Best Bike Chain in 2020 That Can Withstand Wear and Tear

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A bike chain is one of those essential components of your biking gear that you probably take for granted until you go without it. You see, the chain gets the bicycle moving by working with your pedaling motion.

Basically, without the chain, you’d be going nowhere fast. That’s why you need it to ensure optimal performance.

Bike chains are commonly made from alloy steel which is one of the most durable materials. It’s chosen particularly for its ability to withstand the constant pressure of pedal to metal on different types of road surfaces.

Bike Chain Reviews

We did some legwork to find the best bike chain for use in different bikes and applications.

The following guide is a result of that research and we hope you’ll find it helpful in your search and that it’ll make your shopping easier.

1. SHIMANO Ultegra CN-6701 Chain

Shimano is one of the most well-known manufacturers of bike accessories and parts. Their Ultegra CN-6701 chain definitely continues this tradition.

It provides smooth performance and power transfer. This translates to hours of fulfilling and effortless riding that brings back the fun to cycling.

What makes this Shimano chain so unique is the fact that it sports a unique asymmetric half cutout design. This design is incorporated into the chain’s inner and outer plates alike. The inner plane has been nicely reshaped to reduce drivetrain friction to enable smooth pedaling function and gear shifting.

There are two advantages to the overhaul inherent in this bicycle chain. For one, it helps to facilitate a better connection between the crack and the cassette so that you can shift gears with ease, and you don’t have to worry about any noise resulting from chain suck.

Pros
  • The chain is coated with zinc alloy which makes it sturdier
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to use and install
  • Made to improve performance
Cons
  • It’s on the pricey side

2. Connex 11sX 11-Speed Chain

This bike chain review guide wouldn’t be complete without mentioning this Connex model. It’s the best 11 speed chain made in the last few years and offers corrosion-resistant and durable performance.

The plate design makes it so much easier to shift gears without having to bear that annoying noise and it’s all thanks to the specialized design of the plate. The Connex features radial pin riveting which is coated with special pin coating.

In addition, the Connex Link is there to ensure that you have all the tools you need to install and disassemble the chain when you need to lubricate it or perform other maintenance tasks.

Also included in the package with this chain are 118 force-resistant bicycle chain links and the most unique plating geometry you’ll ever see.

Pros
  • The package comes with 118 chain links
  • It’s corrosion-resistant
  • Reusable Connex Link
Cons
  • It’s on the pricey side but worth the investment

3. SRAM PC 951 9-Speed Bicycle Chain

SRAM is another famous one in the bicycle chain manufacturing industry. They’ve created the best bike chain for both beginners and seasoned cyclists.

This 9-speed bicycle chain comes with features like a PowerLink chain connector, push pin power, 114 links, and chrome pin treatment to fortify it against any sort of harsh weather conditions that you might come across on the road.

This chain offers great value for money and if long-lasting durability is what you’re after then this is definitely an option worth considering.

Of course, you’ll need to lube it up and clean it every now and then. But it’s not nearly as maintenance-heavy as certain other options on the market. Its unique PowerLink connector feature makes it easy to remove the chain when you need to clean it.

Pros
  • This plaited chain is built to withstand the elements
  • Cheap yet well-made
  • Works well with Shimano and Campy drivetrains
Cons
  • It’s not that long-lasting

4. KMC X9L Bicycle Chain

KMC brings us the best mountain bike chain made from sturdy materials. This particular chain is perforated both on the inside and the outside of the plates. It features hollow link pins to reduce the weight of the chin as much as possible to facilitate effortless pedaling.

The company made sure to incorporate smooth cog-to-cog shifting in the design of this bicycle chain and you can tell by the inclusion of the outer plate’s chamfered inner surface. There’s even a quick-connecting link that has been included to make the installation process of this chain as effortless as possible.

We’re happy to say that this chain is versatile enough to accommodate all 9-speed drivetrain systems for Campagnolo, Shimano, and SRAM. You have two design options to choose from as well. You can opt for the silver version which is cheaper or you could go for the pricier titanium-nitride coated gold version.

The golden chain is worth investing in if that’s within your budget. This is because it has the ability to retain more lube thus reducing the frequency of maintenance and it results in less stretch stress.

