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Parts

Best Bike Chains: 6-11 Speed Must-Have Models! (Dec 2021)

As a biker, you know how hard your bike chain works for you. It works in high tension every time you pedal to make those strokes so the bike propels forward. But the chain gets rusty after years of use and requires replacement.

Once you’ve determined the right type and size, the question arises how do you find the best bike chain from so many choices? We singled out today’s top choices, thoroughly reviewed them, and shared our experience right here.

This is a great opportunity for you to find your best match!

Top Bike Chains : Comparison Chart

Pick Name Thumbnail Product Name Price
Editor’s Choice KMC Z-72 7-8SP Chain KMC Z-72 7-8SP Chain Check Price
Best Single Speed Chain KMC Z410 KMC Z410 Check Price
For Smooth Shifting KMC Z410 KMC X8.93 8-Speed BChain Check Price
Ideal for BMX Bikes KMC 710SL Single Speed Chain KMC 710SL Single Speed Chain Check Price
For Non-Derailleur Bikes Shimano XT 10-Speed Chain CN-HG95 Shimano XT 10-Speed Chain CN-HG95 Check Price
For Mountain Bikes Shimano CN-HG53 9-Speed Bicycle Shimano CN-HG53 9-Speed Bicycle Check Price
7th KMC Z51 Bicycle Chain KMC Z51 Bicycle Chain Check Price
8th SHIMANO Ultegra CN-6701 Chain SHIMANO Ultegra CN-6701 Chain Check Price
9th Schwinn Bicycle Chain Schwinn Bicycle Chain Check Price
10th Shimano XTR/Dura-Ace CN-HG901 11-Speed Chain Shimano XTR/Dura-Ace CN-HG901 11-Speed Chain Check Price

Our Top 10 Best Bike Chain – Reviews

01 KMC Z-72 7-8SP Chain (Editor’s Choice)

KMC Z-72 7-8SP Chain

Our findings have shown that the KMC Z-72 is the best chain available today. When riding, the chain changes position smoothly and quietly. One of its greatest advantages is that it comes with the missing link so you don’t have to buy a master link separately.

The KMC Z-72 can work on any 6, 7, and 8 speed bikes. This is also aided by its easy removal and installation processes. It has a total of 116 links which you can adjust to suit your bike speed. This model is cheap despite its high-end features and durability. It has an alloy steel construction which is known for its strength and reliability. Besides, it’s treated with EXDU for enhanced durability.

It comes in gray and brown colors which are typical for most steel chains. It measures 3.5 x 3.5 x 0.8 inches and weighs 12.5 ounces. This  model has numerous positive reviews from its users making it hard to spot the negatives. But since it’s cheap, you may not expect it to be as durable as other expensive models.

Pros

  • It is very cheap
  • It can fit 6 and 7 speed bikes
  • It is lightweight
  • You can install it without tools
  • It comes with a missing link
  • It is made of steel

Cons

  • It may not be very durable

Our Verdict

At such an affordable price, this is an amazing kit with great features. It is suitable for both road and mountain bikes (MTB) with many good reviews and high ratings from other users. If you’re looking for a cheap option to use in your 8 speed bike, this is for you.

02 KMC Z410 (Single Speed Chain)

KMC Z410

If you’re looking for the ultimate replacement chain for a single-speed bike, this is it. The KMC Z410 is also a budget buy and available in colors of brown, blue, silver, white, and yellow. It has 112 links with a width of ½ x 1/8 inch making the perfect choice for a single speed bike.

So far from my experience, the KMC Z410 works perfectly and trouble-free. It’s lubricated from the factory so you’ll not lube it before installing. It is great for BMX, track bikes, and cruiser bikes. This model is made from steel making it strong and durable for an easy and smooth ride.

It weighs 11.2 ounces and measures 3.3 x 3.3 x 0.9 inches. This model comes with a master link but you’ll still need a chain tool to shorten its length to your bike size. It’s important to maintain this kit by cleaning and lubricating on a regular basis. If you want a durable unit with good aesthetics and many colors to choose from, this is the one to buy.

