Top 5 Chains for Mountain Bike
Finding the right bike chain is crucial to ensuring high performance of your mountain bike. While many may be aware of different types of cycling and different types of bicycles, knowledge about bike chains is typically less well-known among the public.
For mountain biking, which can vary from beginner trail riding to hardcore off-road adventure riding, finding the right chain to suit your bike and riding style is crucial to improving performance and having an enjoyable ride.
This brief article first reviews the top 5 chains for mountain bikes currently in the market and also provides a buying guide outlining some of the factors you should consider before purchasing a mountain bike chain.
Shimano: The Shimano bike chain is a high-performing chain constructed for 116 links, known for their excellent durability in all conditions – particularly on rough trails.
Although the design of the Shimano bike chain is narrower than what you may expect for a mountain bike chain, the reduced width does not affect the chain’s ability to offer a smooth ride for mountain bikers.
To provide added flexibility and smoother installation, the Shimano comes with a pin to connect the ends of the chain and it can also be easily shortened in the event of the chain exceeding the maximum length for your mountain bike.
- Reliable designer and brand with years of high-performance mountain bike chains
- Convenient and flexible installation with pins and shortening
- Smooth performance on tough trails
- Highly durable construction materials
- After installation, it requires lube to ensure smooth-running otherwise the chain will feel stiff.
KMC: KMC bike chains are renowned for delivering remarkable durability for an affordable price. Durability is one of the most important factors when weighing up purchasing options for a mountain bike chain—with the KMC ensuring reliable use across a variety of trails and terrains over a long period.
The KMC chain itself has 112 links and has been designed with anti-drop technology to prevent the chain from slipping at an inconvenient time. Although the core of the chain is a steel alloy, the construction includes nickel plates which prevent the chain from rusting thereby improving the durability of the chain.
Another great advantage of the KMC chain is versatility. The KMC outdoes many rival brands because it can deliver reliable performance for both BMX and single speed bike.
- Highly durable chain available at an affordable price
- Versatile in performing reliably for BMX and single speed
- Nickel plates for anti-rust and added color options
- Master link included
- The size of the master link differs from many other brands so may cause issues when installing
ACS: ACS is known for the Crossfire Chain which is available in silver or black and in two sizes. With a chain width of 3/32″ and 3/32″ for chainrings, the ACS will need a sprocket that is larger than a 1/8″ in size.
ACS chains are best known for their smooth-riding capability and brilliant durability. The ACS chains tend to be much longer than the required length and therefore require cutting with a specialist tool design to break chains. For experienced mountain bike users, this is a straightforward process.
The ACS chain is also versatile and can be applied for both BMX and trail mountain bikes. The chain is affordable, lightweight and allows riders to feel unburdened and going on a mountain biking adventure.
- Great value chain
- A lightweight feel for smooth riding
- Affordable and versatile
- Chain length normally well exceeds what is required—needing specialist tools to cut to length
Sram: It is known the best performing and most durable bike chains are constructed from a combination of steel and nickel. The Sram bike chain is no different—reliably delivering for mountain bikers over several years.
The Sram steel links are particularly sturdy and show no sign of damage after frequent use in different terrains. The chain is also built to not stretch to enhance durability.
In addition to durability, the Sram bike chain is lightweight and is smooth to ride ensuring that you can rely on great performance when going on your next mountain biking adventure. The chain is also compatible with a variety of different mountain bike systems and controls, leaving you with a high probability that the chain will be compatible for your bike.
- The chain is proven to not stretch after frequent use
- Anti-rust due to nickel coating
- Versatile use with different bike models
- Few reported issues of installing the master link
Wippermann: The Wipperman mountain bike chains are known for being virtually indestructible. Constructed with strong steel, the strength of the materials used for Wipperman chains ensure it can be used reliably in rough mountain biking conditions. The Wipperman is mainly used for 10-speed bikes and systems and is unlikely to be compatible with other mountain bike types.
Smooth performance is enabled through finely cut inner links which perfectly match to reduce any undue friction on disturbance when riding – providing minimum tooth interference.
The nickel coating on the bike tire enhances the durability ensure the steel core will not rust. Wipperman bike chains are reliable, lightweight and easy to install.
- Perfectly suited to 10-speed mountain bikes
- Robust to tackle rough conditions
- Minimal tooth interference
- Straightforward installation
- Premium cost
Buying Guide: Factors to Consider When Buying the Best Mountain Bike Chain
If you are new to the mountain bike chain market, you may be completely unaware of the types of factors you should consider before committing to a purchase. This brief buying guide outlines some of these key factors to give you the best chance of buying a suitable bike chain for your mountain biking needs.
Size: The first, and possibly most important factor is size. Chain size differs between different biking styles and you should understand that mountain bike chains are typically wider than any all other bike chains.
Size refers to the width of the links on the chain and this includes the master link. Getting size right is crucial otherwise the chain will fit through the sprockets causing your chain to not be securely fitted to the bike. Without a secure chain, you won’t be able to ride your mountain bike.
A common difference in mountain bike types is 9 speed vs 11 speed. 9-speed mountain bikes require thinner chains compared to an 11 speed.
Mountain Bike Style: The style of mountain bike riding is also a significant factor in determining the correct choice of chain. For example, do you have a mountain bike which you use for soft off-road trail riding? Or are you looking for a bike chain that can cope with the demands of a BMX adventure?
You have to consider the correct sturdiness of chain for your mountain biking style. For hardcore BMX adventure riding, a robust, sturdy chain is required to cope with demands of the terrain and riding style. While trail riding requires a less sturdy, less durable chain due to the riding conditions being less demanding.
Length: The length of your bike chain is dependent on the variety of speeds your bike is capable of delivering. For beginners, single bike chains are more advisable as they are simpler to operate and to transition between gears.
However, if you are an experienced mountain biker going over long distances, you want your bike chain to deliver a greater range of speed options – this can be enabled through having a longer bike chain.
The correct length of the bike chain for your mountain bike also depends on the size of your wheels. The larger the wheel, the greater the number of links you will require. The majority of bike chains can be easily shortened if they are too long when received. However, check with the manufacturer if this is possible before purchasing. Likewise, if the chain you have purchased is too short, there are also options to have extra links to extend the chain length.
Material: The most common material for making bike chains is alloy steel. This is an ideal material because of its durability, especially when faced with tough trails and terrains. The best thing is that bike chains are not very expensive so you won’t need to break the bank to sort yourself with a great quality mountain bike chain.
For added durability (and added cost) nickel-plated bike chains are also suitable for mountain bikes. These chains have the added quality of being rust-resistant, giving the chain even greater durability. Nickel-plated chains are also available in different colors which may interest those wanting to spice up their mountain bike aesthetic.
Easy Installation: Provided you have the right tools, replacing and installing a bike chain is not a difficult task. The easy installation of a bike chain is enabled by having a reliable master link.
To ensure your mountain bike chain can be easily replaced in the future, make sure you lube it regularly as this protects the chain from over-stretching and improves the condition over a long period.
Hopefully, this brief article has given you all the essential information you need to know about mountain bike chains and factors you need to consider before purchasing. As with any purchase, do as much research online as possible, to give yourself the best chance of buying the best product to suit your mountain biking needs.