Best Bike Chain – Reviewing Top 5 Road Bike Chains

Best Road Bike Chains

Finding the best road bike chain isn’t an easy task, so we’re here to help by bringing you what we consider to be the top 5 best options around.

Not all bike chains are created equal. Although many people typically go for the most economical bike chains when it comes to replacing their old ones, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best one.

When it comes time to replace your bike chain, there are many things to consider, including what type of bike you have, the different features available, and more.

The best bike chain for road or mountain bikes has an exclusive chain connector made with stainless steel for a smooth and quiet shift of gears.

Looking for the best road bike chain for you may seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. The SHIMANO Ultegra CN-6701 Chain is our top pick—keep reading to find out why.

IMAGE PRODUCT DETAILS  rating price
Overall BestShimano Ultegra CN-6701 Chain Shimano Ultegra CN-6701 Chain
  • Speed: 10-speed
10
Shimano Unisex's CNHG95116 Bike Parts, Other, One Size Shimano Unisex’s CNHG95116 Bike Parts, Other, One Size
  • Speed: 10-speed
9
Shimano CN-HG53 9-Speed Bicycle Chain Shimano CN-HG53 9-Speed Bicycle Chain
  • Speed: 9-speed
9
KMC Z72 7/8sp chain KMC Z72 7/8sp chain
  • Speed: 7-speed
9
KMC Z410 Bicycle Chain KMC Z410 Bicycle Chain
  • Speed: Single-speed
9

Product Reviews

Shimano Ultegra CN-6701 Chain – Overall Best Bike Chain

Shimano Ultegra CN-6701 Chain

Shimano is known for its fantastic products, so it should come as no surprise that the Ultegra CN-6701 is the winner of our Best Overall category. The chain can be extended up to 116 links but can be shortened to 112 if needed.

The new shaped inner plate offers smoother rear shifting thanks to the Hyper-Glide system and enhanced press-in construction that makes shifting more stable. The Shimano Ultegra CN-6701 comes with a chain pin instead of chain links thus eliminating the need for tiny pliers.

This bike chain comes with a 2-year warranty and is as durable as they come and much lighter than its predecessor, the 6700. Overall, the Shimano Ultegra CN-6701 gets a five-star rating from us.

Pros

  • Durable
  • 2-year warranty
  • Smooth-shifting
  • Larger outer plates also reduce the chances of the chain falling in between the crank and the bottom bracket shell

Cons

  • Only compatible with double cranksets
  • Can be difficult to install

Shimano Unisex’s CNHG95116 – Best Bike Chain for 10 Speed Bike

Shimano Unisex's CNHG95116 Bike Parts, Other, One Size

This chain is specifically made for use on 10-speed bikes and the plates on this chain are designed to optimize shifting over the chainset and cassette. Thanks to the outer plate’s design, the chain’s chances of getting caught are reduced significantly.

The inner plate, on the other hand, provides smoother shifting and makes your bike virtually soundless. Because the rollers, pins, and plates are given a heat treatment, they are much more durable than others. Not to mention that the open design of the inner links increase mud-shedding ability.

The link pins also have a mushroomed design to make sure that they have unsurpassed side-plate retention. All of these features and more are what make the Shimano Unisex’s CNHG95116 chain the best choice for a 10-speed bike and a 4-star rating from us.

Pros

  • Chromizing treatment on the chain makes it more durable
  • Optimal for smooth shifting
  • Made from corrosion-resistant Zinc-alloy

Cons

  • The pin can be difficult to install if you don’t follow the directions properly

Shimano CN-HG53 9-Speed Bicycle Chain – Best Bike Chain for 9 Speed Bikes

Best Bike Chain
Shimano CN-HG53 9-Speed Bicycle Chain

The Shimano CN-HG53 9-Speed Bicycle Chain is ideal because it’s durable and has precision shifting. The chain features SUPER Narrow HyperGlide technology and comes with the complete chain and connecting pin.

The chain’s chromized rivet pins improve wear resistance and durability and precise rear-shifting performance. The corrosion-resistant grey finish is the frosting on the cake for this bike chain.

This chain will help your bike run smoothly and quietly, which is why it gets our best 9-speed bike’s top choice and a 4-star rating.

