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Bicycle Chains

Bicycle chains consist of a roller chain responsible for propelling the bicycle by transferring power from the pedals to the drive-wheel. Most are made of alloy steel and plain carbon, with some being nickel-plated to bar rust or for aesthetics. These materials can withstand the stress associated with pedaling.

What are the features of a bicycle chain?

A bicycle chain should give you a smooth and positive transmission. Quality parts are designed in such a way that the chain's links assist in gear shifts and its small ramps allow it to progress between gears. They also have roller pins contained in the chain link. These should be lubricated to give it more flexibility, thus enhancing the ability to transfer when it comes to the drive chain set up.

How do you choose a bicycle chain?

First, you should consider the speed of the bike chain as this determines it's width. For example, a 9-speed chain is wider than an 11-speed one since the sprockets on the 9-speed cassette are narrower. Therefore, if you are using a 9-speed transmission, then you will require 9 speed and above. Under each "speed" category, there are those of different build qualities. For example, there are those that might be lighter because of hollow pins and slotted links.

What factors should you consider when buying a bicycle chain?
  • Compatibility: This involves more than finding a bicycle chain that has a similar number of gears on the rear cassette. With the advent of 10-speed drivetrains that are found on most bikes, spacing and tolerance became so tight, making bicycle chains more brand specific. At certain chain angles, when the bike chain is too narrow or too wide for the drive train on which it is used, it can lose its ability to catch on other teeth and create an inconsistent operation or a high skipping sound. For compatibility purposes, try to keep the brand of the bike chain similar to that of the shift lever and derailleurs.
  • Durability: A bike chain is as strong as its fragile link and in most cases, this is the master link. When it comes to durability, each rider has their own wear patterns and maintenance that influence the service life and its stretch. So, keep your drivetrain lubricated and clean to extend the life of your bike chain. Keep in mind that some are often made of stainless steel or nickel to increase their resistance to stretching.
  • Serviceability: When it comes to removing the chain for servicing and cleaning, there can be differences. Some have a reusable and removable connex link while some have a Powerlink, especially on the 9 and 10-speed chains. Overall, the ease of removal of the chain for serviceability is crucial when it comes to buying one.
What are the types of bicycle chains?
  • Traditional: This one uses the same outer link-inner link configuration, which implies that one full link is comprised of two "half-links": an outer one and an inner one.
  • Half-link: This one is made from identical links comprised of a thin end and a thick end. This means that the thick end has a width equal to that of the one that tapers to the thin end.
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