10 Best Bike Chain Reviews and Buying Guide 2020 (UPDATED)
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A bike chain is a crucial part of your bike. It’s tasked with converting and transmitting the power created by the pedals to the freewheel/cassette—enabling your bike to move forward.
However, bike chains don’t last forever.
They tear and wear over time, and even stretch which leads to poor performance.
When looking for a new bike chain, you can get easily overwhelmed by the varieties out there.
Finding the best bike chain for your bike—durable and sized for your specific bike— can be if you don’t know much about chains.
In the following in-depth guide, we’ll discuss deeper details on how to choose the perfect chain for your bike easily.
We’ll also parade for you some of the top bike chains you can find on the market today.
What Bicycle Chain Do I Need?
The type of bike chain you need directly depends on the type of biking you’re riding. For starters, the bike chains come in varying widths to make them suitable for use with different bikes such as BMX, or to fit different bike drivetrains like the mtb and road bikes.
Your ideal bike chain should match the number of gears in your bike drivetrain.
Taking into account the number of sprockets on your rear cassette is crucial in finding the right chain. This is because the distance between these sprockets tend to vary as you move from one-speed cassette to the next.
For instance, the distance is wider on a 9-speed block than on an 11-speed model. The chain you get should fit
In simpler words:
The higher the number of cogs on your bike’s rear hub, the smaller the spacing between the cogs. And the narrower the bike chain becomes. The chain of an 11-speed transmission will be lower than that of a 9-speed block.
Keep in mind that cassettes and chains from different manufacturers tend to be compatible with each other, except for Shimano and SRAM chains which don’t work well with the Campagnolo cassettes (and vice versa).
Let’s look at some of the top-rated bike chains that suit the need of different bikers…
10 Best Bike Chain Reviews:
1. KMC Z410 Bicycle Chain
Our list of the best bike chains starts with the KMC Z410 Bicycle Chain. For those who don’t know, KMC is one of the top bike chain manufacturers known to bikers all over and supplies to Shimano and Campagnolo.
This bike chain is suitable for all non-derailleur bikes (or single speed bikes, if you like)—which include BMX, fixies, cruisers, track, and so on. It measures ½ by x 1/8 inches and has 112 links.
KMC utilizes durable stainless steel metal in the construction of this chain. Needless to mention, this gives the chain a heavy-duty structure for a strong, stretch-resistance, and extended lifespan.
Since the bike chain comes with a master link, it helps ensure you easily connect the ends for a hassle-free, faster installation. You might need a chain breaker tool to size the chain according to your needs.
Remember the bike chain comes in up to 6 colors—black, red, orange, pink, silver, and blue—allowing you to pick a color that matches your bike.
2. zonkie 6/7/8 Speed Bike Chain
If you’re looking for the perfect replacement chain for your 6/7/8 speed cassette bike, this zonkie 6/7/8 Speed Bike Chain is a great choice. This is a high-quality product from zonkie, an experienced bike accessories manufacturer, at a cheaper cost.
Just like our KMC chain above, this model also comes with durable construction. That is, the steel used to make it undergoes multiple forging, hardening in oil bath, and treatment in oil bath to achieve an extremely high tensile load—for maximum strength and durability!
The manufacturer has also polished the chain surface to achieve high-level corrosion resistance and easier lubrication of the chain links. This means lower friction resistance of the chain’s individual metal links, better sliding, and smoother transmission.
Installing the chain to your bike is quite easy and fast, even for beginners. You simply match your new chain to your old, worn-out chain to obtain the perfect length and the master link makes I pretty straightforward for you to connect the new chain.
3. KING PROCOMPANY Heavy Duty Motorized Bike Chain
For the motorized bike owners who wish to replace their old bike chains, this is your part. The affordably priced KING PRO COMPANY Heavy Duty Motorized Bike Chain is made for the 2 stroke bike engines.
The 415 chain works for all 49cc, 66cc, and 80cc pedal bikes.
If you look closely at this chain, you’ll notice that it’s thicker than the standard bicycle chains. This is because the owner has injected an extra dose of strength into it to give it the strength it needs to stand up to the stress and punishment of a motorized bike.
We also like that it comes with a free master link which ensures an easy and fast installation job.
4. SHIMANO Ultegra CN-6701 Chain
We all know Shimano as a brand with a long history of manufacturing quality bike parts like this Ultegra CN-6701 Chain is no exception. This chain is made for riders looking for the ultimate performance to price ratio for a Shimano 10-speed equipped road bicycle or Hyperglide drivetrains.
Featuring a super-narrow and lightweight (272g) design, this 10-speed bike chain comes ready to deliver an efficient interaction between your chainset and cassette—for maximum and smooth power transfer through your 10-speed drivetrain.
The chain has undergone redesigning to feature a half-cutout design (with asymmetrical plate profile). The inner and outer plates have also undergone redesigning. The resulting new design helps optimize the chain’s shifting performance up and down your bike cassette.
