Bicycle Chain Size Chart – BIG Guide (How to Buy New)

Choosing the right bicycle chain can make all the difference in your cycling experience. A proper chain will provide a smooth ride and optimal performance, while the wrong chain can lead to disruptions and inconsistencies. While a new bike comes with a chain, serious cyclists may want to consider upgrading for improved performance.

This article will explore the world of bike chains, discussing their importance and how to determine when it’s time to replace them. We’ll cover topics like the bicycle chain size chart and the different types of chains available.

This article aims to dive deeper into the parts of a bike, and look at the bike’s chain.

Bicycle Chain Size Chart

What Is A Bicycle Chain?

The bicycle chain may appear as a single component, but in reality, it consists of several smaller components that work together to ensure proper function. If you were to disassemble a bike chain, you would be left with several individual components that include:

  • Side Links: The side links are small metal components that hold the cylindrical rollers together. These are the building blocks that hold everything in place.
  • Cylindrical Rollers: The cylindrical rollers are the element that will be used by the roller chain to move the chain.
  • Roller Chain: The roller chain is the most critical part of your bike chain, as it does most of the work. It is responsible for transferring power from the pedals to the rear wheel by moving the chain over the rollers. This chain is usually connected by the side links and interlinked to create a functioning unit.
Bike chain parts diagram

Stainless steel is a popular material used for making bike chains. To enhance durability, some high-quality chains may also have hardened metals. Additionally, bike chains are lubricated with oil or grease to ensure smooth and efficient operation while in use.

Top 4 Different Types Of Bike Chains

Choosing a bike chain might not be as simple as walking into a store and selecting the first one you see. There are four types of bike chains, each with different features that can improve your cycling experience. Here’s a brief overview of each chain and their unique characteristics:

Single-Strand Bike Chains

To elaborate, single-speed bikes with single-strand chains are commonly used for city riding, commuting, and casual cycling. They are designed to be simple and reliable, making them low-maintenance and easy to operate. The fixed gear feature also makes it easier for riders to control their speed and braking. However, they are not ideal for steep inclines or off-road riding, as they require more effort to pedal up hills and lack the gear range for technical terrain.

Double-Strand Bike Chain

A double-strand bike chain is slightly more complex than a traditional single-strand option. It is commonly made from carbon steel and is almost double the thickness of single-strand chains. The main purpose of this bike chain is to provide additional strength and improved performance.

A double-strand bike chain typically includes a pin, roller, bushing, and plate components that work together to provide the bike with more power while pedaling forward.

Different Types Of Bike Chains

Triple-Strand Bike Chain

As you might have guessed, the triple-strand bike chain is much larger and offers more durability to the ride. It typically features a roller, which is 0.125 to 1.875-inches in width. The diameter is around 0.130 to 1.875-inches.

The triple-strand bike chain you mentioned is actually called a “triple chainring” and not a “triple-strand bike chain”. The chainring is the front gear set that has three chainrings attached to the crankset, which allows for a wider range of gears and greater versatility in riding on different terrains. The chain that is used with a triple chainring is typically the same as a standard bike chain.

Derailleur Chains

The final type of chain is the derailleur chain, which is designed to allow you to switch between gears smoothly. These chains are more flexible and are often used in conjunction with a rear cassette or freewheel. They are also referred to as 3/32-inch chains and come with a variety of gears and cogs. The length and size of these chains can vary and they can typically handle up to six sprockets. Derailleur chains are the most common type of chain found on modern commercial bikes.

Bicycle Chain Width Size Chart

To provide a comprehensive understanding of which bike chain would work best for your needs, let’s refer to a complete chart that outlines all the specifications associated with bike chains. This guide will specifically look at the most common derailleur chains and how their specifications vary depending on the number of speeds.

Drivetrain CapabilityWidth (Inches)Width (MM)Internal Width (Inches)
5/6/7/8 Speeds9/32-inches7.1-7.3 mm3/32-inches
9 Speed¼ – 9/32-inches6.5-7.0 mm11/128-inches
10 Speed¼ – 9/32-inches6.0-7.0 mm11/128-inches
10 Speed Narrow7/32-inches5.88 mm11/128-inches
11-Speed7/32-inches5.5-5.62 mm11/128-inches
12-Speed13/64-inches5.3 mm11/128-inches

Bicycle Chain Width Size Chart

While some single-speed bikes may have different dimensions, this is typically done for fitting purposes rather than performance. The number of speeds on your bike will have a significant impact on the size of chain you need. Furthermore, larger chains may be used on fat tire bikes.

