Check Out Some of The Best Bicycle Chain Reviews

A bike chain is a combination of several links that are being held together by pins. The role of a bike chain is to turn the power that you generate with your pedals into actual movement. It transmits this power from your pedals to your freewheel/cassette and helps you reach your destination. The most common material used in the construction of bike chains is alloy steel, because it can withstand the power and stress that’s generated by pedaling. You’d think that being a simple mean of transportation (at least compared to cars and subways), a bike is made of simple and easy to replace components. In reality, it can be really confusing to know which type of bike seat to get, what you need in your emergency bike toolbox and how to replace a bike chain.

Bike chains look so simple, and yet the mechanisms behind them are pretty techy and unless you’ve had your fair share of technical encounters with them, buying a new chain for your bike can be a pretty confusing process.

Top 6 Best Bicycle Chain Comparisons

Brand

Details

Our Rating

chain, bicycle chain

KMC X9L Bicycle Chain

  • Dimensions: 4 x 4 x 1 inches
  • Weight: 1 pounds
  • Material: nickel-plated
  • Bike speed: 9 speed
bicycle chain, chain, powerchain

SRAM PC 1071 HollowPin Chain 

  • Dimensions: 4.4 x 4.4 x 0.6 inches
  • Weight: 6.1 ounces
  • Material: steel
  • Bike speed: 10 speed 
bicycle chain, chains

Connex 11SX 11-Speed Chain 

  • Dimensions: 24 x 11.4 x 17.7 inches
  • Weight: 9.8 ounces
  • Material: stainless steel
  • Bike speed: 11 speed
gold chain, bicycle chain, chain

KMC X10SL 10-Speed Gold Chain 

  • Dimensions: 4 x 4 x 1 inches
  • Weight: 9 ounces
  • Material: steel & titanium coating
  • Bike speed: 10 speed
chain, bicycle chain

KMC Z50 Bicycle Chain 

  • Dimensions: 3.8 x 3.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Weight: 12.2 ounces
  • Material: N/A
  • Bike speed: 5, 6, 7 speed
chain, bicycle chain

SHIMANO Ultegra CN-6700 Chain 

  • Dimensions:
  • Weight: 1.98 pounds
  • Material: steel
  • Bike speed: 10 speed

Chains & Bike Types


If you aren’t familiar with the bike-world terminology, there are some concepts that might confuse you (especially if you’re not a huge fan of mechanics either). When you’re on the market looking for a bike chain to replace your old one, there are some basic pieces of information that could help you make your way towards better understanding what this and that means. For example, you should know that today’s modern bikes have chains that feature a ½ inch pitch, which is the distance between two adjacent pins. However, this width is variable, depending on the speed of your current bike.

chains, type of chains

You will also come across the terms “roller widths”, which is the width of the space between the inner plates. As a general rule of thumb, these widths are 2.4, 3.2, 4.0 and 4.8 mm. One thing you shouldn’t concern yourself too much with is the total length of the chain. Typically, bike chains come with a total of 116 links, which should be more than enough to cover your needs. It often happens that the delivered chain is too long, and you have to shorten it. Once you get the gist of it, it should be relatively easy for you to add or remove links from the chain.

There are 3 common bike types: BMX, mountain, and road. When you’re looking to purchase a chain, you need to make sure that it is compatible with your specific type of bike (or you can look for universal chains).
BMX bike, BMX chain, chain

BMX Chains

Chains that are suitable with BMX bikes are generally narrower compared to those found on mountain or road bikes, measuring 1/8 inches in width. A lot of BMX bike models are single-speed, so make sure that you purchase a single-speed chain. BMX riders are often interested in lighter chains, as any extra weight can slow them down. Try to look for chains that are made with an alloy construction, as they have less weight, but also make sure that they have special protective coating.

Mountain Bike Chains

If you own a mountain bike, you need to look for a chain that can withstand more grime and grit compared to a regular road bike chain. Chains with special coating are preferred, because it’s really important to have a product that’s easy to clean when mud and debris constantly stick to it.

mountain bike chain, bicycle chain, chain

Road Bike Chains

Road bikes are all about lightweight. Some people think that a chain can’t possibly add that much weight to the bike, but more professional cyclists know that every ounce count.

Choosing a Good Bike Chain

chains, bike chain

Every good quality chain is supposed to make transition between pedaling and wheel movement as smooth as possible. Fancier chains will force the links to assist you with shifting gears, but they also provide a much better pin coverage so that the pins will stay protected and lubricated. This will make the chain more flexible and allow power transfer with greater ease. In order to know which is the best bike chain, you should know information such as the “speed” of the chain. This is what determines the width.

