Best Road Bike Chains of 2020 – Complete Round-up

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Bike chains are probably the most important part of a bike. This is because, without them, it would literally not move. There would be no cycling, no dirt, or mountain biking if the chain is broken or just not there. You can have every accessory in the world to make your bike’s appearance better. But it would all be just a waste. 

The chain is the most important part because it helps with the transmission of power from the pedal to the wheel, which is the first thing that a bike needs to move. It also offers a lot of other features, which we will be getting into below.

So in this article, we have rounded up some of our top picks for bike chains, their strength, and durability.

Our Top Picks for Road Bike Chains

  • Fits variety of bikes
  • Master link included
  • High-quality steel
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  • Durable materials
  • Strong construction
  • Stretch-proof capability
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  • Best for the Money
  • Load shifting performance
  • Step two riveting
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Comparison of the Best Road Bike Chains

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Fits a variety of single speed bikes
  • Master link is included for easy assembly
  • Made from high-quality steel
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  • Made form durable materials
  • Strong and sturdy construction
  • It comes with a stretch-proof capability
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  • Best for the Money
  • Comes with the Powerchain ll load shifting performance
  • Step two riveting for increased durability
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  • Best Road Bike Chain 10 Speed
  • Innovatively designed inner and outer plates
  • Outer plates are reshaped for smoother gear shifting
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  • Double bridge shape for quick and smooth shifting
  • Hollow outer plates for better mud shedding
  • Uses the Titanium Nitrade coating technology
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Are All Road Bike Chains The Same?

No, not all bike chains are the same. There are variations in the speed systems they are compatible with, as well as things such as links, outer and inner plates, lengths, etc.

Different companies also come out with exclusive features for their chains, and they vary in material as well. The lengths mostly depend on the type of bike they are for, such as mountains, road, BMX, and their speed systems.

What Size of Road Bike Chain Do I Need?

It depends on the type of speed system your bike is composed of. It is possible to connect a chain with a master link, cut it to a certain length, and then reattach it if it does not suit your required length.

As stated, the lengths of the chains vary for different speed systems. For instance, a single-speed system has a chain of 7.9mm width, 6-speed with a width of 7.8mm, 7-speed with a width of 7.3mm, 8-speed with a width of 7.1mm, and so on. 

How Do I Choose a Road Bike Chain?

It is important to know what type of bike chain you require so that you do not end up buying or trying to install something that is not even compatible with your bike or it’s model.

Below, we have a few key points on how to choose the right bike chain.

Type of Chain

All bike chains are made to make bikes move. But not all of them are for the same bikes. They also vary in terms of speed and the purpose for which you want to use it. 

The speed systems mentioned above are a great way to understand the size of the chain required by your bike. But there is still the matter of other things such as material, color, etc.

Purpose

The kind of bike you have has a great impact on the type of chain you require. Are you into mountain bikes, road bikes, dirt bikes, BMX bikes, etc.? Each of these requires a bike chain with a specific type of strength, durability, material. Even the kits for each one are different.

Material

A material that is able to withstand wear and tear is preferable in bike chains. It is necessary to know that there are different types of terrain, and you will require something different for each one. The most popular choices are alloy steel, nickel-plated, and titanium chains.

Other factors, such as ease of installation, rust prevention ability, speed, etc. are also important to keep in mind.

Quick Take - Best Road Bike Chains

Skip the review - here's a snapshot of the best road bike chains:

  1. KMC Z410
  2. KMC X8.99/X8
  3. SRAM 9-Speed Bicycle Chain

Review of the Best Road Bike Chains

Now that we have described some of the important points to keep in mind when buying a bike chain, let’s get to our favorite models.

Below we have reviewed our top picks for bike chains, given their details, and what makes them stand out to us.

Best Overall:
KMC Z410

KMC CHAIN 1SP S1 BRN

pros

  • Features a steel chain that is durable 
  • An anti-drop design single-speed chain
  • Contains 112 links that are easy to adjust
  • 0.5 inches x 0.13 inches, or ½-inch x ⅛-inch in size
  • Perfect for non-derailleur bikes, such as BMX, Track Bikes, Cruisers, etc.

cons

  • Required adjustments before it worked on some bikes
  • Snap-On master link has been a problem for some people

What Recent Buyers Report

People who have recently bought and used this chain have loved it. It keeps the KMC durability promise and is resistant to stretching and corrosive damage. It is also very easy to install, though you require a chain breaker to do so.

Why it Stands Out to Us

It stands out to us because of its durability. KMC has long been known as a company that promises quality in all of its products. It is one of the best companies in bicycle chain manufacturing, and this one is no different.

It hosts a lot of great features and is very high in quality. It is made of metal and comes in different colors. It is a great replacement for an old chain, and the lubricant on it is also great. 

It has minimal to no stretch even after a great amount of use and will function without any hiccups for a long time. It is perfectly fine and very useful.

