A Love Letter to the Chainguard
Posted on 17 July 2014
Dear Bicycle Industry,
We think you probably owe us at least one pair of pants. Or at least, several gallons of laundry soap. In our visions we see ourselves gliding through Toronto like we were in Copenhagen, dressed as though we are off to a dinner-party, but instead we're taking a taxi. A taxi doesn't spray oil all over our clothing, but for some reason our bicycles do. A visit to a recent bike store revealed that it's not our bike that's the problem, but rather the cyclist! Apparently, even on five minute trips to the grocery store we're supposed to dress like a spandex superhero. Riding a bike requires a change of clothes? No wonder people are still paying for such high priced gasoline.
You can paint as many bike lanes as you want on the ground, but if folks can't ride to work in their regular clothes, very few people are going to ride their bikes. We would wager that the growth of cycling is built on nothing more profound and mundane than the simple chainguard. Chainguards, like the old Swedish Crescent bikes (above), are beautiful and have their own sublime elegance. But chainguards come in many different types, and while something is always better than nothing, there are still some chainguards we love more than others.
A chainguard's merit is based on its coverage. Take for instance the chainguard found on the Pure City bikes, the very same found on Linus bikes as well. This chainguard is called a half-chainguard and only covers the top of the chain. Perhaps the biggest difference between a half-chainguard and a full-chainguard is that a full chainguard keeps your clothes fully clean, and a half chainguard keeps em' half clean.
The full chainguard is really the best. They also tend to be stronger (remember, if you lock your bike next to a pole, the chainguard is getting pretty bashed around). However, the full chainguard comes in two sorts, the fully enclosed variety and the half-enclosed variety. The half-enclosed variety, seen on bikes like Achielle (above) and Simcoe not only keep you clean, but have their own sort of sartorial handsomeness.
The fully enclosed chaincase wraps around the entire chain, which means your clothes and the chain stay clean. If you're chain is dirty that's because your rear tire runs very close to the chain and covers it with all the muck from the street. By sealing the chain you reduce a great deal of maintenance. The full chainguard is usually found on Dutch bikes like Achielle, but there's been some pretty neat innovations lately from Holland, like the Hebie Chainglider which covers the chain but doesn't look klunky (below).
Now, if it can be argued that the chaincase is essential to a city bike, then perhaps the coolest bike ever designed is the Paper Bike from Scotland. Unlike all the examples above, where the chainguard is connected to the bike, the Paper Bikes rear frame is the chainguard. This is remarkably clever design, solving a problem through better frame design. We'd like to think this is the future of the city bike.
Can you add a chainguard to a bike? Of course! In fact, chainguards a great way to add identity to a bike. Take a look at Toronto's own Carl & Rose, who make beautiful handcut chainguards reminiscent of those old Crescent chainguards. Not cheap, but awesome!
We believe cycling is glamorous. That's the secret we're letting you in on. And, we're here to let you know that there are bikes designed for nothing more than just getting around, and they'll accept you no matter what you're wearing. No extra laundry soap required. If anything, you get to dress up! Just like the men and women of Copenhagen.