Pros

  • It is affordable
  • It is available in multiple colors
  • It is ideal for single speed
  • It comes with a master link
  • It is easy to install and use

Cons

  • It is not suitable for bikes with multiple gears

Our Verdict

Overall, this is a great kit if you want to replace your existing chain. The pre-lubrication offers great help allowing you to use it for a while before lubing. It’s important to get a chain removal tool to ease the task of replacement especially if you’re new to it. It comes with different color options which make it more attractive on the road.

03 KMC X8.93 8-Speed Bike Chain (Smooth Shifting)

KMC X8.93 8-Speed Bike Chain

If you’re considering buying a durable 8 speed chain, this model is for you. The KMC X8.93 is available in black and brown colors for your preference. One of the greatest advantages of this model is its double x bridge shape which ensures its quick and smooth shifting.

It is made from steel and given a stretch-proof treatment to improve its strength and longevity. They feature mushroomed rivets for additional strength. Still, the outer plates are chamfered to reduce incidences of cassette interference. This means you can install and ride for 1000+ miles before thinking of a replacement.

Another thing we liked about this kit is the partial nickel coating to prevent rust and enhance its durability. Also, the KMC X8.93 measures 3.4 x 3.4 x 0.8 inches with a length of 116 links and a width of 7.1mm. Its weight is 0.16 ounces, making it perfect for bikers that prefer light bikes.

This model also comes with a quick link that allows you to replace it with ease. Yet, it’s one of the few bike chains available without any real negative. If you prefer noise-free operation, this is what you need.

Pros

  • It shifts very smoothly
  • It is resistant to rust
  • It includes a removable missing link
  • One of the strongest in structure
  • It is easy to replace

Cons

  • It cannot work in a single speed system

Our Verdict

If you’re unsure of the type of chain to buy, we recommend this model for you because of its affordability and durability. It is made from high-quality steel for strength and plated with nickel to prevent rusting. It can work on 6, 7, and 8 speed gears. For the price, this is a great deal you’ll find on the market.

04 KMC 710SL Single Speed Chain (Ideal for BMX Bikes)

KMC 710SL Single Speed Chain

From our extensive research, this bicycle chain is a great option for BMX riders now. It comes in diverse colors that add taste and elegance to its users. It is one of the lightest in total weight, and the holes in the link plates are responsible for its low weight. It comes in 100 links with a width of ½ x 1/8 inches making it perfect for single speed bikes.

It features a master link that contributes to its ease of replacement. It’s made to last such that you can use it for two years without experiencing any cut or stretch. Its extreme lightweight and durability are the reason many professional road tracers rely on it.

The only thing to worry about is that dirt buildup in the holes of the link plates tends to increase its overall weight over time. So, after returning from the ride, you’ll need to wipe off the dirt to keep the weight in check.

Pros

  • It is very strong and durable
  • It can withstand stretch
  • The link plates have holes that reduce its weight
  • It is most suitable for track riders
  • It is available in many colors
  • It is easy to install

Cons

  • Dirt accumulates in the cutout link plates

Our Verdict

This kit is ideal for tracks and BMX bikes. It is available in different colors making your ride more beautiful to the eye. The link plates have a cutout that limits its weight without compromising on strength. This is the ultimate BMX bike chain on the market that’ll never disappoint you.

05 Shimano XT 10-Speed Chain CN-HG95 (For Non-Derailleur Bikes)

Shimano XT 10-Speed Chain CN-HG95

The Shimano XT is among the top bike chains we’ve got so far. It is made from zinc alloy with an asymmetrical plate design that allows it to glide smoothly between the sprocket teeth.

It comes with 116 links and weighs 8.3 ounces. One of the things we like in this model is the SIL-Tec surface treatment that improves its durability by reducing friction and allows you to enjoy a clean and quiet ride.

The Shimano XT comes with installation instructions and a locking pin to make the replacement steps easier. With a good chain-break tool and a pair of pliers, you’re set to go. It is one of the most preferred models for a 10 speed road bike due to its excellent shifting performance.

This is an ideal model for road bikes offering very little friction between the outer and inner links, making your ride easier and faster. Besides, you can use it on a mountain bike and still enjoy smooth rides. This model works great in many situations but you may experience some stretch at first.

