Why You Should Trust Us
If you haven't read our About Us section already, let's introduce ourselves and how we carry out our research and testing process. We planned to be the most reliable bicycle and related gear reviewer at the very inception of Gearbikesreview. In order to realize that mission we set up a dedicated workshop for testing our reviewed items. For bikes, we do test rides on each of them for collecting practical data on their performance and reliability. Our bike geeks and expert mechanics dissect these bicycles and gear for authentic information.
We don't have any connection with any brand or manufacturer whatsoever. Instead, we depend on our extensive market research and field-tests for our reviews and blogs. We expect you not to miss any vital information when reading this article.
How We Picked These Products
All the models on our list were selected from the 30 products on the market. We started by buying and tested some of these top-rated models we discovered via web search. But we had to get help from volunteers since we couldn’t gather all those models ourselves.
These regular users (volunteers) provided us with reports depending on their experience and findings that helped us develop some reliable criteria for selecting our top picks. We went further by comparing our test results with feedback from the volunteers so we could rate the chains depending on their features, types, ease of installation, usability, etc.
Before compiling the list of our top 10 bicycle chains, we researched the web to see if the feedback from other users was the same with our findings. So, after our exhaustive tests and research, we listed the top 10 top bicycle chains on the market.
Our Top 10 Best Bike Chain List
Here are our well-researched selections that we've elaborately reviewed after extensive testing. We have grouped them by the number of speeds and purpose. We believe that this list will help make the right decision.
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.
Bike Chains - Buying Guide
Most of the time you can fix a bicycle chain easily but this is often not the case. Sometimes you have to buy a new one. You may experience some difficulties if you don’t have the right information when buying bike chains. To end all doubts, here are the greatest things to know before paying for this kit.
1. Type & Color
All bike chains have designs that enable your bicycle to move. But these are of types depending on the purpose and speed of the bike. First, let’s look at the bike speeds and their types.
- 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
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.
1. When do I replace my bike chains need?
Ans. There’s not universal rule to change your bike chain. Every chain has different longevity. But you should consider changing it after every 2000 miles.
2. Do bike chains stretch?
Ans. No, but wear and tear over time could have a role here.
3. 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.
4. Why do bicycle chains need oil?
Ans. The oil allows the chain to move smoothly and removes dirt.
5. 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.
6. What is the best type of lubrication for my chain?
Ans. Dry lubes are the best since they attract less dirt.
7. How long does a bicycle chain last?
Ans. A good bicycle chain can last more than 3000 miles.
8. How to check whether my chain is worn out?
Ans. Measure the distance between two rivets of your chain from the front chainrings.
9. Can a worn chain slow you down?
Ans. Yes, worn chains can feel sluggish.