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Eurobike 2011: The rise and rise of the chain catcher

It's the must-have component of the year; all the pros are at it

So, you spend a fortune on a cutting-edge carbon frame that has been aerodynamically developed in the wind tunnel, strengthened with the most advanced nano-technology known to materials science, and fitted with a super-high tech electronic gear system… Then the chain comes off. What do you do? Easy; bolt on a bit of metal to keep it in place.

Chain catchers aren’t new but they have become way more popular over the past couple of years. At last week’s Eurobike they were everywhere, and they're pretty much standard issue kit in the pro peloton.

This K-Edge Chain catcher, for example, was fitted to the new Litespeed L1R road bike at Eurobike.

If you’re not familiar with the concept, a chain catcher is a length of aluminium that attaches to your front mech bolt, extending downwards to stop your chain from overshifting inwards. Its job is to get in the way. That’s all. High tech, it ain’t.

If you don’t want your chain to come off and eat up the bottom bracket shell of your shiny new carbon bike – irreparable damage – a chain catcher might be a sound investment. Most cost 20-odd quid although you can pick one up for as little as a tenner. This one is fitted to the Wilier Zero .7 that we have in on test at the moment (what do you mean you can't see it? Put your glasses on for goodness' sake). The frame is priced at four grand.

Should you fit a chain catcher to your carbon bike? £20. £4,000. It's up to you.

That’s not to say that chain catchers are failsafe, though. The word on the street is that Andy Schleck had one fitted during last year’s Tour de France when he dropped his chain and lost 39secs to Alberto Contador… and finished second to Bertie* overall by exactly the same margin after three weeks of racing. And Tom Boonen was using one during this year’s Paris-Roubaix when he got his chain stuck between the frame and the chainset.

But even so, loads of the pro teams fit chain catchers as standard …

This is one of the Team Sky Pinarellos just before Paris-Roubaix with a natty blue Token chain catcher fitted alongside the Shimano Dura-Ace/SRM chainset. Those cable ties are holding the Di2 cable in position, not the chain catcher – that really wouldn't work.

Tyler Farrar had this one from Rotor on his brand new Cervélo S5 at the Tour de France.

Alexandre Vinokourov had a Rotor one too, fitted to his new Specialized S-Works McLaren Tarmac at this year’s Tour.

This is Andy Schleck’s bike at the Tour. Or Frank's. One of the Frandy brothers, anyway. He's gone down the K-Edge route.

And this is Fabian Cancellara’s. He gets a gold chain catcher to match his gold groupset bolts and so on. As Olympic Champion, Spartacus can get away with that., eh? Where else can you get an article on chain catchers? Nowhere, that’s where. We’re tackling the issues the rest find too hot to handle. Next up: an in-depth look at bar tape plugs. Maybe.

* Subject to legal blah, blah, blah.

Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.

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