Last fall the folks at SKS sent me a new Chainboard to review. For years I’ve been carefully cuffing my right pant leg but was still getting grease on the cuff — not very stylish and certainly not practical especially in the colder months.
Before the Chainboard, my bike was a lot like most bikes with an exposed chain.
Finally in the winter, I got the Chainboard installed on my commuter and really put it to the test for the winter commutes – and it performed!
On my former commuter I had installed the SKS fenders, so I had high expectations for durability and quality from this aftermarket chainguard system. As SKS says, this part is made of a combination of shock-resistant plastic elements and SKS-Chromoplastics-Technology to give it advantages of being both extremely lightweight with higher stability. It’s also designed to fit most bikes and accommodate both front and rear derailleurs. I’d been seeking some chainguard system comparable to the ones I’d seen on urban Dutch bikes, but was having trouble since I needed it to fit my commuter with its 5-speed cassette.
Now that it’s nearly summer, I have logged quite a few commutes with this Chainboard and it’s still going strong doing what it’s supposed to do – transforming my old Schwinn Worldsport (with 5-speeds) into a bike I can take anywhere without the muss and fuss of pant cuffing. For me, though, old habits die hard and I still often find myself cuffing so as to keep the pant leg from flapping mindlessly in the Chicago wind.
Luckily my friend Alfredo who works as a mechanic assisted with the installation of this accessory. (Disclaimer: While I do not consider myself a star bike mechanic, I do like to think that I could do certain repairs and maintenance when necessary. I do usually default to my local bike shop for their added expertise and efficiency, though.) To properly install the Chainboard, you will need the right tools and have some good bike maintenance knowledge – or simply visit your local bike shop.
When Alfredo first tried to install the Chainboard, he faced a few challenges. I had received a detailed set of installation instructions which clearly state to check the specs of your crank to verify its compatibility with the Chainboard. For my bike, the problem came when trying to install the Chainboard between the bottom bracket shell and the bottom bracket itself and the resulting impact on the spacing for it to fit properly with crankset, and it affected the chain-line. For installation on my particular bike, he simply changed the position of the chainring to align it better and so it wouldn’t brush against the Chainboard. He also had to cut it to at the end to fit the geometry of my bike; the Chainboard comes rather long so that it can adjust to fit nearly any size bike.
From start to finish, the installation is a somewhat laborious process, but well worth it in the end. However, purchasers may want to factor installation costs/time into the cost of this product. My local bike shop would have charged about $35 for the total labor involved: removing the crankset and bottom bracket, replacing them and adjusting the chain-line and finally cutting the piece to fit … plus any adjustment of a front derailleur (which my bike does not have).
Once installed, however, the Chainboard does usually allow for easy access to make adjustments to the chain or derailleurs and keep all components clean. My only difficulty came in the Spring when my stretched out and gritty chain skipped and fell off the chainring; the chain had fallen between the Chainboard and the chainring and just required a bit more patience on my part to get the chain back in place.
My mechanic friend Alfredo’s assessment reaffirms my own – that this Chainboard, despite being plastic, holds up well, does not add much weight, comes in a variety of sizes to fit most chainrings and adapts to nearly any bike; the only drawbacks may be the installation costs and the slightly added difficulty to reach chain if a problem occurs when on the road.
This SKS Chainboard does come in several sizes to fit nearly any bike setup. I got the largest size – 199 mm, 46 – 48 teeth – since my front chainring is a 46.
Now – I have read and heard from others that this Chainboard is ugly and not stylish. Well, my commuter El Toro is black and the all black Chainboard sleekly blends and hides the grease from the chain and the front chainring.
So, beauty is in the eye of the beholder – and I think El Toro looks just fine – and me arriving without greasy clothes or legs is even finer.