27 November, 2007

Chainguards are Art


The photo on the right shows some of the chainguards in my little collection. Since I don't have enough on my plate, I've decided that it's time to design a VO chainguard. I've been looking at various chainguards made in Taiwan and none even come close to the style of these old Dutch and French designs. Chainguards are not only essential on a city bike, but they can be a bit of industrial art.

I thought I would ask for opinions. What should the new VO chainguard look like? Should we go for an ornate design, or would a simpler model like the Lefol guard in the second or third photo be more appropriate? I've already ordered prototypes of chainguards that look like those in the third photo. We might use that style on the production city bike.

By the way this is a link to a large .pdf of a 1950 Lefol catalog. It's from Joel's Blackbird site; Thanks Joel. It really is fascinating.

Just don't request a hammered chainguard. I did ask Honjo about making them, but with a 6 month waiting list for fenders, they don't seem very interested in a new product.

In case you were wondering, the chainguards in my collection are for sale, but only with a semi-custom city bike frame.

24 comments:

nv said...

My 2 cents...
I find the Lefol chainguard infinitely more elegant than the winged/deco variety in your collection. I find that type to be in conflict with the simple, straight and thin lines of a bicycle frame. For me, it's akin to putting a Victorian wicker basket on a city bike instead of the clean, minimal and utilitarian look of a Wald basket.
If I could design the chainguard for myself, I might make it a bit longer than the pictured Lefol and optimized for the radius of a small-ish front ring - say a 40 tooth (In reality, I don't need anything bigger than a 36 on any of my bikes).
In any case, I say keep it simple, clean and minimal.
nv

James said...

How about a semi-ornate design. A french shape but toned down with less flowery cutouts and a squarer rear end.

The Lefol appear too small and too cheap to my eye. A chain cover should cover more. Would it provide adequate protection for the pant leg? My experiences with a thin and straight chain cover on an old peugeot lead me to think that might not be the case.

Some chaincovers don't have sufficient depth to work right, meaning the bottom edge isn't sufficiently far from the chain. A Raleigh Sports chaincover is an example of one that has sufficient depth.

A chain cover with the shape of the ornate models may reduce the likelihood that a trouser leg will get sucked up as the chainring teeth move from 9 to 12 O'clock.


A long chain cover wouldn't be a bad idea, especially on a bicycle designed for a gear hub. I'd like to see a fluted stainless steel fender set and matching full length chain cover or stainless version of the chaincase for the city bike.


It seems that dress slacks are more likely to get sucked up into a chaincover than everyday trousers. You might want to keep that in mind.

gunner berg said...

Toned down? Ah, you're both crazy. I have a La Perle that looks like the right wing of an aberrant Art Deco pigeon. I love it. To my eye it ties in nicely with the deco-ish hammered fenders.

The CLB is nice too. Of course in the words of the late, great David J.D. They're all "a little light in the loafers.

Geoffrey said...

I'm with james -- "semi-ornate." Wald already makes a minimalist one, that nevertheless manages to look a little Deco with its streamlined ornamentation.

I'm not sure how the economics would work (how much more expensive is extra ornamentation? what's the minimum order?), but you could probably satisfy both the minimalists and the abberant, light-in-the-loafer Art Deco Pigeon fanciers with a series of "limited edition" chainguards.

Chris Kulczycki said...

The old Wald guard has gone out of production. It was a great component for the price. We still have a few of the small ones.

I'm going to look into having holes or decorations laser cut or CNC cut into the guards. I like the idea of limited production runs of artistic chainguards, but if we did it I'd end up devoting entirely too much time to the project.

Adam said...

The second and third photos are plain and, imo, ugly. I think they tend to detract from a bike rather than enhancing it.

The fancy CLB, on the other hand, is the ultimate. If you could reproduce it, I would buy five.

Geoffrey said...

Hm, I hadn't heard about the Walds being discontinued. (There's another market opportunity! Vintage Wald Reprodcutions!) I'll have to scour the shops around here before they completely run out.

For artistic chainguards, why not commission artists, and let them do the design work? Or just an annual thing, to spread out the work. One every Christmas, like ornaments.

z-man said...

