Bicycling

Best Bike Chains for better gear shifting (Review+Guide)

Best-Byke-Chain.-Image-Source Pixabay
Best-Byke-Chain.-Image-Source Pixabay

It’s hard to imagine a bicycle without a chain. The Chain is the primary component that makes the wheels move.

To an average cyclist, a chain is rather a pain as you need to change it after every few months or once a year. 

We got the best bike chains for you, and our detailed buying guide will help you to know what to look for in a quality bike chain.

Without further ado, let’s get started!

Best bike chain reviews.

Preview
KMC X8.99/X8 Bicycle Chain (1/2 x...
Shimano Ultegra/XT CN-HG701 11-Speed...
SHIMANO Unisex's CNHG95116 Bike Parts,...
Sram PC 1051 P-Lock 10-Speed 114L...
KMC Chain 1SP S1 BRN
Title
KMC X8.99/X8 Bicycle Chain (1/2 x...
Shimano Ultegra/XT CN-HG701 11-Speed...
SHIMANO Unisex's CNHG95116 Bike Parts,...
Sram PC 1051 P-Lock 10-Speed 114L...
KMC Chain 1SP S1 BRN
Star
Price
$16.64
$36.95
$24.55
$23.87
$7.99
Preview
KMC X8.99/X8 Bicycle Chain (1/2 x...
Title
KMC X8.99/X8 Bicycle Chain (1/2 x...
Star
Price
$16.64
Buy Now
Preview
Shimano Ultegra/XT CN-HG701 11-Speed...
Title
Shimano Ultegra/XT CN-HG701 11-Speed...
Star
Price
$36.95
Buy Now
Preview
SHIMANO Unisex's CNHG95116 Bike Parts,...
Title
SHIMANO Unisex's CNHG95116 Bike Parts,...
Star
Price
$24.55
Buy Now
Preview
Sram PC 1051 P-Lock 10-Speed 114L...
Title
Sram PC 1051 P-Lock 10-Speed 114L...
Star
Price
$23.87
Buy Now
Preview
KMC Chain 1SP S1 BRN
Title
KMC Chain 1SP S1 BRN
Star
Price
$7.99
Buy Now

1. KMC X8.99

The KMC X8.99 is a stretch proof bike chain with high durability. At least, this is what the manufacturer claims. That will depend on the type of bike or road you use.

However, this chain is one of the best bike chains you can buy for smooth gear shifting and reliability. The gear shifting is super fast. The beveled design of the plates also contributes somewhat to the smoothness of this chain.

The chain is coated with nickel so that you can expect more durability. And it looks quite good on a bike.

Most users are happy because of the affordable price range, look, and smooth gear shifting. So, we really don’t have any complaints against this chain.

You can use this chain for 6, 7, and 8 speed systems. However, the width provided by the manufacturer is 7.3 mm, which is compatible with 6-speed bikes.

ProsCons
Enables smooth and fast gear shiftingThe stamped plates have some rough edges. But won’t affect the performance of the chain.
Nickel plating increases durability
Less prone to stretching
Reliable in terms of shifting gears

Final verdict.

KMC undoubtedly makes quality bike chains. If this bike chain suits your bike, there’s no way you can miss out on this. This will definitely improve the performance of your old bike and gear substantially. 

2. Shimano Ultegra/XT

The Shimano Ultegra/XT is an 11-speed bike chain that you can use for road and MTB bikes. However, the weight seems a little bit on the heavier side. So, keep that in mind.

The best part of buying the chain is your gear shifting will become smooth. We think the asymmetric plate design and SIL-TEC surface treatment on the link plates make the chain operate smoothly with very little friction.

The performance, while great, the durability is the part where it lacks. Yes, it can last up to 2000 miles. But we don’t think these chains can last 4000-5000 miles ride. So, that’s a drawback if you are a heavy rider.

We also found the quick links provided to be problematic. They might not get connected easily, depending on the product you get on your hands. Better to have a spare quick link on your hand.

ProsCons
Smooth gear shifting with less friction.Quick links provided might not work sometimes .
Perfect for road and MTB bikes.
High-quality performance .

Final verdict.

The Shimano Ultegra/XT is more for casual and soft riders. If you are a hard rider who likes to sprint all the time, these chains might not last that long. But whatever the duration is, you are going to get top-notch performance.

3. Shimano XT

The Shimano XT is quite similar to the Shimano Ultegra/XT we reviewed earlier in terms of performance.

It has the same asymmetric plate design and Sil-tec surface treatment. So, we can expect the same smooth gear shifting benefits from this chain as well.

This chain is compatible with a Shimano 10 speed bike. The weight is a bit on the heavier side, so we don’t think it would make a good road bike. In fact, it’s recommended to be used on an MTB bike.

Although you really can’t beat the durability of Shimano chains, we found the use of locking pins a bit outdated. It’s better to buy a master link separately for this chain. But you can still use the locking pin with no issues.

Overall, it’s a quality chain that will work just fine.

ProsCons
Reduces friction by 60% .Used locking pins instead of a master link .
The design promotes smooth gear shifting .
Durable and long-lasting .

Final verdict.