Bottom Line

Overall, this is a great chain in function and quality. It is perfect if you are looking for something that will last a long time. It is very strong and is perfect for use with a whole range of bikes.

Runner-up:
KMC X8.99/X8

KMC X8.99/X8 Bicycle Chain (1/2 x 3/32-Inch, 116L, Silver)

pros

  • Chain is fully nickel-plated
  • Comes with an extra KMC Bike Link 8
  • Nickel-plated to prevent corrosive damage
  • Can fully function with 6, 7, and 8 speed systems
  • Consists of mushroomed pins that are extra stretch-proof

cons

  • Some complained of the low quality of the unit 

What Recent Buyers Report

Buyers have recommended it as the best eight-speed chain ever, especially if you are on a budget. There is even a full zinc-plated version. It is high in quality and will be resistant to any sort of corrosive damage.

Why it Stands Out to Us

It is nickel-plated, which makes it even better at resisting damage. It is perfect for your bike, especially if you have a budget to follow. 

Nickel is a hard and ductile metal that is great at resisting damage, which is why it is often used in electroplating. That is the process in which a metal is covered with another metal that is resistant to corrosion to increase its durability. 

Most of the bike chains on the market are nickel-plated nowadays. And to take it even further, you can get this even better zinc-plated chain for just an extra additional dollar.

Bottom Line

This is perfection from KMC yet again. It is great in quality because of its electroplating, which makes it highly resistant to corrosive damage. Plus, the fact that it looks good and very reliable is just an added bonus.

Best for the Money:
SRAM 9-Speed Bicycle Chain

Sram PC 951 9-Speed Bicycle Chain with PowerLink Chain Connector, Grey Links

pros

  • Chain is silver in color and has a rugged design
  • Step2 riveting increases the strength and durability of the chain
  • Has an outer and inner plate design that makes it easier to shift in all weathers
  • Powerchain II increases the performance level of the chain in terms of load and shifting
  • Consists of 114 links, with a PowerLink chain connector that makes it easy to install and remove the chains

cons

  • Some chains broke quickly upon use
  • A few chains came only with 106 links

What Recent Buyers Report

Recent buyers have really liked this chain. A frequent user has said that they have been using SRAM chains for 15 years. This one is great as it is easy to install and remove because of the PowerLink feature. It has minimal stretch even after three years of use.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The PowerLink feature is a great addition to the chain, as it makes it easy to install and remove it. Usually, people use a chain breaker to help with the installation of a new bike chain, but for this one, it is not necessary.

The PowerLink is an exclusive chain installation and removal feature. It is a connector that makes it easy for you to install and remove your bike chains for maintenance, cleaning, changing, or otherwise, especially without the use of tools. This way, you can save money in the form of not needing a chain breaker or some other installation tool for a bike chain.

Bottom Line

To sum up, this is another SRAM bike chain that has won people over. It has been a reputable company ever since its inception in 1987. And it continues to release high-quality bike components that keep it on its pedestal.

Best Road Bike Chain 10-Speed:
Shimano Ultegra CN-6701

SHIMANO Ultegra 6701 10-Speed Chain

pros

  • Has 116 links with redesigned inner and outer plates
  • Manufactured of fortified steel, making it highly durable
  • New inner plate design makes it easy for smooth rear shifting
  • Hyper-Glide System offers fast shifting and reliable performance
  • Compatible with ten-speed bikes and makes for smooth transmission

cons

  • Has no instructions to install the chain
  • Snap-off pin is not liked by a lot of people

What Recent Buyers Report

As reported by users, this has proved to have a solid transmission of power, and it is the perfect balance of value, weight, and performance. It is easy to install, and the newly designed inner plates make it very easy for smooth and easy gear shifting.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The Hyper-Glide System is great for this chain. It is perfect for different drivetrain systems and helps with the performance of the bike. It is also highly reliable and helps with the smooth-shifting of front and rear plates.

The chains that come under the Hyper-Glide category are considered better for riding as they are narrower. They are also compatible with eight to nine drivetrain systems and are known for being great at shifting, giving a smooth transmission of power from the pedal to the wheel. It is also easy for the mud to slide off of the chain.

Bottom Line

All in all, this is a good-quality bike chain that is great for its smooth shifting, power transmission, and durability. It makes it really easy to ride a bike in different weather conditions. As stated above, it is a perfect mix of weight, value, and performance.

Editor’s Pick:
KMC X11SL 11 Speed

KMC X11SL 11 Speed 116L Bike Chain, Titanium Gold

pros

  • Has double durability for 10% more longevity than previous models
  • Consists of 116 links and a Double Bridge shape that makes it super fast
  • Easy to install, and great for road and mountain bikes with 11-speed systems
  • Made of metal and consists of Titanium Nitride Coating Technology, with titanium-gold color
  • Contains hollow outer plates and inner plate chattering which makes it non-directional with a 27% increase in mud removal

cons

  • A few chains were very noisy
  • Some people received packages with false labels

What Recent Buyers Report

Buyers find that this chain actually makes the high expectations attached to it worthwhile. It is easy to install and remove and goes great with a performance bike. It is durable, shifts easily, and has a super smooth power transmission that makes it great for the value it comes at.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Its hollow plates are a new feature. They offer this model better durability compared to the previous ones, making it better at shifting. It also helps with the shedding of mud.