Pros
  • Comes with hollow inner plates
  • Compatible with 9-speed drivetrain systems from different manufacturers
  • Comes in both silver and gold versions
Cons
  • The gold chain version is rather expensive

5. SRAM PC 1170 Hollow Pin Bicycle Chain

SRAM has done it again with this PC 1170 model which is the best bicycle chain for beginners.

This new and improved version of an older design sports all-new outer plates that are made to reduce the noise made by pedaling friction so you can enjoy a more pleasant ride.

This chain is also lightweight and easy to use. In fact, it’s about 20 grams lighter than the previous 9-speed model. Also worth mentioning are the chain’s hollow pins. These help the chain to retain strength and increase gear shifting on the back and front as you’re busy riding your bicycle.

Not only that, but this chain sports SRAM’s innovative PowerLink integration feature. This means that it’ll be easy for you to remove it and put it back during cleaning.

Pros
  • Coated internal mechanism to improve resistant and durability
  • PowerLink for easy lubing and maintenance
  • This bike chain is perfect for an 11-speed drive train
Cons
  • It’s a bit pricey

6. KMC 710SL Single Speed Chain

Through rigorous testing, we found this chain to be one of the best BMX options around.

It comes in different colors which is always important to a BMX rider. It’s also lightweight and easy to use. It features 100 links that have dimensions of ½ x 1/8 inches.

This single-speed bicycle chain also comes with a master link that’s durable and made to last. As a road bicycle chain, this option has a lot to offer as the link plate holes have the capacity to handle a lot of dirt build-up. This is all without becoming weighed down or compromising performance.

But, you still have to clean the dirt off after every ride to make your own life easier and to extend its lifespan.

Pros
  • Easy to install
  • Comes in different colors
  • Great option for track riders
  • Holes on the link plates make it a lightweight option
  • It can handle stretching
  • Durable and well-made
Cons
  • The link plates tend to accumulate a lot of dirt

7. Schwinn Bicycle Chain

Next in our list of the best bike chains we have the Schwinn Chain with its ½ x 3/32 inch dimensions. It’s perfect for use on older bike models and will go perfectly with your rust old bike that needs an upgrade. We’re happy to say that impressively, it comes for 6, 7 and 8-speed bikes.

With a length of 56 inches, this kit makes it easier to customize your bike speed according to the number of links.

The only downside is that there’s no master link included with the package so you might need to invest in a chain breaker whenever you have to replace it. There might be a learning curve involved in the installation process, especially for first-timers.

With that said, this chain is still a beast and it offers great value for money.

Pros
  • This bike chain won’t break
  • It’s lightweight
  • Offers a smooth and easy ride
  • Suitable for a 21-speed bike
  • Constructed from high-quality steel
Cons
  • Installation can be difficult for beginners

8. KMC Z410 Bicycle Chain

The KMC Z410 is the best road bike chain that we tested. It certainly was able to stand up to the rigors of the road and it’s so easy to use that we can wholeheartedly recommend it to beginners.

We found that it was incredibly easy to fix and it took no more than 10 minutes to lube it up. Thereafter, it was smooth sailing.

The Z410 has a very simplistic design and it’s well-made from durable materials. It comes with such features as a drop buster configuration that makes for a huge chainplate. In simple terms, this makes it that much easier to achieve smooth grinding and landing.

The bike’s anti-drop design features nickel plating that protects the chain from the elements and reduces the amount of wear over time so that you don’t have to lube it up as often. This makes it a pretty low-maintenance bike that’s easy to use.

Pros
  • Affordably priced
  • Works well for all single bike speed bikes
  • Rust resistant
  • Easy to install and use
Cons
  • The chain has been shown to fade after a few months of consistent use

How to Choose the Best Bike Chain

When looking for the best bike chain, you also want to keep in mind the following considerations:

Brand

Most transmission bands work best when used in conjunction with their own cassettes and chainrings. For example, SRAM equipment is generally sturdier overall compared to Shimano cassettes and rings which tend to wear out quicker.

As a result, the latter company’s chains are known to wear out even faster when paired with hardy SRAM hardware. On the other hand, SRAM flat-top chains have a very specific design that’s very different from what Shimano is currently doing.

However, brands with a different transmission such as Wippermann, YBN, and KMC are usually more versatile and malleable. They can pretty much work with any type of chain or components.

Speed

Generally, there are different bike chains for different types of cogs. Basically, the more cogs you have to deal with the narrower the chain should be. While wider chains should be more durable and long-lasting.

