Bikes are great, aren’t they? They don’t require fuel to run and therefore are inexpensive in the long run, you can take them anywhere, and you don’t need to pay for parking.
But bikes aren’t immune to breaking, and often when one piece breaks, the entire bike is rendered useless.
This is no more true than for the chain of your bike. The chain is the main component that transforms your bike into a mode of transportation, allowing you to travel anywhere that your legs will take you. But when the chain breaks, there is no way of getting from A to B on your bike.
The chain allows the pedals to turn the back wheel of your bike. If you didn’t already know, this is how you can move around. So when the chain breaks or falters, there is no way to get the bike to move (unless you want to push it around everywhere).
Bike chains also allow you to change the gear of the bike without stopping first. As you can see, the chain is incredibly important to the bike.
If you don’t replace it on a regular basis, you might be left stranded away from home with no other means of transportation.
You should change the chain on your bike every 2,000 miles - does it sound like you’re due a change? Today we’re going to be looking at the five best bike chains on the market, as well as a buyers guide full of tips to remember when choosing your chain.
In a hurry?
Our favorite bike chain on the market is the Zonkie 6/7/8 Speed Bike Chain. Here are a few reasons why we think that you’ll find this to be the best bike chain for your bike:
- Zonkie is a highly reputable brand.
- You can install the chain within minutes.
- The chain has internal oiling capabilities.
OUR TOP PICK
Zonkie is the most popular manufacturer that comes up when you search for bike chains on the market.
This model is a shiny silver color with 116 links, easy enough to reduce or add to this number if your bike needs it.
The chain is durable and corrosion-resistant, even if left in subpar conditions.
The chain is very easy to install and clean, making it an excellent choice for mountain bikes.
Internal oiling mechanisms prevent you from having to lubricate the chain so often and the forging steel is strong enough to last you for an impressive amount of time.
- Reputable brand.
- Very durable and reliable.
- Easy to install and clean.
- Internal oiling mechanisms.
- The speed that this chain fits is not very clear.
KMC is another popular manufacturer of bike chains, and this model is not the only chain of theirs on our list.
This chain fits bikes of an 8 speed of both mountain bikes and road bikes. The grey color is simple yet effective, leaving your bike with a shiny new makeover.
The chain is made from 116 links which is the market average.
Many cyclists advise you to begin with 116 links in a chain as it is easy enough to add some more or take some away.
This saves you time from having to count the links in your current chain.
- Popular brand.
- Durable steel construction.
- Lightweight, ideal for road bikes.
- The title is misleading and the manufacturer does not accept refunds.
The next Zonkie bike chain on our list fits a single speed bike only, meaning that it would be best to use on a BMX.
Much like the top chain on our list, this chain has internal lubricating capabilities to ensure that your chain is always on its top form.
The chain is very easy to install with a magic buckle.
You can also clean it very easily after each use to keep the chain away from corrosion and rust.
The forging steel is durable and will keep you pedaling for many miles.
The brass color is interesting and gives your bike a fresh look.
- Internal lubrication.
- Easy to clean after each use.
- Interesting color.
- A few people had an issue with quality control.
The Schwinn bike chain offers two sizes - ½ inch x ⅛ inch or ½ inch x 3/32 inch - both with 112 links.
This is shorter than the traditional bike chain on the market, but you’ll still be able to add more links if this is too short for your bike.
Another chain ideal for single speed bikes, you can use this chain on BMX rather than mountain or road bikes.
The color is a dull grey to match perfectly with almost any bike out there.
Some customers say that this chain does work on mountain bikes while others say that it doesn’t, so you might have to do some trial and error.
- Shorter than most other chains.
- Professional color.
- Works great with single speed BMXs.
- It’s unclear whether you can use the chain with mountain and road bikes.
Another KMC bike chain on our list, this chain is compatible with mountain and road bikes of 11 speed.
The SuperLight technology allows the chain to be a fraction of the weight of other chains on the market, making it excellent for road biking.
Mountain bikes often call for heavy-duty chains and KMC does not disappoint us with this one.
Another chain with 116 links, you can customize the length to however many links your bike calls for.
You can choose from two colors - silver or titanium gold. You can also opt for a single pack or a two-pack.
- Compatible with road and mountain bikes.
- Two-color options.
- Option for two packs.
- Some customers have found that the chain is for 10 speed rather than 11 speed.
We know that to the untrained eye all bike chains look the same. For this reason, it’s often difficult to distinguish between the good and the bad.
Luckily for you, that’s where our buyers guide comes in. We’re going to be looking at some of the most important things to look out for when purchasing a bike chain.
Type of Bike Chain
First thing’s first; however, you need to know a little more about your current bike before being able to pick out a new chain for it.
The most common is the speed, or gear, chain. The more gears your bike has the thinner the chain will have to be to allow it to move up and down the sprockets.
It is incredibly important that you match the type of bike chain to the number of gears your bike has.
We’ll be looking at how to find the speed of your bike later on in our article. Let’s take a look at the types of speed bike chains that you can find on the market.
- 6 Speed - this is the widest chain when it comes to speed chains and measures in at 7.8mm in width.
- 7 Speed - measures in at 7.3mm.
- 8 Speed - the chain is 7.1mm wide.
- 9 Speed - measures in at 6.6 to 6.8mm wide.
