In the world of cycling, using the right bicycle chain can yield plenty of fruit. The right chain would simplify life and ensure you have a smooth and functional ride. Unfortunately, when you have the wrong chain, the opposite would be true and you would find that there are a few disruptions and inconsistencies in your performance.
Once you purchase a new bike, chances are that it will automatically come with a chain. However, most people who enjoy cycling at a higher level might want to consider replacing the chain. Having a comfortable chain that improves the performance of your bike would make much more of a difference than other components.
This article aims to dive deeper and look at the bike chain. We will look at how it could make life easier and how you can determine whether or not you need a new bike chain for optimal performance. We will look at the bicycle chain size chart, while also considering things like the different types you might come across.
Table of Contents
What Is A Bicycle Chain?
The bicycle chain might seem like one component, but it is a variety of smaller components all meshed together to ensure the bike chain is set up and works. Once you take apart your bike chain, you will be left with the following components that are individually spread out:
- Side Links: The side links are small metal components that hold the cylindrical rollers together. These are the building blocks of holding 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: When you reach the roller chain, you will find that this component works the most on your bike. It is responsible for moving the chain over the rollers when pedaling. It is often interlinked and connected by the side links.
One of the most common materials used for bike chains is stainless steel. Some of the top chains might have metal hardenings located to help provide more durability. You will also find oil or grease included to ensure that the chain is operational when using it.
Top 4 Different Types Of Bike Chains
While you might think strolling into a store and picking one chain would suffice. Unfortunately, there are four different types of bike chains you might need to consider. Each of these chains offers a variety of features that would make your life a bit easier. Here is a small breakdown of each chain and how it differs from one another:
Single-Strand Bike Chains
The single-strand bike chain is one of the most conventional bike chains and often the one you find on a single-speed bike. These chains work on bikes that have one sprocket on the crankset and the width of the roller will be around 1/8 of an inch.
Single-strand chains are often found on single-speed bikes and you won’t be able to coast with these chains. They often have a fixed gear, which means if you pedal backward, the rear wheel would move in a backward direction.
Double-Strand Bike Chain
A double-strand bike chain is slightly more complex than your traditional single-strand option. They are commonly made from carbon steel and will be almost double the thickness of their single-strand counterparts. The main purpose of this bike chain is to provide the bike with additional strength and more performance.
A double-strand bike chain is often made from a pin, roller, bushing, and plate. The idea is that these components will work in unison to provide the bike with some additional power when you are pedaling forward.
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 main idea behind these chains is to ramp up the momentum. Since they are heavier, they often produce far more power than their smaller counterparts. They have far more durability, which makes them the perfect option for those that enjoy off-road riding.
The final chain option is one of the most complicated to understand. These chains are more flexible and they will enable you to jump from one sprocket to the next without any problems. When you think of the gears on your bike, these are the chains you are using in many cases and they often have a rear cassette or freewheel depending on the model
Another common term for a derailleur chain is often a 3/32-inch chain and it will have a variety of gears and cogs. The length and size of these chains might vary and while most are long enough to deal with three sprockets, some could even do six sprockets. Nowadays, these are the most common chains on commercial bikes.
Bicycle Chain Width Size Chart
To help you better understand which chain would work best for your needs, we should look at a complete chart, which indicates all the specifications that often accompany bike chains. The following guide will look at the most common derailleur chains and how they vary in specifications depending on the speeds.
|Drivetrain Capability||Width (Inches)||Width (MM)||Internal Width (Inches)|
|5/6/7/8 Speeds||9/32-inches||7.1-7.3 mm||3/32-inches|
|9 Speed||¼ – 9/32-inches||6.5-7.0 mm||11/128-inches|
|10 Speed||¼ – 9/32-inches||6.0-7.0 mm||11/128-inches|
|10 Speed Narrow||7/32-inches||5.88 mm||11/128-inches|
Bicycle Chain Width Size Chart
You might find that many single-speed bikes also have varying dimensions. However, this is more applicable to fit the bike, rather than increasing performance. The number of speeds you are using for your bike will have a big impact on how big the chain you are using. Additionally, you could also find larger chains often used on fat tire bikes.
How Do You Find The Right Chain Size When Replacing Your Bike Chain?
