Review: Hebie Chainglider on a Bullitt Cargobike

A while ago I wrote about my plans to fit a Hebie Chainglider to my Bullitt Clockwork cargobike.

I confess it has not been without challenges.

However, it is now fitted and working.

Initial indications after about 100miles are that it looks like it will be doing the job I wanted. I am now able to ride in normal trousers without clips, tucking them in my socks or anything else. So far at least it appears to be keeping the chain properly clean so I have high hopes that it will mean a longer working life for the chain, sprocket and chainring, all with less maintenance and cleaning by me.

The problems have been about compatibility and fitting.

The obvious problem was that the Hebie Chainglider is available for 38, 40 and 42 tooth chainrings while the Shimano Chainring that comes with the Bullitt is 39 teeth.

No problem I thought. I’ll just put a 38 tooth chainring on instead. The gearing will be slightly lower but that is no bad thing.

However, it was not so easy. The Shimano crankset has 5 arms and a 130 BCD (the measurement that ensures the bolt holes on the chainrings are in the same place as on the crank arms. It turned out that almost nobody makes a 38 tooth chainring for 5 arm 130BCD chainsets . Eventually I found the very nice, heavy duty Surly stainless steel 38 tooth chainring to fit. When it arrived it was obvious why this is not common. The crank arms are so long that there is very little space for the bolts and when the chain is on it nearly bumps the ends of the arms.

This in turn meant that the chainglider also did not fit over the crank arms. It wouldn’t snap closed and the friction was immense.

So I thought again and started looking for a new crankset with shorter crank arms. I soon discovered that as my existing crankset was a Shimano Hollotech II style it was likely that I would need to replace the bottom bracket as well. This was starting to get worryingly complicated (I would have to worry about ensuring the same chainline) and expensive. Also as I looked for chainsets I discovered that 38tooth single ring chainsets are very very rare. In fact I had almost given up when I discovered one from Shimano which is the Saint FC-M810 Single MTB Hollowtech 2 Crankset. Although there seem to be no pictures it is available as a single 38 tooth ring and without the bash guard.

It is supposed to be immensely strong and as it is also Hollotech II the existing bottom bracket could still be used (it comes with a BB anyway so I now have a spare), that also means that the alignment is right.

So in the end fitting the new crankset was a doddle. By the way I did take advantage of replacing the crankset to move to 165mm cranks instead of 170mm, as a recumbent rider I was convinced by Mike Burrows and others of the advantages of shorter cranks and while 5mm is barely a nod in that direction it is one I was happy to make.

The chainglider was then pretty straightforward to fit. As I expected I needed to shorten it a little (designed to work with much longer chainstays). The front fitted very easily. The back less so. In fact I have found that the little pins that clip together the two parts that go around the sprocket are not entirely effective. Also the Alfine sprocket as these plastic rims which the chainglider rubs against.

So I have pulled the two parts a little apart from fully closed. The sprocket is still fully enclosed due to the plastic rims. However, friction and noise is much reduced. I have held the two parts together with zip ties (not worried about this making it hard to get off, I don’t normally carry tools to get the wheel off anyway. If I take tools I take something that can cut a ziptie).

Since making this adjustment the Hebie Chainglider is silent (providing well lubed) and while there is friction that you notice if back pedalling I have not noticed any drop in speed. Anyway for me speed is a lower priority than low maintenance, long parts life and not needing to tuck my trousers in my socks.

Adding more lube is very easy, there is a little hole in the top of the case, put the lube in there (thick stuff is better or it just leaks out of the bottom immediately – I am using a Muc Off Dry Lube at the moment which seems pretty good) while back pedalling and you are done. I do it occasionally before a ride (basically if I can hear the chainglider I add a bit more lube) and after a few miles it has spread enough and stuck enough that you can take the bike indoors without it dripping any oil.

So I am generally very happy. Yes I would prefer it if LarryVsHarry offered a full chaincase as an option. However, at least so far I am happy with this solution for me.

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  1. Your enthusiasm for the Bullitt, together with your greater than normal prominence as an advocate for users of pedal cyclists and being a blogger, may mean your opinion is given greater than normal consideration.

    Perhaps you should drop LarryVsHarry a line about the possibility of offering a chain-case option. It really does make a lot of sense. I for one am considering a cargo-bike as a car replacement. I like the design, the light-weight and looks of the Bullitt, but as it’s for daily use, I refuse to consider anything but fully commuter-equipped models, and pratting-about, having to spend time finding-out what does and doesn’t fit, sourcing and then adding extras to a Bullitt, which already isn’t exactly a cheap bike makes the Bullitt a distinct no-no. I suspect I’m not the only person who thinks like this. I rather doubt that the average LBS in the UK would be able to help either, since most seem to concentrate on the wrong type of bike.

    I suppose one has to be grateful that LVsH saw fit to offer hub gears. IIRC, Danish bikes in general seem not to offer full chain-cases, they mostly seem to focus on chain-guards, destined to keep crud off one’s clothes, but not off the chain. It’s the bicycle mounted version of bicycle clips. Not the most practical option.

    • Amoeba,

      I think you over estimate my influence :-)

      As for LarryVsHarry offering a chaincase I too would like them to do this (I wrote about all the changes I would like to see in Is the Bullitt Clockwork Perfect?.

      I suspect it is a way off as
      – I think they are already hugely busy trying to keep up with demand. So available time is going to be a big issue for them
      – The wide range of gear options that they offer makes a chaincase more difficult. I suspect they would need to pick just one model to have chaincase, maybe the clockwork is the best for this.
      – I suspect they might be concerned about the marketing image. It seems to me that in many countries such as UK and US enthusiastic cyclists won’t consider bikes with chaincases at all. So offering a chaincase to attract people who want to ride in everyday clothes might damage sales that are based on the high performance image of the Bullitt.

      My preferred long term option would be to solve the problem by offerring a belt drive with the 11 speed Alfine. You don’t need a full chaincase then, just a guard to stop clothes getting caught in the belt. But this will mean

      – frame redesign to provide a split somewhere to get the belt on and off
      – new dropouts that include an axle tug to accurately adjust tension

      I like the solutions for this that provide a split in the frame at the dropout with bolt on dropouts. You can then get the belt on and off and also offer dropouts that are ideally suited to each gear system (such as Rohloff).

      If they are redesigning the back of the bike it would be great if they would provide rear rack mountings on the seat stays (but that will probably involve something creative with the disk brake mounting so it is not in the way).

      It all gets a bit complicated.

      On the other hand it is now possible to buy a Bullitt as a frame and then build it up with a chainglider from the start. A good local bike shops should be able to do that.

  2. Really interesting post, although I have limited technical bike knowledge so about 75% of it means very little to me! I’d love to see a photo though of the chainglider installed – that might help me visualise your descriptions better. Thanks.

  3. Hebie Chainglider photos « 42 Bikes - pingback on March 18, 2011 at 7:16 pm
  4. Quarter Day Tour to the sea by Bullitt « 42 Bikes - pingback on May 6, 2011 at 10:10 pm
  5. Bike maintenance frustrations « 42 Bikes - pingback on February 11, 2012 at 4:06 pm
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