A good chain guide should be like a seatbelt: simple and with one job that it does damn well.
Both are precautionary devices that must work when you need them, and while an unreliable seatbelt is kind of a big deal, and unreliable chain guide is pretty bad too.
On first inspection, FSA has delivered a chain guide that covers all the bases. It seems rider and mechanic friendly, sturdy and simple. Simplicity is something I admire in all bike components, as an overly complex design can be the biggest headache—no matter how flashy it might be.
After removing the former chain guide and cleaning up the bottom bracket and chainring, I soon discovered the FSA chain guide was incredibly simple to install. The mounting pattern is ISCG 05 and it bolted snugly up against the bottom bracket without the use of any spacers (although a few are included with the supplied hardware kit). I lined up the top slider at the 12 o’clock position, used a little blue Loctite on the three mounting bolts and twisted them in. The next step is adjusting the whole apparatus forward or aft as needed, depending on the bike.
Using the tool-free cotter pins, I rolled the sliders in order to clear the chain ring and tightened up the cranks. FSA offers two different sizes for the guide, one for a 28-34 chainring and another for the larger 34-38 tooth chainring. With my legs in mid-winter shape, I installed the former with a 32-tooth chainring.
Next, I set the guide for the chainring size with the 4mm allen bolts on each guide unit. The lower slider mounts a pulley wheel that spins on a sealed bearing. Clearance in the sliders is ample, so you’ll definitely want to bring them in a little. I ran through all of the gears and found no unusual rubbing or drag in the drivetrain system. It only took me 20 minutes to remove the cranks and old guide, clean everything up and install new the FSA chain guide. Some of my buddies take longer to get dressed for a bike ride.
On the Trail:
Once the guide was properly installed, I made zero adjustments to the FSA chainguide in the five months I’ve been testing it. The CNC-machined aluminum backplate is both light and strong. Even after giving the bashguard some serious hits, the backplate remained straight. FSA nailed the strength to weight ratio with this one, as there was no flexing or bending. The bashguard does have some serious dings and marring on it, but without and signs of cracks or failures, that just means it’s doing its job.
“If it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” the saying goes, and FSA has stayed true to this with a design that is easy, functional and proven. I never dropped a chain. I never had any binding or drag issues due to mud in the drivetrain. I never had to re-tighten or adjust the hardware. I never had to do much of anything but pedal with this guide, which is exactly the way it should be.
FSA Grid Chain Guide
MAP (Minimum Advertised Price): $108
See more at www.fullspeedahead.com