With all that said, research shows that narrow chains are actually more long-lasting because they’re the product of recent developments in the field. They also offer better performance overall.

Keep in mind that the chains don’t have to run on the cogs next to them as frequently. This means that you get to reduce the amount of wear accumulated over time. A word of caution; never try to fit a 12-speed chain onto an 11-speeder as higher to lower can have the worst effect on bicycle performance.

Shift

One of the most common forms of innovation that manufacturers are engaging in is the act of changing cassette and chainring tooth profile and plate shapes.

This is so they can facilitate ever smoother gear shifting for you as the user.

Watts

Another common argument that’s posed by biking enthusiasts is that certain bike chains have the ability to reduce the level of mechanical drag that you go through. Premium chains perform better than cheaper ones for the most part.

But, the difference between these chains isn’t that vast when compared to the difference between a well-maintained chain and another that’s allowed to go through dirt and grime with no respite.

The most important thing to focus on is not price or power loss but rather on longevity and durability. This is because that’s what will determine the chain’s ability to perform over time as well as how much maintenance it requires.

Wear

General wisdom tells us that a normal 116-link chain has the ability to generate 40,000 surface against surface movements per minute. This is based on a normal pedaling cadence.

This means you have a lot of friction to deal with and when you add the stress of grit and dust, you get a lot of resistance. Not to mention the corrosion-causing conditions that are inherent in off-road winter bike riding.

This tells us that in addition to the quality of the bike chain itself, the conditions under which you decide to ride your bicycle can also play a role in its longevity and maintenance requirements.

Based on our own evidence and testing, 12-speed chains have a longer lifespan, especially SRAM models, followed by Campagnolo and YBN, while Shimano’s XTR 12 speed chain isn’t too bad other.

Maintenance

In addition to price, you must also consider maintenance and the fact that you’ll need to lube and clean your chain thoroughly from the moment you take it out the box and after each die. This will help to improve its longevity prospects.

This will also reduce the build-up of rust and dirt on the road on the chain so that it’s easier to clean the next time you have to.

Wear and tear on a chain is often caused by wear and tear that happens on the chainrings and cassettes. This leads to frame and spoke scarring and you might even feel something skipping.

Price

Like most people, you probably love a good deal, especially if one of your favorite suppliers is running a special on a well-known brand. But there are other facets to price that you need to consider when shopping for the best bike chain.

For instance, the Hard Chrome finish on SRAM’s chain goes a long way to increase durability and longevity by enabling correct transmission.

However, SX and NX Eagle chains tend to rust faster and can be difficult to lube up after washing regardless of the price.

Ultegra offers the best of both worlds from Shimano while KMC’s collection of premium quality chains is definitely a great option to look into.

Benefits of Quality Bicycle Chains

It’s important to have a good chain by your side to help facilitate better power transfer from pedal to metal or the wheel as it goes.

The rollers are kept in place by 116 links on average and in order for the bike to actually move forward, the sprocket teeth have to lock into the roller gaps.

So, you simply can’t ride your bicycle without a chain so you want to make sure that you’ve bought a really good quality one that’ll get the job done right.

Most chains are made from stainless steel or carbon steel. Some models re even nickel plated to prevent rust build-up while improving its appearance.

But, wear and tear is inevitable, especially with the chainring and cassettes. A worn chain is usually referred to as going through “loose chain conditions.” This means that the chain keeps slipping, thus wearing out the sprocket teeth and compromising overall performance.

Not only that, but the chain can actually snap while you’re driving. This is obviously a dangerous possibility. So you want a bike kit that will help you to maintain your bike chain in tip-top shape for longer. But it should be well-made in the first place.

Conclusion

So, what’s the verdict? What’s the best bike chain on the market today? In our opinion, it has to be the SHIMANO Ultegra CN-6701.

This chain ticks all of the boxes of what you’d want in a bike chain. This includes optimal power transfer, smooth performance, durable construction, and easy maintenance.

James is a passionate bicyclist who has done about every kind of biking there is. He loves the wind in his hair, the sun over his shoulder and maybe even the bugs in his teeth. No, just kidding about that last item. He isn’t crazy about road burns, either, but acknowledges that to have the good there is the occasional tumble. James feels that his bike is the place where he can unwind, leave troubles alongside the road, meet new people, go new places, and live the life of adventure that he loves. He is ready to share the ride with you.

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