Review: SKS Chainboard

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.

sks chainboard

Before the Chainboard, my bike was a lot like most bikes with an exposed chain.
before chainboard

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!
after chainboard

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.
up close
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.
sleek chainboard on bike

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.
riding with chainboard

Review Disclaimer


21 Comments

  1. ACHTUNG! June 4, 2010 3:48 am 

    Most bikes have an unprotectet chain?
    Silly americans, even in car loving Germany most bikes ave some sort of cover to keep your pants away from the chain.

  2. tadster June 4, 2010 5:29 am 

    Thanks Achtung, you sure put us silly Americans in our place! I guess Germans don’t wear shorts.

    …anyway…

    I don’t think this chain guard looks bad at all. In fact, I kinda like the look of it. The curved top adds a bit of dash to an otherwise straight lined bicycle. At first I was put off by what looks to be a more complicated than necessary mounting scheme, but come to think of it, it appears to attach much more securely than chainguards that just clip on to chainstays and downtubes (see Redline 925). The price appears to be about $25 online, which might be a tad expensive, but still reasonable.

    Elizabeth, if you are worried about looks, I would raise your front fender a little bit 😉

  3. Elizabeth June 4, 2010 5:57 am 

    @ tadster – glad you like the look of the Chainboard. My commuter continues to be a work in progress and I think it looks good. As for my front fender, it’s purposely low so as to keep road spray off my feet – successful so far – and modeled after the low fenders with mudflaps seen on Dutch bikes.

  4. Rob E. June 4, 2010 6:58 am 

    I don’t know, I think $25 is extremely reasonable. I’ve been looking at much more expensive metal solutions. The only thing comparable to SKS in pricing is the Hebie, as far as I know. I think the skipped chain problems are not limited to SKS’s part. I used to ride an ancient Schwinn that had a great chain guard that would also make life difficult if the chain ever jumped. I have on old Sears bike now with the same issue. But those times are few and far in between, whereas the chain guard functions well and helpfully every time I ride, so it’s worth the occasional inconvenience. Thanks for the review. I think the lack of chain guards in the US are a direct result of our focus on bikes as recreation rather than bikes as transportation. It’s good to know that are still options for those of us trying to use bikes as our primary way of getting around.

  5. Ghost Rider June 4, 2010 7:00 am 

    Elizabeth, you mentioned adjusting for a front derailleur…does the Chainboard even have the capability to work with an FD? Most chainguards don’t, but some of them have windows cut out to allow the FD to work. I don’t see such a window on this one.

    I rather like the way this thing looks…I may just add one of these to my citybike (with a currently-unprotected chain! GASP!).

  6. RL June 4, 2010 7:50 am 

    I think it looks pretty classy. My Torker Cargo T has a chainguard and its great!

  7. Jack June 4, 2010 9:09 am 

    Hi Elizabeth I like this Chainguard,it does the Job and looks great I dont think it looks ugly. In Europe most City and Commuter Bikes have Chainguards as standard.

    They are usually all on the style of this one being Plastic. The Traditional Dutch Bikes have Metal ones as well as Mudguards and Coat Guards. I have a Raleigh LX City Bike which has a Plastic Chainguard not much different than this one and it came as standard as well as Mudguards.Your Mudguards is alright it does the Job and does not look bad.

  8. MJ June 4, 2010 9:24 am 

    What about no chain guard and $1.99 bicycle clips on your pant cuffs?

    This has worked well for me for 40 years.

  9. Elizabeth June 4, 2010 10:54 am 

    @MJ – Actually I have a pair of hi-vis yellow reflective velcro straps that work well. But sometimes they slip down and part of the pant leg flutters. This chainguard is added security against the pant leg getting damaged and/or greasy.

  10. Murali June 4, 2010 12:54 pm 

    For quite some time now, I have been searching for something like this. When I google for “chain guard”, I only find a bunch of adhesive strips that go on the chain stay to keep it from getting dripped on.

    It is incomprehensible to me that such a key piece if cycling equipment is hard to find. I commute in my work clothes, which appears to be crazy for most of us Americans to understand or even accept. The chain guard seems to be a much better solution than cuffing the pants or using a strap (one more piece of equipment to occasionally forget).