Shimano chains are one of the most favorite chains in the bike community. People who ride Shimano bike know how well the chain functions. If you need to replace your older one, there’s no better chain to use than this. 

4. Sram PC 1051

Sram is also one of the most reputable players in the cycling industry. The Sram PC 1051 chains are a cost-effective alternative to replace your old worn-out chains.

These are 10-speed chains with 114 links. There is a high chance your current chain might less link than this. So, be prepared to cut them.

The chains are quite durable as it has a nickel finish on both the outer plates and the inner plates.

The power lock master link can be used multiple times. But the issue with power links is they don’t snap in an instance. You need to give a couple of tries to get it right.

Keep in mind that you need to clean this chain in a solvent because it comes coated in cosmoline.

ProsCons
Offers quite riding experienceTakes few tries to snap the power lock master link
Durable and long-lasting with nickel finish
The power lock master link is reusable

Final verdict.

This Sram chain is definitely worth the money if you have a 10-speed bike. The more you ride, the more you can understand how awesome this is. 

5. KMC Z410.

The KMC Z410 is one of the best bike chains for single speed bikes. It will last at least 2000 miles. So, that’s pretty good compared to the price you pay.

You can use this chain for all BMX and non-derailleur bikes.

The color options are just too good to be used on a kid’s bike. This makes a quality gift for your children on their birthdays.

Keep in mind, the chain is not as heavy as a true BMX chain. But still quite heavy compared to a standard chain.

The master link is a spring clip type link. You need to shorten the chain with a chain tool as it has 112 links.

ProsCons
Different color options available .The paint quality is poor.
Durable and likely to last at least 2000 miles .
Compatible with most BMX bikes .

Final verdict.

You really can’t expect more from a chain at this price. But it still makes a quality product that will effectively replace your old chains.

Bike chain buying guide.

1. Types of a bike chain.

The sad part is there is no universal bike chain that will fit every bike under the roof. So, depending on the type of bike you have, the chains will also change.

Road bike chain.

Road bikes are known for their lightweight construction. And a bike chain can add quite a lot of weight, though it might look insignificant.

For a road bike, it’s best to go with an alloy chain as these are more lightweight than other materials.

What really matters is the speed compatibility.

MTB chain.

MTB chains undergo the maximum wear and tear. As you will be riding on muddy roads with dirt and debris, your chain should be able to withstand such conditions.

So, look for a bike chain that has some sort of special coating to withstand dirt. Chains that are also easy to clean should also help because you need to clean them more.

But keep in mind, MTB chains have a shorter life span in general.

BMX chain.

For BMX bikes, chains should be lightweight and in most cases single speed.

BMX chains are narrower compared to MTB or road bike chains. Usually, the width is 0.12”.

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2. Speed of the bike chain.

Bike chain speed ranges from 6-11. This is the single most important thing when buying bike chains.

Your bike speed must match with the chain speed, otherwise, it will affect the overall performance and weaken the mechanical system.

Here’s a bike speed chart with their corresponding width.

Chain speed Chain width (mm)
67.8
77.3
87.1
96.6-6.8
106.2 or 5.8
115.5

4. Chain durability.

Chain durability is a subjective matter. It depends on individual use. There is no specific way to tell whether a chain will last.

The nature of your riding, the pathways, cleaning frequency, etc. will affect the durability.

Often, the weakest point in a bike chain is the master link. Top brands like Shimano and SRAM will perform slightly better than the others. However, there is not much difference.

A stainless steel bike chain will resist stretching longer than other chains.

If you keep your chains cleaned, it can even last more than 4000 miles. 

Bike chain FAQ

1. What bike chain lube should I use?

There are two types of lubes available for bikes-wet lubes and dry lubes.

Depending on the weather and season, the choice of lubes will change.

For dry weather in spring and summer, it’s best to use dry lube. And for wet conditions during fall and winter, wet lube is the best.

2. How long does a bike chain last?

Technically, with proper maintenance, a bike chain can last up to 8000 miles.

However, at that point, your chain will become inefficient and more prone to fall out during rides.

3000-4000 miles is the point at which you should change your bike chains. 

3. Why does my bike chain fall off?

Bike chains can fall off because either of the L screw or H screw on the front derailer became loose.

For more, read this article

3. How to test if I need to change the bike chain?

There are three ways to check whether or not your current bike chain needs replacement:

  • Measure 23 rivets from one side of the chain. The length should be 12”. If it’s more than 1.59mm, the chain should be replaced.
  • First, you need to lift the chain from the front chainring. The gears have to be shifted to the smallest cog on the back and the largest chainring in the front. More gap between the chain and the chainring will mean it’s time to change the chain.
  • Get a chain checker tool. This will save all the hassle. 

4. How to remove an old bike chain?

You can remove an old chain by disconnecting it from the pins.

For removing the chain, get the chain to the smallest chainring and cog first. And then, you can use the chain tool to get the pinout.

Alternatively, special bike plyers can also be used.

Last update on 2020-04-04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

About the author

Jaber

I am Jaber from Ptk. In my young age, my goal has become a footballer but now I am a writer. I enjoy when I got a new product for review. Now my best hobby is writing.

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