To give you a better understanding of how this works, you should know that an 11-speed chain, for instance, is narrower compared to a 9 speed chain. That’s because the sprockets on the cassette of the 11-speed chain create a narrow space between them. In consequence, an 11-speed transmission will require an 11-speed chain. The price of a chain will also depend on the build qualities of the product. If a chain doesn’t have a complicated manufacturing process it will, of course, be cheaper.

There are 3 important things we feel the need to mention at this point:

chain, important points, clean chain
  • A bike chain is a very complicated unit. A standard chain can have up to 116 links in its composition and features a lot of moving parts. If you’re replacing your current chain with a new one, use the old chain as reference. A basic rule is that the chain should be long enough so that you can shift it on the largest cassette cog and the largest front chainring, but it needs to be short enough as to prevent slack between the cog and the smallest chainring. 

  • Your chain’s lifespan is often determined by how you ride your bike. If you frequently cycle at a large cadence, your will prolong the lifespan of your bike chain. Tougher gears will often lead to more chain stress. Also, replacing your chain on a constant basis will prolong your drive train’s life. In fact, as most mechanics will tell you, you should replace the chain after every 2,000 to 3,000 miles. There is a tool known as a chain-checker that allows you to measure the stretch of your current chain.

  • Just like with every other bike component, your chain needs to be cleaned. If you do this after every ride, you will significantly prolong its lifespan. All you need is a clean cloth to wipe it down or, in case of excessive dirt, you can use some liquid soap, a bit of hot water and a nylon brush to scrub it. Make sure that you use lubricant after each clean.

Top 6 Best Bicycle Chain Reviews

KMC X9L Bicycle Chain

  • Dimensions: 4 x 4 x 1 inches
  • Weight: 1 pounds
  • Material: nickel-plated
  • Bike speed: 9 speed
chain, bicycle chain

The X9L bike chain is a very sturdy product that features perforations on the outer and inner plates, as well as hollow link pins. The design of the chain is aimed at limiting unnecessarily weight, so that you can find pedaling easier. Because it wants to ensure smooth cog-to-cog shifting, this bike chain comes with chamfered inner surfaces on the outer plates. In order to make sure that you can easily assemble the chain by yourself, KMC has included a quick-connecting link.

The chain is compatible with all 9 speed drivetrain systems from SRAM, Shimano or Campagnolo. The gold version of this chain is coated with titanium-nitride, but it is also more expensive compared to the silver version. The golden chain will reduce stretch stress and has a capacity of better retaining lube on its surface.

Pros

  • Available in both gold and silver.
  • Compatible with all 9 speed drivetrain systems from SRAM, Shimano or Campagnolo.
  • Hollow inner plated eliminate unnecessary materials.

Cons

  • Gold chain model is pricey.

SRAM PC 1071 HollowPin Chain

  • Dimensions: 4.4 x 4.4 x 0.6 inches
  • Weight: 6.1 ounces
  • Material: steel
  • Bike speed: 10 speed
bicycle chain, chain, powerchain

Being the most inexpensive chain in SRAM’s variety of products, this model features hollow pins as well. Those interested to save 20 grams in the total weight, may actually find this chrome hardened pivot pins attractive. Compared to the previous model, the outer plates have been reshaped to ensure less noise when pedaling. Designed for 10 speed drivetrains, this chain is compatible with all SRAM cassettes and chainrings, to ensure a smooth shifting operation.

However, beware of the fact that this model doesn’t have corrosion resistant coating (even if it features nickel plating), so you will have to be extra careful in lubricating the chain often. The chain can be installed without the need for special tools, as the manufacturer has thrown in a PowerLock connecting link. Even so, take note of the fact that each PowerLink should only be used once and if you have to take apart the chain for some reason, you will need to purchase a new PowerLock link for reassembly.

Pros

  • Compatible with Shimano and SRAM 10 speed drivetrains.
  • Comes with a PowerLock link for easy assembly.
  • No additional tools required for assembly.

Cons

  • Inner link plates do not have corrosion-resistant coating.
  • PowerLock link can only be used once.

Connex 11SX 11-Speed Chain

  • Dimensions: 24 x 11.4 x 17.7 inches
  • Weight: 9.8 ounces
  • Material: stainless steel
  • Bike speed: 11 speed
bicycle chain, chains

The promising combination between nickel coating and the stainless steel construction of the inner link determines an end product that’s both durable and corrosion-resistant. The plates are designed in such a way as to allow smooth shifting of the gears and to keep the chain noise to a minimum as you’re cycling. Even if a chain of 11 speed is quite narrow, Connex has designed a radial pin riveting that’s neatly combined with the special pin coating to make sure that the chain performs better than you’d expect.

Alongside the chain, you will also receive the Connex Link which is there to make sure that you won’t need any additional tools to assemble or disconnect the chain. The package contains 118 bike chain links, which are resistant to force and have advances plating geometry for the best riding performance of the cyclist.

