Chain Recommendations

After listening to a recent podcast, I’ve realised I should consider changing my chain I’ve not done that in 3 years.

So guidance on brand and anything I should consider changing with the chain ie rear sprocket

Many Thanks

How many miles and how hard?

You should get or use a chain wear indicator / checker. If the chain is worn beyond a certain point, you are pretty much forced to swap the chain, cassette and sprockets, due to excessive wear. If it is all too far gone, a new chain will ride poorly on the worn cassette and sprockets.

Start with that assessment and see how far you need to go. Specific brands are secondary really. Most anything from a name brand is fine, especially if you stick with matching brands and component levels.

Metal ruler - the cheap man’s chain checker. Check every 300km or so.

KMC - they have chains for all drivetrains, quick links, reasonable pricing, and good durability in general.

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Yup, a ruler works too.

I like getting a dedicated checker that makes it quick and repeatable. I check my bikes about every other month, or when I know I’ve been riding one a bunch. Better to catch a chain early and swap it compared to replacing a much more expensive cassette and chainrings.

I even buy 2 chains at a time so I always have a spare to put on as soon as the wear gets questionable.


If your cassette is not trash, then KMC would be a great place to start for purchasing a new chain (SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL BIKE SHOP). Not sure if you are a weight weenie, but they make great chains. Once installed, I would use a quality lube or wax to keep your drivetrain running smooth. Squirt is a good liquid application, or Molten Speedwax is another option that works great.

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KMC X11SL Ti for the bling

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I just got that very chain for my gravel bike for the bling! Using with SRAM apex and GX cassette

I use Ultegra chains to match the rest of my drivetrain. Clean and mine regularly. So far 7500mi on the complete groupset (with chain) and no signs of wear or stretch

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Came with my bike but it is available separately

I’m trying to calculate how many years of chains that price equals to.

It’s longevity but also performance. People pay more in other areas to save fewer watts than this chain does.

Here are my thoughts on chains; Cheap, and change it often.

The difference between the top of the line, and the base line (Shimano/SRAM/Campy) is purely down to weight. There are no special features, materials or lubricants - just weight. A SRAM red 11 speed is something like 25g lighter than the bottom 11 speed (PG1170 I think it’s called). Here the RED is well over $100, the PG1170 is $30.

You will never convince me that the extra cost for the red is worth that piddly weight saving. NEVER. So, for me, it’s buy the cheap chain and replace it often (at 0.5% wear point). This will also save you wear on the cassette and chain rings.


I’ll second the KMC X11SL (Ti Bling optional). I’ve been running the KMC X10/11SL (no Ti) for years. I bought 3 X11SL in July of '18, when I converted to waxing. Rotating through all 3 chains, I’ve got about 8000 miles on the set, and none are close to the .5% wear on the Park Tool indicator I have. I run them on all my bikes, and have always been happy with them.

Also, to @mcneese.chad’s point, check the wear. If you’re over 0.75% seriously consider replacing everything with teeth, along with the chain. You might get away with keeping the chain rings if they don’t look too bad. If you’re a lot over, just do it. If you don’t have a chain wear indicator tool, get one. They’re not terribly expensive, and they make checking wear ridiculously simple.


I’m with you on the sram chains. I’ve been buying the PC1130’s ($20ish) for everything lately.

Their treatment lasts 200 miles, according to them. After that, you are back to a standard chain. A really expensive standard chain.

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You’re reading that wrong. It’s not a treatment like waxing that will wear away.

“There are many companies that offer – what they refer to as “Chain Optimization”; however those services usually come down to running a rough chain a while, cleaning the factory lube off and adding a wax/PTFE lube mixture. Its’ a nice start but hardly “true optimization” and hardly a cost effective option.Most of these services claim a 200-400 mile benefit. Ouch….

At PremierBike we provide a proven process that we have been using in other industries for over 15 years. Our process is a true friction reduction process to the base chain material that will remain effective for the life of a chain.“

In terms of chain longevity, tensile strength, and performance FOR THE MONEY the Shimano Ultegra chains are the right mix. So I always go that way, but certainly if one of those three things are of oursized importance to you you can go a different way. Definitely you can spend a lot of money on performance chains if cost is no object.

Depending on what you are doing with the bike my advice is to change the rear cluster, chainrings, etc AS NEEDED. If you put on a new chain and ride the bike around for 50 miles and experience difficulty shifting or chain skipping, then change out the cassette. Otherwise, don’t fix a problem that doesn’t exist. On the other hand if performance is of primary importance put new cassette and chainrings on.


AFAIK KMC manufacture the chains for Shimano anyway. Or at least they did a few years ago when I was trouble shooting repeated failures on my shimano chains (One face plant). IIRC it turned out that KMC heat treated their own chains but that Shimano specified the chain without heat treatment, presumably because of a dimensional stability need that they had.

After that and my general loathing for the break pin system I switched to KMC. I have a shimano chain on my new bike: master link system now. I presume that they have gone to either a different spec on the chain material (it looks that way) or have gone to heat treatment as I haven’t heard of any more issues with their chains.

I had SRAM chains to and they were all fine.

Not for 10 or 11 speed which are made in japan

Could be true now… this was a while ago in fairness. But is was a 10 speed chain that was repeatedly cracking on me and quite a few others back then. Caused some froth and bubble for a while then died down. That was when the LBS told me that tale on the chains. Shimano had a few issues with their designs then that I presume drove up their warranty insurance costs. So there was a rather eye watering leap in their component prices for a while there. This would have been two or three design generations ago. Judging by my new Shimano kit it looks like they learned the lessons and implemented them. It certainly drove a rapid turnover in their designs over the last decade.