Pros

  • It is easy to install
  • It shifts smoothly and quietly
  • It is designed to reduce friction
  • The surface is treated to enhance its performance
  • It is durable

Cons

  • Few users complained about stretches

Our Verdict

As the best mountain bike chain, the Shimano XT is a great upgrade to its previous models. It provides an easy ride in a 10 speed bike. It is fabricated to limit friction between the plates to provide a smooth shifting. Besides, its surface is treated to improve its longevity while allowing you to enjoy a clean and quiet ride. This is simply the best bike chain for a non-derailleur bike.

06 Shimano CN-HG53 9-Speed Bicycle (For Mountain Bikes)

Shimano CN-HG53 9-Speed Bicycle

If you’re in love with mountain bikes and need a suitable chain, the Shimano CN-HG53 is yours. This model is complete with a connecting pin that makes it easy to install. You’ll only need to reset the link with a tool to make the new chain’s length the same as the old.

This is one of the few mountain bike kits with extra durability with the possibility of using it for over 1000 miles without experiencing troubles. This model is known for its lightweight, reliability, and ease of installation. It is considered as one of the most promising models for a 9 speed bicycle.

So, if you’re interested in buying a model that will help you navigate the mountain terrain with ease, the Shimano CN-HG53 is the ideal option.

Pros

  • It has strength and durability
  • It is suitable for mountain bikes
  • Is ideal for 9-speed systems
  • It’s relatively easy to install
  • It operates smoothly

Cons

  • You’ll need a chain tool for its installation

Our Verdict

Shimano CN-HG53 is made of Zinc alloy making it strong, durable, and lightweight for steep terrain. It combines a narrower construction with smooth shifting performance making it the perfect chain for 9 speed bicycles. Give it a try for great satisfaction and thank us later.

07 KMC Z51 Bicycle Chain

KMC Z51 Bicycle Chain

The KMC Z51 is one of the few low-priced models with surprising features. It is made of steel making it ideal for some heavy rides. It is pretty easy to install such that you’ll only need a chain tool when adjusting the master link.

One of the most interesting things about this model is its extreme versatility. What does this mean? This is to say that it is compatible with 6, 7, 8, 12, 18, 21, 24 speed designs. Its size measures ½ x 3/32 inch with 116 links and weighs 12.3 ounces.

The KMC Z51 provides smooth shifting and quiet operation, it’s also long-lasting. It gives a good value for the money especially when considering that it’s with a connecting link. This model is most suited for cyclists that want a chain that provides a quick and easier shifting when riding.

Pros

  • It is compatible with many gear systems
  • It is strong and long-lasting
  • It is affordable
  • It comes with a connecting link
  • It can be installed without using tools
  • It offers smooth and quick shifting

Cons

  • It may rust with time

Our Verdict

For the price, this is one of the most demanding bike chains on the market. It can be used in bikes with many gear configurations. Its installation is pretty easy and can be done without a removal tool. It’s super efficient, long-lasting, and dependable. This is the perfect choice for many gearing systems.

08 SHIMANO Ultegra CN-6701 Chain

SHIMANO Ultegra CN-6701 Chain

If you’re a lover of the silver-colored chains, the Shimano Ultegra CN-6701 is yours to buy. So, why do we like this model? The Shimano Ultegra has its inner and outer plates redesigned to meet the needs of its users.

It fit smoothly in the sprockets to deliver a smooth shift when turning at high-speed. Everything about this model including its construction is to enhance the smoothness and stability of shifting when spinning on the road.

The Ultegra CN-6701 is designed for a 10 speed cassette with a standard length of 116 links. It weighs 0.16 ounces and measures 9.5 x 2.5 x 0.5 inches. The shift pin and ramps on Shimano cassettes fit perfectly with this kit to keep you going with a safe and easy shifting. The installation is a little easier as you’ll need a chain breaker to dislodge the pins.

Pros

  • It is lightweight but strong
  • It is very durable
  • It’s easy to install
  • It offers good performance
  • It doesn’t make sounds during shifting

Cons

  • It’s almost impossible to install without a chain tool

Our Verdict

This unit is affordable, good looking, lightweight, and useful in mountain and road bikes. It’s outer and inner plates have new designs to improve its glide and response when riding. This innovative design offers unmatched performance between the twister and the twistee. It’s an amazing product for sale. In case you’re not sure of a reliable model to buy, this might be the right one for you.

