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How to Choose a Road Bike Chain

How to Choose a Road Bike Chain

How to Choose a Road Bike Chain- Introduction

Guest contribution by Redwan

Bicycle chains are one of the core elements of your ride. As you become a more experienced cyclist, you might want to get a better chain to enhance your riding experience and performance. But how should you choose a suitable bike chain for your ride?

This article will go through different aspects of road bike chains, how to select an ideal bike chain, and ways to maintain your chain so that it stays reliable.

How Bike Chains Work

First and foremost, to choose the best road bike chain to suit your needs and goals, you need to understand how this piece of gear works. In this way, you’ll know exactly what to look for.

Bike chains consist of four main components: The roller, the inner plates, the outer plates, and the pins or rivets. Each of these parts plays a crucial role in translating our power from the pedals to the rear wheel. As you can imagine, without a chain, there is no motion. Of course, other factors take part in this process, such as the crankset.

The vital role that chains have in a bike’s performance cannot be emphasized enough. Further, different types of cycling would require different kinds of chains.

How to Choose a Road Bike Chain

Types of Road Bike Chains

There are two main types of road bike chains. And as you may have already imagined, each type has a specific use. Even if you have an inexpensive road bike, you should still pay close attention to the type of chain you get. Otherwise, you may end up with a piece of gear that is utterly useless for your type of ride, not to mention the money spent on it.

The most common type of road bike chain is the single-speed one. This chain is designed for those bikes that only have a single sprocket on the crankset, just as on the wheel. The rollers in these chains are usually 3.3mm (13/100 inch) wide. However, not all one-speed road bike chains are the same. For example, freestyle bikes use wider sprockets, which call for longer chains to fit correctly.

On the other hand, derailleur chains can move among sprockets. These chains vary in length, and the most significant thing to consider when choosing your road bike chain is the number of sprockets your bike has. If you fail to choose the correct derailleur chain size, it may not fit, tend to fall between shifts, or even cause ghost shifting. If you need to change your derailleur chain, we highly recommend taking your bike to a bike store to get a suitable one.

Features of a good bike chain

So, now that we know how a bike chain works and what different types of road bike chains exist, we can dive into the features you should consider when choosing your road bike chain.

Here are the most relevant elements to consider when choosing a road bike chain:

  • Coating and material: While each brand may have a specific coating and material for their chains, some vary to offer a wider price range. One of the most expensive ones may be hard chrome. Nickel plating treatment or titanium nitride plating can also make the price more costly. Coating and material may not have a tremendous impact on your cycling performance, but the material of your bike chain does have a crucial role in durability. Always consider the surface and climate you usually cycle in and go for a material that will endure it best.
  • Brand: There is a huge debate between bike and aftermarket manufacturers regarding brand mixing. On the one hand, some chains will work best on specific bikes. However, this is not an absolute truth, and you can go for a generic road bike chain or make a mix between brands if you find one that fits your needs and goals.
  • Compatibility: This is crucial if you need a new derailleur chain. As we mentioned before, the type of chain varies depending on the number of sprockets your bike has. Before choosing a road bike chain uniquely on price, brand, and material, make sure it is fully compatible with your ride’s length and roller width.

How Should You Maintain Your Road Bike’s Chain?

Maintenance plays a crucial role in keeping your road bike chain healthy and effective. You may have chosen the most expensive chain on the market, but it will eventually wear out and fail if you don’t take care of it. Fortunately, running a maintenance routine for your chain is not a complex task.

While some people would take their bike to their favorite bike shop for maintenance, others like to do it themselves. Both schools of thought are not wrong, as long as you keep records and know what you are doing. Depending on how often and how extreme your riding is, you may need to service your bike chain every 3 or 6 months.

To keep your road bike chain healthy, you can apply a drop of lube to it and wipe it with a piece of cloth. This first application of lube serves as a cleaning agent. Once clean, apply lube again to every link. Be careful not to leave any lube excess, and let your ride rest for the night.


Choosing your road bike chain may seem like a challenging task. However, understanding how it works, what to look for, and how to keep it running smoothly makes things much more manageable. When in doubt, ask a professional for advice!

Images: Unsplash/ Oscar Aguilar and Martin Magnemyr


Author Bio

Redwan is the editor-in-chief of New Age Activity. He blogs mainly about home, office, and recreational topics and how to lead a happy, healthy lifestyle.