A bike chain is a pretty important part of a bicycle, and it’s important that you have a good one in order to keep the bicycle working properly. The chances are though, that you most likely aren’t well versed on general knowledge about bicycles.
If you aren’t sure about what you’re looking for when you’re looking for a new bike chain, it can be quite tricky to know what you should opt for, especially because there are a lot of options out there.
Thankfully, we’ve compiled the research and brought you this list of the best bike chains to help you to make your decision. Read on to find out more about the best bike chains, in addition to a handy buyer’s guide to help you to know what you are looking for.
Top 5 Best Bike Chains
OUR TOP PICK
The SRAM PC 1071 variety of products is quite well known for being fairly inexpensive, so if you’re looking for a bike chain on a budget then you will like this offering. The chain is fairly lightweight, being 20 grams lighter than most other products in the same category.
In addition to this, the chrome hardened pivot pins are quite attractive looking. The bike chain is a little different from the previous model too, as the outer plates have been reshaped to make less noise when you pedal. The chain can be used for 10 speed bikes, and it can be used with all SRAM cassettes and chainrings in order to make sure that the shifting operation is smooth.
One thing that you should remember is that this particular bike chain does not have any corrosion resistant coating. It does have nickel plating, but you should be very careful and ensure that you lubricate the chain frequently.
You can install the chain without buying any extra tools too because the manufacturer has included a PowerLock connecting link. You should remember that every power link should only be used once. If you do need to take apart the chain later down the line then you are going to need to buy a new PowerLock to assemble it again.
- The manufacturer has included a PowerLock link so that it can be assembled easily
- You don’t need any extra tools to assemble the chain
- It can be used with Shimano and SRAM 10 Speed drivetrains
- You can only use the PowerLock Link one time
You may be wondering why we’ve mentioned KMC so many times in this article. To put it simply, KMC make some impeccable bike chains and their reputation precedes them, so you know they produce products that you can trust. Thie KMC Z50 Bicycle Chain can be used with 5, 6 and 7 speed units.
Thankfully, this bicycle chain has been designed in such a way that it will provide smooth gear shifting. This also means that the bike makes very little noise when shifting gears, so you don’t need to worry about making lots of noise on your relaxing bike ride around the local park. The outer plates have also been chamfered and they give the cyclist more accurate steering in the drivetrain.
The chain actually has a total of 116 links and every one of these links is ½ inches. This means that the whole chain is around 58 inches long. Even if the chain doesn’t end up coming with an additional pin, one is actually installed already on an end link. You are going to need to invest in a pair of chain tools or some pliers in order to put the product together, though.
The chain also comes with factory lubrication and this can last quite a while before you need to apply the lubrication again.
- Can be used with 5, 6, and 7 speed bikes
- Comes with chamfered plates so gear shifting is smoother
- Compatible with IG and HG
The KMC X10Sl 10 Speed Gold Chain can be used with 10 speed drivetrains from a range of brands, including SRAM, Shimano and Campagnolo. This is a high rigidity hollow pin bike chain that has a lot to offer!
The bike has a titanium nitride coating, and it is exceptionally durable, with a long lifespan so you don’t need to worry about constantly replacing the chain every couple of months. The chain is very light, which is what the SL stands for - Super Light. It only weighs 243 grams, and the chain combines together slotted plates and hollow pins and it is still very strong.
The bike chain also has a double X bridge shape, and because of this, the process of shifting gears is much more quiet and smooth. It comes with a connector link that allows you to assemble the chain easily, and you can also remove it simply. In fact, the connector can also be used as many times as you need to. With this, you don’t need to worry about any extra expenses.
- Stretch proof
- Has titanium coating
- Very lightweight
- Some customers have complained that there is poor durability
For extra durability, you can’t go wrong with the KMC X9L Bicycle Chain. This product actually has perforations on the inner and outer plates, in addition to hollow link pins. This helps to reduce any excess weight so pedaling is a lot easier.
The chain also features chamfered inner surfaces on the outer plates and this means that the gear shifting is really smooth. The product also comes with a quick connecting link that helps you to be able to put the chain together really easily by yourself.
You can also use the chain along with all of the 9 speed drivetrain systems from Shimano, SRAM and Campagnolo. It should be noted though that while the gold version of the chain is coated with titanium nitride, it’s a little bit more expensive than the silver version. Otherwise it’s a fantastic choice.
- No unnecessary weight because the chain is hollow inner plated
- Can be used with all 9 speed drivetrain systems from a range of brands
- Comes in silver and gold
- The gold chain version is a bit expensive
The Connex 11SX 11 speed chain combines together nickel coating and an inner link constructed of stainless steel, which means that the product oozes durability. It’s also corrosion resistant! That’s not all, however.
With this bike chain, the plates are made to be able to shift gears smoothly, and the noise is practically nonexistent while you are cycling. The chain of 11 speed is a little narrow usually, but Connex have made a radial pin riveting that has been combined with a special pin coating in order to ensure that the chain performs impeccably.
You will not just get the chain with your purchase, however. With the Connex 11SX 11 speed chain, you will also get the Connex Link, and this is designed to ensure that you aren’t going to need any extra tools in order to disconnect or assemble the chain. There are 118 bike chain links in total, and these are strong against any force. You really can’t fault the performance of this bike chain.
- You can reuse the connex link
- 118 chain links included
- Corrosion resistant
- A little expensive
Best Bike Chains Buyer’s Guide
What is a Bike Chain?