- 10 Speed - the 10-speed bike is where the chain gets a little tricky. Some brands can make the chain as thin as 5.8mm while others reach up to 6.2mm.
- 11 Speed - measures in at around 5.5mm and is the thinnest popular chain for multiple gear bikes.
Type of Bike
The unfortunate thing that most people don’t think about is the fact that bike chains are not universal and they cannot be used on all types of bikes.
A mountain bike chain might not be usable on a BMX, and vice versa. This means that you could waste money if you don’t take into consideration the type of bike that you own.
Let’s take a quick look into which types of bikes use which chains to avoid you choosing the wrong chain for your model.
Okay, so mountain bike chains can work with road bikes most of the time. As long as you choose the right size of chain you should be fine with most chains on the market.
For example, if you have six gears on your mountain bike you should opt for a six-speed bike chain.
However, if you ride a mountain bike rather than a road bike, you might want to look for a more durable chain that can withstand more harrowing conditions.
Chains with additional coatings or that are more heavy-duty will work with a mountain bike well. You will also need a chain that is easy to clean.
Like we just mentioned, road bikes can work with most chains on the market. As long as you’ve got the sizing right, you should be good to go.
Road bikes will need a lightweight chain that doesn’t weigh as much as a mountain bike chain. It might not seem like it now, but the weight of your chain can affect the riding experience a lot.
BMX chains are different from mountain bike and road bike chains in width. They’re much narrower and lighter in weight than the chains for the bikes above.
BMX bikes often have only one speed so you might not need to worry about the gears as much.
BMX chains should be lightweight but also coated in protective materials to stop corrosion or premature wearing.
The Chain Size
We know that the width of the chain needs to correspond with how many gears you have on your bike, but what about the other dimensions?
Pitch is a word to describe how much space is between one of the pins in the chain to another. Bikes nowadays use chains with a half-inch pitch, so unless you have an incredibly old bike, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a chain with the right pitch for your bike.
The roller widths describe the internal width between the inner plates on a chain. The most common widths for mountain and road bikes are 2.4mm, 3.2mm, 4.0mm, and 4.8mm.
Don’t get too caught up in the length of the chain. All bikes are different in this regard and we doubt you want to go count all of the links in your current chain!
A good rule of thumb is to choose a bike chain that has around 116 links in it and fit it to your bike. It might be too small or too long, or it could fit perfectly. If it’s too small or too long; however, there are easy methods to make the chain longer or shorter at home.
Ease of Installation
Whether you have changed hundreds of bike chains in your life or this is your first time, you want your chain to be as simple as possible to fit onto your bike.
There are plenty of articles on how to change a bike chain online, but some chains are much more fiddly than others.
Look to the customer reviews to see how others have got on with changing their chains with the one that you’re looking at. This will be a good indicator of whether the bike chain is easy to install or not.
If you like to take your bike through rural areas, chances are that you’ll need to clean the chain on a regular basis. Chains only last as long as they’re capable of if you take the time to properly clean and dry them.
Leaving your chain with bits of mud, debris, and stones in it can cause the metal to corrode quickly, so you’ll need to replace it sooner rather than later.
Choosing a chain that is easy to clean will ensure that you take the necessary steps in keeping your bike on top form.
If the bike chain is too difficult to clean, you might end up “forgetting” to clean it and pushing it closer to the breaking point. To avoid a nasty accident occurring when your chain snaps, make sure that you can clean the chain easily and quickly after every ride.
Number of Speeds
We’ve already touched on it above, but make sure that you’re choosing a chain with the correct speed size.
If your bike has 11 gears and you opt for a 6-speed chain, you’re going to be disappointed when the chain doesn’t fit.
Unlike the length of the chain, the width is unchangeable so you’d need to buy a completely new chain to undo your mistake.
Durability is a must when it comes to bike chains. You don’t want to be stranded away from home when your chain snaps unexpectedly, so a low durability rating on a bike chain can be very frustrating and catastrophic.
You should prepare yourself to pay an extra sum of money for added durability. We’re not saying that you’ll need to spend hundreds of dollars on a chain, but don’t opt for the cheapest model right away.
Hopefully, you should find that paying a little extra for your bike chain will allow it to continue to serve you for many more miles to come.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a bike chain?
A bike chain’s purpose is to keep the pedals of your bike rotating the wheel, which allows the bike to move forward.
Most people don’t think about the components of a bike until something goes wrong with it, which makes sense why many people don’t actually know the purpose of a bike chain.
The bike chain needs to be looked after properly to avoid it from breaking or corroding prematurely. This means that it needs to be cleaned, lubed, and checked on a regular basis.
How often should you lube a bike chain?
If you look closely at your bike chain, you should be able to make out some cranks and crevices. If these look free of lube, it’s a good indicator that you should lube up your bike chain.
Depending on how long you ride your bike, every bike chain needs to be lubricated at different frequencies.
For example, if you ride your bike for 30 miles a week you might only need to lubricate the chain every two weeks. However, if you ride your bike only on special occasions you won’t need to lubricate it as much - only when the chain’s cranks are free of lube.
How do I find the speed of my bike?
To find the speed of your bike, you should multiply the number of gears at the front of the bike with the number of gears at the back.
For example, if you had two gears at the front of your bike and five gears at the back, you’d have a 10-speed bike (2 x 5 = 10).