What's The Best Bicycle Chain?
A Review of Innovations in Bicycle Chain Design

It used to be pretty simple to buy the best bicycle chain with maybe only two choices to pick from, but today like everything else, it has become increasingly more complex, so here's a list of some of the features of the very best bike chains on the market.

Remember not every feature is essential or even important to every rider. Spending eightly dollars to buy a super light KMC chain may be totally a waste of money if you never run challenging trails, where that 30 gram weight savings will never be noticed.

Likewise buying specially coated rust-proof chains if you never go out riding in the rain or through the bogs may be another waste of money.

Select and pay only for the features that will be important to your riding style

best bicycle chain with sloted plates and hollow rivetsTraditionally bike chains have been approximately 350 grams for a typical 116 link chain. Today companies like KMC are making top of the line 10 speed chains (their X10-SL) UNDER 240 grams.

They, like Shimano, SRAM and the Wippermann chain have achieved this predominately by using hollow rivets and slotted outer plates to remove metal and thus reduce weight. For racing this might be significant for fast starts and maximum peddling efficiency.

My experience might suggest though that this comes at a price. The last $80.SRAM super light weight chain that I purchased broke three times in the last month, but then I ride pretty aggressively.

Heat Treatment:
More expensive chains are made of sophisticated alloys that benefit from various forms of heat treatment. This is true for the inner and outer plates and the rollers. They are heat treated to create a tough surface to resist physical wear caused by road grit penetrating the rivet-bushing-roller inferface.

Some of the very best bicycle chains are coated with titanium nitride to create a chain with a much smoother surface for less friction between the chain and the derailleurs. These chains are less prone to attracking muck build up on the outer surfaces, stay cleaner and thus have a longer life.

Titanium nitride does leaves the bicycle chains with an indentifiable gold surface colour, in fact that is the easiest way to identify this special treatment.

Rust Prevention:
Like titanium Nitride this is a coating applied to the surface of the bicycle chain to control rust development. Although definitely not one hundred percent effective, it certainly extends the life of your chain. If you're kind of lazy when it comes to chain maintenance this is a great option.

Shape of inner and outer plates:
On the best bicycle chains the inner faces of the inner and outer plates are machined with a slight bevel to allow the chain to climb gears more easily. They can also reduce the build up of muck between the chainrings and the chain.

Heavy Duty Cycle:
A number of bicyle chain manufacturers, contrary to making the lightest chain have instead created a chain that is strong enough to withstand BMX trick riding and the stress and strains of downhill biking. Yes, you have forfeited weight, but usually that is less of an issue than strength.

colored bicycle chainColoured Bicycle Chains:
Now this isn't really a performance issue unless of course you are batching in some of the gold chains that have gained their colour form the high tech coating. There are companies like Spooky Tooth that make bike chains in blue and red that are kind of funky. They are under $10 so hard to imagine that performance was on the top of the agenda but for fun they're great.

More Information:
Bicycle Chains: Reviews, What's Best?, Features?


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copyright Jan. 2007