    I have two road bikes for training and big rides, but a commuter bike needs commuter gear — fenders, rack, panniers, and a chainguard.

  11. Ghost Rider June 4, 2010 3:12 pm 

    Murali, you’re just not looking in the right places. They’re fairly readily available, especially from places like Velo Orange (several choices) and Rivendell (at least one choice).

  12. dukiebiddle June 5, 2010 8:49 am 

    Murali, I hear ya. Chainguards for front derailleur bikes are practically impossible to find in the local markets in the USA. I looked for ages for one for my old *former* MTB that’s now a transport bike. I had read in forums and such that the type with the hole punched out of the top would not provide enough clearance with my crank and I would have to remove the big chainring if I wanted to use one, which wasn’t acceptable to me. Someone told me about the OGK Two Piece Chainguard which sounded perfect, and I was able to special order one direct from my LBS, but Rivendell also have it available by mail order.

    MJ, I have to say I was sick and tired of having to roll or strap my right cuff every time I wanted to get on my bike. I had decided that this was another level of bother that was infuriating me. I was fed up with performance oriented design for a bike I was using for practical purposes.

    My OGK 2 Piece is fantastic for my needs. I’d give it about a 99% effective rate, and by that I mean my pants leg on very very rare occasions barely brush against the chain and give me a very tiny black spot, which I’ve read is still a problem with the hole type. So, if I happen to be wearing very nice light colored trousers I may still roll them up or strap them down for an extra bit of protection, but for average everyday riding or if I’m wearing dark colored trousers I can just jump on my bike and go like a normal human being. Game changer. Seriously.

  13. Dave June 7, 2010 2:29 pm 

    Am I looking at this right? Do you need to remove the fixed cup from the BB? If so I can see a shop charging more then $35 to install.

    Looks like a nicely made product and well thought out design.

    I’ll be curious to see if it falls victim to the dreaded crank arm ripping it off syndrome that kills so many of ’em. Hopefully being plastic it’ll survive a lot better.

    To be honest I’ve never found the need for a chaingaurd. I wonder why some people have so much trouble with chain/mess while others don’t.

    Or the even bigger mystery to me….. can someone explain why some people cuff/bind their left pant leg?

  14. dukiebiddle June 8, 2010 6:38 am 

    I should update the praises I made above for the OGK Chain Guard. Not five minutes after I posted that comment I jumped on my bike and bent the chainring portion of the guard with my crank. After bending it back in place it fell off this morning.

    I’d call the problem a design flaw, but I honestly don’t see how the problem could be designed around, so I guess I’d call the 2 piece chain guard a flawed concept. There’s only a single mm of space between the crank and the derailleur, so if the guard moves just the tiniest little bit the crank will catch it and it will be ruined. Oh well.

  15. Simes August 8, 2010 8:29 am 

    I have not had much luck with the 42/44t version for dérailleurs.
    It does not fit my Shimano Alivio M410 Crankset with Alivio front mech. There is not enough room between crank and outer 42t chainring. The front mech also interferes with the area where the chromoplastic joins the ABS plastic ring. Be aware that you may need a different bottom bracket and have to remove the pin behind the crank on the outer chainring. If it fits; great but check first.

  16. Mr Ed January 15, 2011 6:33 pm 

    Does no one else find it slightly amusing that in the one photo included to demonstrate how good this product was at keeping oil off your trousers, the rider is wearing shorts?

    But seriously, it doesn’t look any sillier than mudguards.

  17. enduro September 13, 2013 6:47 am 

    ok guys. i believethis to be a very good ideA. but americans have this mindset of trying to be cool.

    come up with a carbon fiber adjustable chrain protections system for mountain bikes and road bike, maybe do some wind tunnel tests for the roadies.

    my beef is with sand. i live in florida and i blow through a new chain ever two months.

    its going to need to look cool, be durable, be silent and be light.

  18. Elizabeth September 13, 2013 3:35 pm 

    Enduro, if you have sand to contend with, have you considered going with a belt drive system?

  19. Raiyn September 14, 2013 3:06 am 

    Elizabeth, I believe that is a troll.

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