Product Tested: Blackspire Stinger E (specific for Shimano E-Type deraileurs)
Mounting Types: ISCG-old, ISCG’05, BB-Mount
Color: Anodized Black
Recommended Use: AM / FR
Retail Price: $30-$35
Touted as “the most affordable Dual-Ring chain tensioner in the world”, I would also give it another dubious honor, the best “plug and play” product in its class. There are literally 6 parts to it, not counting the ISCG mounting hardware (making it 9). They say a 3-year old figured out how to use the iPad because it’s so intuitive; well, I think that same kid can install this chain guide in about 5 minutes. The install is so easy, it should be renamed the “iChainguide”. The Blackspire guys probably believes this because it ships without any instructions.
Apple comparison aside, the stinger will not break the bank. At $35 USD, I didn’t think much of it when I purchased it. But it has exceeded my expectations in many ways. And really, this review is more about illuminating how a part can be made simply, at a great price point and that it just works. Sure, you can go out and buy something more blingy for three times the price and think its lighter or rolls better or whatever, but truth is, this Stinger works really well and is tough as they come. The main wear and tear part being the roller and roller bearings (one on each side), has lasted almost a year without issue. Ridden through sandy conditions and mud with multiple washings, it still works flawlessly, takes a licking and keeps on ticking. It is like a Timex.
Blackspire uses a hard rubber compound for the roller, it’s a strong material and the chain glides over it easily. The durability is helped by the smooth running bearings, with one bearing exposed on the outside, which (initially) I thought would be an issue but has turned out to be a delighter. A system I have previously used, covers both sides of the roller, the flaw in this design is that it creates build-up on either sides of the roller (between the interior backplate and between the exterior cover) — over time, because it’s difficult to clean, the build-up creates drag on the chain and grooves are worn in on the soft roller surface. Ultimately, the fine sand, silt and water causes the bearings to spin poorly and fail. Needless to say, that expensive chain guide got chucked in the trash when it lasted only 4 months.
While it’s quite understandable that aesthetics can demand a handsome price (and sometimes that’s justified), there’s always a place for parts like the Stinger. It’s a smart and sensible design that gets the job done. I feel good about telling people I’m running a $35 part that holds my chain instead of a $110 dollar part that yanks my chain.
GOOD: Price and value. It’s the best $30-$35 you’ll spend. Tough and smooth rollers. Simplistic design. Will be the best install and forget part on your bike. At 90g, weight weenies should give it a second look.
BAD: It was difficult to find anything bad to say other than maybe the beaver on the logo but I’ve forgotten about it.
Reviewed by Qwan Pham