Review and photos by Johan Hjord
For quite some time, e*thirteen was basically another word for chain retention systems (aka chainguides), and rightfully so – the original e*thirteen guide + bash combos were certainly pushing innovation and design in chain management, and their ubiquitous “Turbocharger” bashrings graced many a bike build, be it at the races or out with mates.
e*thirteen was acquired by and became part of The Hive, a company that was at the time mainly producing cranks, in 2010. The e*thirteen brand was kept alive, and has since then grown to include not only guides but also cranks, wheels, and pedals. e*thirteen is the main brand of The Hive today (which also includes Chub Hubs and revl road bike brakes).
e*thirteen’s current catalogue features 3 main product families, LG1 (Downhill), TRS (Enduro), and XCX (Cross Country). Each family contains cranks, guides, and wheels. Furthermore, several levels are available within each family (Race, Plus, and Base), which ensures that there is essentially an option on offer to suit any application and budget.
We’ve been riding the LG1+ Chainguide together with the LG1+ Cranks and a Guidering chainring for the last couple of months, here is the report on how the combo fared out on the trails (check out our previous review for the verdict on the cranks and the chainring).
The LG1+ Chainguide is a frame/BB mounted chain guide that incorporates a “taco” style bash guard – in other words, it replaces the traditional crank mounted bash ring with a taco shaped guard that sits directly on the guide itself. It is designed for use with a single chain ring, and thus provides a guide block up top as well as a roller at the bottom. It is a well proven design that basically translates to the end of dropped chains.
- backplate material: EXA+ Aluminum
- drivetrain protection: DMB (direct mount bashguard)
- sliders: adjustable w/ ring size indicator
- slider hardware: EXA+ captive gold alloy
- lower armature: 3 position adjustable indexed slider
- chainring range: 32-36t or 36-40t
- mounting standard: ISCG’05 (bb w/adp) or ISCG’Old(’03)
- roller: tech 3 stealth idler
- color: white, blackout, Peaty(ISCG05 only)
- weight: 179g
- MSRP: $149.95
Installing a chainguide has gotten a bit easier over the years, but still requires a bit of fiddling about with spacers etc. Until the day that truly universal standards are adopted across all the manufacturers (very funny), there will always be some adjustability required in these types of designs. Basically, the system comes with a number of different sized spacers/shims that you use to make sure the guide aligns perfectly with the chain ring once it’s all installed on the bike (this allows to adjust for different manufacturer tolerances on the ISCG tabs, facing the BB shell, chainlines, etc). It takes a little bit of trial and error to get it right, but in essence, it is as simple as installing the guide and making sure the chain ring aligns with the idler wheel on the guide. Not aligned = add/remove/change the spacers. (note that the ISCG05 version we ran also comes with a direct BB mount adapter included in the kit).
One very useful aspect of the LG1+ Chainguide is that the guide + idler wheel assembly (basically the bottom half of the guide) can be adjusted to fit specific frame designs. This essentially allows you to move the lower part of the guide to make sure it clears the chainstay and/or lower suspension pivot. On a high single pivot there shouldn’t really be any issues with this, but on multilink bikes it can be another story altogether. The LG1+ offers a Narrow, Regular, and Wide setting to cater to as many frame designs as possible.
Further adjustability is provided to cater for different sizes of chainrings. The LG1+ Chainguide comes in either a 32-36T version, or a 36-40T version. Both the top guide block and the idler wheel are adjustable.
On The Trail
The main objective of a chainguide is obviously to keep the chain on. Most single ring chainguides today achieve this objective faultlessly, so it comes as no surprise that this is also the case here. With a top guideblock and an idler wheel at the bottom, the chain really has nowhere to go. In addition to getting this basic functionality right, the LG1+ also scores points for quiet and smooth running – you can hear the idler wheel but it is not at all at an annoying level. The design of the top guide block ensures that the chain clears the block even when the chain is on the smallest or biggest sprocket on a 10-speed cassette – barely, but it clears it when properly adjusted. We can’t really comment on idler bearing life other than to state that after a few months of winter riding, the bearing is still going strong. It is exposed to the elements where it sits, so we’d expect to have to service and/or replace it regularly…which is not uncommon and not a major issue (note that e*thirteen use very high quality bearings and specifically developed grease to improve longevity).
As for the bashguard – well, we’ve bashed it and it has guarded. It glides over rocks fairly well, and beyond the scuff marks, the material employed seems to be very resistant. It was designed to be a bit flexible and to help absorb impacts (rather than crack and splinter), and so far, this has proven to be the case. E*thirteen call this aspect “IFD” for “Impact Flexure Design” – basically allowing the bash to flex AWAY from the chainring to allow you to finish your race run even after a major impact or even failure of the guide.
We’ve stopped short of trying to break it – especially since you can never really know whether your ISCG tabs will give up the ghost before the guide does...but the guard has certainly stood up to abuse. Note that should you break stuff, most of the main parts are individually replaceable, so at least you should probably never have to buy a whole new guide.
Things That Could Be Improved
We had an issue with a stuck bolt on the idler wheel assembly, which e*thirteen told us was due to a manufacturing error in regards to the type of Loctite used on a batch. They replaced it for us with no fuss. (The stuck bold did not affect performance, only adjustability). Other than that, we have no real suggestions or observations on how to make this a better product.
What’s The Bottom Line?
e*thirteen led the industry in chain management systems, but they have not relied on past glory to keep ahead of the game. Today’s version of the Chainguide offers best-in-class adjustability and it functions exceptionally well. It looks great, and manages to save a bit of weight over previous designs as well (if you want to go even lighter, they offer the LG1r version featuring a carbon backplate which saves close to 20g). It has proven its worth at the highest levels of racing and freeriding in the world, and it’s easy to see why top athletes would not think twice about trusting e*thirteen with their chain management. If you are in the market, the LG1+ should definitely be on you shortlist – and why not complement it with the excellent LG1+ cranks and a Guidering to really set your build off!
More information at: The Hive