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?

  • 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.
    – raabidfun
    Jul 31, 2011 at 4:47
  • It doesn't. It just keeps things out of the chain, and your pants' legs clean.
    – zenbike
    Aug 1, 2011 at 15:14
  • 6
    You have a typo on the title. You need to remove: "without a full chain guard"
    – cherouvim
    Dec 20, 2012 at 13:16
  • 2
    I one had a 1" diameter stick go into the front spokes of my MTB @ 20 mph - stayed there until it hit the forks. Only broke two spokes before I went over the bars....... Should we put fully enclosed guards on our front wheels, or just accept that sometimes "S..t happens".
    – mattnz
    Dec 23, 2012 at 20:36
  • 2
    @mattnz obviously, you should attach pedal powered chainsaws to your forks.
    – Davidmh
    Jul 22, 2015 at 21:05

8 Answers 8


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.

  • 1
    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. Jul 30, 2011 at 18:11
  • 5
    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, 2011 at 18:28
  • 1
    @zenbike wow.. we had to watch videos about that sort of thing in engineering college in the 90s. Ouch Dec 21, 2012 at 15:43

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.

  • 2
    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! Dec 21, 2012 at 19:04

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:


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.

  • 5
    I'm actually a man of thrift-store bikes and trash-day serendipity rims. Aug 5, 2011 at 2:01

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!

  • 1
    I try to remember to always pull my right sock over my bluejeans ;-) Aug 5, 2011 at 2:04

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.


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).

  • That's not as true as you might like - with the riders weight on the bike the rear wheel an exert considerable force, and given the number of finger removals I've heard about from fixies in workstands, I suspect you could cut through a good chunk of someone's foot with a moving fixie.
    – Móż
    Jul 5, 2016 at 2:48
  • @Móż Like I said, not an advisable thing to do, and you'd nearly have to do it intentionally to end up in such a situation. That said, motorcycles have been known to lop off toes and pieces of feet on the drive side, and there are aftermarket toe guards that can be installed to mitigate that risk
    – joelmdev
    Jul 5, 2016 at 15:28

My friend recently gashed the back of her calf completely open on the exposed sprockets, so to those who claim it won't hurt your skin...it did. It's now got splattered flesh all strewn about it. She's got 14 outer stitches and 4 inner. The gash went down to her muscle. DEFINITELY buying chain guards asap.

  • So your underlying answer is "a chain guard keeps the rider's skin away from sharp moving parts." ? Must have been a severe accident to cause that much damage, I hope your friend is healing and will be back on her bike soon.
    – Criggie
    Jul 4, 2016 at 22:46
  • Exposed sprockets on a fixie? Did you actually mean a large chainring on a 2x bike? Sep 17, 2020 at 20:27

I can see losing a finger if care is not taken while cleaning a chain. Do not wipe bottom of chain while turning the pedals. The wheel inertia will pull your finger between the gear and chain. Ouch!! If the bike is on a training stand be sure little ones don't play with the spinning the crank either. I feel safer with a chain guard if front derailleur is removed.

  • 1
    But a fixie doesn't have a derailleur? Perhaps you could clarify that part of your answer.
    – DavidW
    Sep 17, 2020 at 15:58

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