Pros

  • Wear-resistant
  • Durable
  • HyperGlide technology

Cons

  • You need your own chain tool to install it

KMC Z72 7/8sp chain – Best Bike Chain for 7-8 Speed Bike

KMC Z72 7/8sp chain

The KMC Z72 chain is stretch proof, has a chamfered plate and is a full-nickel plated chain for 5-8 speed and great for internally geared hubs. It has 116 links and is easy to install, which is one of its best features.

Another great feature about the KMC Z72 is that it comes with a missing link master, so you don’t have to cut it to fit your bike using a chain tool. Adding this chain to your bike is guaranteed to make it run much more smoothly and efficiently.

The KMC Z72 chain gets our nomination in the Best for 7 Speed Category and a 4-star rating from us.

Pros

  • It’s compatible with several different speeds of bikes
  • Comes with a master link
  • Cost-effective

Cons

  • Can be noisy

KMC Z410 Bicycle Chain – Best Bike Chain for Single Speed System

KMC Z410 Bicycle Chain

As far as single-speed bike chains go, the KMC Z410 is the best there is. It’s ideal for BMX, Fixies, Cruisers, Track bikes and all single-speed needs while also coming in a variety of colours. Although the chain comes with a master link, you may need a tool to adjust the length of the chain to fit your bike.

The KMX Z410 has an aesthetically pleasing design as well as a smooth, hard finish to it. All of the chain’s colours have 112 links aside from the black one, which only has 96 links. Design wise, the chain has an Anti-drop design and full-nickel plating to make it a heavy-duty structure.

The one-year warranty and heavy-duty make of the KMC Z410 make this bicycle chain our top choice for the Best Speed Chains category and receive a 4-star rating from us overall.

Pros

  • It is resistant to rust and corrosion
  • Pocket-friendly
  • Durable

Cons

  • Can be difficult to install
  • The colour tends to fade on the chain after just a few months of use

Your Best Bike Chain Buying Guide

What are the Advantages of the Best Bike Chain?

If you’re a seasoned pro or know even the slightest bit of information about bicycles, you know that to use your bike, you need either a bike chain or a belt. Although a chain is more traditional, it seems more and more people are starting to switch over to belts.

Despite this, we believe that a chain is superior to a belt for a number of reasons. For one, belts aren’t compatible with all types of bike speeds. In fact, belts are only compatible with internal gear hub, Pinion gearbox, or single-speed bikes, while chains on the other hand are designed to use with just about every bike frame.

Chains are also much more cost-effective than belts, which is a better option for people who may be on a budget. Aside from that, if you use derailleur gears— the most common and simple to use bike system, you must use a chain.

Using a bike chain is also much more efficient if you are the type of cycler who likes to bike casually. This is because a chain will help you burn less energy and help keep you going for longer.

Although chains are incredibly durable, they can get worn out. However, when this happens, you can easily find spare parts to fix for freewheels, cassettes, or chainrings. Because there are dozens of bike shops all over the world, your chances of finding a replacement for your chain are pretty high.

If you are looking for the best way to get your bearings to last longer, a chain is a way to go. A chain will be easier on your bearings because they put less stress on them because they run at a lower tension than belts.

In terms of adjusting your bike chain, they are incredibly easy to do so. It’s not uncommon to find yourself having to adjust the length to fit your bike. Luckily, this isn’t a difficult task to do with a chain. On the other hand, belts are set in terms of their length, which means you won’t be able to do anything about their length.

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Things to Look for When Purchasing the Best Bike Chain

Your chain is a vital part of your bike, which means you want to make sure you’re getting the best there is. Your chain is what connects the pedals, cranks, and chainrings to the back part of your bike, which includes the cassette and rear hub. Without a chain on your bike, you wouldn’t be able to move forward on it.

A bike chain’s body is made up of short cylindrical rollers held together by side links. Although chains can be made up of different types of materials, most are made of alloy steel. More high-end chains may also be made up of other materials.

When choosing the right type of chain for you, it all boils down to what kind of bike you have. For example, a single-speed bike might require a chain like the KMC Z410 Bicycle Chain we reviewed earlier. Those looking for a chain to put on their 10-speed could benefit from using the Shimano Unisex CNHG95116. 11 speed chains and 8 speed chain designs offer high tensile strength and low friction for road and mountain tracks.

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The type of bike you have is important because not all chains will fit on every type of bike, Rather than try out different types of chains to see which one fits, your best bet would be to figure out what type of bike you have and look for a chain specific to that bike.