If you have concluded that you might need a new bike chain, it is vitally important that you ensure you have the correct specifications to make this happen. There are a few tips and tricks you can use to ensure that the chain you are looking to buy is the correct option. Here are a few things you ought to keep in mind:
Using The Old Chain
While most bikes have a bike chain, the bike chain might not be as performance drivers as you would expect. However, there is still plenty you can learn from using the old chain. If the size is one of your biggest concerns, you can take apart the old chain and use it as a measuring stick. This should give you all the information you need to find the ideal bike chain.
Using The Cog And Chainring
Another great alternative would be to use the chainring and the cog on your selected chain. By using the largest cog and the largest chainring. These two components are located on the bike and you will need to have the new chain ready for measurement.
The basics of this method are that you will place the new chain over the cogs and the chainring and this would give you a clear idea of where and how the chain should fit. You can install half the master link to make sure of the sizing. Bear in mind that you want to ensure sufficient tension on the chain to ensure that it works.
Using An Equation
Many of us, who are not real mathematicians might want to give this one a skip. However, finding the chain length with the help of a basic equation is another one of the many options you have available. You will need to count the number of teeth and the largest front and rear sprockets, before measuring the distance between the bolt’s rear axle and midpoint.
Secondly, measure the distance to the first 1/8 inches and this should be converted to a decimal number. Finally, you can use all this information to help you estimate the average length of your bike chain that you would need.
Important Features To Keep In Mind When Buying A New Bike Chain
Not all bike chains are the same and there are a few important things you should keep in mind when buying one of these chains. You often need to consider a variety of features, but since we have already addressed the various measurements and how to ensure the right length or dimensions, we will focus on some of the lesser-known features one needs to look out for:
Two main brands currently provide bike chains and derailleurs in the world of cycling. These two brands are Shimano and SRAM. If we move back a few years into the past, it was easy to see how you could mix and match chains from different manufacturers.
Nowadays, this is not possible for the most part and bike chains often vary significantly depending on the brand. The Shimano 12-speed road groupset is one of the most common. However, it is designed with speed shifting capabilities, which often allow for faster shifting. Similarly, the SRAM Eagle 12-speed will be very noisy when mounted with Shimano components.
Materials And Construction Of Chains
We have slightly touched on the different materials and how these chains are constructed, but most bike chains are still made from steel or stainless steel. One of the important considerations is what chain material you are willing to use. Keep in mind that there are various coatings to keep in mind as well.
Depending on your budget, you will need to look at some of these features. Many high-end chains have been pre-treated as a way of helping them to reduce the friction they might provide. The KMC chain, which is slightly more expensive would often be coated with titanium carbon nitrate, which helps enhance functionality and durability.
Bike Chain Structure
One of the final things you will need to keep in mind is the structure of the bike chain. You need to consider whether you have a chain with narrow links or how the series of links have been made up. You will also notice that the cogs you currently have on your chain will work in unison with that of the bike chain.
Frequently Asked Questions
Now that you have a basic idea of the bike chain, we have come across a few questions that many people might have. These questions will help you better understand the functionality of the bike chain. We have focused on finding the right questions that will assist you in making sure the bike chain you choose fits:
Should I Worry About Directional Chains?
If we consider some of the older bike chains, you will find that they are not directional. This means that when you are installing them, you can set them up in any position and you don’t need to worry about how they have been set up. However, modern chains have outside and inside links, which are also important.
You will need to consult the instructions and make sure when you are mounting these modern chains that the links, which should be on the outside are correctly placed to ensure that you have the optimal level of performance and the chain fits perfectly.
When Should A Bike Chain Be Replaced?
Generally, you would focus on the wear element when determining when a bike chain should be replaced. The level of wear and timing often depends on if you store the bike securely or if you let the chain wear. It could also come down to how often you ride, but maintenance is the biggest determining factor. Using a chain checker would give you the best idea of when it should be replaced.
Bicycle Chain Size Chart Summary
Bike chains might look simple and easy to understand, but they can be very complicated if you don’t make sure you have the right one. It is important to understand how a bike chain should be set up and do proper maintenance. We would love to see some of your comments to understand when and how you replace your bike chain.