Chain tubes seem to be somewhat of a controversial issue among tadpole trikers. Some people just don’t like them and remove them. They replace them with a dual idler pulley setup. Some say that using chain tubes slows them up as the chain drags thru them and the friction involved is the culprit causing the slowup. Some just don’t like the appearance of chain tubes. They say they are unattractive. Some say that chain tubes are noisy and they object to having them because of this. I personally don’t buy into most of the objections people raise. If everything is set up correctly I think chain tubes are a great component to employ on a tadpole trike. They keep the chain cleaner while keeping the rider cleaner. They “manage” the chain keeping it from flopping around unnecessarily, keeping it from rubbing on the frame and also keep it in place, especially if the trike is folded.


A few years ago I decided to try eliminating the chain tubes and using a second idler pulley. I ran my trike that way for awhile, but I didn’t care much for it and went back to the original setup. In fact, I even added an additional chain tube on the back side. I personally think the argument about slowing one up is silly just as is the argument about safety flags slowing a trike up and/or making too much noise flapping around. There are always going to be people who think like this and that is ok. They can do what they want. It does bother me however when they try to talk others out of using these things. A good safety flag may very well save your life.


You can see in this picture of a folded Azub trike how well the chain tubes

control the chain keeping it in place and protecting the trike frame.

In managing a chain they keep it from making contact with the trike frame and rubbing the paint off of it. They keep the chain from making contact with the rider’s leg and leaving a “tattoo” on the skin or clothing. They keep the chain in place so it doesn’t get relocated somewhere it doesn’t belong and cause other problems. This also includes the fact that it helps eliminate our having to get our hands all messed up trying to get the chain back where it belongs. Keeping a lot of the chain enclosed eliminates a lot of exposure to external elements which get the chain dirty.


The way I look at it the trike manufacturers know what they are doing and they incorporate the use of chain tubes for very good reasons. Yes, they can be eliminated, but why would you want to? In doing so you are defeating the whole purpose of why they were installed. Not every chain tube installed from the manufacturer is set up properly. I will grant you that. I redid mine so that they sort of “float” and stay in line with where the chain moves to when shifting between the various sprockets. I even heated the chain tube and put a slight bend(curve) in it so it better lines up with the chain. I also flared the ends of the chain tubes so that the chain moves thru the chain tubes better. I don’t notice any drag or noise from the chain tubes and I definitely like my leg and clothing from not making contact with the chain thanks to the chain tubing. Lastly one thing I have observed when it comes to the use of chain tubes is that they can be too long or positioned wrong or held to solidly to where they interfere with the chain moving freely allowing proper shifting onto the sprockets … front or rear. This is all common sense stuff but, hey, it happens and needs to be corrected so that everything works right. (Right along with this I have also seen idler sprocket/pulleys positioned too close to the front derailleur and sprockets which do not allow the needed movement and alignment of the chain to shift properly onto the various sprockets. This can also be the case at the rear derailleur. This is especially true with homemade trikes or trikes where someone has replaced the original chain tubes and made them longer or placed them too far forward or back in the case where they are on the rear of the trike.)

So who needs chain tubes? In my opinion we all do. But, hey, you do whatever you want. Forest Gump had it right and they say you can’t fix it! Did I really say that? Shame on me! Hey, …


FREE GIFT awaits you!

Author: Steve Newbauer

I have a few current blogs (tadpolerider1, navysight, truthtoponder and stevesmixedbag) so I am keeping busy. I hope you the reader will find these blogs interesting and enjoy your time here. Feel free to email me at tadpolerider2 at gmail dot com (

7 thoughts on “CHAIN TUBES … WHO NEEDS THEM?”

  1. I bought the T-trike idler pulley combination for Catrike 559 with ceramic bearings and titanium took the tubes off and had more noise than before. Company had no answer to me for why it was rubbing where it was rubbing. Installed new chain nothing changed went back to the tubes took the return idler off and all is good again. Big waste of money is my experience with the product.