Oh! Don’t forget that this chain is made of durable steel with zinc alloy plating to help keep corrosion and rusting away and extend its lifespan.
Again, this is the best deal for any biker looking for the best road bike chain at a fair cost. This is the chain to take your shifting performance and power transfer to the next level.
5. SRAM PC 1051 Chain
SRAM is another reputable brand that’s dedicated to providing you with bike parts. Their SRAM PC 1051 Chain made it to our list of the best bicycle chain reviews. Like most of the other chains on this list, this chain has a reasonable price, offering you value for money.
One of the KEY things that put this 10-speed chain on the map is its PowerLock technology, which the SRAM engineers developed as a convenient, tool-free way to connect the chain for easy, quick installation.
We also like that this chain comes with 100% corrosion-resistant nickel plating on both the outer and inner links. This further helps ensure smooth and precise shifting.
This chain works with all 10-speed drivetrains. It’s designed in such a way that it works seamlessly with the tooth shaping and pickup/release points on the SRAM cassettes and chainrings.
Above all, this chain features a durable steel nickel frame which makes it tougher and longer lasting. Don’t forget that this chain is compatible with both Shimano and SRAM 10-speed drivetrains.
6. Schwinn Bicycle Chain
Schwinn is also a big name in the biking industry. If your current 1/2" X 3/32" bike chain has become old and rusty and you need to swap it, you should consider getting this affordably priced chain from Schwinn.
The bike chain is made to fit all derailleur bikes. You can use it on your comfort, hybrid, 6-7 speed cruiser, or mountain bike. It has a total of 112 links.
This chain is also easy to install…but you’ll need a tool, a chain tool, to help with you the chain link installation. Sizing it according to your needs is also easy.
For rider convenience, the chain comes with anti-drop design. Plus, it’s fully nickel plated to make it a heavy-duty structure to enable it to withstand typical bike chain abuse for an extended period of time.
7. SRAM PC 850 P-Link Bicycle Chain
Here’s another chain from SRAM that we recommend to all riders looking for the best mountain bike chain. This top-quality bike chain delivers accurate shifting and durable wear resistance at a truly affordable cost.
This bike chain is best suited for mountain bikes with 3.0, 4.0, and 5.0 drivetrains (or 6/7/8-speed bicycles). It has a width of 7.1mm and up to 114 links.
Just like the other SRAM product, this bike chain also presents you with PowerLink technology, which facilitates easy and fast tool-free installation. You just need to insert, press and lock to join the links.
The 8-speed bike chain also boasts of superior durability. It’s constructed from steel for the ultimate strength and durability. On top of this, it features step-riveted pins which promote strong side plate retention.
8. Ztto Gold Silver Grey Bicycle Chain
Another best mountain bike chain you might consider in your short list is the Ztto Gold Silver Grey Bicycle Chain. 100% made in Taiwan by top-rated Ztto manufactures, this bike chain is a true mark of quality and reliability.
One of the best things about this chain is its mass compatibility. It’s like a once chain fits all type which will work with Shimano, SRAM, and Campagnolo 7/8/10/11/12/14/21/22/24/30/33 speed mtb and road bike drivetrains. This incredible versatility makes the chain quite popular among the road and mountain bike owners.
This is also one of the few top chains which offer you smooth and quiet shifting. The manufacturer has placed special Ni-PTFE Teflon coating on its inner and outer plates and then chamfered them to ensure a smoother and quieter shifting.
What’s more, the inner plate chamfering helps decrease the possibility of chain drop when backpedaling.
Keep in mind that this chain is incredibly lightweight, and comes in lengths of 116 links or 126 links (for the 12-speed bikes).
Probably the best part about this bike chain is that it’s made to last 100% longer than most chains. The secret to its strength lies in the long-lasting chromium carbide surface, hardened treated pin, and a roller & circle riveting which maximizes the pin power.
9. ZHIQIU FSC 9 Speed 116L Bicycle Chain
ZHIQIU FSC 116L Bicycle Chain is an excellent choice for mtb and road bike riders who want value for money. This chain is compatible with 8- and 9-speed cassettes. It’s also compatible with Shimano and SRAM variable speed systems.
One area where this chain scores incredibly high is shifting performance. It comes with double X bridge shape which translates to super-fast and smooth shifting.
In terms of quality, this chain is also hard to beat at its price. The manufacturer uses manganese-steel material which undergoes high-temperature quenching and grinding—making it durable and tensile.
Not only that, the inner and outer plates of this chain feature chamfering and stretch-resistant treatment for added strength and durability.
With the included quick install connector, installing this chain to your bike is quite easy. Remember the chain comes in several color options to help you pick one that matches your bike.
10. SHIMANO 6800 Ultegra 11-Speed Bicycle Chain
Lastly, we have this bicycle chain from Shimano, which we suggest that you buy if you’re on the hunt for the best 11 speed chain for your time trial, cyclocross, or road bike.