09 Schwinn Bicycle Chain

Schwinn Bicycle Chain

If you’re looking for a replacement chain for your old and rusty bike, the Schwinn model is a perfect choice. It’s made of steel and measures ½ x 3/32 inches which means it’ll work in 6, 7, and 8 speed bikes.

This kit is about 56 inches long and you can take off the links to fit the bike speed. It’s important to know that this model doesn’t come with a master link and you’ll need a chain breaker when you replace it. The absence of the connecting link makes its installation a bit difficult for many users.

This is among the highest performing models on the market at its price range. The only thing we don’t like is the absence of installation instructions in the package.

Pros

  • It is made of high-quality steel
  • It can fit a 21 speed bike
  • If delivers smooth and easy ride
  • It is lightweight
  • It does not break

Cons

  • It’s a little difficult to install for most users

Our Verdict

This is one of the best bike chains made to stand the test of time. It’s long enough to fit different bike speeds. All you’ve to do is adjust the link to match with the gear system. It’s important to exercise caution while installing it to avoid mistakes that could render it useless.

So, if you’ve got a broken chain condition and don’t need a weak link, you can always opt for this model.

10 Shimano XTR/Dura-Ace CN-HG901 11-Speed Chain

Shimano XTR/Dura-Ace CN-HG901 11-Speed Chain

If you’re searching for the ultimate chain for an 11-speed bike, search no further. The Shimano CN-HG901 is a remarkable performer among equals. It is designed to perform great feats with all 11-speed drive trains. It can run smoothly on both mountain and road tracks.

This lightweight version features 116 links and hollow pins that help reduce the weight to 247grams. It’s SIL-Tec treated surface helps suppress friction while improving its strength and durability.

Like other models from the Shimano production line, the CN-HG901 shifts smoothly and doesn’t bind around the sprockets. It’s fast yet operates quietly to your delight and comfort. Also, it does not come with a quick-release link and you’ll have to put one yourself. Besides, the installation might be tricky and you’ll need a dedicated tool to beat it.

Pros

  • It is ideal for 11-speed bikes
  • It is strong, reliable, and dependable
  • The hollow pins help reduce weight
  • It is treated to reduce friction
  • It has good shifting performance

Cons

  • The installation can be a little tricky

Our Verdict

This is one of the top rated bike chains available on the market. It features a special asymmetric plate design that makes it fit for Shimano 11-speed bike types. One of the greatest advantages of this model is the SIL-Tec surface treatment that enhances its durability by providing a near friction-free operation.

So, if you want a lightweight model that shifts smoothly and quickly during the ride without compromising on durability, you now know what the best road bike chain is.

Why You Need a Good Bike Chain?

You can define the bicycle chain as a roller mechanism that causes the machine to move by transmitting power from the rotating pedals to the wheel. There are about 116 links that hold the rollers in place. The bike moves forward when the gaps on the rollers lock in the teeth of the sprockets. Without the chain, it’s impossible for you to ride the bike. For this reason, it’s important that you buy a good model.

Many chains are constructed from carbon steel and stainless steel. Yet, some are plated with nickel to enhance its appearance and also prevent rust.

Over time, this kit will wear and lose its ability to grip the cassettes and chainring. We call this ‘a loose chain condition’. It will keep slipping until it’s fixed. This will reduce the bike’s performance while the teeth of the sprocket are worn out slowly. Sometimes the stretched chain can take a dangerous turn by snapping. It’s important that you care about this important kit of your bike more often to enhance its lifespan and reliability.

Best Bike Chains – Buying Guide

1. Type & Color

  • Single Speed – This is for bicycles without a gear or speed system. It means the bike can operate at only one speed level. This type of chain has the widest width which is about 7.9mm. These have fixed gear (fixie) counterparts.
  • 6 Speed  – Its width measures 7.8mm.
  • 7 Speed  – The width is 7.3mm.
  • 8 Speed – An 8 speed model with a width of 7.1mm.
  • 9 Speed  – Its width is between 6.6mm to 6.8mm.
  • 10 Speed  – The width of a 10 speed model depends on the brand. While most manufacturers choose 6.2mm when it comes to width, others are 5.8mm.
  • 11 Speed – They have their widths at 5.5mm.