  2. Hobo Steve, that’s an interesting rationale for chain tubes. The constant rhythm of chain tube noise would more likely cause, not prevent, my insanity. But maybe it’s already too late 🙂

  3. Well said Mr. Steve. Again, I fully agree with you … except for the part about hearing the chain sliding thru the chain tubes. Maybe I am deficient in hearing or I am so used to the sounds as I ride I can’t detect it. I am getting old, ya know. And having worked as a welder all my life I have been exposed to a lot of high decibel level sounds including working inside of tanks with pounding, grinding, etc. going on. I reckon I am blessed to hear as good as I do at this point in life. What was that you said? Speak up! You’re mumbling!

  4. I love chain tubes. A close riding buddy of mine hates them, and has long since given up on attempting to talk me out of these things. On overland journeys, I ride through a lot of junk, dirt, mud, debris, rain, hail, and so on. Chain tubes help to keep this debris off my chain. I also prefer to not have my pant legs, hands, or other things contacting a chain that is usually going to leave some kind of a mark, usually that will not launder out, in the case of cotton clothing, which I wear when triking. Of course, later after a trek, I do kind of feel a sense of pride in that permanent black sprocket imprint on my pants, haha – a badge saying that I did it. I rode motorcycles for nearly 30 years – they all had chain guards over the chain to keep it clean, and to keep the chain from spraying rain or debris onto the motorcycle and me. I never removed any of the chain guards from my motorcycles. On an overland journey in 2009, I pedaled over the Cascade Range one night after a huge snowstorm. I was overloaded with cargo (fear from first long-haul trek), and creeping along at a snail’s pace up the dark and endless mountain pass. At 2:00 AM, no traffic was out there. Only I was crazy enough to be traversing these mountains in such conditions. All looked rather bleak. I was getting colder by the minute and hour in the frigid conditions. I was questioning my wisdom, and pondering if I had succeeded in putting myself in a life-ending situation. Well, guess what kept me company during those hours of near-insanity! Yep, sure enough, the wonderful sound of the chain slowly sliding through those chain tubes was my companion, providing a reassuring rhythm that I was indeed still in motion, despite it all feeling quite hopeless. I was going to keep on going, and those chain tubes will always be my friend. It wasn’t until that silent snowy night with no other winter sounds or vehicles that I first realized how wonderful chain tube rhythm could be. Chain tubes … who needs ’em? I do. See ya’ ….

  5. I’m not a fan of chain tubes. In my experience they are a band-aid to address a flawed chain-line design. Case in point: my 2016 ICE Sprint. The chain tube truly is necessary to support folding, a feature I’ve never, in eight years of riding ICE trikes for both commuting and touring, had any use for. Then ICE doubled-down and designed the rear rack so that it interferes with the chain line in such a way that a chain tube is required. I suspect ICE’s point of view is that the chain tube relaxes design constraints that free them up for other “innovations”. Mine is that the innovations I’ve seen so far aren’t particularly useful to me and come at the cost of the added complexity and noise of chain tubes. Unfortunately ICE doesn’t offer a Sprint that doesn’t fold, so I’m stuck with a bit of chain tube where the chain passes the frame hinge and the attachment point of the rear rack. I have managed to eliminate the remainder of the chain tubes, replacing the factory toothless power-side idler with a toothed idler, and replacing the return-side chain tube with a second idler.

    As Steve mentions, noise can be reduced by properly adjusting the chain tubes. But this is a fiddly process in my experience, and only eliminates some of the noise. My take on chain tubes is similar to my response to people who tell me that butt pain on an upright bike is just a matter of the proper frame size and adjustment. Sure, you can reduce the problem on an upright with a complicated adjustment process. But it’s simply not a problem on a ‘bent. I’m not interested in fixing a problem that doesn’t need to exist.

    Don’t get me wrong– I love ICE and their trikes. I’m just not a fan of this particular design decision.

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