My usual .02
The style of chainguard w/ the CLB logo-a VO would probably fit nicely into that space.

Greg said...

But gee Chris. You already have a chainguard.

My vote would be for ornate. Like the CLB, but without the "CLB". The one above it, or the one on the upper right are my faves.

BTW, what would you say is the max chainring size for your existing VO chainguards? When I find that out, I'll probably order that size TA ring from you.

Joel said...

I prefer simple. I would not mind having some of those chain guards for my display cases. On my bike, I prefer simple. In fact, I bought three Walds on e-bay when I heard they were discontinued.

meade said...

The CLB is nice!

I have an old Simplex which is great looking

Anonymous said...

When I think 'city bike' I think 'locking it up somewhere where it could get banged by some knob trying to get his old stumpjumper into the spot next to me.' I would be less worried about how poncy the chain guard looked, and more worried about it getting banged up inadvertantly.
M Burdge

Chris Kulczycki said...

Greg, The VO chaincase and the upcoming simple chainguard both accept up to a 48t ring.

Anonymous said...

Ok...I'll add a penny to make it 3 cents.......
I too think a limited run would be a great idea. You can then offer a simpler design but should still make it your own with some sort of VO logo. After all VO is becoming a "brand" that Rando and other bicyclist are starting to see as quality combined with great customer service. That doesn't happen overnight and you should be proud of what you created . Keep the VO products coming!
ps: any word on the VO handlebar bag yet?

NativeJim

this one guy said...

ornate please!

Anonymous said...

I'm for ornate -- just like that winged CLB, only with a VO instead of CLB inside the circle.

Apropos of nv's comments, I'd much rather have a wicker basket than a Wald basket any day of the week.

--sfp

Justin Miller said...

Some of those, e.g., the Lefol, look like they are made to work with a front derailer. That would be a nice feature, though it is probably difficult to make a chainguard work with more than one derailer model. Whether ornate or simple, the ease and solidness of the mounting hardware will be important. "Ready to mount" would be preferable to a chainguard that requires drilling or to hardware that requires bending or significant modification to work.

Rick Guggemos said...

Go for the gold! The ornate wins - like the CLB. In fact, maybe CLB could be changed to VO in the circle?

Its not only appearance, the fancy ones follow the chainwheel to provide better protection for one's pants leg.

CFG WHEELS said...

Wow...Chris your chainguard collection is great! Have you looked at the pistol style chainguards made in india? It's on the french style cheap reproduction bikes. I noticed on the mariposa sight that he painted one on his daughters city bike(very nice) The CLB chainguard is a masterpeice! Please reproduce one similar.

Pam said...

Your chain guard collection is awesome; I'd vote for any of those. I stupidly delayed ordering a chain guard when you had some in stock and have been waiting and hoping you'd get some more. While I like the art deco ones especially, I'd like there to be a fair amount of coverage.

gunner berg said...

Justin,
No drilling is a tough design assignment. I had my wifes mixte rebuilt with very subtle changes in tube angles. The one mounting hole moved almost 3/4". I supoose Chris could have two series of holes in patterns about 1/2" apart. Just a thought.

keithwwalker said...

I'll put in my two cents, although it is counter to the general sentiment as well as what you should do for sales!

I have a humdrum REI commuter bike. The crank seems to be from a MTB background. Single sprocket with a bash guard. Guess what? As a chain guard, the bash guard does an amazingly good job.

You would also note that Sogreni does a similar setup with a tube running along the top of the chain:

http://www.sogreni.dk/Chainguard.php

Effective, and minimalistic.

Also note that the Fisher Simple City bike also has a similar arrangement:

http://bp0.blogger.com/_VMBXGqBOWsE/Rs9H2NufAhI/AAAAAAAAARE/CIN0dixOt60/s1600-h/simple_city2sm.jpg
http://bp1.blogger.com/_VMBXGqBOWsE/Ru6ntmCzWwI/AAAAAAAAAS8/fSGkgr3it0o/s1600-h/simplecity1.jpg

Keith Walker

Anonymous said...

PEOPLE PLEASE!!
Links always get chopped off in blogger...
T I N Y U R L !!!!!
C'MON!

Zakkaliciousness said...

beautiful chainguards. absolutely splendid.