Matching the frame color of your bike you can choose the color of your chain. There are plenty of color options including silver, red, orange, green, yellow, pink, purple, black and rainbow.

2. Number of Speed

The width of your bike’s chain is dependent on the number of speeds on your bike. It’s important to buy a model that matches with the number of gears on the bike. This will allow the bike to perform at the optimum level.

3. Material & Durability

Do bike chains make a difference? Yes, they do. High-quality models are made to withstand friction and serve you a long time. Most bike chains are made from alloy steel while others are nickel plated.

  • Alloy steel – This is the most popular construction material for this kit and it doesn’t depend on the type or purpose of the bike. They are durable and inexpensive.
  • Nickel plated – These are some of the most expensive models for sale. They’re often for aesthetics purposes and also help to prevent rust. Nickel plated models come in different colors while the alloy steel models come only in gray.
  • Titanium: As a substance, titanium is harder and stronger than stainless steel. This metal is also super expensive. There are chains made of this exclusive material, and guess what, they stand the test of time!

4. Ease of Installation & Use

It is usually easy to install a new chain even though for some, this could be tricky. If you’re not familiar with replacement of this kit, it’s important to buy one for hassle-free installation. These are the types that come with missing links as they take less time to replace and use.

5. Your Biking Purpose (Mountain, BMX, Road)

Most chains have designs that suit different terrains for both mountain and road biking. Mountain bikes have chains that allow them to withstand grits of the rocks. They have special coatings that make their cleaning easier which will prevent the buildup of debris that results in rusts.

For BMX bicycles, these kits are different from those of road or mountain bikes. Most BMX bike kits have 1.8mm widths – narrower than other types.

It’s also important to look out for a lightweight model for your BMX bike because you’ll be able to navigate the rough terrain with ease. Your chain should be made from alloys and should have special coatings that make them resistant to rust.

There are motorized ebikes for which heavy-duty chains (size- 415) are required. For tandem bikes, make sure you use specialized models with high capacity.

The most popular biking purpose is road tracks and if you want your bike to feel light on the road, then consider buying an alloy model. Besides, the chains must match the speed of the bike.

6. Rust Prevention Ability

One of the major advantages of nickel-plated models is their ability to withstand corrosion. Alloy chains may rust with time but nickel plated ones are more durable. It’s important to consider buying the models with rust-resistant coatings. The cost might be a bit higher, but trust us, it’s totally worth it.

7. Length & Size

Length & Size

The length of this kit depends on the number of speeds on the bike. These numbers start from 1 to 3, 18, 21, 24, and 27. There are 10-15 obsolete speed numbers that are rarely used.  The widths of the chain are designed to suit the type of bike you’re riding – whether BMX or mountain. If you’re using a 9 speed bike, the width of the chain must be thin enough to fit into the small sprocket teeth. Also, the length of kid’s bikes is smaller. In short, you have to do the measurement right.

When to Replace Your Bike’s Chain?

It’s often a frustrating experience whenever your bike chain breaks on the road especially at odd locations where you have no tools on sight. So, to avoid this ugly situation, you’ll need to do the replacement at the right time.

Professional bike repairers usually recommend that you get a new chain after covering a distance of at least 2000 miles. This may not always be the case because each of the models differs by material and durability. You’ve to make your replacement once you’ll start noticing the obvious signs.

As the kit starts to wear, it’s going to stretch and then will have difficulties in meshing around the teeth of the sprocket when riding. Once you observe this, it is time for fitting a new one. If you ignore this sign and continue to use a worn-out unit, the cassette will wear out making you replace it too.

A measuring device is another important way to know when you need a new model. This device will inform you once the ideal features like width, length, and dimensions change.

Another practical method to identify a stretched chain is to inspect by sight. In this method, you’ll position the bike by leaning it against a wall with the drive side outwards. Then shift the kit onto the front chainring and the smallest gear sprocket at the back.

Hold the chain with your fingers and draw it to yourself. Now, if you see any movement in the rear derailleur wheel, it’s time for replacement. Also, get a new sprocket if you can sight all the teeth when pulling the chain.

