You never want to drop your chain. Whether it’s potential damage to the bike, lost time, being that person who has to say “hold up I lost my chain”, or just killing your flow, it’s always a pain and rides are much easier when you just don’t have to think about it.
Even with the derailleur clutches and narrow wide chainrings that exist these days, there is lots of chain movement while riding. Beyond chain growth, just the momentum of your derailleur causes it to extend and let the chain go slack. Don’t believe us? Just watch some slow-motion videos of bikes enduring impacts. Or if you watch the Pinkbike huck to flat videos you can watch a few chains actually bounce off the ground. It can be surprising how much chains can fly around.
With the chain moving around so much, all it takes is one bump in the wrong direction or one pedal stroke at the wrong time to knock it off the chainring. Lost chains can cause excess wear to the chainring, gouge frames if they get wedged between it and something else, damage the chain itself, or on the extreme end of things, we have had a derailleur disassemble itself mid race run because a lost chain was hanging off it. Do you want to waste 30 seconds pulling a tangled chain out of things when you have a minute of race left that doesn’t really require much pedaling? Having that layer of security where you don’t have to think about it at all makes everything from day-to-day rides to race laps easier.
Our Cascade Components full chain guide in action on a Specialized Enduro, controlling even the most extreme chain movement.
Really the only reason not to run a chain guide is weight and cost. At only 92g, it’s hard to argue that the weight penalty of our full guide is significant. In fact, if you are going to run a bash guard, you might as well run our full guide, which also includes a bash of its own and weighs less than a lot of these. On top of that, it’s non-contact so no drag is added to your drivetrain. If you want extra light, our upper only guide is 28g. Now if you just don’t want to spend the money on it, that’s your call. However, a derailleur and chain can easily cost more than a guide.
A full guide is on another level compared to an upper only guide when it comes to chain retention. Upper only guides still can lose the chain off the bottom of the chain ring. For trails where there’s a decent amount of pedaling, an upper only guide will get the job done though. If the chain is lost off the bottom of the chainring, all you have to do is pedal forwards once and your chain is back on. Once you start getting into trails that are more purely descending is where a full guide separates itself. When you are pedaling infrequently but dropping and leveling your pedals often as you would for cornering, if your chain hops off the bottom of the ring that pedal stroke forward doesn’t necessarily happen and all it takes is a small backpedal to force it through the upper guide and entirely off the chainring. For trails like these, a full guide is the way to go.
Now let’s talk about one more thing. There seems to be a stigma around running a full guide on certain bikes. Something along the lines of “this is my pedal bike, so it would be stupid to run a full guide because of the weight”. Well when that same bike has an upper guide and bash weighing over 100g, it’s actually heavier than our full guide but with less protection. So why not run our full guide instead?
Our patent pending chain guide design allows for a very simple design that is both light and effective. No clunky adjusters, no excessive plastic that doesn’t add chain retention, and no parts that look like they belong on a front derailleur. Bikes have come a long way. Your chain guide doesn’t need to look like a front derailleur anymore. The chain retention that our full guide delivers is comparable to the retention you get from a DH chain guide, but without added drag and weight. A lot of guides claim that they render it impossible to drop a chain, but few deliver. This guide delivers on the level of guides that weigh far more.