What is a Chainstay on a Bike and Why Should You Know About It? 

What even is that? I have never heard of this term. Is it important to know about it to be a great bike rider? This article will take you through a detailed chainstay guide. So, what is a chainstay on a bike actually?

What is Chainstay on a Bike?

What is a Chainstay on a Bike

Chainstay also known as stays, these are a pair of metal tubes connecting the bottom bracket with the center of the back wheel (rear dropout). If you look closer, you’ll notice that the front and rear chainstay are unequal in length. 

Besides, you’ll observe a heavy stay on the chain side or the drive side for extra strength as there is a risk of damage to the mountain bike. A lighter chainstay is on the opposite side for increasing power-train efficiency. 

Where is the Chainstay Present on a bike?

You can find it between the bottom bracket shell and the rear dropout. 

What is Chainstay Length

The length of a chainstay is equal to the distance from the center of the bottom bracket shell to the center of the rear wheel axle. Length of stay has a direct effect on the wheelbase of your bike which in turn changes its stability. So, an increased wheelbase is relatively stronger than the one with a shorter wheelbase. 

Likewise, longer chainstays mean the distance between the wheels of a bike will also increase and thus making biking comfortable while decreasing the efficiency at the same time. After knowing the answer to your question, what is a chainstay on a mountain bike, next comes the advantages and disadvantages of both longer and shorter chainstays.

Make sure to have right MTB tire pressure while going for mountain bike rides.

Merits and Demerits of Longer and Shorter Chainstays 

Changing the length of a chainstay without a doubt affects the overall handling of any bike. So, let’s discuss that. 

The Outcome of Longer Chainstays

Outcome of Longer Chainstays
  • A longer mountain bike chainstay increases the wheelbase. This makes your bike highly stable even at exceeding speeds. 
  • An increased wheelbase makes the rider get closer to the center of the bike and thus makes your bike less bumpy. 
  • A lengthy chainstay will have an impact on the mobility of your bike, meaning it would be difficult to move it around. 
  • Don’t mind the extra weight that comes along with a longer chainstay. Some folks who prefer their bikes to be as lightweight as possible avoid longer stays. 
  • If you use your bike particularly for exploring difficult terrains or landscapes, you cannot achieve it with a longer chainstay. 
  • For trails and tracks with obstacles, the longer chainstay would make it difficult for you to lift the front of your bike and overcome them. Whereas the rear wheel will offer better traction on steep climbs. However, there won’t be any issue with flatter terrains. 
  • Since your bike is now extremely stable thanks to the long chainstay, the handling becomes much easier now while the turnover rate slows down. 

Outcome of Shorter Chainstays

Outcomes of Shorter Chainstays
  • A shorter bike chainstay calls for a short wheelbase. This makes the bike less stable. 
  • The bike becomes more agile, meaning moving it around is effortless. The turnover rate is now quicker. 
  • The rear wheel of the bike gets closer to the center of gravity in case of a short chainstay. You end up feeling like you are sitting just above the rear wheel. 
  • While riding trail bike or XC, you can attain high speeds with a short stay and also climb trails that are impossible with longer stays.
  • For someone who likes to keep their bikes light, a short stay is better as it weighs less. 
  • The bike is now highly unstable because the center of gravity has now moved towards the back of the bike, making the front side less stable. You will feel this instability when you try to climb a track or when trying to keep your bike firm on slippery turns. 
  • When the bike is agile enough, it would make the handling of your bike an effort as it is accelerated in an instant, especially when you are going downhill.

You may also want to read about Post mount vs flat mount disc brakes

Chainstay Protector 

On uneven terrains or tracks, the part of your bike mostly affected is the chainstay because it comes in contact with the chains that destroy the paint of the stays as well. Likewise, the bike frame can have grease and dirt thrown by the chains which would not be easy to remove. Therefore, you have several options when it comes to chainstay protectors and they are as follows: 

  • Clear electrical protectors are thin and they can tear apart easily when you drop the chain.
  • You can also have thick fabric covers as chainstay protectors that would do the same job but they can get dirty easily. 
  • Neoprene covers with Velcro are the best because they are easily cleaned and removed. 

Even after getting the exact size chainstay protector, secure it with zip ties and it would stay in its position. Although they are quite reasonable to purchase, you can also make one by DIY. 

Frequently Asked Questions of Chainstay

Is bicycle chainstay different from the mountain bike chainstay?

No, the chainstays of bicycles and mountain bikes are the same because their function is alike, that is, to lock the rear axle in its position. 

Are all chainstay protectors the same size? 

No, they are not. Usually, chainstay protectors come in a length of 250mm. If your chainstay is a short one, you’ll have to remove the extra pieces and if it is long, add some pieces to fit it into your chainstay.  

What do you mean by the wheelbase of a bike? 

The wheelbase of a bike is the distance from the axle of the front wheel to the axle of the rear wheel. Any change in the wheelbase has a direct effect on the stability and speed of the bike. 

Final thoughts: What length Chainstay should you prefer & why? 

There is no wrong and right when it comes to chainstays as each length performs differently. So, if you want more acceleration and stability, go for a lengthy chainstay or else install a short chainstay.

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