Pros

  • Connex Link is reusable.
  • Nickel coating + stainless steel construction = corrosive-resistant chain.
  • 118 chain links included in the package.

Cons

  • Pricier compared to other chains in this review.

KMC X10SL 10-Speed Gold Chain

  • Dimensions: 4 x 4 x 1 inches
  • Weight: 9 ounces
  • Material: steel & titanium coating
  • Bike speed: 10 speed
gold chain, bicycle chain, chain

Compatible with 10 speed drivetrains from SRAM, Shimano and Campagnolo, the X10SL is a high-rigidity hollow-pin bike chain. Featuring a titanium nitride coating, this bike chain should excel in durability and have a longer lifespan compared to its competitors. The “SL” in the name stands for Super Light, which makes sense considering the 243 grams of weight. Remarkably, the chain has managed to combine hollow pins and slotted plates without sacrificing the strength of the chain.

Thanks to the double X bridge shape, shifting gears is done silently and smoothly. There is a connector link for easy chain assembly and removal and, unlike SRAM, KMC’s connector can be used an unlimited number of times. This eliminates an extra-expense and allows you to dismantle and clean the chain whenever needed.

Pros

  • Available in green and blue models that feature mud-shedding design.
  • Extremely lightweight.
  • Stretch proof.
  • Features a titanium coating.

Cons

  • High number of customer complaints related to the poor durability.

KMC Z50 Bicycle Chain

  • Dimensions: 3.8 x 3.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Weight: 12.2 ounces
  • Material: N/A
  • Bike speed: 5, 6, 7 speed
chain, bicycle chain

KMC is a real beast when it comes to producing some really decent bike chains. This particular model is compatible with 5, 6 and 7 speed units. The design and construction of the links promise a smooth gear shifting, as well as a minimum noise output when doing so.  Outer plates are chamfered and provide the cyclist with accurate steering within the drivetrain.

The chain has 116 links in total and every link is ½ inches, adding up to a total length of 58 inches for the entire chain. Even if the chain doesn’t come with an extra pin, there is a pin already installed on an end link. However, you will need a pair of chain tools or pliers to assemble the product. The chain is delivered with factory lubrication which lasts a surprising amount of time before a new lube application is required.

Pros

  • Compatible with 5, 6 and 7 speed bikes.
  • IG and HG compatible.
  • Features chamfered plates for smoother gear shifting.

Cons

  • Doesn’t come with a reusable master link.

SHIMANO Ultegra CN-6700 Chain

  • Dimensions:
  • Weight: 1.98 pounds
  • Material: steel
  • Bike speed: 10 speed 
chain, bicycle chain

The SHIMANO Ultegra CN-6700 bike chain is made from optimized outer plates that promise to deliver durability and performance while you’re on the road. These outer plates are made from a combination of zinc and aluminum alloy that’s here to make sure you can easily shift gears and reduce the noise produced by the chain itself. In addition to that, you won’t require as much force when shifting as you would with cheaper chains. The inner plates are perforated, in order to eliminate excess weight and create a lighter product.

Due its unique and asymmetrical design, the plates facilitate the interaction between the cog and the chain. The sides of the chain have markings that facilitate the assembly process. It’s very important to only ride bikes with a properly-assembled chain, or it can fall off and you will end up suffering injuries. There is a connector pin included, which means that you won’t need nay additional tools to put the chain together or tear it apart. Since the chain uses the Hyperglide technology (simply referred to as HG), the inner and outer plates have been designed to achieve between contact with the gear teeth, which is especially visible when the bike has to carry extra weight.

Pros

  • Comes with a connecting pin.
  • Compatible with all Shimano 10-speed road drivetrains.
  • Inner and outer plates have been optimized for smoother shifting.
  • Chain is marked for easier assembly.

Cons

  • Not as durable as it seems at a first glance.

Conclusion


Bottom line is: always pick a chain that’s compatible with your bike. All of the models presented above are ranked as some of the best-selling bike chains, because they are affordable, durable and reliable. That doesn’t mean that they won’t require cleaning, maintenance or occasional replacement. Even if, over the years, bike designs haven’t changed their core features, there were a lot of modifications implemented in areas such as pins or chain links. Since chain widths are starting to become narrower and narrower (and unless you are a real bike connoisseur), it might be difficult to keep up with all the improvements.

As soon as you determine what chain speed you need, it all comes down to choosing a model that’s compatible with your type of bike and learning how to size the chain. Generally, the chain that you order will come with more links that you require, in which case you need to remove some of them, so that the total length matches your drivetrain. Thankfully, the internet is filled with a lot of useful videos and expert advice that guides you through the process. You want to use your old bike chain as a length reference, just to make sure you will accurately size the new one.

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