The hollow plates and pin in this chain help with the smooth transmission of power from the pedals to the wheels, so that there is no grunting or noise when it comes to riding your bike. 

They also help with smooth front and rear shifts, which is great for turning and keeping the chain's strength. Easy mud removal is also a great cleaning bonus.

Bottom Line

KMC strikes yet again. This is a new chain that offers 10% more durability than its previous models. It is easy to install, has great performance, and remains cleaner than most bike chains on the market because of the mud sliding feature. This is pretty great if you are looking for all of that.

Advantages of Investing in a Quality Road Bike Chain

Here are some of the reasons you should invest in a high-quality bike chain.

Durable

A good-quality bike chain is going to be with you for a long time. Most of the chains these days are made of stainless or carbon steel, which is quite high in quality by itself. But they have the added feature of being nickel or titanium-plated, which are great when it comes to preventing corrosive damage.

Loose Chain Condition

After a while of use, the bike chain will wear out and lose its ability to maintain its grip. 

It will keep on slipping until it is fixed or replaced, and in extreme cases, may even snap on too sharp of a turn, which can be very dangerous as it can lead to the biker getting severely injured. This is called the loose chain condition. A good-quality bike chain will be able to prevent such a thing for a long time. 

Movement of the Bike

You want a chain that will help your bike in moving smoothly. It is important to understand that a good bike chain has good transmitting power to help the wheels roll by rotating pedals

The links that hold the rollers of the chain in place vary, but they help the rollers move smoothly to lock in the sprockets' teeth. You want a good-quality chain because it can offer all of this.

How to Clean a Road Bike Chain

It is quite easy to clean a bike chain, and it is important, too, because it helps with the durability and function of your chain. 

The steps that can guide you and help you with the process are as follows:

  1. It is recommended that you use a bike-specific degreaser, as it is specifically formulated to clean the bike's chain.

  2. The easiest way to do it is by using a designated chain cleaner tool.

  3. Open it and fill its reservoir with a degreaser.

  4. Wrap the tool around the chain as instructed and backpedal.

  5. The brushes of the degreaser will clean the chain, getting into all the corners and tough spots, and the dirt will be collected in the degreaser.

  6. If you do not have a degreaser, do not worry. You can use a simple toothbrush or a nail brush to get the job done.

  7. Add some degreaser to the brush, and brush the top and bottom of the chain while backpedaling.

  8. Make sure to brush only the section of the chain at the bottom of the drivetrain, as brushing the top will just create a big mess along with the degreaser dropping on the frame and your cleaned chain.

  9. Now, rub your chain down with soapy water and rinse it. This will completely remove the remaining degreaser and make the lubricant fully stick to the chain.

  10. Now the type of lubricant you use depends on the type of terrain you ride your bike on. 

  11. Wet lubricant is great for wet and muddy conditions, as it lasts longer and is more waterproof, but it will attract more dust and dirt in dry conditions. Dry lubricant is great for drier conditions; though it will need to be changed more often, it is great for repelling dust.

  12. This process can be used for any type of bike chain, not just for a road bike.

This completes the step-by-step guide to bike chain cleaning. If you have problems with understanding the steps or want to compare your technique with someone, we have linked a video below that will help.

Conclusion

There you have it: a review on some of our top picks of bike chains and a step-by-step guide on how to clean them. We have compiled this list with the help of customer reviews and thorough research. 

We hope that this article helps you out, as a reader, in selecting the right bike chain for you.

People Also Ask

Even though we have tried our best to give out as much information as possible, there may still have been some things that might be overlooked or confuse our readers.

So to help with that, we have answered a few questions that are relevant to bike chains.

Are KMC Chains Better Than Shimano?

On average, KMC chains are more expensive than Shimano chains. It is also common that one KMC chain is compatible with different speed systems. They are also more stretch-proof and have a reputation for durability. So in a way, yes, KMC chains are better than Shimano.

What is the Difference Between HG and IG Chains?

HG stands for HyperGlide, while IG stands for InterGlide. The main difference between HG and IG chains is their width. The HG chain is 6.6mm wide, and the IG chain is 7.1mm wide. Also, HG is for nine-speed drive systems, while IG IT is mainly for eight-speed drive systems.

How Often Should You Replace a Bike Chain?

It is recommended that you should replace your bike chain after it has usage of 200 miles. This is to prevent extreme wear and tear of the cassette and chainrings of the chain.

How Often Should You Clean a Road Bike Chain?

It depends on how often you ride. If you use your bike several times a week, you need to clean and lubricate the chain just as much. Professionals recommend that you do a thorough clean at least once a month to maintain perfect performance and keep its durability to the maximum.