10-12 mile (round trip) commute?

  • Alan says:

    Thanks for the information everyone. I’m glad the post brought out information about alternatives other than those I covered.


  • Alexander says:

    I have a Hebie ChainGlider on my bike as well. (I’ve used it for almost two years, on two different bikes.) In my experience there is a little hum — which I can only hear when it’s extremely quiet (like at night) or my chain is bone dry — and I hear it bounce a little over bumps, but there is little problem with drag. I leave my bike outside in all weather, and I do need to relube after long, heavy rains, but the chain in general stays well-protected.

    At least when I bought mine, Urbane Cyclist in Toronto was the North American distributor, and I ordered direct from them. (I still don’t see them on their website, so send an email or give them a call.) I also have heard of Bikefront, but I’ve never dealt with them.

  • Rachel says:

    Does anyone know where I could buy a chrome or vintage chainguard? I’ve seen the one Velo Orange sells, but looking for something really pretty to go with my honjo fenders! I appreciate any ideas!

  • Alan says:


    You might contact Mike at A.N.T. He’s speccing a “vintage” chainguard on some of is bikes:


  • Daniel says:

    I live in france and aI need a black or pink chainguard for an “old dutch”classic Gazelle.
    Does anybody knows where I can get this part?

    thank you in advance

  • Erik Sandblom says:

    Daniel, try contacting Gazelle through their website.

  • Daniel says:

    Thanks Erik, they do not seem to have the chainguard on line. I’ll end up going to Amsterdam if I cannot get them thru the web.

© 2011 EcoVelo™