How Do You Find The Right Chain Size When Replacing Your Bike Chain?

To make sure that you are buying the correct bike chain, there are certain things you should keep in mind. These tips and tricks will help you in finding the right specifications for your bike chain.

Using The Old Chain

While a bike chain may not seem like a significant component, it can affect your bike’s performance. If you are concerned about the size of the chain you need, you can use your old chain as a measuring tool. Simply take it apart and use it to determine the size of the new chain you require.

Using The Cog And Chainring

To ensure the right size of your bike chain, you can also use the largest chainring and the largest cog on your bike. These two components are typically located on the rear wheel and the crankset, respectively. To use this method, you will need to have your new chain ready for measurement.

First, place the new chain over the cogs and the chainring to get an idea of where and how it should fit. Then, install half the master link to check for sizing. Make sure to adjust the tension on the chain to ensure that it works properly. This method can also be useful in determining if the new chain is the correct length before installing it on your bike.

Using An Equation

For those who are comfortable with math, finding the chain length using an equation is another option. To do this, you will need to count the number of teeth on the largest front and rear sprockets and measure the distance between the rear axle bolt and midpoint. Then, measure the distance to the first 1/8 inch and convert it to a decimal number. With all this information, you can use an equation to estimate the average length of the bike chain you need.

Important Features To Keep In Mind When Buying A New Bike Chain

When purchasing a bike chain, it is important to note that not all chains are created equal. There are several important factors to consider when choosing a chain, including the various features that each chain offers. While we have already covered how to determine the proper length and dimensions of a chain, we will now focus on some of the lesser-known features that should be taken into consideration:

Chain Compatibility

There are currently two major brands in the world of cycling that provide bike chains and derailleurs: Shimano and SRAM. While it used to be possible to mix and match chains from different manufacturers in the past, it is now not recommended due to significant differences in specifications and performance. For example, the Shimano 12-speed road groupset is designed for faster shifting, while the SRAM Eagle 12-speed may produce a lot of noise when paired with Shimano components.

Materials And Construction Of Chains

While we briefly mentioned the construction and materials of bike chains earlier, it’s important to note that most bike chains are made from steel or stainless steel. When considering a bike chain, one important factor to consider is the material it’s made from, as well as any coatings it may have.

For those on a budget, a basic steel chain may be sufficient. However, higher-end chains may have coatings that reduce friction and improve durability. For example, the KMC chain is often coated with titanium carbon nitrate to enhance functionality and durability, making it a more expensive but worthwhile investment.

Bike Chain Structure

When choosing a bike chain, it’s important to consider the chain’s structure. This includes the width of the links and how they are arranged in the chain. Additionally, the cogs on your bike’s cassette will need to be compatible with the chain you choose. Be sure to check the specifications and compatibility before purchasing a new chain.

Frequently Asked Questions

We have gathered some common questions regarding bike chains that can help you better understand their functionality and assist you in finding the right chain that fits your needs:

Should I Worry About Directional Chains?

Older bike chains are not directional, meaning they can be installed in any position without concern for how they’re set up. However, modern chains have outside and inside links, making it important to follow instructions when mounting them. You must ensure that the links meant to be on the outside are correctly placed to ensure optimal performance and a perfect fit.

When Should A Bike Chain Be Replaced?

Determining when to replace a bike chain is generally based on wear and tear. The level of wear depends on factors such as how the bike is stored, how often it is ridden, and the level of maintenance performed. Using a chain checker can give you a good idea of when it’s time for a replacement.

Bicycle Chain Size Chart Summary

Bike chains may appear straightforward, but choosing the right one can be complex. Proper installation and maintenance are crucial to ensuring optimal performance. We welcome your comments on when and how you replace your bike chain. Share your experiences and insights with us.

About Martin

I am Martin, I am the author of this blog. My main interests include cycling. That's why this blog was created. I have always been interested in technology and how bicycles are made, so I built one myself.

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