If you’re not comfortable with the previous methods, you may decide to measure the length of the kit. Note that a new model with 12 links is 12 inches long and if your existing unit measures 12 -1/8 inches, then you need a new unit. But, if the length is more than 12-1/8 inches, then you need a cassette replacement. For smaller bikes, you may need XXSP size, make sure you mark that before ordering.

Once you have replaced the chain, you may engage yourself in creating trendy chain crafts. It’s a fun activity gaining much attention now-a-days.

Care & Maintenance Tips

It does not matter whether you bought a cheap or expensive bicycle chain, the issue is you’ll need to care for it. The ideal way to keep it in  good condition is to clean and lubricate regularly. Cleaning off the dirt may not always be easy but it’s good if you can get on with it. A dirty chain will increase the rate of tear on the cassette.

You can wipe the kit with a clean rag after returning from each ride as this will prevent dirt from accumulating. But if the dirt is much, you should take out the kit then clean it with brush and soap water. You should dip it in grease to remove any leftover debris. Use a cleaner, scrubber, oil and a keeper for better cleaning. Parktool has a Cyclone scrubber that works fine for this. Always use detergent water as a degreaser before lubing. You can also wax your chain for smoother performance.

After you’re satisfied with the cleaning, wipe off the moisture and apply a lubricant. The type of lube to use is mostly dependent on the weather condition. So, if the weather is bad, you’ll need a wet lube and a dry lube on a good day.

Since wet lubes are oily, they attract dirt but are less likely to be removed by water which is why it’s used in the rain. We recommend dry lube when the weather is nice because it’s like wax that doesn’t attract dirt but stays glued to the chain. Make sure you don’t cross the chain when finishing up, if you do have a twisted case scenario, take off the rear wheel and fix it.

Make sure the size is correct. If it requires a 20 inches model, use exactly 20 inch and no bigger or lesser sizes.

We recommend that you use the SRAM Powerlink when you intend to tighten your chain, as the design of this kit is so simple to use. Also, the Park Tool chain tools are smart kits that you can always rely on.

Also, carbon fiber backed rubber bike chains are in the market too. You wouldn’t need any maintenance or lubing for them.

A Word From GearbikesReview

The most important thing here is choosing a chain that fits your bike. Gearbikesreview carefully singled out the best bike chains based on their dependability, affordability, and durability. Yet, they all need regular cleaning for longevity and replacement once they wear out.

It’s often necessary to pay attention to warning signs while riding your bike as this will provide you with cues on how soon they need a replacement. Once you’re ready to change the chain, you should know how to size it and also know if it’s compatible with your bike speed. Sometimes, the chain delivered to you will be longer than you need; in that case, you only need to remove some of the links.

So, now that you’ve enough information on the different bike chains, speeds, installation, and maintenance tips, you’re free to choose any of our top picks that suit your preference.

FAQ

1. Do bike chains stretch?

Ans. No, but wear and tear over time could have a role here.

2. Can you save a rusty bike chain?

Ans. You can remove rust with wd-40 and lime juice. If there’s damage to the metal body then it’s best to get a new one.

3. Why do bicycle chains need oil?

Ans. The oil allows the chain to move smoothly and removes dirt.

4. How do I know my bike chain size?

Ans. Count the number of teeth on both the largest front sprocket and the largest rear. The numbers are usually printed on the sprockets and cogs. The chain stay length is measured by the distance between the middle of the crank bolt to the rear axle.

5. What is the best type of lubrication for my chain?

Ans. Dry lubes are the best since they attract less dirt.

6. How long does a bicycle chain last?

Ans. A good bicycle chain can last more than 3000 miles.

7. How to check whether my chain is worn out?

Ans. Measure the distance between two rivets of your chain from the front chainrings.

8. Can a worn chain slow you down?

Ans. Yes, worn chains can feel sluggish.

About the author

James Jordan

As a kid I inherited the love for mountain bikes from my father who used to ride for weeks through the Colorado trail in the city of Denver. He had his gang, and I followed pretty much the same track.

Later on, my interest in biking grew more after joining the Enduro race back in 2013. My buddies and I also participated in the Downhill racing for the third consecutive year, and it’s been an amazing experience.

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