Another thing to consider is the brand of chain you are looking to get. Some brands are better than others as over the years they’ve had time to perfect their products. Many brands are also now engineering their chains to work best with their specific drivetrains. This means that when considering the brand of chain you want to buy, try to stick to the same brand that makes your drivetrain.

Signs That It’s Time for a New Chain

Many people don’t know what to look for when it comes time to get a new chain. However, there are many telling signs to look out for that will point to whether or not your bike is ready for speed chains.

When your bike chain starts to get old, you’ll notice because a link will drop, and you start to hear a grinding sound every time you pedal. The older they get, the more chains will start to stretch. As a result, they will start to skip over the teeth on the sprocket as opposed to meshing together which is what they should be doing.

The second you start to notice any of these things is when you should start to consider getting a new chain. In fact, you may even want to replace your cassette and chainrings too if it’s been long enough and they have noticeable wear and tear.

If you want, you can always use a chain measuring device, which will help you determine whether or not your chain is on its last legs. You can also measure your chain length simply by eyeballing, but keep in mind that this method is much less accurate than using a measuring device.

The length of your chain should be 12″ exactly, and anything longer than that will need to be replaced. You can also use a regular tape measurer to measure your links, which while still more accurate than simply eyeballing the length, won’t be as accurate as using a chain measuring device.

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Tips for Keeping Your Chain Brand New

Fortunately, there are some tips and tricks to keeping your bike chain looking and feeling brand new so that you can make it last as long as possible. For one, be sure to keep it clean and lubricated.

In order to keep your chain lubricated, all you need to do is purchase a bike chain lubricator and apply a few drops to each of the links on your chain. After that, take a rag and clean it off as much as you can. Once that’s done, add some more lubricators to the chain and let it sit overnight. Be sure to wipe it off the next day or before riding.

You can also make sure that you are keeping your chain sized to the right length. Sometimes chains will come with a few links too many so you need to make sure you are clipping off any that you don’t need.

In order to make sure you have the right number of links on your chain, compare top bike chains to most bike chains and get the number of links on your new chain to match the old one. If you happen not to have your old chain handy, you can also make sure you have the right number of links on your chain by simply making sure it is long enough to shift onto the largest chainring or largest cassette cog combination.

In order to avoid any mishaps, it might be wise for you to always carry around a repair link with you to have at the ready. This is useful if you need to fix your chain in a hurry or to help a fellow biker in need.

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What Size Chain Does My Bike Need?

Unfortunately, no bike chain is universal to use on all bikes. As we mentioned earlier, there are many factors to consider when purchasing a bike chain: link length, total length, internal width, and external width.

Again, buying a new bike chain can be confusing and overwhelming because there are so many to choose from. First things, first, you’ll want to determine the length of the chain, which we covered how to do earlier.

The standard bike chain includes the sizing of inner and outer width along with size charts. When it comes to single-speed bikes, chains have a standard of 1/8 inches of width, 5-8 speed bikes have a width of 3/32 inches, and 9-12 speed bikes have 11/128 inches inner width. The type of chain you get all boils down to the chain that aligns best with your bike.

FAQ

Unless you have been biking for years, chances are you are not well-versed when it comes to your bike chains, what to look for when getting a new one, and how often you need to change it, among other things. Luckily for you, we are here to answer your most pressing questions.

What Conditions Worsen Chain Damage?

Many factors contribute to your bike chain’s wear and tear, but for the most part, it depends on usage, circumstances, the amount of care you put into it, and when there is too much debris on the chain.

Usage is one of the most obvious reasons for your chain’s wear and tear. As we now know, bike chains aren’t meant to last forever, which means they will eventually start to diminish the more you use your bike.

Chain wear is most commonly known as chain stretching because of the fact that the chain’s pitch literally gets longer the more you use it. For the most part, the growth comes from the bushings worn with the chain pins. If you want more specific details, a chain is considered worn when it reaches one percent growth from the original 0.5in (12.7mm) pitch.

Why Do I Need to Change a Worn Chain?

Many people may not know just how vital it is for their chain to be kept as immaculate as possible. The truth is, worn out chain will eventually lead to poor shifting and lost efficiency as well as you run the risk of potentially snapping your chain while in use. The growth of the chain typically comes from the bushings worn with the chain pins.

Aside from worrying about having your bike chain snap, the longer you leave your old chain on your bike, the more expensive repairs will be in the long run.

If you don’t change a damaged chain, chances are it can cause variations in shifting performance and cause your chain to fail entirely.

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How Do I Remove an Old Chain?

