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Yes, I know it would totally ruin the clean lines and the uncluttered, (well maybe just a discreet front brake), looks, but I've never seen this question asked, much less answered.

A chain guard does more than protect the chain from wear. While fingers are unlikely, I could see sticks and brush, or a piece of clothing getting stuck. When that happens without freewheel the entire mass of the rider and bike times velocity squared would be utilized to crush the obstruction.

Am I exaggerating the risks or is there something fundamental I'm misunderstanding?

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I am confused about how the chainguard protects the chain from wear. If you're talking about dirt, the chain guard only protects from one side -- and that's the side that is farther away from the tire that can kick up dirt and water and other grime. –  thajigisup Jul 31 '11 at 4:47
    
It doesn't. It just keeps things out of the chain, and your pants' legs clean. –  zenbike Aug 1 '11 at 15:14
    
Maybe I should have said "fully enclosed chain guard"? I thought for sure I read that it makes the chain last nearly forever. –  OpenID-test2 Aug 5 '11 at 1:57
    
I thought fixie riders all wore shorts... –  naught101 May 11 '12 at 9:37
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You have a typo on the title. You need to remove: "without a full chain guard" –  cherouvim Dec 20 '12 at 13:16
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7 Answers

up vote 9 down vote accepted

You're not exaggerating the risk as far as what would happen to the object that managed to get jammed in to a fixie drivetrain at speed. You are perhaps exaggerating the risk of that happening, though.

I don't see many objects managing that feat, without serious planning on someones' part, and unless it's flesh and bone, or something that was hard enough that the chainring wouldn't cut through it, then there would be minimal harm.

If a stick gets caught in the chain ring, it will get cut in half. So what if it does? Nothing will happen to the rider, and even the chance of damage to the bike is minimal. Same thing with brush. Unless it's large enough to stop you pedaling, then it's not a problem. And since fixies are rarely ridden off road, the chance of these 2 things happening would be pretty remote.

I've had my pant's leg get caught in a fixie chainring, and all it did was tear the pants, and teach me to choose better what clothing I ride in.

There's no real harm to a chainguard, but not a lot of benefit either that I can see, so if you want one, go for it, but I'll be fine without. I'd say the lack of brakes is a far bigger hazard when riding on the road.

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good answer. I've caught loose clothing in my non-fixie before. I've also worked around lathes, power tools and running car engines where you always tie up loose hair, take off finger rings and you never wear heavy gloves for fear of being dismembered before you can shut the equipment down. It's good to know a pant leg caught won't suck in any skin. –  OpenID-test2 Jul 30 '11 at 18:11
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Me too. Scared the crap out of myself once when I caught the drawstring on a hoodie in the blade of a table saw. Not a good visual. But fortunately, it pulled the string out of the hoodie rather than me into the saw. It did teach me to choose better what clothing I work in. –  zenbike Jul 30 '11 at 18:28
    
@zenbike wow.. we had to watch videos about that sort of thing in engineering college in the 90s. Ouch –  Mere Development Dec 21 '12 at 15:43
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To your fingers and clothing, yes; bigger items (like your foot) dont really pose a threat because the chain and cog cant really get the necessary leverage to crunch through them. That doesn't mean it wouldn't hurt so I don't advise trying it.

Just watch where your fingers are when the bike is in the stand and the cranks are spinning (biggest danger) and dont wear your bellbottoms while riding (less of a danger).

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A fixed gear bike will be "less forgiving" if something gets caught up in the drive train simply because you can't coast to a stop and dislodge the object. The object will either break and fling off, or it will "stop" the bike usually throwing the rider very hard and very fast into the ground (often face-first).

If you're going to ride fixed as a commuter with street clothes you're taking on additional risk with no real benefit. So yeah, put a chain-guard on there as well as a front brake and some foot retention system.

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I should be keen to hear feedback from those who have fitted full chaingiards. The Hebie one shown here, with no visible supports, leaves me wondering if it rides on the chainwheels making a noise as it goes. The exposed chain is a menace to trousers and the chain it's self. Living in a place where sand abounds, I see, when washing the chain in a jar of white-spirit, the 3mm layer of sand in the bottom of the jar. This shows just how much grit adheres to the chain despite all precaution. Though it may not be cool or macho to sport a chainguard it is so very sensible I am surprised at how few one sees. They have generally passed into history as a component of old-fashioned bikes despite being a great idea.

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Hi Phil, please be aware that this is a Q&A site, rather than a discussion forum. You do have some valid points, but your contribution does not seem to be a direct answer. You can comment directly on the question if you wish to raise some queries with the questioner, or to prompt other answerers to address specific points. –  Emyr Feb 18 at 9:56
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Cycling is a safety hazard, it's all a question of risk mitigation, reduction and awareness.

A fixed-wheel certainly presents a different set of hazards, but my short response to the question is 'no'. I do over 3,000 miles a year on my fixed (almost all of my commuting) and have done so for the last 4-5 years and I've never caught anything in my chain, be it cloth, stick, lace or anything else. But then I generally cycle in shorts or tights with my velcro-strapped cycle shoes - risk avoidance, don't put anything likely to get caught in the vicinity.

So I think you're over-estimating the risks on this dimension; there are risks worth worrying about out there - most of them are behind the steering wheels of metal boxes with 4 wheels - without creating needless ones!

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I try to remember to always pull my right sock over my bluejeans ;-) –  OpenID-test2 Aug 5 '11 at 2:04
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My friend lost two front teeth and part of his face on the road when his shoe lace got caught in the chain of his track bike.

With that said, do whatever you feel comfortable doing, and feel free to tell that story to anyone who makes fun of you.

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I got a pant leg caught on the chainring on my road bike and it very nearly launched me right off the bike. If you don't have a chainguard, do NOT wear long pants or shoes with laces! –  Brian Knoblauch Dec 21 '12 at 19:04
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I have came off due to clothing getting caught and I don't think the danger can be over-looked.

Since you are a man of taste and style, take a look at this minimalist chainguard:

http://sogrenibikes.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=1&products_id=8

enter image description here

With a few workshop tools you could make your own...

The same company also make an uber-cool trouser clip that you may also want to check out.

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I'm actually a man of thrift-store bikes and trash-day serendipity rims. –  OpenID-test2 Aug 5 '11 at 2:01
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