Not all cyclists know about the individual components of their bike. You may be getting some miles in on your bike and may not even be thinking about how all of the parts of your bike work together. You may not even notice your bike chain is there until it stops working.
A bike chain is the thing that is responsible for transferring the power that you put onto the pedals onto the wheel of the bike. This means that the harder you pedal, the faster your bike will go.
Kinds of Bike Chains
There are all sorts of different bike chains on offer, and the option you choose is largely going to depend on what exactly you’re looking for. Here are the different bike chains that you may find when you’re on the hunt for a new bike chain.
There are 6 different speeds of bike chains available, ranging from 6 up to 11.
The chain will move up or down on the sprocket as you shift gears in the bike. Essentially, the more gears and thus speeds you have on the bike, the more narrow the width of the bike chain will be.
You can usually use the same speed bike chain for any kind of bike. It is, however, very important to make sure that you match the right speed chain to the speed of the bike to make sure that you have a good fit and the best functioning.
There are a few different speeds available. First is the 6 speed bike chain. This is the widest bike chain and it measures a width of 7.8mm. The next level up from this is the 7 speed bike chain which measures a width of around 7.2mm, then there’s an 8 speed bike chain measuring a width of 7.1 mm.
From here, the next level is the 9 speed bike chain measuring a width of 6.6 to 6.8 mm. Then, there are 10 speed bike chains, and some 11 speed bike chains.
Types of Bike Chain
Road Bike Chain
When you have a road bike, you want to keep things as lightweight as possible. Of course, bike chains are a pretty small part of a bike, so you may be curious whether the weight is even that important. It largely depends on your own preference!
If you are looking for a more lightweight bike chain, you should be looking for bike chains that are made out of lighter materials such as alloy. You should also make sure that the chain is designed to be able to fit with the speed of your bike. It’s really not worth risking getting a 6 speed chain for a 7 speed bike.
Usually MTB chains can be used for either mountain biking or for road biking. The most important thing when you’re looking for an MTB bike chain is to look at the size. Usually an 8 speed chain should be able to fit an 8 speed bike, and you should be fine as long as you follow the sizing rules.
If you are a mountain biker it may be worth opting for a bike chain that is able to put up with a little bit more dirt, given the territory. You should try to look for bike chains that have special coatings or options that are easy to clean. This is because muddy and dirty bike chains that are difficult to clean may get rusty sooner and will have a shorter lifespan as a result.
BMX Bike Chains
BMX bike chains are a totally different ball game than the other two options previously discussed. Most BMX bike chains are a little bit more narrow than the chains of road or mountain bikes, and usually measure at around 1/8th width.
It’s still pretty important to make sure that you think about the speed when you are choosing a chain for your BMX bike. A lot of BMX bikes tend to only be a single speed so you will need to make sure that you get a single speed chain. Nothing else is going to work for a BMX bike.
You may also wish to opt for a lightweight chain if you’re a BMX rider, as this will allow you to be able to jump a lot easier and moving across terrain can be a little more simple. Keep an eye out for lightweight materials, alloy for instance, and looking for a chain with protective coating is also a good idea.
There are also two kinds of chains for a BMX. Firstly there’s the traditional BMX chain. This is the kind of chain that you most commonly find on a BMX bike. These kinds of chains feature the same inner link and outer link configuration that mountain bike and road bike chains do. They also half two ‘half links.’
The other kind of bike chain is the half link BMX chain. These chains have identical links with a thick and a thin end. On the thick end there is a standard width, while the thinner end is more like the size of the inner link of the normal chain. These chains are a little bit easier to adjust and it can be done a little bit more accurately.
Best Bike Chains FAQ's
How do you tighten a bike chain?
Bike chains that start coming undone when you’re in the middle of a ride are incredibly frustrating. If you do have this issue then it may be that you just need to tighten the bike chain up. If the chain starts to move up and down more than an inch when engaged, then you will need to tighten up the bike chain.
Generally, you will find that loose chains are more common on bicycles that don’t already have a derailleur. If your bike does have a derailleur and it has gotten to a point where it doesn’t keep the right chain tension anymore, then you may need to replace the derailleur.
Otherwise, you will need to loosen the bolts that hold onto the back tire. Then, move that tire back until the chain begins to tighten. Once you have done this, you need to try and figure out what the right amount of tension is, remembering that the chain should not move more than one inch. It may be worth having someone to help you out when you are tightening the bike chain.
How do you know when you need to replace your bike chain?
Most bike mechanics will suggest that you replace the chain in your bike every 2000 to 3000 miles, but it may be that you need to replace it a little sooner than this. Noticing the signs that your bike chain needs replacing is thus rather important.
Usually, when a bike chain starts to wear out too much, it will stretch and potentially skip over the teeth that are on the sprocket. If you notice this problem early then you may not even need to replace the chainrings or the cassette, but on occasion you may need to get new parts.
There are also a few other signs that will tell you whether you need to get a new bike chain. To start with, try and lift the chain off from the front chainring. Then, shift the gears into the smallest cog on the rear and the largest chainring in the front. Lift the chain, and if you can see a huge gap in between the chain and the chainring then it may be a good idea to start looking for a new bike chain.
In addition to this, if you have a ruler on hand, measure the chain using a ruler. Then, choose a rivet on the chain and then line it up on the zero mark on the ruler. Once you have done this, count 23 rivers, and your last rivet should be on the 12 inch mark. If the measurement is off by more than 1/16th then you should get a new chain.
Finally, you can also use a chain checker tool to see if you need a new chain. There are a number of different brands available that all differ a little but the function should be more or less the same.