This particular Shimano has a width of 5.62millimeter and is designed to be used with the Shimano Ultegra 11-speed groupset. It comes with a super-narrow lightweight symmetrical design which delivers a smooth and crisp shifting performance.
For even better performance, the chain’s inner plate features SIL-TEC coating—a low friction treatment which facilitates better contact with the gears and chainrings. The outer plate is specially made to significantly minimize the possibility of chain suck.
Like the other Shimanos, this chain is also constructed from durable stainless steel for maximum strength and durability. It also features zinc alloy coated outer links for extra durability.
The chain comes complete with the Quick Link, which enables you to easy and quickly install it into place without using any tool.
3 Things To Check Before Getting a Bike Chain:
One of the key things to look for in a bike chain is its durability.
You should look for bike chains made from steel metal with hard rivets as they tend to hold up to abuse and resist stretch better.
The more durable a chain is, the more you might need to dig deeper into your pockets.
The chain you choose should match the number of speeds on your bike drivetrain.
As we mentioned a bit earlier, different chains come with different widths, which explains the need for matching the ideal chain with your bike.
For instance, a 6-speed bike will not work with an 11-speed bike and vice-versa.
A fitting chain eliminates cases of snugging or looseness, for proper chain function.
Getting the wrong chain will only end up damaging your bike.
3. Ease of installation
If you read the user reviews for different chains, you’ll also note that the ease of installation varies from model to model.
Chains which come with master link are usually easy to install.
Manufacturers have also come up with technologies such as PowerLink (for SRAM) which allow for easy and fast, tool-free bike chain installation.
If you have never installed a chain bike, you might want to look for one which comes with a quick set of instructions to help you out.
Or you can look for tutorials on how to do it on YouTube.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How do you know it’s time to replace your bike chain?
The easiest way to tell if your bike chain is worn-out and needs replacement is by paying attention to its performance. Reduced shifting performance and increased noise. If you notice your chain skipping under load, it’s ripe for replacement.
You can also determine if you should replace your bike chain by measuring it using a ruler. Line up your ruler zero mark to a rivet on the chain and count up to 23 rivets. The last (23rd) rivet should be at the 12” mark. If your measurement is off this mark by 1/16”, then you need to replace that chain.
Alternatively, you can use a chain checker tool (or chain measure tool) which easily indicates the chain level of wear.
2. How much does a bike chain cost to replace?
The cheapest, entry-level bike chains will cost you around $10 while the more expensive ones range from $25 to $60 or even more.
Keep in mind that the more money you spend on a bike chain, the greater its shift quality and durability. The expensive chains are also usually lighter.
If you take your bike to your local repair shop for a replacement, you’ll have to shed an extra $15 to $20. However, you can do it yourself if you have a chain tool; it will cost you around $10 to $50.
3. What will happen if I don’t replace my bike chain on time?
Waiting too long to replace your worn-out bike chain means it’ll start skipping under load or snapping. This way, you’ll be risking damaging your bike cassette as well.
Remember the cassette is made to work harmoniously with the chain; the chain sits smoothly on the cassette teeth. If the cassette teeth get worn out, it means it can’t hold the chain properly anymore.
Another issue that’s likely to arise when you don’t replace your chain on time is the front chainrings becoming shark-toothed and unable to hold the chain properly.
What we’re simply saying here is that if you don’t replace a worn-out chain on time, then you’ll be forced to replace the chain, the cassette, and the chainring.
Mark you, the cost of cassette runs from $25 to $300 while the chainrings cost around $40 to $250.
Honestly, these extra costs aren’t worth it! You can avoid them by replacing your bike chain on time.
4. How do take care of my bike chain?
Taking good care of your bike chain is a good way to extend its life and keep it functioning at its best.
Cleaning your chain is one way of showing it some love. If your chain is dirty, we suggest that you first clean it (use a citrus-based degreaser) before lubing it. This will help loosen up any debris and dirt present and prepare your bike for proper lubrication.
We suggest that you lubricate your bike chain after every 2-3 rides. Make sure you use bike-friendly lubricants, though…not the old school WD-40 or motor oil.
When applying the lubricant, turn your bike cranks to enable the oil to sink into the chain for proper lubrication.
5. How do I size a bike chain correctly?
If your new bike chain is too long for your drivetrains (this happens all the time) you’ll need to shorten it so that it perfectly fits in.
Luckily, this is a simple task that everyone, including absolute beginners, can do it.
You simply grab the new chain and line it up against your old chain and size it. Then, you can proceed to size the new chain to match the length of the old one.
A bike chain plays a crucial role in transmitting and converting the power you generate with your bike pedals into forward movement. However, a chain doesn’t last forever. It tends to wear out and stretch with continued use, hence the need for replacement for continued proper functioning.
The best bike chain for your bike should be durable, compatible with your bike drivetrain and easy to install.
We have outlined up to 10 top-rated chains which are durable and easy to install. We selected chains that are compatible with a wide range of drivetrain systems to ensure they meet your specific bike needs.