Yes, plenty of people are talking about the new 2012 SRAM Red front derailleur which now includes a replaceable chain catcher. But when the history books are written, the origins for the popularity of chain catchers on road bikes will point first in other directions. One of them will be the American cycling couple of Kristin Armstrong and Joe Savola.
Sometimes the simplest ideas are the ones that can have the biggest impact. During the Beijing Olympics, Kristin Armstrong (no relation to Lance) was nervous about how many times she would need to be shifting the front derailleur during the hilly time trial. Under racing conditions, even a perfectly adjusted front derailleur can drop a chain, potentially costing victory. Not wanting to take any chances, Kristin and her mechanic Joe devised a small aluminum arm that attached to the front derailleur mounting bolt, keeping the chain from coming off the inside of the inner ring. Kristin went on to win the Olympic time trial with her prototype K-Edge chain catcher.
Now the CNC-machined chain catchers are turning up on bikes throughout the pro peloton, including riders from HTC-Highroad, BMC and Garmin-Cervelo. In fact, we weren’t surprised when we spotted a K-Edge chain catcher on Andy Schlek’s bike after his infamous dropped chain in last year’s Tour de France.
K-Edge chain catcher’s simple design doesn’t have any downsides; it’s lightweight, does its job and comes in an assortment of anodized colors. It’s also made in the USA.
The K-Edge chain catcher took all of 10 minutes to install. After loosening the cable tension on our clamp braze-onstyle front derailleur, we removed the bolt that mounts the derailleur to the clamp. Due to the K-Edge’s 5mm thickness, it was necessary to replace the existing mounting bolt with the longer supplied bolt. We adjusted the K-Edge chain catcher as close to the inner ring as it would go without rubbing it, ensuring the chain would not get between it and the ring, which could cause a much bigger mess. Once correctly positioned and tightened down, we readjusted the cable tension and off we went.
Since dropping a chain isn’t a common problem on a properly adjusted derailleur under normal shifting situations, we helped things along by loosening the front derailleur limit screw enough to overshift on the inside of the inner ring—just to make sure we were able to give it a thorough test. Every downshift under load would have resulted in the derailleur overthrowing the chain, but the K-Edge kept the chain from going anywhere but on the inner ring.
After famously dropping his chain during the 2010 Tour de France, it's no surprise that Andy Schleck ran a K-Edge chain catcher on his Trek Madone during the 2011 season.
The younger Schleck's black K-Edge chain catcher is mounted just forward of the front derailleur, next to the Di2 electronic wiring.
Regardless if you’re racing or just riding recreationally, dropping a chain is going to cause frustration, greasy hands and potential frame damage. Think of the K-Edge as an insurance policy; you’ll hardly ever need it, but when you do, you’ll be glad you have it. At a mere 10 grams, it is hardly going to weigh you down, but we think it’s worth its weight in gold. Speaking of gold, the K-Edge chain catcher is available in anodized gold, as well as black, blue, gunmetal, red and white.
Weight: 10 grams