Hey, remember chain guides? Sure, there are loads of pint-sized and near-weightless upper sliders to choose from these days, but the large majority of mid-travel bikes that I see are running guide-less setups, especially the ones that still have their stock spec. A day spent in the Whistler Bike Park will even reveal a few 200mm-travel sleds doing laps without any retention and protection insurance for their drivetrain. And who remembers Cam Zink on his Hyper, sans any type of guide at all
, at the Red Bull Rampage back in 2013? Ballsy.
These days, it's uncommon to see a full-sized chain guide (left) on mid-travel bikes, but plenty of riders go with a lightweight upper slider setup (right).
But back to cross-country, trail, all-mountain, and enduro rigs. On those types of bikes, clutch-equipped derailleurs and chainrings designed to help keep the chain from bouncing off have made guides an option rather than a necessity for many (but not all) riders. In fact, of the eight test bikes with 1x drivetrains that I have in my workshop right now, just three of them came with an upper guide out of the box. I've had good luck going guide-less, too; besides a small hiccup awhile ago when a stick managed to get between the ring and the chain, I can't even remember the last time I had an issue. That doesn't mean that I won't have an issue, or that it still doesn't make sense to bolt on a 40-gram piece of security, of course.
So, where are you at when it comes to chain guides - if your bike has a 1x drivetrain, is it running a chain guide or are you fine without it?