Cascade Components Full Guide
Test Location: Washington
Test Duration: 2.5 months
Compatibility: Bikes with “true” ISGG-05 tabs; see below for details
Blister’s Measured Weight (including mounting bolts): 103 grams
Bolted to: Nicolai G1
Reviewer: 6’, 165 lb (183 cm, 74.8 kg)
Anybody who spent much time working on Downhill bikes in the early 2000s remembers (or has maybe blocked out) how miserable chainguide setup was back then. Dremels and files were part of the standard tool kit. Nothing lined up right. Chains jammed and got stuck.
Things have improved a lot since then, but Cascade Components thought there was still room to make the installation process even easier. Enter their ISCG-05 Full Guide, which is not only the easiest guide to set up that I’ve ever tried, but is also notably light and has proven to deliver excellent chain retention and protection. And like all of Cascade Components’ products, it’s designed and manufactured at their facility in Everett, Washington.
Design and Compatibility
The design of the Full Guide is exceedingly simple. There’s an aluminum backplate and plastic upper and lower guides that overhang the chainring to keep the chain in place. The lower guide includes a substantial bashguard to protect the chain and chainring from impacts, and unlike most other models, that guard actually fully covers the chain, instead of just sitting next to it.
The most unusual feature of the Full Guide, though, is that there’s no adjustability built in. You bolt the guide onto the bike’s chainguide tabs and you’re done. If your chainring has cutouts that let you access the mounting bolts through the ring, you don’t even need to take off the cranks — the guide can just slide on from the front, and since the overhanging design of the guide plates doesn’t require exact adjustment for differing chainlines, there are no shims or spacers to deal with, either. It’s literally a 30-second process.
The Full Guide is compatible with 30- and 32-tooth round rings only, and the plastic guide parts are specific to each chainring side, while the backplate is common to both. Oval rings aren’t supported. The guide plates don’t quite touch the chain in normal pedalling positions — the upper guide can touch deep in the travel in lower gears, a situation where you’re unlikely to be pedalling — but they sit close enough to physically prevent the chain from leaving the chainring teeth.
Cascade Components also offers Upper and Lower versions of the guides, which are essentially the two separate halves of the Full Guide. The partial guides do feature a small amount of adjustability when it comes to clocking the guide, and while we haven’t yet tried either, the installation process should be essentially the same.
The biggest limitation to the Full Guide’s compatibility is the requirement of “true” ISCG-05 tabs. While ISCG-05 is a standard that defines the exact layout of the three mounting tabs, some bikes (such as the latest Santa Cruz Nomad) slightly tweak the hole locations or clocking, usually to avoid suspension pivot locations or deal with other packaging constraints. With a lot of other chainguides, which have large slots for the mounting holes, that’s no problem, since there’s a bit of wiggle room built in. The Full Guide, however, requires tabs that adhere exactly to the standard layout. Cascade Components has a printable template on their website that you can use to verify whether or not your bike will work with the Full Guide. They’ve also got a database of bikes with known compatibility (and incompatibility) which isn’t very thoroughly populated yet but should expand in the future.
My Nicolai G1 does use “true” ISCG-05 tabs, but the Hope Evo crankset I was using with it has a very slightly narrower-than-standard chainline, which caused the chain to rub slightly on the lower guide. A 0.5 mm crank spindle spacer solved the problem, and I did mount the Full Guide on a couple of other bikes to verify fit — the Full Guide worked nicely with every other combination I tried, including Race Face Next R cranks and bottom bracket on the G1.
On The Trail
Simply put, the Full Guide has worked faultlessly so far. I haven’t dropped a chain once (including doing some riding with the derailleur clutch disengaged for testing purposes). It’s been quiet, drag-free (there’s no chain contact at all), and has shrugged off some sizeable hits, judging by the scars on the bottom of the bash guard. There’s not much more I could ask of a chainguide, and while there are plenty of others that would do roughly as good a job at keeping my chain on, the ease-of-use details and low weight do make Cascade Components’ offering stand out.
The Cascade Components Full Guide is undeniably expensive and won’t work on every bike out there, but it is the easiest chaingude that I’ve ever tried when it comes to installing and using it, and by a big margin. It’s also worked flawlessly in my time on it, weighs less than any other full guide I can think of, is US-made, and looks really good to boot.