Getting rid of an old bike chain isn’t as difficult as you may think it is. In fact, all you need to do is remove or disconnect the chain and take it off your front chainring before you move on to your rear wheel. Ideally, you want to remove as much tension as possible from your bike. Be sure you are removing the chain where the master link is.

To determine what the master link looks like, you want to take a close look at your chain and look for the link that looks slightly different from the rest.

Ideally, you want to replace your chain after about 1,000 miles, or up until you notice a significant stretch on your chain. Keep in mind that your chain doesn’t literally, stretch— this simply means that the pins that join the links are wearing down, which in turn causes the length of the chain to grow.

Be sure that you have all the necessary tools when it comes to changing your bike chain. You will usually need a chain wear tool or a specialized link called a master link, which connects both ends of the chain to one another.

Again, you want to make sure you are purchasing the right chain for your bike. So, if you have a 10-speed bike, be sure you are purchasing an accurate matching speed system. When you are buying replacement pins or master links, you will need to make sure they are compatible with your chain speed and brand.

How to Install a New Bike Chain

After purchasing the right bike chain for you, you want to make sure that you are installing it correctly. This means you have to pay very close attention to what you are doing, otherwise, you could end up with a faulty chain.

Thread the chain through the rear derailleur and reconnect it. If you happen to notice that your steel chains don’t have a master link, you can always use a chain tool to reconnect the chain with the chain pin included with your new chain.

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Tightening a Bike Chain

If you’ve noticed that your chain continues to fall apart mid-ride, chances are it’s time to tighten it up. It’s not uncommon to have a loose chain on your bike, especially if your bike does not have a derailleur. In order to tighten your chain, you will first need to start out by loosening the bolts on your bike’s back tire. Now that you’ve done that, you can start moving your bike backwards until your chain begins to get tight again.

How Can I Tell What Speed My Bike Is?

Knowing the speed of your bike is ideal, especially when you are getting a new chain. In order to determine what speed your bike is, you’ll have to do a bit of math to find out. Be sure first to identify the two sets of gears: the crank and the cassette cogs. They are both on the front and on the back of the bike.

The chain works by wrapping itself around the gears and determining the difficulty of how you pedal. To determine the type of speed your bike is, count the number of gears found by the crank. Then, count the gears that you see on the rear wheel. The number you get should be anywhere between 1 and 10.

Next up, you’ll want to multiply the number you got from your front gear to the rear gear number. The number you get is what speed your bike is. Of course, keep in mind that those who own a single-speed bike won’t find more than one gear number on their bike. 

How Do I Care for My Bike Chain?

As mentioned earlier, it is vital to ensure that your bike chain remains clean so that its condition stays as new as possible. Again, continue to clean your bike chain using lubricant and a rag to make sure any debris is taken off the bike chain so that it can run as smoothly as possible.

You want to make sure you are keeping your chain as clean as possible because if you don’t, you could end up having to replace the cassettes and chainrings which would end up costing you more in the long run.

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Conclusion

At the end of the day, bike chains are vital to your cycling experience. In order to get the best chains possible, be sure to take note of the type of bike you have. Whether it be a 10-speed or a single-speed, chances are there’s something out there for you.

Get the best bike chain from Shimano chains for mountain bikes, road bikes, and bicycle chains. Other best bike chains come from KMC chains and Wippermann chains. BMX bikes have a speed chain system that needs to be maintained with bike chain lube. A good bike chain has a double x bridge shape, rear sprockets, hollow pins, and rear cassette. The BMX bike is a type of racing bikes that has the best bike chains. Even the most durable chains get damaged if not maintained regularly. Dirty chain is a major cause that hinders friction cycling. Most mountain bikes have a chain breaker. Metal on metal friction is maintained with wet lube. Some double x bridge design chains are made with carbon steel.

The best bike chain or bicycle chain for mountain bikes is a Shimano chain. Get a speed chain and bike chain lube for road bikes or BMX bikes. A single-speed chain is a good choice for road and mountain drivetrains. Even the best chain needs chain lube to perform splendidly. Maintain chain tension with a KMC chain for a mountain bike. Wet lube can attract dirt between the roller widths. Get zinc alloy steel bridge shape gearing systems for your standard chain.

When it comes to the best road bike chain around, the SHIMANO Ultegra CN-6701 Chain is your best option. It comes at a reasonable price, has redesigned inner and outer plates, and enhanced press-in construction for stable shifting.

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